Looking for the right tips for traveling to Europe?
Many people visit Europe and come back surprised that some things went wrong during their stay.
Well, the chances are…
Something will probably go wrong at some point.
That’s why you need to prepare as much as you can before your trip.
Whether you’re going to Europe for the first time…
Or you want to plan better for your next trip…
These tips for traveling to Europe will help!
Continue reading below and start getting excited about your trip!
Do Your Research
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but many people still don’t do nearly as much research as they should.
I mean you’re probably spending $1,000’s on your European vacation…
You might as well get your money’s worth.
You should do some research on every city and country you want to go to.
Here are some things worth looking up:
- What are the people like?
- How is the food?
- What type of currency do they use?
- What tourist attractions are there?
- Where should I stay?
- What mode of transportation should I take?
There is no such thing as too much information when it comes to visiting a foreign country.
Some Examples of Things You Need to Know
Do you know you have to pay to use the restroom in most places in Europe?
Unless you’re in an airport, train or hotel room… most public restrooms charge you to take care of your business there.
Another thing to keep in mind is that many cities in Europe shut down much earlier than cities in the US (major cities like London and Rome will be open later than most).
In our first trip to Europe, we couldn’t believe how often we were stuck in a ghost town after 5 o’clock. All businesses shut down and you won’t see anyone out on the town.
If you’re going to Spain, you should know about the daily siesta that takes place each afternoon.
The siesta is when everything shuts down and everyone rests for a couple of hours during the middle of the day.
Some places might have restaurants that don’t start serving dinner until a certain time in the evening.
Sometimes 7 o’clock or later!
Doing the necessary research before your trip can help save you from little (or big) surprises on your trip.
So start Googling some stuff!
Make Sure To Plan, Plan, Plan
Did I mention you should plan a lot?
Well, I honestly don’t think I can stress that enough.
You need to have a plan for your trip wayyy before you board your flight to depart for Europe.
And you also need to prepare for your some of your plans to not work out.
Something will go wrong at some point, and that’s normal for most travelers.
Here are some things you need to plan on:
- How long is your trip going to last?
- What countries are you going to?
- What cities are you going to?
- Do you have your passport(s)?
- Are you going to fly? Take any trains? Rent a car? Take a ferry?
- Are you staying at hotels? Air BNB’s? Hostels?
- Are you buying any city passes?
- What attractions are you going to visit? Is there a cost of admission?
- How much money do you plan on spending on this trip?
- How much money are you taking with you?
- Is everything that needs reservations booked?
You can see that the questions start to add up.
But they’re all important, and they all need answers before you leave!
Book Your Plane Tickets In Advance
If you’re like me…
You’re going to want to get your plane tickets well before the planned start date.
Start looking for your tickets as soon as you start planning your trip.
This will help you get an idea of how much it costs to get to your destination.
Caution: The prices might freak you out.
Getting to Europe has always been a little on the pricey side.
However, budget airlines are now competing with each other to provide the lowest fares to Europe.
Be careful with the cheap airlines and do your research. Just remember if you have a bad experience, you pay for what you get.
If you have a very flexible schedule or you can work from anywhere, you might find a steal on any last might sales.
If you have set vacation days, you should try to buy your tickets at about 2 months in advance.
Check out this article if you’re trying to save money on plane tickets!
Get Your Eurail Tickets
Sometimes the hardest part about getting to Europe is just finding a way to get anywhere on the continent.
Once you reach European land, it’s actually pretty easy to get around to the rest of Europe.
One reason it’s easy to get around is the dynamic train systems that run through all of the countries.
There are high-speed trains that can take you from major cities in a matter of a few hours.
Or there are regional trains that can get you from city to city in each country.
Depending on your budget, we recommend you buy a Eurail Pass for your trip.
To find more information about tickets and pricing, here is the official Eurail website.
Bring The Necessary Documents For Car Rentals
Renting a car is one of the best ways to explore Europe’s hidden gems.
But some countries make it harder than others to rent a car.
Make sure you research and find out what type of paperwork you need to fill out before your trip.
And make sure you know about any deadlines for submitting paperwork too!
Buy Any City Passes In Advance
You’ve probably heard of a city pass before. Most major cities offer them for tourists.
A city pass is basically a ticket you pay X amount of money for in exchange for admission to X amount of attractions.
In the big cities, these passes are worth the price. You might even save money in some cases.
Check out the city passes for the popular cities to get an idea of how they work:
Is Travel Insurance Necessary?
Purchasing travel insurance is completely up to you. Don’t let others peer-pressure you into buying travel insurance if you don’t want to.
We’ve gone on a trip where we visited 8 different countries without purchasing any travel insurance.
But this is your decision and your risk to take. Just be sure to do the proper amount of research before making any decisions.
Check out this article if you have trouble deciding for yourself.
Guidebooks Are Lifesavers
I have to admit…
When we went on our first trip to Europe, we did not plan as much as we’re telling you to in this blog post.
We don’t want you to make the same mistakes we did!
Luckily, a family member let us borrow some of their guidebooks and it made a HUGE difference.
Shop on Amazon or look at travel books at your local bookstore.
If you can’t decide on the books you should get, we are huge fans of Rick Steves’. We recommend any of his books.
He has books on individual cities and countries. He also has books that cover all of the European countries if you’re planning on backpacking.
Make Sure You Get Your Passport On Time
If you don’t have your passport yet…
Now is the time to get the process going.
Make an appointment at one of your local post offices to complete your passport paperwork and picture.
Find out beforehand if your post office takes photos for passports. If not, you’ll need to get a headshot of yourself with an all-white background.
Make sure to give yourself plenty of time because it can take six to eight weeks before you’ll receive your passport.
If you’re worried about running out of time, you can pay extra to expedite the process in some cases.
Bring Copies of Your Photo Identification
In case you didn’t already know…
you need to bring the following items with you to Europe:
- Photo Identification
- Birth Certificate (if necessary)
- Travel Visa (if necessary)
Hey let’s face it, bad stuff happens sometimes. And it’s usually out of control.
You might misplace your important travel documents somewhere.
Your baggage could get lost with the airlines.
Another reality is pickpockets happen to tourists all the time, and those valuable documents could end up in the hands of petty thieves.
Wouldn’t it be one of the worst feelings in the world to be stuck in a foreign country and have no way of linking yourself back to your homeland?
Make those copies!
Let Your Bank Know Where You Are
You’re going to want to tell your bank in advance that you plan on using your debit or credit cards outside of the country.
Whenever banks see charges coming from different parts of the world… they tend to shut those cards off.
And you do not want that happening on your vacation.
Notify your bank about your travels and tell them which countries you plan on using your credit cards in.
You should be able to notify your bank one or two days before your trip and most banks let you do this online.
Get An International Cell Phone Plan
Let’s face it… cell phones are a necessity these days. We always have our phones on us.
But once you leave the country, your phones are pretty much useless.
Ask your service provider about International plans if you want to do any of the following:
- Make phone calls
- Text friends and family
- Reliable use of GPS and maps
- Any social media apps where you want to post pictures and rub your trip in everyone’s face
Contact your service provider to see how much extra it would cost to get an international plan.
You might find out you already have some benefits listed above.
Go here to check out the best international plans.
Pack As Light As Possible
Only bring what you really need to bring. This will help you save money and save yourself from back and shoulder paid.
My husband and I only brought one backpack each for a trip that lasted three weeks.
You don’t have to be that extreme…
But I promise it will make the trip easier if you pack light.
In the major cities, there are plenty of places where you can pay to get your laundry done.
If you want to get creative, you can buy laundry detergent while you’re there and hang out your clothes to air dry (if possible).
Buy the Necessary Power Adapters
DO NOT TRY PLUGGING IN AMERICAN APPLIANCES INTO EUROPEAN OUTLETS.
Sorry for the ALL CAPS…
But American plug-ins are not built for European outlets.
I’ve heard many horror stories of cell phones, tablets, and cameras frying in a foreign power outlet.
Don’t worry, there are special adapters for American products to plug into.
Make sure you get the right adapter(s) for your trip. Different regions of Europe use different adapters.
The U.K. and Ireland have a completely different looking adapter than other parts of Europe.
So in some cases, you might need more than one adapter for your trip!
Bring the Best Camera
Photos are the best part of your trip. These are the memories you make in places you might never get a chance to visit again.
Take lots and lots of pictures…
And then take some more.
If your husband gives you any crap about taking too many pictures…
You just keep taking your time and take all the pictures you want.
Most smartphones and tablets come equipped with decent cameras.
But I think it’s totally worth the money to invest in a more expensive camera for special occasions like family vacations.
GoPros are also a great alternative.
Buy A Money Belt
Just to be clear… a money belt is not a fanny pack. However, they do share many similarities.
I guess I would have to say a money belt is smaller and can only hold smaller objects.
We highly recommend wearing a money belt because tourists are often targeted for pickpockets in Europe.
Pickpockets are most common in major cities like Rome and Venice.
Get a money belt to store important things like:
- Credit Cards
- European Coins
You can wear your money belt beneath your shirt to keep your money away from thieves.
But don’t hold us responsible for any weirdos that try to reach under your clothes.
Bring a Sturdy Backpack
Even if you’re not backpacking, it’s worth the money to invest in a good backpack.
In addition to checked luggage, you might decide to bring a backpack on as a carry-on.
If it fits in your budget, you can spend about $100 – $200 on a backpack that you can cram tons of stuff in and never have it break on you.
Here’s what you can store in the backpack:
- Phone chargers
- Power adapters
- Extra clothes
- Jackets (it’s usually chilly in most places)
- Water bottles
Wear Your Hats and Sunscreen
Depending on where you go, and what time of the year it is, you’re going to want to bring sunscreen.
If you’re a hat person, bring a hat or two.
And if you wear sunglasses, you’re going to want to bring those with you too.
During the peak tourist season, it can take one to two hours of waiting outside to get inside the popular attractions.
Some locals on the street might sell umbrellas for those unprepared, but we recommend bringing your own.
Bring the Right Shoes
Plan on walking all over the place. I don’t think I’ve ever walked so much in my life.
All of my friends and family said I looked thinner when I got back one time.
Europe is full of cities built on top of hills and mountains.
At some places, you might struggle to climb uphill just to get to your hotel.
Make sure you have very comfortable walking shoes. Especially if you plan on hiking!
Do not wear sandals unless you’re planning on visiting some beaches!
Bring All Medications You Might Need
If you’re currently prescribed any medication that you need to take daily, then make sure you have enough packed away for your trip.
You will find pharmacies and doctors in Europe, but it’s a huge hassle for an American to try to get an equivalent European medicine.
Know the Exchange Rate
Knowing the current exchange rate is important for budgeting your trip.
The British Pound is usually worth more than the U.S. dollar(although the pound has lost some power recently).
The Euro is usually valued slightly higher than the US dollar.
I don’t even want to try to comprehend how places like Sweden and the Kronos work… so here is a resource for you to keep up with exchange rates across the world.
Let Your Friends And Family Know Your Plans
They are never planned, but emergencies do happen.
That’s why it’s important to let your family know what cities you’re visiting and on what dates.
Print out an itinerary for your family and friends in case an emergency were to happen.
That’s probably the last thing you want to think about.
But just remember the saying: “fail to prepare, prepare to fail!”
Don’t Forget About Home and Pet Care!
If you’re like me, you might worry about things at home while your away for extended periods of time.
How are the pets doing?
Did I lock all the doors?
Is someone checking the mail?
Did you leave the kids behind? Are they okay without me there?
Do whatever you need to do to feel comfortable when you leave for your trip. Worrying prevents you from living in the present.
And a vacation requires you to live in the present to get the all the benefits of traveling.
Well, there you have it!
By now you should have an idea of what to expect in Europe.
I know I did not have all of this information before my first trip.
And there were definitely a few disasters!
If you’ve been to Europe before, we would like to hear from you!
Tell us about any tips you want to share in the Comment Section!