1. Choose one color palette when packing so everything can be worn together.
To pack light, don’t think about variety in your wardrobe, think about versatility. If a scarf can only be worn with one outfit, you’ve picked the wrong scarf. The same thing goes for all of your other accessories. The easy way to make sure everything “goes” is to choose items from a color palette. My palette = teal, gray, and mauve. It’s easy because, being my favorite colors, most things I own are one of these 3 colors anyway.
2. Don’t bring your heels.
Like, any heels. Europe was made for walking, and cobblestone streets don’t bode well for stilettos or wedges. Choose a comfortable neutral-toned walking shoe instead.
3. Always travel with €0.50 in your back pocket.
It’s pretty difficult to find a free toilet in Europe, and around €0.50 seems to be the going rate everywhere you go. Keep this with you so you don’t have any accidents!
4. Looking for a toilet? Just go to McDonald’s.
It never fails. McDonald’s restaurants are everywhere, they are pretty much always open, and their toilets cost, you guessed it, €0.50. As much as I might want to complain about paying for a toilet, at least you’re essentially guaranteed a clean, pleasant experience. I’ve used this trick so often I now associate the golden arches with…well, you know.
Bonus tip: If the McDonald’s is a 2 story restaurant, chances are good that the bathroom is upstairs. Just go right on up like you own the place.
5. Travel with a Chico bag.
The Chico bag is a reusable grocery/everything bag that conveniently folds into itself to make it extra totable. I was fortunate enough to pick one of these up as “swag” from a scientific conference years ago, and it has been in my purse ever since. I take it with me everywhere! It’s quite handy for all of those European markets you’re bound to visit.
(The above link is NOT an affiliate link. I kinda wish it were, though.)
6. Plan to pay with cash.
Whether you pick up Euros (or Pounds, Korunas, etc.) before you get on the plane, exchange a wad of cash from home with the local currency once you arrive, or use your ATM card to take out money in the city you are visiting, cash is the best way to go for exploring Europe. Bigger tourist destinations may allow payment with Visa or American Express, but it’s not a guarantee in every restaurant or souvenir shop you visit. And the further you get out of the tourist zones, the less likely they will accept payment in plastic.
7. If your phone dies and/or you’re stuck in the dark ages, pop into a hotel to get a map.
Any ol’ hotel will do. Even if you aren’t staying at that particular hotel, the concierge is likely to help you find your way, and they almost always have maps available for free.
8. Always learn the big 3 in the language of the country you are visiting.
The big 3 are “Hello.” “Please.” and “Thank you.” Just this little effort on your part can make a world of difference in your service, even if all other communication is done via pantomime.
9. Start your trip off with a Sandeman’s New Europe Tour – for free(ish)!
In many of Europe’s popular destinations, Sandeman’s New Europe offers free walking tours to teach you about the history of the city and show you most of the popular sights, often within just 3 hours. What’s nice about the tours is that you pay what you want (tips around €10 per person are appropriate), the guides are friendly history buffs who just want you to love the city like they do, and you get a lot more context for all of the pretty things in the city so you can appreciate them on a less superficial level. If Sandeman Tours aren’t available in the city you are visiting, there are typically other companies providing walking tours around that same price and I recommend looking into one for the same reasons.
10. Get your head out of your APPS!
Remember why you wanted to travel in the first place. To see the world, to observe other cultures, to have an experience! It’s hard to experience anything if you are caught up in what is happening in other peoples’ lives. So close out of Instagram and Facebook and put away your phone. There will be plenty of opportunities to brag about your travels later, but only one chance to enjoy them – NOW!
I’m not dissing all apps. There are plenty of great applications geared towards organizing your trip and making it more informative and enjoyable. My point is to allow yourself to disconnect from the familiar (…the petty, the superficial) and really immerse yourself in your destination. I promise you it will be so much more enjoyable!
…And that’s about it. Everything else, you’ve probably heard before. Don’t flaunt your money, don’t take “free” flowers from strangers, probably don’t jaywalk, etc. You’ve got this – now get out there and explore!
Got any travel tips to add? Please share in the comments!