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Over the last year my family and I who currently live in Germany, have visited 11 countries. So I’m taking our experience and putting together the best tips for traveling in Europe!
Grab the best advice for Americans traveling in Europe! I spill all my tips and tricks for visiting Europe! Use this as your first timers guide to Europe or as a traveling to Europe checklist.
17 Tips for Traveling in Europe:
1. Buy water in the markets when traveling Europe
Everyone is always thirsty. And when traveling you’re usually in high tourist areas. Which means prices are much higher. You could pay 3 Euros at a food stand for the same water that costs €.50.
But there are always marketplaces. And they have the cheapest water. So when thirsty, look around for a market store.
They may be tiny and fit in between bigger shops but they’re there. And if you can’t find one, ask.
Extra tip– Europeans love carbonated water. If you don’t, ask for “still” water. Or water with “no gas”. Depending on which country you’re in they’ll understand one of the two. We’ve found that typically, water with pink bottle caps are always still.
2. Get cash from ATMs not exchange stores
Most, but not all countries, you’ll see exchange storefronts. A lot of people pull out cash in their currency and exchange it at these shops. However, if you’re going to pull out cash, just wait until you get into the country.
Use an atm (we’ve never been charged a fee at an ATM in Europe) and pull out their currency. You’ll get your banks exchange rate.
Need to know how much to pull out? Google a currency converter or use an app. I use an Android app called XE currency converter.
Extra tip– When paying with a card, pay in euros or whatever their currency is when asked. This is a tourist trap. If you are American, they’ll ask if you want to pay in USD. And then they’ll charge you a higher exchange rate than your bank will. But if you choose to pay in their currency, you’ll be charged your bank’s exchange rate which should be the standard daily rate.
3. Always carry change for the bathroom
That’s right, peeing isn’t free. But you also get to use clean restrooms. When you get cash from the ATM make sure to break one of those bills up into some change. Usually, you pay €0.50 for bathrooms. But some places charge more, like Venice.
Some places are nice and will let your child in for free. Some places are greedy and will make you pay for you and your child.
But always be prepared.
Extra Tip– Use the restroom at any establishment you make a purchase from. If you are at a restaurant make sure to use their bathroom before you leave. They’re almost always free. And I’ve noticed, if my child needs to go potty, if we’re by a restaurant and I bring a child with me, they usually say yes.
4. Water is never free at restaurants – One of my favorite tips for travelling Europe
If you order water, it’s going to come from a bottle. And that bottle is always expensive.
If you haven’t heard before, wine is cheaper than water in Europe, so if you drink wine, you may want to opt for that.
We don’t drink alcohol so I try to order something like iced tea. I’ve found almost all restaurants in Europe carry iced tea. I don’t like carbonation so it’s usually the only thing on the menu besides water that has no bubbles.
But they also have soda.
We’re cheap so we usually just drink the water we have in our stroller.
Extra Tip– If you have children, make sure to double check before you order that apple juice. It might be carbonated.
One more tip– there are no free refills in Europe. Once that drink is gone, it’s gone. And it’s usually a teeny tiny size. So with our children, we like to wait until they’re half finished with their food to give them their juice. Because drinks are expensive and we don’t want to blow our budget on juice.
How to Travel Smart in Europe:
5. Use trip advisor to make sure you’re not going to a tourist trap
I just read a story yesterday that a politician was charged 43 Euro in Venice for two coffees and two waters. Jaw dropping right? But they can charge you whatever they want to.
Especially in high tourist areas. We always check the reviews. It may take an extra minute, but I’d rather spend a minute then double the cost of food.
Extra Tip– This happens at exchange centers too. So if you want to skip tip 2 and opt for an exchange center, make sure to look up reviews first!
6. Get a bag that can’t be pickpocketed
You may think it’ll never happen to you. But it’s a high possibility in Europe. There are places with warnings posted about pickpocketers and then there are places where you don’t have to worry. But I never take that chance.
I highly recommend the anti-theft bags at Baggallini.com (use code BGAFL15 to save 15%) they are dependable and trustworthy. Plus they look amazing.
7. Or get locks for your current bag
If you don’t have time to get a new bag, or don’t want to- invest in some locks for your bag. A simple combination lock that fits through the zipper holes will do. I always buy two, just in case I lose one or need it for something else.
8. Bring a universal plug adapter
It seems almost everywhere we went, the plugs seemed different. In Germany, we have a two prong plug, different from America. But in Italy and Belgium, their plugs were the same, yet different from Germany. So we always bring a couple plug adapters with us. You can find plug adapters here on Amazon.
9. If you need a stroller, buy a stroller with air tires.
Cobblestones! Cobblestones everywhere! This is Europe, and if you’re in an area with a lot of foot traffic, it’s usually on cobblestone.
And the little umbrella strollers with the hard tires are so hard to push on these stones.
We use a Phil and Teds double stroller. Not to get off topic, but our stroller is amazing. It has gotten us through having multiple children. And when we can’t find a bathroom to change a diaper we lay the top seat down and use it as a changing table (it’s also used for naps). But the air in the tires makes pushing through cobblestone a breeze.
If you don’t need a double stroller and want to use a one seated stroller here is the #1 best seller on Amazon:
10. Use an accessory for your stroller to carry things
If you have a stroller that you have to push around, use it to it’s fullest ability. It’s not just for carrying your child! You want to make sure that it can carry your drinks and have pockets for the random things you buy. Here is a great stroller organizer. It’s Amazon’s best seller for a reason:
We also use a mommy hook. We have two actually, one for each side. In case we buy something (which we always do) and we don’t want to carry it around, we put the bag on a hook. And then for those days where we find a Primark (the most amazing cheap clothing store in Europe) we use both hooks because we usually have lots of bags! We also sometimes put our dog’s leash on this. We have three kids and a dog while traveling and this makes things much easier!
11. Good walking shoes – one of the best travel tips for Europe
If you’re in Europe, plan to walk a lot. The cute shoes that you plan on bringing better be comfortable! I’d even recommend gym walking shoes. Or the oh so cute Birkenstocks that you see everyone wearing.
12. You can book a hotel when you get there, make sure to check reviews
Unless you’re going for a huge festival and expect to have no availability, we’ve found that when we go on a random trip, we can book a hotel the day we get there. Make sure you ALWAYS check reviews. And if you want to stay on the safe side, book before you go.
We use booking.com to book our hotels. And if you refer someone and they book you get $15!
13. Don’t shy away from public transportation
In America, it seems there is some sort of stigma when it comes to public transportation. But not in Europe. Trains, buses, and trolleys are used everywhere. And they’re valuable to you. If you get a place to stay outside the city, take public transportation inside. There are some cities where I would recommend only using public transportation, like Amsterdam for example, so you don’t hit someone on their bike.
You can google passes for transportation to save on your trip. For example, the Luxembourg card gets you into lots of attractions and includes all public transportation.
14. Park at a mall
Don’t know where to park? When in doubt, find a mall. Malls usually have free or cheap parking. If we are going to a city center and there is a mall, we always park there. It’s easy to find where we parked, and it’s cheap.
Use your google maps to look up a mall or shopping center.
Extra Tip– If you walk through the mall to go outside, there are always ATMs in the mall where you can pull out your currency as explained in Tip 2.
15. Europe is dog-friendly
We have a small Yorkie-chihuahua that loves to come on our trips with us. Yes, there are establishments that have a “no dogs” sticker on their doors. But most places do not. And 7 out of 10 times, if we bring her to a restaurant with us, they set out a bowl of water for her.
You’ll see dogs almost everywhere, including inside the malls. It’s normal here. Well, almost everywhere. We didn’t see many dogs in Switzerland, but we were only there for a day so who knows!
16. Pick a standard souvenir so you can start a collection
We have a standard list of souvenirs that we “must get” in every country.
Our boys each pick out a postcard, and I get a cookbook.
Before our trips, I always research the unique souvenirs in each country and try to grab one. Like in Budapest, we got trick boxes and Hungarian lace.
Extra tip– make sure your souvenir of choice is reasonable. For example, if you choose to buy a clock in every country, do you have enough space on your walls for a million clocks?
17. When in doubt, ask a local.
It’s my favorite game to play. Do they speak English? Do they not speak English? Do they actually speak English but act like they don’t because they don’t want to talk to me?
Either way, I don’t care, I still ask. And if I encounter someone that doesn’t understand me, I ask someone else. What is there to lose? You’ll most likely never see these people again.
We are the foreigners in their country. And we haven’t experienced anywhere that we can’t find a helpful local.
So, you don’t know the best place to eat? Ask a local. Need a bathroom? Ask a local. Want to find a market? Just ask.
We have found the best places to eat by just asking.
These 17 tips for traveling in Europe can help you on every trip you make!
Do you know of another tip to add? Tell me in the comments, I’d love to hear it!