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EUROPE TRAVEL TIPS
1. Stay Longer in One Place –
Just because you have limited vacation time off doesn’t mean you should try to cram as many destinations into your itinerary as possible. To really immerse yourself in local culture, marvel at the sites, and indulge in cuisine, give yourself enough time in each destination. Depending on the city or town, I typically do not recommend any less than 2 nights per location.
2. Take Advantage of the Train –
Train travel in Europe is one of the most efficient and enjoyable experiences. At times, the travel time can be longer, but it’s far more enjoyable and leisurely than hauling through the chaos of airport security. Plus, why not take the scenic route.
3. Brush Up on the Local Language –
Don’t expect everyone to speak English. And if they do, it’s always polite to make an effort in their native language. Check out apps like Duolingo and Word Reference to brush up on the basics prior to arrival.
4. Shop at Local & Family Owned Businesses –
Ditch the familiar chains and name brands, and really integrate yourself into the local way of living. This for one means meeting locals, and what better way to do so than shopping and eating and locally owned restaurants, bakeries, boutiques, and cafes.
5. Don’t Settle for the First Restaurant You See –
Major cities are full of tourist traps, which can be an extremely disappointing experience. To find the locals’ dining favorites, don’t just settle on the first or most convenient restaurant in sight. A good rule of thumb is to avoid any cafe or restaurant that has staff luring you in to dine there, posters of their menu with images of food, actual displays of food, or is located in or right off of the busy squares and sites.
6. Plan Your Day around Afternoon Closing Times –
Mealtime is sacred throughout Europe, lunch included. So don’t be surprised when you’re met with midday closures, typically until 2 PM. This is especially common in the Mediterranean. Taking this into consideration, you might as well indulge in a long, leisurely lunch yourself, and immerse in local culture and cuisine.
7. Stay Central –
Although accommodation prices can be more expensive in the center, it’s definitely worth the extra spend. Most travelers do not take into consideration that it may actually become more expensive staying outside of the center when you add up the cost of transportation and taxis. Not to mention, it can become incredibly time consuming and inconvenient. That being said, do your research on the best central neighborhoods to stay in based on your sightseeing interests.
8. Go Off the Beaten Path & Explore by Foot –
No matter what European city you are exploring, walking is the best way to ensure you don’t miss a thing. And who knows, you might even stumble across your new favorite restaurant, cafe or shop.
9. Mingle with Locals & Ask for Advice –
Local shop owners, baristas, servers, and even bartenders can be one of the best sources of insider tips. If you are looking for non-touristy places to eat and things to do, what better way than to ask the people that actually live there.
10. Don’t Miss the Smaller Cities & Towns –
Major cities like Paris, Rome, and London are always on tourists radar. Though, don’t forget to incorporate some of the smaller cities and towns into your itinerary for a completely different pace of life and cultural experience.
11. Stay in Shoulder Season –
Avoid the massive crowds, long lines, and steep prices of high season, and opt for travel during Europe’s shoulder season. This is typically in early fall (September – October) and early spring (March – May). The weather during these periods are still relatively warm and pleasant, and you won’t be disappointed by the wide scale closures that occur during the summer months, when many Europeans take off for holiday themselves.
13. Make Sure You Can Carry your Luggage –
This may seem obvious, but it’s one of the most common mistakes people make when traveling to Europe. Between trains, cobblestone roads, steep stairs, and walk up apartment buildings, you are going to loathe that oversized bag by the end of your trip. So instead, leave it at home, and opt for a more manageable piece of luggage. I do not recommend bringing any more than a standard size suitcase, and a carry on tote or backpack.
12. Check your Phone Plan & Data –
Although most accommodations and restaurants have wifi access, it’s nice to not be reliant on a hotspot for data. Call your phone provider prior to travel to see if they offer international plans for travelers. Or, if you have an unlocked smartphone, you can easily buy a SIM card in destination for no more than €30.
14. Dress Appropriately –
Forget the activewear and worn out sneakers, and opt for a more elevated wardrobe while in traveling throughout Europe. Most Europeans tend to dress nicer compared to the North American standard, so as a part of your cultural immersion experience, try to follow suit. Or even better, buy a few quality pieces while in destination for the perfect souvenir.