So you’ve decided you’re going to Europe. Now what? Anticipate the exciting journey ahead of you and follow these tips to avoid the inevitable “I think I'm forgetting something” feeling that looms over you sometime between leaving the house and arriving at the airport.
1. Keep an open mind.
We're going to let you in a little secret. The thing people end up loving the most about travelling to Europe isn't usually the thing that brought them there in the first place.
Our Travel Experts are excited to see your travel wish list and bring it to life. But the best part of our job is when we can help you experience the world in a totally new and awesome way!
So start with what you know (the capitals, the famous landmarks), and we'll help you embrace the unknown: the street art e-bike tours in Portugal, the hidden Croatian beach, the homemade meal and game of backgammon in Istanbul.
We also recommend keeping an open mind about your travel style; perhaps a river cruise is the perfect way to explore several destinations, or maybe a two-city holiday is a better fit. More on this later!
2. Pack well and efficiently.
Pack the essentials
Put that thing back, flip it and reverse it. A good rule of thumb is to pack half of what you think you'll need.
Usually, the rule is, lay out everything you think you’ll need… and then bring half of that. Pack according to the seasonal high and low end temperatures of the destination you’ll be visiting.
Many parts of Europe are best experienced on foot, so be sure to bring comfortable footwear.
If you’ll be staying in hotels during your stay, keep in mind many hotels will have hair dryers, towels, and some toiletries, to help you save some space in your suitcase.
Experience the thrill of keeping your shirts organized separately from your socks. Get crazy and come up with your own system! The world is your oyster.
Invest in packing cubes if the idea of being really organized doesn’t make you uncomfortable. It keeps the contents of your suitcase separate (and did I mention, organized?), easily accessible, and compressed.
Pack a bag to put your laundry in (the best ones are the mesh-y recycled fibre bags) and a separate waterproof bag for wet swimwear (maybe you’ll be in a hot tub or on a beach at some point).
Be safe and secure with documents and belongings
Keep your cards, travel documents, and belongings safe!
If you’re staying in a share-room at a hostel, it’d be a good idea to bring a bicycle lock or padlock to keep your bags secure.
Take precaution and invest in RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) credit card protectors to stay safe against digital theft. You can buy a pack of three for just a few bucks on Amazon which is totally worth the headache you’ll be saving yourself.
3. Take care of business.
Be sure to share your itinerary and the details of your whereabouts with someone you trust who you won’t be travelling with, as well as any copies of important documents like your passport. Think of it as a fail-safe buddy system.
Make sure you inform your bank, credit card, and phone companies to let them know you will be travelling if you will be using any of these items while abroad so they don’t accidentally flag your account with suspicious activity. The last thing you want is to discover that your credit card has been cancelled when you’re checking into your hotel.
4. Book insurance.
Invest in insurance coverage to protect your trip.
It’s maybe one of the lesser exciting pre-trip tips (it’s no packing cube), but it’s probably the most important. Make sure you’re covered with all-inclusive insurance.
Before you invest in your first big trip to Europe, it’s a good idea to protect it – your flights, your accommodations, anything unforeseeable to do with you and your baggage, etc. The point of insurance is to cover you for the unforeseeable. Insurance plays quite the unsung hero for when you do need to use it (although we hope you don’t.)
Your insurance coverage should include trip cancellation (in case you need to cancel in an emergency), trip interruption (in case you need to return home in an emergency), emergency medical, baggage and personal effects coverage, and flight and travel accident coverage.
You should also talk to your Travel Expert about adding COVID-19 coverage. Ask us for more information on what the best coverage is for you and your trip.
5. Currency and credit cards
Europe has made this one easy. Since most European countries are on the shared Euro, running around to exchange all types of currencies is a thing of the past. And traveller’s cheques? Don’t ever buy them again.
Today, using a bank machine in Europe upon landing will give you the best exchange rate with minimal banking fees. Since bank fees will apply, it’s best to take out a moderate sum of money on a couple of occasions versus smaller sums daily. If you have a maximum withdrawal amount set, keep that in mind and plan accordingly.
Do travel with at least one credit card. Even if you’re not planning on using your plastic, credit cards are great for the unexpected and are often required for room deposits and in-flight purchases.
6. Experience moments with your eyes, not your screens.
Be okay with not having your camera ready at every given opportunity and enjoy being ~in the moment~
You can capture a moment with a photo as quickly as you can miss it. There are some moments you’ll walk away from with no photographic evidence but a memory and a really good story that starts off with something like, “remember that time when…”
7. See as much as you can afford to
There’s so much to see in Europe. Welcome every opportunity as your chance to discover it. In Europe, train travel is one of the main forms of transportation because it’s efficient, cost-effective, and often a scenic ride. If you want to get around Europe to explore at your own will for the least amount of dough, take the train. Rail Europe combines maps and fares for more than 50 train companies in Europe which makes it easy to book all of your train tickets in one place (it may be overwhelming – we can help you with this!)
8. Choose the right travel style for you
If going at it on your own sounds a bit daunting to you, opt for a tour or river cruise. Activities, sightseeing, and free time is carved out for you and the options will be suggested by experts in-destination. The work is all done for you, you just need to show up and go. Everything you need to see will be included as well as value adds like transportation, accommodations, prepaid entrance admissions, and even some meals. Some tour companies have preferred access to some sites, like the Eiffel Tower, that rush your entrance to the front of the line!
9. Travel like a local
Speaking of which, if you’re visiting a country where English isn’t the first language, study a few essential words and phrases to help you get by (How much is a beer? Do you have this in another size? Where did Jack the Ripper live?) Interact with the locals and ask for the low down on the best places to eat, stay, and explore in the area. They’ll point in the right direction of said hidden gems, if you wish to steer clear of heavily touristy areas. You might even make some friends for life along the way.
10. Download apps you can access offline
Google Maps and many other map service apps do not require an internet connection to track your location when you enable your location settings.
In case you took a left turn instead of a right somewhere or mixed up your Spanish numerals six with 16, download helpful apps like Google Maps or Citymapper and Google Translator or Duolingo.
When you book with a Travel Expert, you can also access your trip itinerary on the Flight Centre app for extra convenience.
These apps, and many more, allow you to download the information you need while you’re connected online, save it, and easily access it offline or while you’re in airplane mode. For when feeling lost in translation and being lost in destination has lost its romantic lustre.
We offer travel consultations in-person, by phone, email, online chat, video chat, and our 24/7 Customer Care line. Whatever works for you!