Heading to Europe? I have been traveling to Europe a few times a year for the past few years, and I have learned a lot along the way. Today I am sharing what to know about planning a trip to Europe. I hope this helps you plan your next trip!
I love using Skyscanner to book flights since it shows you all the options and even has a “Everywhere” option that will show you the best flights deals to all cities. I usually end up spending about $600-$900 on flights to Europe, and I don’t have any specific strategies that I use for the timing of when I book a flight. Usually I book my flight between 3 months and 1 month in advance.
Make sure that your passport will be valid for at least 3 months after you return from your trip, otherwise you might have a hard time entering a foreign country.
Currency and Credit Cards
I never worry about getting local currency at a US bank before I leave for my trip. I just make sure that I alert my bank that I will be traveling (this can be done online) and I get money at an ATM at the airport after I land. Credit cards are widely accepted almost everywhere these days (sometimes grocery stores, restaurants, or bars are cash only though). If you have American Express, you might want to bring a back up card since AmEx is accepted a little less frequently in Europe.
Plan Around National Holidays
In America we are accustomed to everything being open all the time; Thanksgiving and Christmas are the only days when nearly everything closes. In Europe, may countries take their national holidays (bank holidays) more seriously and businesses close. When I was studying abroad in Vienna, my roommate and I would take a train outside of Austria on bank holidays so we had something to do since the city totally shut down. I recommend just looking up the holidays when you are planning a trip, and checking to see if museums and sights are open. Each country handles holidays a bit differently, but an unexpected bank holiday might interfere with your plans. If you are thinking of traveling over Christmas, really do your research since in my experience sometimes cities are almost completely shut down for days to celebrate the holiday.
Major strikes are basically unheard of in America, but they still happen in Europe. We were in Barcelona during a major city-wide strike, and there were no taxis, businesses and restaurants were closed, and the public transit was barely running. If you hear about a strike that will coincide with your travel plans, find out which types of businesses are participating in the strike. You might want to adjust your plans. If taxis and/or public transit are involved in a strike getting from the airport to your hotel might be a big challenge, so see if you can rent a car. Depending on the exact situation, you may want to change your travel plans since shops, restaurants, and historical sights may close during a strike.
I am sorry but cruise ships are ruining tourism in some European cities. In Dubrovnik and Barcelona sometimes half a dozen ships, each carrying 10,000-20,000 people will invade the city all at once. They overcrowd cities that just were not built to accommodate that many people, and since the cruise ship guests eat and sleep on the ships they aren’t contributing much to the local economy. My point here is that if you are planning to visit a coastal city that is also a cruise ship port, you might want to try visiting just before or after the cruise ship season. We had wonderful luck in Dubrovnik when we visited in May, but were not as lucky when we were in Barcelona in early October. If you are visiting a city during cruise ship season, make sure you book everything in advance, since all those extra people mean that tickets to sights and museums might sell out.
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