I like to think ignorance is bliss at times while traveling. It’s nice to stumble upon things like unique cafes or the occasional dive bar, but whats not bliss is running through a train station, knowing your about to miss your train, and having absolutely NO IDEA where that train departs! There are somethings that are essential to learn before traveling to another country and based on my experiences the top three would be means of transportation, language and culture, and weather.
Upon arrival, do some research on local transportation. When arriving in Paris, my aunt and I caught on to local transportation pretty fast. We walked to the information desk where they instructed us to get on the metro, located within the airport. This was the easiest and fastest way to travel through Paris. When we arrived in Amsterdam, the transportation was NOTHING like Paris. They used trams as public transportation which would have been fine, had we done some research before hand instead of wasting time trying to figure out how we were supposed to get to our hotel. Wandering around is great and all but not while trying to roll a luggage across cobblestone… so miserable.
2. Language and Culture
Along with transportation, language and culture is something you don’t want to be ignorant about. You don’t have to be fluent in the language, a few simple words and phrases will do. Learning the tip system in that country is also important. You don’t want to over tip, but you don’t want to offend anyone by under tipping either.
It’s so simple to google the weather of the destination you’re traveling to and it’s just as easy to forget and think the weather is going to be similar to weather at home. When I traveled to Europe last year, I completely forgot and packed a jean jacket when I needed a winter coat at times. Luckily there are clothing stores where you could buy a jacket if you needed one, but why would you want to buy a jacket when you have a 20 at home? Why would you have to spend money on a jacket you don’t need when you could spend that money on memories to be made.
You live and you learn. Anyone who travels knows that no matter how much research you do you will never be fully prepared to take on a new country/city. With that being said, take those fails and create memories with them. One of the best memories I have is walking in circles around Amsterdam in the freezing rain trying to find a specific tram. Some of the best memories are unplanned for and unexpected. Fill free to comment with any stories of your own and follow for tips and stories of my travels!
Let me just start off with saying one week in Europe is just not enough time to do it all (which gives you a great excuse return.) With that being said, don’t feel like you have to see it all in one trip because if you go with that mentality you will be greatly disappointed. While my experiences may be different than others, I can help with some do’s and don’t. Follow these tips and your trip will feel longer and you’ll get to see as much as you can in a week.
1. Number of Countries
When I bought my first plane ticket to Europe I had this dream of me going from country to country seeing anything and everything. Once it came to picking countries we would be traveling to, I had a quick news flash that I wasn’t going to be able to see everything I wanted to see. It’s pretty impossible to see 15 countries in 7 days, but hey, if anyone has done it, leave a comment to tell me how!
So my aunt and I are sitting in the kitchen coming up with a list of things we want to see and places we wanted to travel to. We decided we wanted to travel to 3 countries in 7 days, which didn’t sound that bad at the time. Little did we realize trains had departing times and it’s their world and we’re just living in it. We also didn’t realize how tired we were going to be traveling from place to place.
The first 3 days were spent in Pairs, which was amazing and we were able to see everything we wanted to see. After those 3 days, we took a train to Amsterdam. The train left around 1:00 pm which seems like enough time to explore Amsterdam, but arrived at the train station an hour early to make sure we knew where we were going, from there it was a 2.5 hour ride. When arriving to Amsterdam we had to figure out where to get our tram passes so we could get to our hotel. Once we received the passes we had to check into the hotel and drop our bags off. By the time we were ready to explore, it was 4:30 pm. The whole day had been wasted. This unfortunately was the only time we had in Amsterdam. We walked around Rembrandt Square, the floating flower market, and went to a couple bars and restaurants. This was not enough time to see the things we wanted to see. The next morning we took a train to Ghent, Belgium where we had a repeat schedule. By the time we arrived in Ghent most attraction were closing. We spent the night there and returned to Paris in the morning.
If I could have changed anything about our trip it would be to give yourself at least 2-3 days per country. Your first morning and afternoon will be ruined by traveling so you’ll need that extra day to explore.
The best way and most exciting way to travel Europe is by train. Thalys and the EuRail were the trains we decided to use, although there are other train options. A tip for the trains would be to arrive an hour early to get familiar with your departure site and to try and book over night trains or early trains. This will help you see more of the city.
Last transportation tip would be to do research on the city’s transportation before arriving. You want to make sure you don’t waste time looking for a tram pass to realize it’s easier to use the metro system.
Lastly picking a hotel in or close to the city center will help you get more out of your trip. When you can easily walk to your destination rather than taking a tram, taxi, metro, etc. you save time and money. You also receive a more authentic city feel rather than staying outside the city.
These are just a few tips and tricks that I wish I would have known before traveling. Fill free to leave comments if you have any tips of yourself or questions. Stay tuned for more tips and stories!
When people ask me about my travels through Europe, the number one question I am asked is “Wasn’t that a fortune?!” and then they follow with “I could never afford that.” One thing I can say is traveling Europe is affordable and do able. It may take flexibility, time, and a partner with the same type of goals, but it is do able.
1.) Flexibility and Time
When it comes to saving money for your travels, flexibility and time go hand in hand. When you set dates for travel, it restricts you from finding flight deals outside of those dates. The flight is the most expensive thing you should spend on this trip, so if you can save money there you’re already winning. With that being said, try to plan your trip out months in advance to give you plenty of time to request off for work, save for your trip, and prepare. You want to have plenty of time to book rooms, trains, activities, and plan for the sights you would like to see.
Finding an affordable flight can be exhausting and frustrating at times but believe me, once you get that amazing deal on a flight, so much stress will be lifted off your shoulders. Most websites say to start shopping your flight two or three months in advance but realistically that’s not enough time to plan your trip while saving money. It is definitely do able, but when it comes to booking hotels and train tickets you will save more money by giving yourself more time for deals to pop up. Typically I start planning for an international trip seven or eight months in advance. I start by thinking of locations I would like to visit and do research on cheapest airports to fly out of and into. Being from Louisville, KY, there are two airports within a reasonable drive. CVG is typically cheaper to fly out of, but you may find some deals flying out of SDF, so I always keep an eye out for both. The cheapest place to fly into in Europe is Stockholm, Sweden. This may not be where you plan to fly into, so always keep an eye out for deal. Amsterdam and Dublin are cheap places to fly into as well.
My first trip to Europe was actually the easiest. I received a call from my aunt who informed me that there were flights to Paris for $400 in April and wanted to know if I would go with her. I instantly replied with a yes and that was that. This second trip to Europe was slightly more exhausting. I typically use the app Hopper when searching for cheap flight deals.
It’s quite simple to use, you just type in where you want to fly out of and the destination you want to fly into and it shows you the prices from numerous airlines. Typically the price is marked high because you have to put in a date of travel, but you may “watch” the flight and Hopper will send you notifications of when this flight is at its lowest. Hopper will inform you on the best time to purchase or to wait for a better time because prices may drop. I typically just use Hopper to help me follow flights. I have found that Hopper doesn’t keep tract of ALL airlines so it’s also important to look at webpages of different airlines before purchasing.
Like I said previously, my aunt had found a deal with American Airlines for $400, to fly from SDF into Paris during the month of April. This year, with patience and flexibility, I have found tickets to fly from CVG to Amsterdam for $495 for the end of April to early May with Air Canada. If you can find a flight under $500, you are winning! Flights with selected dates typically go for $1,000 and up! Just think what you could do with that extra $500 or more that you saved just because you took time to follow airlines and were flexible with your dates.
2.) Find a Partner!
Although MANY people, female and male, travel alone, it will always save you money to travel with another person. If you’re not planning on staying in hostels (cheaper option) and would rather stay in a hotel you will find that the prices aren’t so “friendly.” If you can find someone who enjoys traveling and would like to see the same sights as you, you can same money by splitting the cost of hotels. Keep in mind that some hotels may charge a fee for an extra person, so make sure when booking a room you are honest with the amount of people staying per room. While in Amsterdam last year, my aunt had accidentally selected one person instead of two people when it came to booking the hotel. When we arrived to the hotel they stated that two could stay in the room booked, but we would have to pay a 30 dollars fee. Amsterdam hotels were very expensive so we didn’t stay too long. Along with splitting costs, it was very convenient that my aunt had a Marriott credit card. Most of our hotels were booked using her points collected on her card. The only thing with this card is we could only use the points at Marriott hotels, which wasn’t a bad thing.
Another thing you can save money on while traveling with another individual is splitting meals. When you’re in another country you want to stimulate your taste buds and try everything you can. While in Paris, Amsterdam, and Belgium, my aunt and I saved money by splitting crepes (they’re HUGE! and yummy), appetizers, entrees, and desserts. We didn’t split EVERYTHING, but things we both wanted to try were split. This gives you more options when trying new foods and drinks.
Crepes in Paris
Pasta and Stew in Belgium
Escargot in Paris
Traveling is something that never goes out of style. You can truly find yourself in the mix of cultures surrounding you. For those consumed in wanderlust, traveling can be very affordable, you just need time, flexibility, and a good travel buddy. Fill free to leave comments or questions! I’d be happy to answer any and all questions thrown my way. Stay tuned for more tips and stories of my travels around Europe!