Throwback Thursday – Europe 2015/2016

view from the Burg Hohenzollern - January 2016

As my husband and I adjust back to ordinary life, I thought I'd share a list of what we learned on our recent trip to Europe – what went right, what went wrong, what we'd change, and what we will never forget. :) For an idea of what our trip was like and what the planning involved was, check out this page. Today I'm just providing an overview, be sure to follow along in the coming months to get more in depth details about the places we stayed, the products we used, the apps that guided our adventures, and more! :)


In late August I made a deal with my husband: if I spotted flights to Europe in the $500 range with a large airline carrier like Delta (not Icelandair), I was booking … otherwise we weren't going. I was completely flexible with dates although I had two time periods I was aiming for – Christmas/New Years or July, for my birthday. Lo and behold, not even a week later, $500 tickets became less of a dream and more of a reality. I interrupted Justin from his cooking and, as per the conditions of our deal, booked! Woot! We ended up going along with the earlier Christmas/New Years dates, because I was aware of when our friends were available to meet up with during that time period. Plus, how easy is it to get time off during the holidays?

And thus the planning began. I was in the midst of figuring out an Orlando trip at the same time, but, even so, I worked through the itinerary one step at a time. Slowly the pieces of the puzzle began to come together. We would be exploring NYC, Paris, and Strasbourg by ourselves, meeting up with friends to travel through Prague and Dresden, then concluding with a day each in Paris and NYC before returning home.

Here's what we learned:



• Before you leave, print every confirmation email and ticket you receive.

In Prague we ran into a problem where the hotel claimed I had booked one room and not two. Without proof, there's not much you can do aside from pay again. Luckily we had proof!

• Book train travel in advance. (At least one week early!)

The prices can skyrocket on the day of the trip. I thought by not booking I was allowing myself some flexibility. Maybe. But if you wait to book, you will pay the price. I recommend using Rome2Rio or Google Flights if you aren't familiar with European train booking. Be aware, though, that more dates and times might be available when booking the train directly on the website (such as through Deutschebahn).

• Sleep on the plane, if possible.

Normally leaving from the US to go to Europe, this wouldn't be a problem for me EXCEPT that we walked ourselves to death in NYC. (Loved every minute of it!) So, naturally, sleeping on the plane was a good idea for me. We left NYC at 7PM Sunday night and arrived in Paris at 9AM Monday morning. Aside from the stupid Delta employees who left the lights on the whole trip and kept serving food and waking me up every hour, it's a great way to get in your 6 hours of sleep before enjoying the day! HOWEVER, once you get there, don't go to sleep until bedtime their time. You may be exhausted, but it is, without a doubt, one of the quickest ways to conquer jetlag!

When we returned from Paris, we had just under an 8 hour flight … with stupid Delta employees waking everyone up constantly again. Don't they know they will have an easier flight if they just let everyone sleep? Anyway, once again, don't go to bed until it's bed time in the new time zone after arrival. We left Paris at 8AM and arrived in NYC at 1PM, which added 6 hours to our day. With an 8 hour nap though, who cares? (Just don't drink coffee before boarding the plane. Justin learned this the hard way.)

Whether at the beach or in the mountains, water is always a good idea!

• Stay hydrated.

Generic flying dehydrates me. Changing time zones makes it even worse. I always make sure to drink as much water as I can after landing.

• Say hello and goodbye in the country's language every time you enter or exit a place of business.

I don't know why. I'm an American who would rather keep my mouth shut when I enter or exit a business. For some odd reason though, Europeans like to be acknowledged. You'd have to ask one of them why. Either way, we tended to get better service just for saying those few simple words.

• Bring a small medical kit.

Every time we go to Europe I end up needing allergy and pain medication. EVERY TIME. This time I also brought bandages for blisters. I never had to worry about knowing the correct word for what I needed or taking the time to find a pharmacy!

• Ask the natives.

First, learn a few words to get by in the country you are visiting. "Hello", "goodbye", "please", "thank you", "bathroom", "yes", "no", "check please!" and "do you speak English?" will all help tremendously. Simple numbers can be useful too. Have your hotel address with you to show Taxi drivers. And finally, talk to the hotel concierge to find the best things to do and get reservations at some of the best restaurants in town. If you have an AirBnb host instead of a hotel concierge, definitely make time to speak with them. They know their town backwards and forwards and can help you far more than Google or any hotel concierge! Just try talking to people – you never know what you will discover!


Working from a hotel is no fun!

• Bring a laptop.

Unless you need it for work, you simply shouldn't bring it. Take an ipad or e-reader instead. They are lighter. Better yet – just use your phone.

• Pack more than 7 days worth of clothing.

Bring things that can be mixed and matched. Underclothing can be washed and worn again. Over clothing gets less dirty if you are wearing underclothing. Just … pack light. That's all I can really say on the matter. You'll thank me when you aren't toting 200 pounds worth of clothing and beer up and down train steps multiple times because, as it turns out, you are in the lower level of a train car with a broken door. (Been there; done that.)

• Stay in a city less than 24 hours.

We were scheduled to arrive in Strasbourg at 1PM and leave the next day at 9AM. Anyway, we ended up changing our train ticket so that we could have more time in Paris. (I didn't like the Paris Christmas market and assumed that the Strasbourg one would be similar.) We arrived at 5PM to Strasbourg and went straight to dinner missing the Christmas market altogether. And then the church was closed. Needless to say, the most we did was walk the Christmas light covered streets in fog. It was a beautiful small city that really didn't require more than a few hours for sightseeing, but those hours it did require were within a time range when we would already be gone. *shrugs* Maybe we'll try a stopover there again sometime in the future. I must admit I wouldn't be heartbroken if we didn't though.

• Take Uber on a holiday.

The prices are inflated and they hurt. :(

Have you had the chance to visit Europe before? Is there anything you would include in this list that I didn't?

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