So you want to travel! Me too ~ maybe you’ve just arrived in Europe or maybe you’re on your way out. Either way you look at it, I bet you’ve already made some travel goals for 2018! Setting New Year’s resolutions is something just about everyone does, including me. Sometimes I get so excited about making new “goals,” I forget about ones I’ve already attempted, it is a symptom of my ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.)
When you are stationed here in Europe most of us want to see it all. However, we just don’t have time to do it all. So, I’m going to share a few tips and tricks I do every year to get organized and help keep me focused.
Here are a few questions I ask myself before getting started?
- What are this year’s MUST-SEE locations – then I MAKE A LIST!
- How does work/school/family schedule line up with travel dates
- I PLAN out as far as possible
Keeping everything in order ~
- Get organized
- Create spreadsheets of my proposed trips
- Create itineraries and folders for each trip – organize according to country and time (month)
- Get a map
- A big calendar in a prominent location of your house for everyone to see
Time off is confirmed, kids are out of school, now is when I choose the mode of transportation ~ will we fly, train or drive, maybe we’ll cruise. For this, I begin with a little app I love, Rome2Rio , this little app will give you several different methods of transportation to your destination as well as the costs. It will also connect you to a link for each mode of transport. For instance, it may give you train and plane as well as car and bus together and total cost. It will at least give me a rough estimate.
ONLY by CAR ~
Traveling by car can sometimes be the most cost-effective way to travel. Be aware that summer travel typically includes heavy traffic patterns all over Europe and increased gas prices. For driving help, I use the website and app of ViaMichelin. While I am creating an itinerary I check out the map route from origin to destination and this website will create three different routes that include tolls and gas consumption. This is really helpful in creating your travel budget.
Depending on how your family travels it may be more inexpensive to check into an AirBnb, HomeAway or VRBO. These websites and apps are very helpful if you would like to have a single location, a kitchen, and living area (similar to having an apartment.)
Here are a few tips to use these websites for better results
- READ the REVIEWS – all of them, the good and the bad
- Within the review make sure the “must-have’s” for you are met, is it the location, separate bedrooms and bathrooms, accessibility to sites
- If a property does not have any reviews yet, check to see if they have other properties that have been rated
- Write them an email before you book your property
- Understand there are additional service fees attached to the price. You won’t pay just the advertised price in the ad
- Search engines for hotel and overnight accommodations
I typically use Booking.com quite a bit for reviewing before I book
- Always check the cancellation policy and what it includes while you are on Booking.com
- When checking the reviews here or on TripAdvisor check out the reviewers rating as well, sometimes I just find a whiner, someone who isn’t happy with anything except 5* accommodations so of course they wouldn’t be happy at an Agriturismo in the countryside of Italy
- I recommend using Booking.com if you need to have a cancellation policy with reassurance however… you may wish to reach out to the hotel for sometimes a better rate, you can always call them too, most small hotels prefer this too and speak English
- Also be aware, when booking a hotel reservation in France CHECK the fine print regarding breakfasts (it may even be a Bed and Breakfast) breakfast may be AVAILABLE but NOT included in the price of your room. One time I was charged €18/person for our breakfast I thought was included in my stay – this can be verified with one simple email
One thing I keep in mind while traveling around Europe as well is “going with the flow.” Most of the time you won’t be spending “gobs” amount of time in your apartment so don’t get caught up with not having incredibleness every time. Of course, if it is a special occasion or special destination spend a little more time reviewing before booking. But if it is a quick weekend trip, I tell myself I’ll survive. After all, I’m in Athens, Berlin, Paris, I’ll be home by Sunday, right?
What to do? What to see? Where to eat?
Trade secret here!! This is one of my BIG rules – it’s called the rule of three. Which is actually the rules of survival but for these purposes, we’ll call it travel survival.
Try as hard as you can to NOT over plan. You will wipe yourself and your family out with blurry memories and tense attitudes. Trust me on this ~
When planning your itinerary it is best to pick THREE things for each day. It can be either one or two things in the morning and or in the afternoon, if you plan more than that it can be a bit overwhelming and could stress you out. We all have the tendency to want to do it all, but compartmentalizing your itinerary you’ll enjoy your destination a lot more. After we choose what to do, I’ll then pair a famous place to eat or a restaurant nearby so I know we aren’t searching for-ever for a bite. For this I use the FourSquare app, much better than Yelp in Europe, they just haven’t caught on yet over here.
MAKE TIME TO CHILL
One of the biggest blessings you can give yourself is to “stop and smell the roses.” Great advice from my husband’s grandma and also true. If you over plan, you won’t be leaving time for pop-up surprises that could turn out to be the BEST part of your trip. Countless pop-ups have happened on my trips that have been the biggest highlight.
Last but not least ~
You have planned everything perfectly! Your leave is approved, the kids are on-board, you have a spotless itinerary and its almost time to go. Wait! Something just popped up and now you can’t go ~ travel insurance may not make sense for every trip individually, so consider an annual policy.
If you have invested a large amount of money in a particular trip, for example, spring break to Gran Canaria, you might consider travel insurance. Travel insurance typically covers a large portion of your travel for whatever reason, however, I have learned here in Germany it doesn’t typically include military leave for orders.