I’ve just returned from a two week trip through Europe using a tour company. Myself, a friend and 49 complete strangers visited seven countries during that time, so it was a bit of a frantic pace, but we saw a lot and experienced things I had only dreamed about –so it was all worth it. I’m exhausted but there’s plenty of time to recuperate!
I thought it would make a good blog post to list some tips I learned on this trip. I’ve traveled before, but never for that long of a period of time. This was my third trip with a tour company so I think I have enough experience with them to make some observations that may be helpful to others.
- Don’t overpack. I made the mistake of bringing 16 changes of clothes, and while I did wear almost all of them, I could have gotten by with half that amount. Clothes can be reworn or washed in a sink and dried using a hairdryer. In summer, bring lightweight clothes that dry fast.
- Since I had packed so many clothes, that left no space in the suitcase for anything else I wanted to buy. I had to limit my purchases to things that were small and light. Maybe that’s not a bad thing though! But I did have a lot of dirty clothes taking up space and adding weight. If I had brought half of that, it would have made things much easier.
- Skip some excursions. Some aren’t worth the money or time. Research the area ahead of time and discover things to do on your own. Also try to research the excursion ahead of time because the descriptions provided don’t always give enough information. Sometimes you can get a better price if you arrange things on your own, but not always. I liked most of the excursions I did and felt they were worth the money.
- We had been to some of the cities we visited before so we skipped those excursions and did our own thing on those days. The tour director was very helpful and understood that we didn’t want to pay to see things we’d already seen and gave suggestions on other sites to visit.
- Tipping expectations vary by country so research that before you go.
- Do your best to avoid the stops the tour will make at tourist traps. They’ll tell you this is the “last chance you’ll have to buy” a certain item or it’s the “best price” you’ll find, which is silly in this day and age where you can buy just about anything online. On this trip, we stopped at a leather store where there was a very long sales presentation. Once I realized what was going on, we gracefully exited the store without anyone noticing.
- If you’re traveling in Europe, you’ll realize soon enough that using the bathroom comes at a cost. It varies widely, but for the most part, you’ll have to pay at least 1 Euro to use the bathroom, so make sure to have coins on you as some machines or attendants may or may not provide change or take credit cards.
- Bring disinfectant wipes. This may sound paranoid, but when you’re stuck on a bus for days with 49 other people, things get gross quickly.
That’s all I can think of for now. If I think of anything else, I’ll add it in the comments. Feel free to add your own.