We’re taking a break this week from all the photos to give those of you who might be planning a trip to Europe some useful travel tips and resources that we gathered along the way. I had previously been to Europe, but on a trip organized for students. All I had to do was be ready to go at the time the tour bus said we had to meet and they took care of the rest. It was great! But for our honeymoon, I wanted the freedom to go wherever and do whatever we wanted. Easier said than done, right?! When talking with my friends and some of our brides, I’ve realized that for those of us dreaming of a European honeymoon or trip, the most overwhelming part of it all is getting started planning. This was definitely the most difficult part for us. It seemed like it would take forever and we didn’t know where to start so we just kept pushing it off. But the answer was so simple and I would recommend you start with this step as well. Figure out where you want to go!!
You might be thinking, “DUH!” but hear me out. Stop simply referring to it as “Europe” and really think about what cities you really want to see on this trip. Start saying things like… “I can’t wait to see the ruins of ancient Rome” or “I’d love to take a bike ride through the gardens of Versailles”. Always just telling each other you can’t wait to go to Europe is too vague and kind of keeps the trip in the category of a dream rather than making it a reality, I feel.
Maika and I sat down over the course of a couple evenings and came up with a list of our dream places, and I circled them on a map. By making concrete decisions on your “must-haves” as far as which cities are a priority and seeing them laid out in front of you makes things so much easier! From there, we knew we could wait to see certain places like Spain, the south of France, Greece, Germany/Austria, and Ireland/Scotland on future trips. Don’t get me wrong, I still plan to visit all of these places and more! I just knew I could wait on them for now. Next, we figured out how many days we wanted to stay in each place- which cities had a ton to do? Which ones were more laid back where we could have some down time? Which ones had other activities to do other than museums so my husband didn’t kill me? LOL.
After we had our must haves and a general idea of how many days we wanted to be in each city, we tackled booking airfare and lodging. We just had to DO IT already! Making that jump is the hardest part but once you book your first flight, trust me, the ball starts rolling fast! It was a couple THOUSAND dollars cheaper for us to fly into and out of the same city. Decision made. London it is! From there, we planned to make our way down to the south of Italy and then make our way back up to London. Trust me guys, train travel is where it’s at! We booked some of the bigger train tickets in advance, like the London-Paris train, the overnight train from Paris to Venice, etc. But we honestly didn’t book a lot of our train travel until the week before. If you’re traveling around Italy, Trenitalia.com is a great resource for travel between both big cities and for just day excursions.
On a side note, think about what season you want to visit in- while most assume Summer would be ideal, I would advise against it- lines for attractions get really long in those months and travel/lodging is usually much more expensive because there is a higher demand. If you can do late spring/early fall, it will save you some money and the temperatures will still be manageable. Layers people! Dress in layers! 😉
My biggest tip and the reason I wanted to write this post:
We highly recommend using a site called AIRBNB.COM for your lodging. It was one of the best choices we made and allowed us to check in/check out at random times that matched up with our train departures/arrivals so we could make the most of each city. We literally arrived in the Cinque Terre at 11:00 PM and the owner was willing to stay up and let us in- crazy! We also stayed well into the early evening on one of our checkout days and that owner didn’t charge us anything extra. I’m talking dinner time! Because airbnb.com allows you to be in direct contact with the people renting out their places, you can make a lot more special requests and a lot of the people are really great in giving directions and recommendations for places to eat around the apartments/houses. Check it out!! It will also probably save you a significant amount of money compared to staying in hotels all the time. We only stayed in hotels when the quality airbnb.com places were all booked up. Read the reviews from other travelers and that will help you feel reassured. I wouldn’t stay somewhere that didn’t have a bunch of wonderful reviews. This site was such a game changer for us and gave us so much more flexibility!! The photo below is the view from our AMAZING deck at the vacation home we stayed at in Sorrento. We couldn’t have asked for anything better! (Also, a lot of these places have washing machines so you can pack even less!)
That’s really my main tips- brainstorm your dream cities, figure out how many days you want to be in each one, and just start booking things! Once you get started, it’s so much less overwhelming. Just start with what you know and the rest is like completing a fun puzzle! Some other tips that you probably already know:
1. Pack comfortable shoes! You walk everywhere!
2. Ask locals for restaurant recommendations- they always know the best places and this helps you avoid the “tourist traps”.
3. Pack light- trust me, if it wasn’t for Maika, I don’t know what I would have done carrying those bags up and down the 5 floor walk up we stayed at in Paris.
4. Look up the tipping etiquette in each country- it varies and you don’t want to waste money or come off like a jerk!
5. Have fun learning some of the languages- especially key words like “hello”, “thank you”, “how much is ____”, “where is ____”, etc. And smile when you’re talking to the locals- even in Paris… they are so much friendlier than we thought!