Tips for Planning A Euro Trip.
This past June my husband and I went on a 4-week trek across 5 countries and 20 cities. We had an ABSOLUTE BLAST and learned a ton along the way. Many of you have asked questions about how we planned, what we learned and if there are any tips I would offer in planning and trekking across the old country. Since we didn't die, get robbed or even become separated for the 30 days of our trip (which is another story entirely), I would consider our experience a safety success. Below is a compilation of tips that I would offer to you if you're planning a Euro trip. Learn from our mistakes!
1. Find Your Book.
We used Rick Steves for EVERYTHING. He is this awesome Euro-tripper who has traveled to Europe every summer for 30 years and written books about experiencing Europe on the cheap. His books reference everything, from how to pack to where to buy train tickets and must-see itineraries for each city. I used Rick Steves Europe Through the Back Door 2015: The Travel Skills Handbook, Rick Steves Best of Europe and the Rick Steves' French, Italian & German Phrase Book. These were holy texts to us.
2. Research. Meaning Pinterest. Blogs. Webpages.
I read a lot of blogs. I kept a Pinterest board with tons of packing/planning tips that I continued to reference during the months leading up to our trip. Feel free to browse my board for a list of helpful sites.
3. Create Your Tool Box. With Electronics.
If you don't have an iPhone already, you should have one. Because it makes travel so convenient. You can Facetime with your family back home FOR FREE when you are connected to wifi. I have not found Skype to work as seamlessly as Facetime. This small feature alone makes the iPhone so incredibly boss to Android. Sorry, Dad. I've drank the Apple-flavored Koolaid. But in all seriousness, on Father's Day we Facetimed my dad from a sidewalk cafe in Rome. While drinking wine and eating bruschetta. THIS REALLY HAPPENED. I am like a walking ad for an iPhone. Please go and buy one now. And call me from a sidewalk cafe in Rome. K.
Other Necessary Electronics:
Also super important to have? Other than the righteous iPhone?
- This was literally the most important thing on our trip. Literally.
- iPhone Chargers (one of ours broke due to the changes in voltage, so pack extra!)
- An extra camera charger, like this Canon Battery Charger (for the same reason)
- Perhaps an extra camera lens if you like to get funky with the photos
- A Thumb Drive
- A Petzl Headlamp (Stevie proudly used this all the time)
4. Contact Your Cell Service.
Call your cell phone company and work out your calling/data plan. It might be worth tagging on an extra data or international calling package for the time you will be away, in case you want to use your phone for Googlemaps (which proved to be extremely helpful) or if you need to call home in case of emergency. Otherwise, it will cost you an arm and a leg when you do need to use your phone for these things. Anticipate your need to use the data on your phone. You will use it! So pay the extra $25 to add that coverage to your phone for a month or so. Otherwise you will pay $500 for the same thing when you're roaming. Yikes.
5. Plan Your Banking & Budgets.
On the same note, call your credit card company and tell them your trip itinerary. That way you won't have an issue in case your card is stolen and being used in a country longer than you're supposed to be there. Plus, they will shut off your card if they start to see the activity in a ton of other countries. Your credit card company is your friend. That is, if you have Amex. They are just so darn nice when you call.
Also, always over-budget. For everything. Some of these cities, like Venice, Paris and London are so stinkin' expensive. And you want to be able to enjoy what the city has to offer and not be stressed about finances! So plan and save. Expect that you will spend more than you think. Florence has an incredible leather market, London has decadent tea, Munich has beer mugs that look like they are straight out of The Hobbit and you just might want to splurge a little to bring some of that fun home with you. So plan your budget accordingly.
6. Plan Your Packing.
Oh, there is much to be said about packing. Here are just a few fun tips:
// Elliot and Lena. They have a shared passion for vests. //
*Pack a vest.
Major props to Lena Hunt for loaning me her ridiculously cool Gap vest that can be folded down to pocket size (so convenient for travel!) I honestly didn't think I would use this much since we were traveling Europe in June and it's supposed to be HOT. But I wore that vest in every country. The trains, planes and buses can be seriously cold. I am not a fashionista (that accolade goes to my two sisters), but this is such a great layering item.
// The Vest made its way around Europe. Clearly. I'm wearing it in far too many pictures. //
*Material and Color.
Choose your coloring and clothing material carefully. Pack items made from simple materials, like cotton. They dry quickly when doing laundry and they hold up surprisingly well. Make sure to bring clothing in similar colors. I chose to bring black sandals, so all my clothing matched with black. I'll bet you didn't see me wearing any brown in any of my pictures! Other than the semi-brown slash golden vest. Obviously.
*Pack Tennis Shoes.
Yes, it's Europe, and yes, you want to look like a fashion model while you're touring the Old Country. But listen to me. You will wear your tennis shoes A LOT. So pick comfy ones. And relatively light-weight, easy-to-pack shoes that match everything. It's not as difficult as it sounds, I promise! We opted for Merrells. Mine were the Merrell Women's Barefoot Pace Glove and his were Merrell Men's Mix Master. We were excessively pleased with these purchases, as they made our touring so smooth and comfy.
*Use Packing Cubes.
These might be the most clutch item we have used on our trip. Stevie and I each purchased eBags Packing Cubes set of packing cubes to organize our clothing within our backpacks. We were able to fit more in the space and everything stays organized. I was a bit hesitant about making this purchase but I don't think I will ever pack a bag without them again. They are so, so convenient. Do not underestimate their power, ladies. You can pack a LOT more clothes in the same amount of space.
7. Mmm Matters of Hygiene.
It's really hard to keep everything perfectly clean when traipsing through multiple countries with one sweaty backpack. Doing laundry often really helps equalize the strange smells. Pack more laundry detergent than you think you will need. Because honestly, it's semi-impossible to buy the Tide Travel Packets once you're abroad. I have no idea why no stores carry it, so make sure to stock up while you're still in the U.S. Seriously.
8. Extras That You NEED.
Specifically, Ziploc Bags. Pack lots of them. In multiple sizes. We have used them for so many random things. Packing snacks for day trips. Containing sunscreen. Waterproofing tiny gifts. Using them to quarantine dirty socks. The opportunities for this little invention to shine are endless on a backpacking trip.
I am obsessed with eos Organic Lip Balm. My favorite flavors are Honeydew Melon and Passionfruit. We used this all the time, on dry trains and planes, and it was a little taste of home. Best lip balm ever.
Whether you need to open a bottle, cut a string or unscrew a tiny opening for batteries, Leatherman Tool was my husband's favorite accessory on this trip. He wore it on his belt like some kind of urban cowboy. I had to stop complaining about how dorky he looked because we used it so often for so many random things.
9. Download Your Tours Ahead of Time. And Use
Rick Steves. I know I've said it once but I'll say it again: the man is a genius. Read his books, download his audio guides (saves you so much $$$!) and take his self-guided walks. He's so bril. I hoped I would magically bump into him while we were on our trip so that I could casually whip out my 3 travel books I carried with me at all times, but alas, I did not.
The tours that museums offer are always expensive and often sort of a snooze. Rick is hilarious. Maybe it's just an American thing. But I got a big kick out of him. Make sure you download your audio tours while you still have wifi at the hotel, then just click on them once you get inside the entrance. You won't be disappointed.
// Left: What happens when you purchase the museum tour. Right: What happens when Rick is cracking jokes in your ear. PS I so wish that were him photobombing on the right. Sigh. //
10. Wear a Moneybelt.
They are so dorky. But just use it. Ours looked something like this Money Belt. We never got robbed and I think that's because Stevie was reaching down into his pants to get our money for anything. People just don't want to get that close to you. So the moneybelt, yeah, it works.
Get lots of sleep! We got sick because we weren't sleeping enough. It's really hard to resist staying out late because everything is so wildly fun late at night... and it's hard not to get up early because breakfast is just so decadent. So you see the problem. Staying out late and getting up early AND pounding through the sights for 30 days in a row...? Yeah, your immune system will cry into it's pillow at night. So don't make it cry. Create a sustainable sleep schedule and make sure you're getting at least 8 hours per night. Sleep will give you endurance for the emotional and physical exhaustion that will occur.
These were some of the most important lessons we learned during our trip. If you have any specific questions while you're planning your trip, feel free to drop me a line!