Whether you're headed to Amsterdam or Zurich, here are ten tips to help you plan the perfect European vacation.
1. Pack Comfortable Shoes - Many of Europe's most historical cities are lined with quaint cobblestone streets more apt for foot traffic than mass transit. If you're planning on a lot of sightseeing, opt for the sneakers instead of the stilettos.
2. Be Smart with your Money - Carefully plan out your money options while traveling abroad. Credit cards are often the most secure method of payment since you can track purchases and quickly cancel a lost or stolen card. However, don't put your all your eggs in one basket; having more than one money option (e.g. cash, credit cards, travelers cheques, etc.) will ensure you'll always have a way to pay.
3. Outsmart Thieves - Certain European cities are known to be riddled with pick pockets who take advantage of unsuspecting (and arguably not so smart) tourists. Keep your money, passport, and other valuables in hard to reach places, not just your back pocket. In addition, travel experts recommend "splitting up" your money: putting your credit cards in once place and you're cash in another. This minimizes your risk of losing everything if you have a bag or wallet stolen.
4. Lodging Expectations - Lodging in Europe can be drastically different than in the U.S. European hotels are rated and priced according to hotel amenities it offers, not room quality. Hostels can be an affordable option but expect modest conditions at best. Budget travelers should look into family-run hotels housed in older buildings with shower halls and stairs.
5. Flying within Europe - If you plan on visiting several different European countries, the most convenient and quickest way to travel is flying point-to-point. There are a handful of budget carriers that offer cheap flights but be aware of potential luggage restrictions and fees.
6. Make Copies - Prior to your departure, make copies of all important documents including your passport, flight itineraries, hotel reservations, and credit cards. You should also create a contact list with important phone numbers such as the hotel, airline, credit card company, etc.
7. Breaking Down the Language Barrier - A simple guide book of the local language can provide you with simple words and phrases to help you get by. Always speak clearly, slowly, and remember, hand gestures can work wonders! In addition, most people know the term "English" and will understand you are looking for an individual who understands the language.
8. European Tourist Offices - Since tourism is such an important part of Europe's economy, most countries have a tourist office right in the United States that can help you with all your Europe travel planning needs. To find the contact information, simply Google the name of the country along with tourist office.