Tips for Traveling in Europe

Hey there! This week’s Tips for Traveling in Europe focuses on what and how to pack for a trip to Europe. Thanks for joining us again! Last week, our discussion centered around research, specifically, itineraries, hotels, and airfares.

Dora here. I confess I tend to be a bit of an over-packer. But in my defense, we’re usually on a cruise ship and formal dining nights require something dressier than casual attire. Of course, it’s a vicious cycle because then you need to bring appropriate shoes. But a couple years ago, we had a tight connection in Toronto to reach our cruise departure destination in Copenhagen. Our bags were “no shows” on the luggage carousel. What were we to do? It’s not like we could rush out to the nearest Target and buy unders or personal items to tide us over. We could barely decipher the words on the airport signs.

We filed a missing baggage claim and boarded the ship. Cruise personnel assured us that they would help track down our luggage and even offered to express launder every night for free so that we’d have clean clothes. To get by, we purchased the basics from their gift shop. After three days of wearing the same outfit, we arrived back at our stateroom late that afternoon to find two heavy suitcases parked outside our door. I think I might’ve squealed.

Tips to Travel in Europe

Yes, I might’ve squealed when I saw these bags outside our cabin door.

 

Yes, I was happy to see my bag, BUT…I also discovered freedom. Why pack ten outfits when we can get by with five? So, for this twelve-day trip, we determined only to pack five outfits. How and why did we do it? So happy you asked. We’ll share. 🙂

First, the why. Simple. We refused to lug fifty-pound suitcases around two airports and six different train stations, and navigate cobbled streets and thousands of stairs. Especially since now we realize how little we can get by on and how material possessions weigh us down. Maybe next time, we’ll squeeze everything in backpacks. No promises, though. 🙂

Now, the nitty gritty. How…

Wear quick dry clothes

Hubby and I shopped for quick dry clothing, including unders. Polyester, nylon or a blend of polyester/rayon/nylon/spandex dries extremely fast. Don’t just buy the most expensive items you find online. I found my tops and bottoms at Stein Mart, and Ernie found his favorite pants at Academy Sports. Which brings us to our next point…

Plan to hand launder

Because of the high laundry costs during our last cruise, we’d already purchased hooks, foldable hangers, a rope, and mini packs of Woolite, which we brought.

Tips to Travel in Europe

Laundry supplies

Don’t let your dirty clothes pile up or you’ll never get them under control. Every couple of nights, we squirted Woolite in the sink and washed/rinsed our clothes. Ask for extra towels, lay out the wet clothes on the towel and roll them up (burrito style) for a few minutes, the longer, the better.

Tips to Travel in Europe

Lay your wet clothes out on the towel

Tips to Travel in Europe

Roll them up, burrito-style

 

Tips to Travel in Europe

Until you have this…

After about an hour in the towel, hang them up. In every hotel, we had ample space for hanging, most even provided a line so we didn’t need to use our rope. By morning, our clothes were dry.

Coordinate colors

 We each only brought one pair of comfortable walking shoes. Black Sketchers for me, a pair of Merrell’s for hubby. I wore holes in my socks, so make sure you bring comfortable shoes and definitely not new.

Tips to Travel in Europe

Choose comfortable, definitely not brand new shoes

Every outfit matched our shoes. Also, my tops were colorful and could match other pants. Go for comfort, versatility, and material. No matter what season you travel, we recommend packing a sweater. It was blazing hot until we hit Amsterdam where the temperature plummeted to fifty degrees with a brutal wind and rain. I was so happy that I’d thrown in a black sweater and scarf. Umbrellas were useless at that point, but it wouldn’t hurt to toss one (or a raincoat) in the suitcase.

Other items to pack

Adapters and multi charging devices are a must. Between us, we have two phones, a tablet, and a laptop. We brought three adapters and used them all.

Ladies, no need to pack a blow dryer. You’d just waste valuable real estate. Wash cloths were a rarity, so definitely pack a wash cloth or scrubbie inside a ziploc. I’m making a note of that myself for the next trip. Also, if you tend to get weezy from sitting backwards on fast moving trains, better bring along some Bonine or Dramamine. Unless you favor a certain brand of deodorant or shampoo, bring just one and use the hotel’s or buy more as needed. For the plane, pack a quart sized Ziploc bag with a mini deodorant and toothpaste and toothbrush.

How big is too big?

I joke around about packing everything in a backpack next time, but truth is, this time I chose the smallest of our suitcases. The darn thing doesn’t expand, so every time we moved, I had to repack my bag and squish. You know how your clothes seem to expand and get bigger while you’re gone? How does that happen? Lol. Anyway, I regret pulling the tiniest bag out of the closet, and I worried about the bag busting. Then what? Overall, maybe a bigger pack and less clothes would solve this issue. But, if you’re stuck like I was, rolling your clothes consumes less space.

Load your tablet/phone with books and games

Don’t forget to load reading material and games on your phone/tablet for the long flight. Cramming five or six print books would take up too much space. Keep your portable battery charger within reach.

Did you learn something new this week? Would you add anything to this list? Next week, we’ll go over the actual traveling part. Like the long plane ride, apps, eating, sightseeing, and so on. Plan to join us, won’t you?

Has your luggage ever missed your connection? What did you do to get by until it caught up with you?

Do you roll or fold when you pack?

What one item would you have to bring?

Tips for traveling in Europe

Looking to travel Europe, but not quite sure how? We’re offering Tips for Traveling in Europe over the next five weeks!

Hey, friends!

Many of you may not know, but Ernie is a KCBS (Kansas City BBQ Society) sanctioned judge. He signs up to judge competitions typically within a four-hour driving radius, and based on our NC location, the season lasts from April until November. Last year, he came up with the brilliant idea of volunteering to judge a couple back-to-back European competitions. Cool, huh? Since I love Europe, how could I argue?

The first competition was in Hasselt, about an hour’s train ride outside of Brussels. We flew into Brussels and spent a couple days wandering around Grand Place, the bustling central square and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Oh my goodness, amaaaazzing!

Tips for Traveling in Europe

Brussels

From there, we railed to quaint Hasselt for a couple days, then on to Berlin via Cologne, and lastly Amsterdam via Osnabruck. For the last four years, we’ve cruised across Europe, but this was our first land venture. Over the next five weeks, we’ll be sharing our experiences and what we learned from them. These posts will be longer than most, but our hope is that you’ll find something of value. Maybe we’ll inspire you to take the plunge and push past your traveling comfort zone. Will pictures help? No worries. We’ll throw some of them in too. 🙂

Tips for Traveling in Europe

Berlin

This week, let’s talk about research. We spent countless hours scouring the Internet before we ever committed to purchasing plane tickets.

 Research

Choose your itinerary.

Because of the BBQ events, we had a beginning (Brussels) and ending point (Amsterdam) and a time frame. On a map, we pinpointed cities that looked interesting or those that were already on our bucket list. Our son had traveled to Berlin a couple years ago and encouraged us to add that to our list. Prague was on our bucket list. We started with a list of probably seven or eight cities (besides Brussels and Amsterdam) and whittled them down to three using Go Euro. This free app/site is not only a great tool to research cheapest, shortest routes between cities and offers comparisons between trains, buses and flights, but it also showed us that Prague might be a bit farther than what our few days would allow.

Select hotels

What’s important to you? For us, it was free Wi-Fi, a private bathroom (yes, there are some hotels with shared facilities, even shared rooms!) and since we chose not to spend our entire budget on taxis, ample eating options available nearby. These priorities may not be yours. What about air conditioning? This was our first trip overseas with temperatures edging 80. Most of our hotels didn’t offer a/c. Who’d have thought? We never cooled off until we hit Amsterdam, where the temps dived to 50. Then, we didn’t need a/c. lol.

Europe is full of cobblestone streets, bridges, and stairs, so consider how far you’ll be dragging your suitcase. Honestly, by the time we hit Osnabruck, when we stepped out of the train station and saw our hotel directly across the circle, I breathed a sigh of relief.

Based on past experiences, we only book through a third party such as Kayak if the hotel offers free cancellation.

Lastly, be mindful of individual personalities. How far do you want to travel in one day? How long do you prefer to stay in one place? Hubby can’t sit still, so he was excited to hit new spots every day. I wouldn’t mind hanging out in one place for a few days, even a week or more, visiting the same café (like this one) every day and getting comfortable with my surroundings.

Tips for Traveling in Europe

Funkhaus, Cologne, Germany

So, pick a happy medium. Keep in mind that you’ll be packing up your stuff every time you move.

Scope out airfares

Once we decide on our itinerary, we scope out airfares. Get a baseline price then check your favorite app (kayak, cheapflights, etc) several times a week. Note good prices and carriers with the least amount of stops and flying time. Usually cost ranks highest on our priorities, then flying time. We snagged a deal through Vayama with one stop both ways. The flight to DC was an hour and a half, and only six and a half more to Brussels. We barely had time to rest between the dinner and breakfast services. Such a relief compared to the grueling 8-15 hour flights we’ve endured. After this trip, we might pay a bit more for a shorter flying time. Resist the temptation to save a few bucks by booking two stops. Go for one or none. 🙂

After doing this round trip to Europe a few times now, we would never buy tickets where we’re stuck in the middle of a row seven or eight seats deep. Ack! We would pay extra to find a plane with a max of three seats on the side. Trust us. It’s too long of a flight to squeeze past three or four people to use the restroom or just to stretch your legs, especially when those people are snoozing. If you can sit still for eight hours at a time, those middle seats might work fine for you. Not us.

We choose our seats based on the direction we’re flying. Anybody else do that? Lol. Both of us love window seats for different reasons. Hubby can sleep better against the window. Frankly, I think that’s a waste of a good window seat. Windows are for catching a glimpse of a new city for the first time and for pondering how small you are in the big scheme of things. Oh, and so you can be the first to see that engine cover rip off and hurl through the vast sky. (How did that happen?? Yikes!) We usually snag windows and middle/aisle, but you may prefer the extra room that an aisle affords. But I digress. The point is I do not like to sit with the sun blasting my arm, so we choose seats opposite the sun.

tips for traveling in Europe

Anybody else choose your seat based on the direction you’re flying?

Then, after we get a handle on what’s a good price and the carriers with the shortest flying time and available seats, we finally bite when another sale rolls around.

Split it up

If you’re traveling with a partner, split the research. Hubby handled transportation while I secured lodging, with input from each other. That way everybody invests in the travel experience. Be sure not to cast blame when details don’t fall neatly into place because the next day a challenge might arise on your end. 🙂

Hope this helps. Next week, we’ll discuss what to bring and how to pack for your European vacation.

Where did you go during your last trip? Did it involve much planning? What would you do differently? What did you learn from it?