Travelling to Europe

Traveling for three weeks was no small feat. We planned for months, researched locations and prepared as much at home so we could just enjoy our trip. I've been asked about our best travel tips, so here it goes.

Pack Light

Yep, those are our suitcases. I'm just as surprised as you are.
Even on the way to the airport my dad asked where our other suitcases were.

We ditched traditional suitcases because I couldn't imagine pushing through bustling European train stations as I wheeled a mammoth suitcase behind me. These North Face backpacksgave us the ability to be assertive in crowds and forced us to pack light.

Pack Smart

As a notorious overpacker, this was really tricky for me. But somehow we pulled it off.

7 Shirts and 2 undershirts
4 bottoms (jeans, shorts, skirt, leggings)
1 dress
1 swimsuit
1 hoodie
2 scarves
1 belt
2 pairs of shoes Keds
and a pair of Sanuksflats

Toiletries (but not hairdryer or curling iron)
Snacks (granola bars, oatmeal, gummy bears)
Books (travel and leisure)
Garbage sacks (for dirty laundry)

(I bought a couple of shirts and a blazer while traveling that I wore as well)

The key here was to a) mix and match everything b) not look too touristy. My entire pack weighed less than 25 pounds, so minimalism was key. Every item MUST mix and match.

How I would have packed differently:

  • Ditch two of the shirts in favor of a warmer jacket. Paris was soooo cold when we went! And bring a more waterproof shoe.
  • Only take one book (or just my Kindle). We chatted and made friends on the train so I didn't have any time to read.
  • Bring a hair dryer. I didn't bring any styling tools and I wish I would have at least done the dryer. My natural hair was just too poofy.

Research

Read everything you can get your hands on. We didn't plan out every detail of our itinerary, but we knew enough that we never had to worry if we had a place to stay or if we missed out on something.

Favorite Travel Resources

  • Library. Books upon books on almost any subject. Perfect for travelers.
  • Podcasts. Favorites include
  • Guidebooks. We preferred Rick Steves' Guide Booksbecause of the "inside scoop" feel and personable prose. I loved his advice on everything except for the food recommendations. Those were only so-so.
  • Friends who have traveled or studied abroad. Incredible insight and real advice.
  • Anything else you can get your hands on. Historical sites or artifacts mean more if you already know a little about them before visiting.
  • Blogs. Through a blog we learned about Italy's train system and how there was a private/public train price war. Not reading Italian, we would have never figured it out on our own. With that help we got most of our train tickets in advance for at least 50% off. Ultimate score.
Best Tips We Learned...
  • Skip the lines. We snagged museum passes in Rome and Paris. Not only does it cover the entrance to many museums, you also get to skip the line. I am shocked more people do not use them.
  • Escape town. When we got sick of Milan, I had remembered the name of a town nearby I wanted to go to. With just a city name, we hopped on a train and fell in love with Lake Como.
  • Get reservations. Viewing The Last Supper in Milan is RESERVATION ONLY, and often books up well in advance.
  • Know when things are open. Museums are not open every day. What a bummer if you are in Florence the one day the museum housing The David is closed. (That happened to a girl we met. So sad.)

Spend Money Well

A three week vacation is not cheap. Since we aren't millionaires, we had to make sacrifices. My advice: figure out what is important to you.

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