#LibkaGirlsTakeEurope | Part 1
“What cities do you want to visit,” … “When do you want to go? Winter or summer?” My head began to spin like a top. When it slowed down, I suggested London and Paris as staples – and Budapest, Vienna and Prague. (Those last three made the 2015 Condé Nast Traveler list of top cities to visit in Europe, sometimes besting London and Paris in the rankings.) Krakow called, too, but I thought six cities in 14 days would begin to feel like a ride on a non-stop merry-go-round, so I pulled it from the list for this trip. And then I started thinking about travel planning tips that would help us organize our European tour!
The European mini-tour was largely a gift from our youngest daughter Natalie, who generously covered many of my expenses. She lives and works internationally, and had previously visited each of my five picks, so we had a head start in the cross-country race of planning the trip. Our oldest daughter Kristen was able to arrange to meet us in New York to fly to London, our first stop, so #LibkaGirlsTakeEurope was complete!
Travel Planning Tips
1. Itinerary & Travel Plans Document
Natalie opened a Google doc as a home base for travel plans. A basic itinerary, plane and train purchases, lodging reservations, attractions, play and concert ticket purchases, restaurants, cruise reservations and more all resided there. It was truly a living document as we added to it as details took root and bloomed. We left printed copies for family back home and took a few with us that came in handy even though we also had it available digitally.
2. Attraction Websites
Check attraction websites closely when making plans. We had to come back to Shakespeare and Company (Paris bookstore) another evening when we found them closed due to inventory. And we weren’t able to see the Paris Catacombs as planned due to a one-month closure we missed on their website.
3. Baggage Guidelines
We invested in tech backpacks even though smartphones were the only electronics that went with us. Tech backpacks meet the narrow (20 cm./7.87 in.) depth limits for carry-on bags that some low-cost airlines enforce. It’s also a good idea to take wheel-free carry-on baggage since the wheels and frame make those pieces less likely to meet carry-on size guidelines.
4. Passport Backup
Take a picture of your passport, print it and store it somewhere other than where you keep your passport. This copy is helpful in case you lose your passport on the trip and have to replace it. Which I did. Somewhere between Budapest and Vienna. The consulate in Vienna was great.
5. Laundry Service
Our tour included 14 days in Europe with a travel day on either end. To keep the amount of clothing we packed reasonable, we planned for laundry service during the trip. Garden House in Budapest, a small Hungarian-themed hotel we stayed at in a neighborhood near the city center, offered this service. We were happy to take advantage of it and tipped them generously for making this detail of our trip so easy.
6. Ground Transportation
Transportation costs can vary greatly from one city to the next in Europe. For the most part, we used the metro in London (Tube) and Paris since taxis and Uber are a little pricey there. It was the opposite in Budapest and Prague. Taxis and Uber were much cheaper so we took advantage of the convenience. Kristen had loaded the Uber app on her smartphone and it worked pretty seamlessly. We met some great drivers and enjoyed conversation with those who spoke English. (Natalie enjoyed conversing in Russian with some drivers in Prague.) In Vienna we used a mix of metro and Uber.
7. Directions & Details
Google maps was great for walking directions. We probably would have used the City Mapper app more to integrate metro and walking directions, but Natalie was familiar with the metros so we didn’t need metro directions. Kristen used the Taxi Finder app to check for normal taxi rates to make sure we weren’t being overcharged when we used a taxi. Currency app figured exchange rates for us. For safety’s sake, Kristen registered our travel plans with Smart Traveler.
8. Air or Train?
Once you are in Europe, air travel from city to city is pretty inexpensive. Train travel is even more so and provides you the opportunity to see the countryside if you are spending most of your time in cities.
Watch for our next travel blog post where we’ll look back at the first leg of our European mini-tour – London. Until then, enjoy this teaser!
Are you a traveler or do you dream of traveling? Tell us about it or share your travel planning tips in the comments below!
*All travel photos in this post were used with permission from Lori Libka & Kristen Dang.
Interested in traveling to Europe’s Christmas markets?