If you are planning a trip to Europe in the near future, here are some tips to make travel easier and more fun!
Get in Shape
Often on vacation, especially in Europe, you do a lot of walking and climbing that uses muscles that aren't used to working very hard. Take walks, climb stairs, and get those muscles working. If you only walk from your car to the office, you might need to consider walking during your lunch hour. A two mile daily walk will get you in shape quickly. And take the stairs for a month before you travel.
Break Your Shoes In at Home
Don't take a brand new pair of shoes that you've never worn. You are asking for blisters. Try out all your shoes by walking around the block in them. Are they comfortable?
Think Comfort and Layers
Forget the jeans you have to lay on the bed to zip up. Pull out the clothes that move and bend in cheery colors that look good on you. Layers work best for a place you have never visited. You can always peel off or put on a layer as needed. I brought a light weight hoodie to wear under a rain coat with a pair of gloves to the Netherlands. When the weather cooled off, I pulled on the rain coat and gloves. When it got warmer, I simply put my gloves and coat in the back pack.
I wanted to look nice for pictures so I brought pretty shirts and sweaters to wear with my comfy jeans. Wearing light make-up and no jewelry except earrings, I still managed to look nice.
Make a Detailed Itinerary
Take the time to read travel books and visit websites. Talk to your travel companions and make a list of everything that you want to see. As you decide what to do when, keep travel, distance, and cost in mind. You will have to find out what hours and days things are open so that you don't plan to go to a museum on Monday, only to find out that it is closed Monday.
You can always change your plans, but its nice to have a plan!
It is good to carry around a tiny language booklet because not everyone speaks English, though many do in Europe. We like to learn basic phrases before we go like "Good Morning," "Thank you," "Please," and "Where is the Bathroom?"
Get maps from every city you are visiting. I bought some for our last trip for some of the cities, but not all. That was a mistake. We needed our own maps. Of course, I could have printed out google maps too.
Use road, train, tram, and bus routes to plan how you will travel around.This saves lots of valuable time. We had most things planned, but didn't plan how we would get to Haarlem and Leiden. Would it be bus or train? We finally decided on the train and used on day of our 5-Day Euro-Rail Pass.
Find out where the cheapest place to exchange money is. It is definitely not the airport. Where we live, the cheapest place is 45 minutes away at the Florida Mall. My daughter made a day of it with a friend. They shopped and ate lunch before exchanging our dollars for Euros.
Speaking of money, make a rough plan for how much money the trip will cost and then double it. Trips always have unexpected expenses. A little extra here and a little there adds up quickly.
Copy Your Passport
Make two copies of each family member's passport. Leave one copy at home and put another copy in a suitcase, separate from where you will store your passport. This way if you lose your passport, you will have immediate access to all the information. Simply go to the U.S.A. embassy and they will help you if you lose your passport.
Leave Room in Suitcase
When you pack, leave room to bring home souvenirs and gifts you find on your adventure. We make sure our suitcases are well below the weight limit too. On our way back home, they always weigh more!
Just remember to charge your camera batteries and empty your SD card to leave plenty of room for pictures. The same goes for video cameras.
That Long Flight
It is a long way across the ocean to Europe so prepare for a long ride. I usually take off my shoes so I can regularly wiggle my toes and move my legs and feet around. I also get up every couple of hours and walk around a little. This is especially important as you age to prevent blood clots. I also bring a book or two to read and other activities that will keep me from getting bored. The best thing, if you can, though, is to sleep so that you aren't too exhausted when you land.
Make sure that you pack a copy of your travel itinerary in your carry on. When our family travels, almost everyone wants their own copy. That way no one is wondering what is going to happen next.
Merey (Meredith Ludwig Curtis)