Not too long ago I was sipping a blonde ale on the shores of Lake Zug basking in that spring time sunshine in Switzerland. Ah the little things in traveling never ceases to amaze me. After landing back on American soil I thought to myself how crazy it’s been to be able to travel to Europe as much as I have.
Surely by now one would think I have a list of things I do to prepare myself for such adventures across the pond right? Correct! If you’re antsy to click that purchase button for your flight to Europe but worry about what you’ll need then keep reading!
CHECK YOUR PASSPORT/VISAS
Make sure your passport is valid and has at least 6-months left before it expires. In the EU, or err before Brexit, you could travel freely among the nations without needing to whip out the ole passport. You can still do it now post-Brexit but just make sure passport is in order.
No need for visas (at least in The Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Czech Republic, France or Switzerland) as I have found but definitely check the country’s website before you if you’re unsure.
To save you some time check here’s a useful site to see if a visa is needed!
NOTIFY YOUR CREDIT/BANK CARDS
This is kind of a no-brainer if you don’t want your bank or card holders to freeze your account when you’re traveling but a lot of people forget this step. Call them before you leave! Let them know the countries and cities you’re visiting and for how long, it’s that simple. Oh travel tip: get a card with no foreign transaction fees that has sky miles, you’ll rack them up for your next trip.
Look for logos on ATM machines abroad that is on your ATM card because you can pull local currency out with less than a 1% conversion rate. It’s much better than going to a currency exchange kiosk where it can be 6% for basically them doing nothing!
DOWNLOAD GOOGLE MAPS – OFFLINE!
This will not only save you from GETTING LOST but also will save all that valuable data when abroad. Simply find WiFi and download the map of the region so you can use it offline. You can use it to roam the city streets without having to worry about losing connection. This has saved me countless wrong trains/trams/buses/boats any mode of transport you name it.
USE GOOGLE TRIPS
Another app I got turned on to by Geoffrey was Google Trips. It pulls all the data from your e-mail account (in my case G-Mail) and makes itineraries for you as well as suggests things to do, places to eat and daytime walking tours. I was able to use this in conjunction with my own research for things to do when I got to my destination and found that they overlap quite nicely. Plus it is always great to have everything in one concise location.
CONSIDER CITY PASSES
First time I went to Europe I looked up city passes for Amsterdam and now I swear by them. If you are looking to do a lot of museums, sights and overall get discounts while seeing things then these are the way to go. A lot of sights are reputable and they make it convenient. You pay a set price over the length of 1, 2, 3 or 4 days and you get access to all if not a lot of the museums, natural history sights, galleries, free access to their transportation systems (trams, subways, trolleys, buses, etc.) Some even allows you to skip the queue and trust me those lines can add valuable time to your day!
BRING ADEQUATE SHOES!
You’re not on vacation to leisurely sit around in a hammock drinking umbrella decorated mojitos are you?! I for one plan on traversing concrete jungles, scaling hillsides and climbing endless amounts of back alleys for my adventure so packing the right shoes are a must. On average during anyone of my trips I can muster about 25,000 steps in a day, that translates to over 10 miles of walking (my personal best was 12 miles in Berlin!) That is a lot of foot traffic so pack some nice, comfortable sneakers, joggers or heck my waterproof Tom’s boots worked well on this past trip.
STASH AWAY A BATTERY PACKWhile you’re out and about basically all day the one think you can overlook is your phone dying. Unless you used it for Google Maps, Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook updates around the clock then you’ll notice it dying quickly. Ah-ha! Out comes that battery pack to give you more life for social media and of course finding that restaurant just around the corner. Pack one that can give you about three to four solid charges from dead out of one fully charged pack. Sweet tip: bring a fast charging cable and turn your phone to airplane mode while charging. This is vastly SPEED up the process and you’ll be back on your feet in no time.
TRAVEL THE ROAD NOT TAKEN
Yes this is an ode to Robert Frost but I can attest this to be very true! If you really want to get a taste of the city in which you’re traveling then you really ought to trek the paths less traveled. Some of the most seriously delicious foods and drinks I’ve had on my travels came from hole in the wall mom and pop joints. Heck even the natives seem nicer the further out you venture. Do yourself that justice and traverse back alley walk ways, dirt paths that split or even the old cobblestone roads. Who knows what’s around the corner.
LEARN SOME BASIC PHRASES
It’s true not EVERYONE abroad can or is really willing to speak English to tourists so I do suggest learning basic phrases. Hello, please and thank you, just one cappuccino please and goodbyes goes a long way. Even saying small phrases like these in their tongue will show them you’re not just another tourist from America! Or if all else fails you can download Google Translate (also available offline too) to help you with those menus.
REMEMBER TO BE COURTEOUS
What we easily forget when traveling is that we’re in someone else’s home (home land, you get the idea) is to be courtesy above all. In my travels I have seen all types of tourists from the loud and obnoxious, the line skippers, the pushers sending shoulder and elbows every which way and each time I cringe. It seems like any type of manners is thrown by the wayside when we’re abroad.Being polite goes a long way. Learn some local words (mentioned above and reinforced here), chat to your waiter, hotel manager or fellow guests and always be courteous. As your mother told you, manners cost nothing.
There you have it folks my list on simple things to make your European adventure that much more enjoyable! If you have any tips for myself definitely share it! I am always looking to make my next adventure a memorable one!