Travel Tips

Helpful Hints for Success in Europe

Since my very first trip to Europe in 1997, as a teenager, I have been in love. It’s the history, the architecture, and the culture. I love the quality of life, the walkability, and the slower pace of life, the spirit of lingering and savoring. Europe is also an extremely easy place to take your first international adventure. Regardless, I remember being nervous and uneasy my first time. I even felt nervous just last year, 25 years later, taking my family. It’s normal to be nervous. Don’t worry, we are here to alleviate your concerns and offer advice based on our experiences.If you have traveled abroad before, these tips may seem obvious. We hope everyone finds something helpful and we also want to extend an invitation to schedule your FREE TRAVEL CONSULTATION.

  1. Electricity. The electricity in Europe is operated on a 220 volt system as opposed to our 110 volt system in North America. You will need an adaptor to plug in your electronics. Most of the sockets in Europe take two round pins. (Link to adaptor on amazon?)
  2. Hotels. Hotel rooms are typically smaller. Everything is smaller in Europe, including the beds. It is common to find a twin bed or two twin beds pushed together. Embrace the differences! We won’t be spending much time in our rooms anyways. 
  3. Restaurants. Water is served from a bottle and it will be carbonated if you don’t ask for it still (“no gas”). Expect to pay for water. They will rarely have tap water as an option. Plan on lingering! Dining in Europe is never a rushed process. Take your time. You will not see people walking while eating and drinking. You should expect to eat dinner later than normal. That is the custom in most of Europe but especially when dining out.
  4. Tipping. The tipping culture in Europe is much different than in the US. Tipping is not the norm. Staff are already paid like professionals. Tipping is usually just a round up to the easiest number, maybe 5%. 10% is considered an exceptionally good tip.
  5. Public transportation. Public transportation is usually far more reliable and superior to most in the US. We are happy to help you arrange travel from your inbound airport to the final destination. We find the “Rome to Rio” app super helpful. Taxis and Ride Share services like Uber and Lyft are plentiful. Bike shares are rapidly expanding. Most communities are super walkable too.
  6. Packing. We recommend packing lightly. We travel for a whole month with only a carryon each. That may sound extreme, but it makes our journey much more enjoyable. We recommend a backpack version of a carryon as its the most versatile. Rolling a suitcase with wheels over cobblestone streets is no fun. Buy a lock for your bags. Bring shoes that are comfortable to walk in. You will be walking a lot, not speed walking (unless you’re down) though. In general, we recommend plain clothes with color combos that can be arranged a few ways for versatility. Don’t forget sunglasses and a raincoat. We prefer the type of raincoat that is lightweight and breathable with armpit zippers for ventilation. (Marmot, Columbia, REI all have decent affordable options).
  7. Restrooms. Be prepared to pay for restroom use. There are no public toilets. It is possible to casually stroll into a cafe or a hotel and use their restroom without making a purchase, but there have been many times where we had to buy an espresso or a baguette to get the code to the bathroom. It’s best to accept these differences and embrace them, rather than complaining and ruining your trip.
  8. Safety. Europe is generally very safe. Particularly, you might even notice a military-like presence in airports and train stations. That’s normal. Pickpocketing is a widely known problem in bigger cities and touristy areas. Be aware of your surroundings and your belongings. Keep your valuables hidden and difficult to reach. In subways and buses, put your bags in front of you, wallets in front pockets. Travel documents secure. As a rule, we try hard to NOT look like tourists. We want to blend in. We dont open maps while walking or at street corners. We plan out our trip before leaving each day. Don’t leave your phone on a table at a cafe. People are fast.
  9. Passports. Some say to keep your passports on you at all times. We recommend, before you leave home, making two paper copies of your passport and the important pages. Leave one at home and travel with the other. I lock my passport in a hotel safe or in my locked luggage and take the photocopy as my identification.
  10. Accessibility. Europe, in general, is far less accessible for those with disabilities than the US. Doorways, hallways, sidewalks, and elevators are more narrow, often impassable for someone using a wheelchair. If you or anyone in your party has any potential accessibility concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out and we will make any accommodations that we can. Some parts of our trips may not meet everyone’s ability.
  11. Communication. While it’s probably likely that most people in Europe speak English, it is better to not expect it. Most of the time, your guide and 24/7 translator speaks fluent French and can help. Regardless, it’s a good idea to learn a few phrases. It is customary to say hello (“Bonjour”) when entering a French business and goodbye (au revoir”) upon leaving. It’s a show of respect and it really does go a long way. I do it in the US now too because I like the intent. Another term to learn might be: “Where is the restroom?” You don’t need this whole phrase though. You can just say the word “toilet” (“toilette” pronounced twa-let) with a questioning intonation and that will suffice.
  12. Money. You do not need to bring travelers checks (Do they still make those?), nor do you need to bring cash to exchange. Make sure that your ATM/Credit Card is accepted internationally (AMEX is the only outlier that i have found that doesn’t always work). We used our local credit union ATM anytime we needed cash and we used our best points-earning credit card in other situations. (Ask us about rewards cards if you’d like to learn more.)

Our Values:

Slow Travel

Take your time. Go deep, not fast.

Slow Food

Savor. Eat like the locals.

Freedom

Go your own way.

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