I am constantly looking at ways to make travelling less complicated and more fun… These are my top tips so far:
1. STUDY AHEAD
Get to know where you’re going, you don’t have to be an expert on each city or town but wouldn’t it be better to know where you’re going so you don’t have your head in your guide book all the time? Guide books also give tips on visiting attractions, certain days/times maybe cheaper or they could be closed. Who wants to get all the way to Italy and find out that the museum which you were dying to see, is closed on the only free day you will be there.
2. BUY YOUR TICKETS AHEAD ONLINE
There’s queues everywhere in Europe, if you’re smart however you can reduce your time standing in them. Think mid June Athens standing in line for 2 hours in 28°C heat just to buy a ticket. No thanks! Check out if the attraction you are visiting has an online ticket option. Trivago is a good place to start.
3. DON’T FOLLOW THE CROWDS
Get off the beaten track, it is called that because thousands of travellers walk that same path sometimes daily. Pull out a local map, go to some of the lesser known places. This is where “Studying Ahead” comes in handy. You will find some hidden gems which aren’t dominated by the tourism boards. Ok so you may have difficulty with the local language, but you will also see places which are authentic.
4. EAT WITH LOCALS
Following on from #3 find local restaurants. Ask taxi drivers, hostel workers etc where they love to eat. The small restaurants down side streets away from the main centre. These places usually have a black board outside. The food is usually more homegrown, economical and fresh. Language maybe a problem here, always have Google translate handy when reading the menu (before the waitress arrives).
5. BE AN EXTROVERT
Talk to everyone! Make an effort to get to know the “real” people of the town you’re visiting. They’re off the tourist radar and will tell you where to really see their town. The hidden gems. These people will be so happy to meet someone from the other side of the world. You never know, they could end up being life long friends.
6. PACK LIGHT
I couldn’t stress this more, limit yourself. Only take one pair of sneakers, one pair of jandals (weather dependant), and maybe a pair of dress shoes if you think you will need them. Roll your clothes, they’ll come out less wrinkled and you will have the space to fit everything into one bag. Picture this, do you really want to get off the train into the crowd in Rome with a heavy suitcase trailing behind you, or a heaving backpack almost crippling you as you walk? No, you want to be comfortable and able to stroll through easily. You will be stuck with that same backpack and suitcase through your whole trip. Pack light, make use of the hotel/hostel laundry (or a nearby one) to clean your clothes.
7. HAVE A POSITIVE ATTITUDE
Don’t try compare each city or town to your own. Because the whole reason of travelling is to experience different cultures. No, Naples is not going to be the same as Auckland. Its going to be an eye opener. Adapt to their flow, keep in mind of their beliefs and be flexible. Make sure you smile, you may not speak their language, but a smile is contagious.
8. DON’T FLY A ROUND TRIP
Its expensive. Unless you’re planning a short visit for a weekend getaway, don’t fly in and out of the same city. This won’t always work, and sometimes its more suitable. But if you’re travelling all over Europe, there isn’t much point in back tracking to fly out of your origin city. For instance, fly into Amsterdam and out of Rome.
9. DRESS TO SUIT
Going to Europe in the shoulder season (Autumn/Spring). Make sure you have some good shoes (not new ones either), a warm jacket in case it gets chilly and some light weight clothes in case it gets hot. You also don’t want to be stuck with a winter coat, when you don’t need it. You need to take that winter coat everywhere with you so make sure you know if you will really need it or not.
10. A COUPLE OF ITEMS TO CONSIDER PACKING
Baby wipes, dry shampoo, nail polish, plasters and bug spray.
Baby wipes and dry shampoo in case you can’t get into the shower when staying in a hostel. Haha it might seem absolutely disgusting but I went a day or so (not consecutively) without having a shower. They might be cold, the queue is too long or you might just be exhausted. These will help. Also nail polish. It makes your feet and fingers look pretty even if they’re covered in blisters (and plasters to cover said blisters) they will happen. No matter what shoes you wear!
Bug spray for those pesky mozzies which like to prey in the summer months.
Also, a good idea is some laundry powder, spare plastic bags and collapsible hangers (I saw these around a few places) for your clothes.
Travel sized shampoo, conditioner and moisturizer is a give in! You don’t need full bottles trust me. And the most important of all. Sunblock!