Hopefully you are dreaming of some great escapes this year. My wife Ione and I have been on some great trips lately, and we want to share some European travel tips that will make your adventure fun and safe.
Europe, yes or no? The answer is yes. The American dollar is doing well. You just need to understand where to spend your dollars. I’m 66 years young, and I’ve risked Europe three times now, in 1987, 2018 and 2019. Choices, choices, choices. You can do the “tour” From Rick Steves, Globus and everything in between. The upside of tour travel is that they’ve checked everything out for you. You’ll be safe, the hotels will be clean, and you don’t have to think.
So what are the downsides? For some, there are no downsides. For me, heck I simply don’t want to “go Greyhound”. I don’t care if it’s a new bus, I still don’t want to do it. I truly compliment Rick Steve’s for spending at least 2 nights in each hotel (whew). However, really Rick? All this money and I have to lug my own luggage up one or two flights of stairs? Give me a bellhop any day! As for the other awesome tour companies, notice I said awesome, dang, one night per hotel? I’m exhausted, and I haven’t even left yet. If you are insecure, go with the big tour companies. If not, follow me?.
So go! You’re gonna love it! They really do have all those castles and the churches are to die for. You will see history that predates our own by hundreds of years or more. I’ve self-toured in Europe with my family three times. The first time, I lost my daughter before I even got far from the arrival gate but we all survived. We Eurailed from Rome to London, over a three-week period, with no tour and no group. It was awesome! I did self-directed Eurail trips again in 2018 and 2019. Remember the elegance of flying in the 1960’s? That’s today’s Eurail.
Where to Stay and How to Tour
My advice is that when you are in Europe, do like the Europeans. Stay in smaller, local hotels. Always check the reviews and make sure they have what you want. You need an elevator (many places don’t)? Check their website. If they serve “European breakfast”, this means really simple, perhaps just coffee, rolls and jam – and of course a spot of tea in the UK. Remember that you’re in Europe, so don’t expect a Denny’s Grand Slam.
As for seeing the sites, it really is better to have someone with knowledge show you around. Consider hiring a local guide which usually costs less booking with ViaTour. Also check out the free local walking tours that most major cities offer. For the cost of a tip, you get a nice and knowledgeable local guide. And if you are short on time and/or money, those hop on/hop off buses can be a practical way to see the entire city in a couple of hours.
If you do book with a tour group, you may be with as many as 30 other people, and you will be lucky if you are near the leader – plus someone in the group always has to go to the bathroom making everyone else wait. And forget their claim to “no wait front of the line” baloney. Just ask your personal guide to get your tickets a day in advance for you, and pay their “friend” to “let you in”. Last thought. Be nice. Really be nice, simply say good morning, thank you, etc. in their language. This goes a long way.
Okay let’s get to the fun! Your hotel may be a bit out of the way, and you aren’t up for walking. However, my advice is to accept that there is going to be a lot of walking and prepare for this. Don’t make your first long walk the one you take on your vacation! And watch out for those new shoes – better to break them in before leaving home and avoid the blisters. And if needed, taxis are everywhere and so is UBER and Lyft in many areas. Just read up on the taxi protocol before leaving home to avoid overcharges.
By the way, I’ve driven a fair amount in Europe including exploring a large part of Switzerland by car. Make your reservation directly with Hertz, Budget, Avis, etc. Try to avoid reserving a car with a local company or at the travel website. What if you have a problem? What if you want to travel across a border? What if you want something bigger than a toaster oven? Do yourself a favor, spend the extra $5 a day and give yourself recourse. You can even call someone in the USA at a major company if needed. Also watch for those tolls and traffic violations you don’t discover until you get home. Our friend’s son received over $300 of tickets in the mail (ouch)!
If you want history, culture, architecture, what are you waiting for? Use the European travel tips, plus many others you can find online. What are you waiting for?
We hope this info on European travel trips has been helpful to you as we’ve taken some bumps and bruises to learn all this. And if you are interested in US road trips and lodging, read my last article. Better yet, subscribe to our newsletter so we can keep you up to date on our tips.