Tips for Your First Time Traveling to Europe
Traveling to Europe is a dream for many. With a rich culture and beautiful sites and architecture you can’t find in the states, it is no surprise that Europe is a popular travel destination. If you are finally making that dream a reality, do not fall victim to common mistakes of first-time travelers. Planning and doing your research can assure your trip will run smoothly. Here are some Tips for Your First Time Traveling to Europe.
Have Your Paperwork Ready
If you have never left the country before, you will need a passport, which is not a last-minute ordeal. It takes about four to six weeks after you apply to receive your passport. If you already have one, make sure it is not expired or near expiration. Most of the popular European travel destinations do not require a travel visa for tourists from the U.S., but always make sure.
You will also need to double-check your driver’s license expiration date, especially if you are looking to rent a car. European car rental companies require a valid license and in some cases an international driving permit, which can be obtained through the American Auto Association (AAA). Before you pick up your hire car, check with your rental company on what sort of documentation they require to save yourself the headache.
When in Rome, Do as the Romans
If you have been to Disney as much as I have, chances are you have dealt with your fair share of annoying tourists. I have learned to have empathy and understand a lot of it stems from cultural differences. But when I travel, I aim to fit in with the crowd and not draw attention to myself.
Leaving the shorts, tank tops, and baseball caps at home and opting for more neutral, conservative clothing is your best bet. Before you go, do some research on the culture, and while you are there, observe the mannerisms and behavior of locals.
There is nothing wrong with sightseeing at the prominent tourist locations and taking plenty of pictures. Go ahead and enjoy all the sights on your bucket list, but also be sociable and ask the locals what their favorite spots are. The best trips are those that leave room in the itinerary for a little spontaneous exploring.
Take Advantage of ATMs
It is a surprise that some places in Europe do accept American Visa and MasterCard. Nonetheless, you should always have cash on hand for restaurants and shopping trips. You may be tempted to use a money-changing counter as soon as you get off the plane, but their exchange rates are a rip-off. Visa or MasterCard are accepted at most ATMs. Just be sure to call your bank ahead of time and let them know you will be traveling, so they do not try to suspend your card for suspected fraud.
Travel During the Off-Seasons
In the summer, expect to wait in long lines for popular attractions. If you do not like crowds, do your research and avoid going during festivals and significant sporting events.
The off-season for traveling to Europe is November through March. During this time, you can book less expensive flights and feel like you have all of Europe to yourself. Be aware it is the off-season for a reason though and prepare for unpredictable weather.
Pack raincoats and plenty of layers of clothing. A nice compromise is visiting during the “shoulder season,” April-June and September-October, where you can enjoy the spring and fall weather and moderate crowds.
Book in Advance
Not everyone has the luxury of choosing any day out of the year to travel. During the peak season, hotels, tours, and reservations can fill up fast. Planning does not just save you a spot but can also save you money on airfare and hotels by booking early.
The Takeaway before Takeoff
By knowing how to handle your transportation, required documents, money, and most of all yourself with these tips, you’ll be ready to travel throughout Europe without a hitch. Bon voyage!