30 Things You Need to Know Before Traveling to Europe

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Renowned for its diversity and blend of cultural differences, Europe has long been the go-to continent for travelers worldwide. With 585 million travelers alone in 2022, tourism figures will only keep rising since pandemic restrictions have completely eased for all EU countries.

To make the most out of your European vacation, being prepared with a checklist is key.

Here are 30 essential tips you need to know before you embark on your trip.

1.               Decide Where to go

Before you get excited by the endless possibilities, remember that even though Europe may not be the biggest continent on Earth, it includes over 45 countries. Hence, it is essential to make sure that you choose your designated countries beforehand. Be sure to select cities within reach to prevent long travel durations that might interrupt your vacation time.

Make sure to see which airports are close to your destination, and if your preferred airlines fly there. Delta flies to 42 countries whereas American Airlines flies to 48.

2.               Determine the best seasons

While planning your holiday, focus on the seasons you want to experience. If you struggle with the cold, going in the summer or autumn is best. Depending on your preference, decide on a country that suits you. By planning, you can save much more by buying your plane tickets in advance.

3.               Plan your itinerary

Prevent disappointments and save money by preparing your itinerary in advance. Like the Anne Frank Museum in the Netherlands, many attractions are usually booked months ahead. Therefore, it is important to begin early. Start by picking out the main attractions you want to take advantage of so you can book tickets online to guarantee your spot.

4.               Prepare for Transportation

Just like planning your itinerary, doing the same for your transport needs within Europe is crucial. Traveling by train from the Czech Republic to Austria? Book in advance. Zero in on lower prices by determining your road map of different countries to buy train tickets early. Remember to book your accommodations near train stations so you can take your time on every trip to the next city or country.

5.               Entry Requirements

The Schengen Zone is a border-free region for tourists to travel quickly across 45 countries. For Americans, visas are optional to enter the Schengen Zone. However, from 2024, Americans will require a travel authorization known as ETIAS to enter Europe. Valid for up to 3 years from the day of application, it costs 7 EUR to apply each time.

6.               Passport Expiration Date

Before flying, check your passport to ensure at least six months of validity for your entire trip. As a general rule of thumb, this applies to every country you are traveling to in Europe. Despite the no-border rule, there are exceptions where authorities might request to check your passport on planes, trains, or buses. Therefore, you must have ample validity if you are going for an extended time in Europe. Failure to comply might lead to the customs officers’ refusal to let you into the country.

7.               License Requirements

If you have been pondering driving in Europe, now would be a good time to check if your license is accepted. Contrary to popular belief, not all European countries take American licenses. Some countries have a rule where you are allowed to drive for 90 days but once passed; you would need an international permit to continue driving. Hence, applying for one to be legally permitted to navigate throughout the continent is recommended.

8.               Time Differences

Make your travel more comfortable by knowing the different time zones ahead of schedule. Plan flights that fly overnight to your destination so you ‘save time’ for each long-haul trip. Delta has 250+ flights a day to Europe with a wide range of departure times.

Early preparation helps you catch red-eye flights that allow you to rest and rise upon touchdown. In addition, it keeps you aware of the possible jet lag you might face when you get home or travel. Prioritize your schedule to have buffer time before starting work, or if you work remotely, keep yourself productive during your holiday.

Nonstop flights also make travel easier. American Airlines announced new destinations across the world with 15 nonstop flights from Philadelphia to 14 European destinations.

9.               Emergency Documents

During a trip, unforeseen circumstances will happen. Therefore, it is essential to prepare ahead of time. Make copies of identification documents online and offline if you lose your passport, driving license, or social security card. With additional copies of emergency documents, it helps to hasten the process of receiving help from your embassy. Keep all the records together in a file, hidden from the public eye in areas such as emergency safes or wherever you know it will be untouched.

10.          Have a Back-Up Plan

One thing to note is always to have more budget, time and planning. Due to unexpected issues that might arise, having a buffer is key. Begin with an emergency backpack of cash, documents and clothes. A little goes a long way, especially when airlines lose your suitcases. Preparation helps to combat emerging issues, but a cushion eases stress.

11.          Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is mandatory in this time and age. If there is anything the pandemic has taught us, life is unpredictable. However, get more than just basic travel insurance. Get one with good coverage that covers trip cancellations, emergency medical procedures and evacuations. Delta has two different travel protection plans with refunds that come in the form of either cash back or a travel certificate.

Travel insurance coverage is critical as you want to set your mind at ease during trips and not add to your frustrations when you fail to get reimbursed. Call up the bank to ask if your credit card includes travel insurance or simply get one online.

12.          Prescription Pills

Getting medication abroad is not a walk in the park. If you take prescribed medication long-term, it is wise to plan. Bring two weeks' worth of pills if you are taking a week of vacation. Add a little buffer time to increase the number of pills brought in case of unforeseen situations that might arise during the break. Taking a backup of prescribed drugs helps reduce the stress and headache when you run out of pills and struggle to find them in a foreign country.

13.          Travel Budget

Before embarking on your trip, plan your entire budget and work within what you have. Start by getting accurate estimates of your entire itinerary, including plane tickets, accommodations, main attractions and daily spending. Then, set aside a buffer of a few hundred dollars on top of your expected budget. Always have enough funds for your trip home to prevent being stuck in a foreign country. One way to guarantee your way home safely is to buy the return ticket beforehand so you can use the remaining budget for additional expenditures.

14.          Local Holidays

Find the dates for the local holidays of the countries you visit. Make the most of your vacation by exploring freely with little traffic and easy access to necessities. Refrain from visiting countries on national holidays as local families would be out and about, which can be more crowded than expected. Or in some cases, most stores might be closed. Avoid that situation by doing your research in advance.

15.          Book Flights and Dealing with Cancellations

For long-haul flights, the tip is always to book flights early. Not just by saving money, it also guarantees a seat to your dream destination. However, flight delays and cancellations are inevitable. To prepare for unexpected flight cancellations or refunds, read the fine print of refunds and cancellation policies, such as the Delta compensation for a delayed flight. With additional planning beforehand, resolving potential flight issues can be quickly done. Visit this page to learn more about Delta Airlines' compensation.

16.          Pack Lightly

First time in Europe? Only pack what you need to save space for things you buy during the trip. Check the seasons and weather forecast for your time in each country. Take note that the countryside and cities usually have different temperatures and climates. Cities are warmer because of underground pipes and concrete causing heat islands. If you want to pack more than you should, remember that you will need more space to bring the things you buy back home.

17.          Luggage Limits

Long-haul flights offer free baggage of up to 55 pounds (or 25kg) for flights to and from Europe. Yet, flights within Europe do not adhere to this policy. Budget airlines such as Ryanair and Easyjet operate differently; it is the lack of baggage that allows their prices to stay affordable. Thus, checking your luggage limits for each internal European flight is paramount. Pay less by buying necessary luggage weights online and taking the size of each baggage into account. Some airlines sometimes charge up to 150 EUR per luggage based on weight and dimensions. Lastly, air travel can be complicated with a myriad of restrictions. Make traveling easy with a comprehensive air travel guide that even includes items that should not be in carry-on or checked-in luggage.

18.          Read the Fine Print

Hate paying hidden fees? Then make sure you read the fine print for every single purchase. From plane tickets to car rentals, go through the small prints at the bottom of each webpage to ensure you pay what you see. Being diligent will save you additional expenditure and headaches you will be reluctant to pay when your credit card bills turn up unknowingly.

19.          Be Smart & Safe

Depending on location, some countries are a hotspot for small thefts that can dampen the mood of the trip. Do your research to reduce your chances of being a pickpocket’s victim. Keep your flashy branded bags at home and opt for minimalism. Stay off the radar as fancy tourists and blend in with the locals through your appearance, habits and attitude. Wear clothes that have an ample amount of hidden pockets to keep your valuables safe. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Avoid tourist traps and enjoy meals in areas that locals inhabit as you get a taste of local living.

20.          Learn the Basics

English may be the most common language in the world, but it is certainly not the first language for many European countries. For that reason, tourists are generally encouraged to learn basic greetings and questions in the native language of the country. Using the native language of the country helps communication to a large extent and gives a great first impression to locals helping you out in times of need. It also eliminates hostility, as speaking the language shows locals how much you respect the local culture by being a part of the community.

21.          Get Informed

Cultural differences are bound to exist across the continent. These gestures vary widely from country to country, from handshakes to simple greetings. Instead of social kissing being reserved just for families in the US, some Europeans tend to greet people with them 2-3 times on each cheek, depending on their culture. Being polite is key during each exchange; emphasize respect by mirroring your European acquaintances' steps when they first greet you.

22.          Carry Cash

In an unknown country, cash is usually the solution in dire circumstances. Make your life easier by carrying some cash to help you when needed. In the face of a malfunctioning card machine or a store that prefers only cash, you won’t miss out on meals or items to purchase. Keep your cash separately by ensuring one for your emergency backup plan and one for your daily expenditure. Organizing your money will help you enjoy the trip with lesser hiccups as you tend to be more prepared.

23.          Multi-country SIM cards

Upon entry to any European country, ask for prepaid SIM cards that work in the Schengen Zone. These multi-country telecommunication networks are usually a better deal based on what you pay. Unlimited cellular usage, phone calls, and connectivity across different regional countries allow you to maximize its cost while connecting with loved ones fully. In addition, some cards allow a ‘top-up,’ so you only use what you pay for, which is a great way to save and travel.

24.          Download Offline Maps

If you heeded the advice of prepaid SIM cards, you would want to save on data. One of the best ways to do so is by using offline maps. Plan your day and download Google maps the day before when you have wifi. Navigation works just as well as online maps. Are you looking to take it a step further? Go to the tourist information center and retrieve a paper map to find your way around town the old-school way. Save money and make valuable connections with people working behind the counter that might offer you more city tips than the Internet can offer.

25.          Power Adapters

In Europe, its electrical sockets are entirely incompatible with American plugs. At times, even the plugs amongst different European countries vary as well. Traveling with a power adapter that permits multi-plug changes is the solution. Find an adapter that allows your pins to work with multiple types of sockets in different countries. Buying a multi-plug adapter will reduce the effort needed to find a new power adapter each time you travel. Bring more than one backup plan in case the first one stops working. That way, you can fully charge for your escapades during the day.

26.          Schengen Calculator

Traveling within the Schengen region can be tricky, especially when hopping between countries outside the European Union. In that aspect, it is crucial to triple-check your trip’s duration by ensuring you do not overstay your 90 days. Overstaying will lead to deportation or a ban from re-entering the European region for ten years. To prevent overstaying, use a Schengen calculator to calculate the number of days you have left within the European Union.

27.          Check Public Transport Tickets

In some countries, you can purchase public transport tickets in the vehicle you are traveling. However, this might only sometimes work in your favor. If the machine does not work, you will face a hefty fine. Therefore, try to download or research applications that allow online purchases to prevent unfortunate malfunctions from adding expenses to your trip.

28.          The Metric System

Like the rest of the world, Europe uses the metrics system. Learn the conversion rates to ensure understanding during purchases. Not commonly used outside the US, most Europeans measure weight in kilograms and height in centimeters. Familiarize yourself with the various measurements to make your vacation easier.

29.          Nudity

Before you book your accommodations, verify if it is a nudist resort. You can easily do this with a quick email or by reading reviews. Nudity is a widely accepted and common concept within the European Union. Not just for hotels, there are instances where bathing cubicles do not have doors or become communal areas for people to bathe naked. If you are uncomfortable with nudity, check with the host or customer service personnel of places you have booked to ward off a rude shock.

30.          Connect your flights

Save yourself the hassle and exhaustion by increasing your transit time and booking long-haul flights in one booking. Unless you want a workout sprinting across airports with a 55-pound suitcase, ensure your daily flights are all in one booking. Buying flight tickets separately might save a few bucks, but it will hamper your transit time immensely. Need help deciding on your trip tickets? Get informed on the latest information, from refunds to ticket cancellations; knowing beforehand lets you make your purchase easier.

Knock yourself out!

Lastly, have fun! Take this trip as a learning journey that will widen your perspectives, horizons and way of life. With this ready-made list of things to look out for, you can be fully prepared for the trip of your lifetime. So start planning, sit back, and set your sights on the countries you plan to explore!

JL Staff

The JustLuxe Team strives to bring our members and readers the very best in luxury news and conversations. We love to hear your opinions and suggestions, but most of all, we love to interact with you. ...(Read More)

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