I just returned from a much-needed vacation to Europe. It was a great experience and I can’t wait to
move there go back. Now that I’ve returned to the states, I have some tips for traveling abroad that I’d like to share.
Our trip began with my husband and I flying to Paris, where we would spend a few days alone exploring the city and the sights before linking up with his family in Basel, Switzerland. From Basel, we took a river cruise down the Rhine with around 200 other passengers on a small ship. The cruise was packed full of excursions and we were in a new city (or two) each day. I had never been to any of the countries we visited so I tried to soak it all in while sometimes rushing a quick lunch or bite to eat between tours.
Life on the ship was nice, we didn’t have to worry about much. Each stateroom had a US 2 pin power outlet, so, for the most part, we were able to use our various electronics and chargers without hassle.
The trip did have its fair share of trials and learning experiences; Mostly due to the colder weather that I’m no longer used to as an Angeleno. So I began making a list of tips for traveling abroad that I wish I’d known ahead of time!
- Think about the fashion of the region before you go: More than likely, you’re going to reach your destination and realize your accessories aren’t going to cut it. It’s vacation, there will be pictures. Do a cursory search on Instagram using places or hashtags for the area and decide on what to bring to achieve the look you want.
- Note the weather forecast and plan for colder: I knew it was going to be cold in Europe, but I underestimated it. Bring extra layers and one winter jacket if you’re heading to a colder region.
- Pack light: Even if you don’t plan to shop, you will. There’s something magical about purchasing things abroad knowing that pretty much no one you know will have it. In the days of H&M and Forever21, it’s nice to buy some unique pieces for your collection. Pack only half a suitcase so you don’t have to purchase (and check) extra luggage on your way home. You can even pack or bring a large empty duffel as your carry-on.
- Inquire within your hotel about amenities: Many hotels (and hostels) supply blow dryers and other items within the room. Note what is already provided so you save space in your luggage for other things.
- Have a plan: For each city, my husband and I starred different sights, bars, and restaurants we wanted to see on Google maps. That way, when we were walking around aimlessly, we could kind of scout which direction we should head and which things we could scratch off our list on the way. This made it super easy to leisurely explore while not missing out on anything big!
- Check a local guide for seasonal events and openings: We lucked out in Amsterdam by arriving on King’s Day (a national holiday). It was a giant party in the streets and so fun, but it could have waylaid us if we hadn’t known ahead of time. Additionally, we were able to go to the Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse for my MIL’s birthday. It’s only open for 2 months a year so the timing was paramount!
- Buy a portable phone charger and always take a business card from the hotel you’re staying: These can be solar powered or otherwise but you’ll need it! Whether you need an uber or to pull up the Metro map to find your train, a dead phone can mean losing a whole day’s opportunity to explore. Come prepared. When your phone inevitably dies and you can’t exactly remember how to pronounce the name of your hotel—or what neighborhood it’s in for that matter—having the number and address of the place is a life (and time) saver.
- Learn some basic phrases: Even if you botch it, people appreciate the effort of at least trying to initiate the conversation in their national language. Even if it’s only to say “Do you speak English?” it will usually ensure the kindness of the locals.
- Make sure you have more than six months on your passport: You’ll thank me later. The US will let you enter until your passport expires, but some countries won’t let you travel (leave) if you have less than six months left. Also, it’s a good practice to always make copies of your passport in case it’s lost or stolen.
- Exchange rates are usually cheapest through your credit card: If you’re from the states, you’ll have an option to charge either USD or local currency. Choose local currency and save a little. Check with your credit provider first as rates vary.
I hope you enjoyed my tips for traveling abroad! Let me know anything I missed and what trips you have planned in the comments!