My tips for travel to Europe – A trip to Europe is one of the best vacations you can take. Each destination offers great options for solo travel, family vacations, couples getaways or historical and cultural excursions. The scenery is vibrant in all countries, with castles dotting the landscape and colorful buildings stacked along the waterways – there is so much to see and experience in Europe. When planning your trip, there are many fascinating photos and travel pamphlets to take you there virtually – images of cobblestone streets, historic cathedrals and busy street life with residents and tourists enjoying the view. These photos make me so excited to get there and enjoy the same scenery. What I have found is, there is a big difference between daydreaming with the photos and being their navigating the narrow, uneven busy streets and steep stone stairs in the historic buildings. Here are several tips to keep in mind, so your dreams come true and do not turn into a nightmare.
Tips for travel to Europe
Just the name “cobblestone streets” brings thoughts of romantic places and exotic scenery. While there are cobblestone streets here in the US most of us, do not encounter them on a daily basis to go about our day-to-day life. In Europe history and present-day are intertwined. You’ll see historic buildings used today just as they were hundreds of years ago. The streets still hold their historical value and remain unchanged, and repairs made only when necessary. The original craftsmanship and style remain the same.
I love this about visiting Europe, yet I have found it is crucial to make sure I have flat shoes with rubber soles to ensure I navigate streets, pathways, and walkways safely. Many streets are steep and uneven, causing you to focus more on where you are stepping and placing your feet. It can be very easy to twist your ankle or have a misstep. I take along with me an ace bandage that has a sticky strip, making it easy to attach and adjust – just in case I do need to secure my ankle or knee. It is very easy to misstep when sightseeing, searching for addresses and attempting to find a historic site listed on your tour pamphlet.
Rainy days will make navigating more difficult. Take along an umbrella and walk carefully along streets where stone are slippery
If you require assistance when walking (a cane or walker), let your travel agent and tour company know when planning your trip. They can provide more information to help with planning and preparing your excursions.
Tips review –
– Pack flat shoes with rubber soles
– Bring along an ace bandage
– Focus on your steps on uneven surfaces
– Let your travel agent and tour company know if you need mobility assistance
If you are heading to Europe on a tour, there will be historic buildings and cathedrals on your excursions. It’s a given! And, you’ll want to see them. Europe has maintained buildings that are hundreds of years old. A visit to them provides a sense of life in the 1500’s – those days come alive with the tour guides description, examples of life and walking the actual paths.
The pathways can be narrow, multilevel and have uneven stones. Maneuvering along the path with other tourists as well as your tour group can offer a few challenges. Ask your tour company to arrange your trip around the least busy times of the day. Mid-day may be the most active times for visits, but that could vary. Check with your travel professional and let them know your preference and any mobility limitation you may have. The best views are on balconies where pathways are narrow and surrounding walls may be small. If you have any fear of heights, consider this as a forewarning to ask before heading to the top.
I have taken beautiful photos along these narrow pathways atop old buildings with armory and portholes reminiscent of days-gone-by. I walk slowly and sometimes choose to come back when I have time to take it slowly, get my photograph and not feel rushed, shoved and pushed while everyone takes their turn.
– Ask your travel professional to book tours when there are fewer crowds
– Walk slowly, at your pace
– If the pathway is on the top floor or balcony, the walls may be low, and your sense of balance may be off center. Be prepared.
– You can always return on your own to tour at your pace and in your space
All Steps Are Not The Same
Each of the stairways above I have maneuvered. Many of them carrying a backpacked loaded with equipment necessary to document my articles. Walking up steep stairs with a backpack can have it challenges, so pack light and only take along the things you’ll need during the day. A bottle of water for sure. But, there is no need to over-pack the bag you are taking along for your day tour. Travel light!
The historic buildings remain just as constructed hundreds of years ago. I toured building built in the early 1300’s, and the stone steps are still there! Stone was so much more durable than wood or plaster. Craftsmen would chisel steps and walls that were functional and got the job done in those days. Narrow stairways through dark passageways also provided a secure place away from invasion and war. Stone was more durable than wood or other materials. Especially during times when a fire could wipe out a whole city. It is entirely understandable why you experience so many stone structures. You will also marvel at the beauty and structure of the buildings. It is truly fascinating to see such workmanship and hear about the longevity of the churches, governmental and residential buildings.
Again it is important to have comfortable shoes with rubber soles and not heels. There will be a lot of up and down, twist and turns during your tour. Hold onto the handlebars and railings when available. Many staircases will not have them, so you’ll need to balance yourself with your hand against the wall; especially when descending the stairs. Take it slowly and watch your step. They may be uneven and very steep.
– Travel light. There will be a lot of stairs to climb
– Wear comfortable, rubber sole shoes
– Hold on to the railing
– Take the stairs slowly
– Make your travel professional aware of any mobility and endurance challenges
Large Open Space
One of my favorite things to do when visiting Europe is lingering around the large open squares or plazas. You can people watch, hear music played, shop and have a great meal – all in one place. I just love it! But they are large, open and have limited areas to sit and take a load off your feet. Your tour will undoubtedly include some of the famous plazas because so much history lives within those dramatic and beautiful walls. If you are going for dinner, there is usually no need to worry about a place to sit and relax. But during a tour, one plaza after another and you may feel that you’re walking and toting your backpack more than you ever imagined is possible. Here’s another reason to pack light. No extra baggage to lug around and weight you down. If you’re feeling winded, this is a great time to ask for a break. Your tour guide can provide the historical information with you resting on a bench. Let them know at the start of your trip if your endurance is limited and you’ll need a little break. It’s always better to plan for a stop near a sitting area than to pop it on your tour guide as you’re walking along. And, everyone on the tour will appreciate it too. If you have no issues with endurance, it is still good to know, your day will include lots of walking and hopefully in your best walking shoes. No tired feet allowed. There will be more touring the next day, and you’ll want your feet to be ready.
Have your camera ready to take lots of pictures. I have found plazas are beaming with lively activity. It’s the perfect place to capture the day-to-day life and culture of your destination. Young people, older people, various races, and lifestyles all seem to come together in the local squares. During the evening, simmering lights along with a cooling and calming nightfall makes for a lovely evening for dinner or drinks with your travel buddies. The squares and plazas are very special to me. I always seek them out and enjoy watching the day-go-by.
– Bring a camera and be ready to take photos
– Here’s where you can find residents and experience the culture
– If you have endurance challenges, let your tour guide know ahead of time you’d like to sit and rest while he/she describes the area
– Plan an evening of dinner and relaxing in the square
Several Modes Of Transportation
There are many options for getting around in Europe. You will find that people are driving cars, taking buses and trams, walking, biking and on motorscooters. The choices are broad. That’s good news for vacationers – especially the public transportation. It’s easy, inexpensive and simple to understand. And of course, walking is free. If you choose to walk, remember to watch out for bikes, scooters, cars, trams and buses. Each may be moving along the street where you are expecting only a car or bus. Remember to look both ways for trams that have tracks running in the center or along the sides streets. You will need to yield to oncoming traffic in either form. In most European countries they will have the right-of-way.
Be watchful of how residents walk, cross streets and give-way to other walkers. In the US, we walk to the right and pass on the left. But, that may or may not apply where you are visiting. Take note and do as the local do.
– Cross the street at crosswalks where people are expected to be in the street.
– Yield to bikes, trams, buses and cars
– Look both ways.
– Look out especially for trams operating in the opposite direction, turning corners and maneuvering around curves.
Europe has a reputation for having small hotel rooms. And, while this is true in some cases, there are also hotels with very spacious rooms. And, let’s not forget they can be very elegant and stylish too. Many hotels are in historical buildings dating back centuries with history and intriguing stories to go along with your stay. Ask the concierge to tell you a bit about the hotel. Also, your tour guide can help by sharing information about the history of the hotel where you’re staying – filled with fascinating tales of those who stayed there before us.
One amenity that has become very popular in European hotels is the card slot by the door to activate lights and AC/heating. In most hotels, the key in the slot does not control other items such as the mini bar/refrigerator or some plugs. When you enter the room, you place your room key in the slot, and the lights come on. In many hotels, this also controls the heating and AC, the lights in the bathroom and lighting by the bed. If you find yourself in a room and can not sort out why the lights are not on, check by the door for the slot, insert your key and – there you have lights. I bring along an old key from a previous hotel stay and use that to keep the lights on if I am returning at night. I travel solo a fair amount, and I don’t like entering a dark hotel room; even if it’s for a few seconds. I switch off all the lights except one by the bed to support the conservation efforts and have a bit of lumination when returning. Having another key also works well if other friends/framily staying in the room would like to go out while someone stays behind. They can take the key with them. And the person staying behind will have lights while in the room! They’ll appreciate that.
The reasoning for this is conservation. A few seconds after you remove the card and leave, the lights will go off. Not only are we conserving energy but also reducing operating costs. Another great benefit of the key slot by the door is you know where to locate the key. Gone are the days of searching the room to find the key when you are ready to leave.
– Any plastic hotel card key will work in the slot
What temperature is it?
While this may not seem like a big deal when you’re planning your trip in a nice warm room at home, you will want to know the weather forecast during your journey. European weather measurements are in Celsius vs. our system of Fahrenheit. It’s good to have at least a basic understanding of the conversion between the two.
It’s best to check weather reports before leaving home. You can pack what you need for upcoming weather, and no surprises always make the trip go smoothly.
Fahrenheit to Celsius:
32°F = 0°C
50°F = 10°C
68°F = 20°C
77°F = 25°C
86°F = 30°C
95°F = 35°C
– Check the weather before leaving home.
– Pack what you need – No shopping to purchase things you have at home and didn’t bring with you.