Europe Travel Post 3/3- Top 20 (+2!) Travel Tips for Europe /Overseas Travel+ Europe Photo Diary

22 February 2019

I wrote this post, while at Paris Airport, en route Auckland, because we wanted to remember all these tips and tricks for the next time we come to Europe. This was our longest and most major overseas trip and it was a huge learning curve. We did a lot right, but we also screwed up many a times. Screw ups = lessons for the future. So here are our top tips for Europe, or any overseas travel really.

1. Travel light- One of our friends, who has backpacked through Europe (hey Sirjana!), gave this tip and it was a lifesaver to say the least. She said Europeans love stairs and most stations won't even have lifts. If you are to take public transport (which you will have to, at some point, unless you are on luxury cruise), take as much luggage as you can carry on you and walk up & down stairs and many miles. How true! This is one advice we complied to and it couldn't have been more true. At Paris and Berlin, our AirBnB was on 5th floor, no lift. Even though I was fitter than an average 6 month pregnant lady, I lost the plot there. So yes! Carry minimal luggage. We actually got the weather slightly wrong and took 2-3 extra jackets. We cursed ourselves for it the whole time. Having to carry extra kilos on your back and going up & down stairs is cruel.

2. Take clothes that you can wear again n again n again. Pack smarter. It's actually an extension of point no. 1 to pack light but I'd like to expand it further. Basically don't just chuck stuff in luggage. Match clothes with each other. Take a tee shirt that you can wear with legging, shorts and skirt. Take shorts that go with everything. Oh! take a scarf because that makes up for any unexpected cold. Basically take 4-5 sets of clothes and mix n match the heck out of them. If you struggle with this, there are many videos on YouTube for packing for Europe or packing light in general. Tip: If needed you can shop for a cloth or two from the city. I did, in Berlin, coz by the end of 4 week trip, I entered third trimester of pregnancy and I swear my tummy shot overnight so nothing would fit comfortably. Primark was a lifesaver!
Oh! we washed our clothes every few nights or wherever we found a laundry. Handwash soap work.

3. Use free toilet wherever you see one because it's painful to be shelling precious euros for using toilet. Even McDonald's charges for their toilet on premises. These guys lock their toilets with swipe access and combination locks, like a treasure box. Yes! true that. Though most eating places, if you've bought or consumed food there, will let you use toilet for free. Even if you have few drops of pee to spare, get it out.

4. If you are tomato sauce fan like me, be prepared to shell out money for it, even at big chain fast food joints. Best to carry a few sachets with you from home. We ate fries each day and paying extra for sauce was a necessary evil. Fries don't taste the same without sauce so we spent our little fortune on tomato sauce and aioli sachets.

5. Stay as close to tourist attractions as possible, even when you have to pay a little extra. You will not regret it. Or best stay walking distance to a station and then take public transport straight to your destination. Having to change train lines and spending too long in public transport can be exhausting, specially after a full day of sightseeing, when all you want to do it crash on bed. It also makes evening and late-night strolls memorable.

6. Ask your AirBnB host if breakfast is included. A good hearty breakfast in the morning saves you major money and keeps hunger at bay till mid-day. It is best way to make your money stretch. Most AirBnB hosts provide hot or cold breakfast options.

6. Shop food from Supermarkets. The supermarkets in Europe are buzzing with food. Fresh fruits, bread sticks and all the cheeses. Such culinary delights! If you want to explore the local food scene, no place better than their supermarkets. All hail the supermarkets that even have fresh doughnuts each morning! Yep. God! I miss them. Also they save a lot of money.

7. Don't carry camera gear, unless you are a pro and getting paid for travel (work) . All my photos are clicked on iPhone 8 plus and I have no regrets. With all the travel, public transport and bike rides, bulky camera gear is the last thing I want on my plate. Editing apps can turn any photo worthy of sharing on social media.

8. While planning your itinerary, keep one extra day in each city for travel in and out of city. Travel and checking in and out of accommodations really takes up a lot of time. We gave 2/3 days to each city but next time we will aim for a minimum of 4 days to each city.

9. Visit paid tourist attractions between the hours of 8 to 5. Free access parks can be left for outside of these hours. Learnt this the hard way! Spent all day in a free garden and missed out on church choir.

10. Flights and transport that is too early in the day, ruins entire day. This was our biggest lesson. Taking a 5 am flight, meant getting up at 3 am. Reaching destination at 9 am, accommodation at 11 and then crashing with no energy to move till 3 pm coz we dozed off. Few dollars saved on  super early flights aren't worth it!

11. Another big lesson for us was not researching the places/attractions we wanted to visit in the city beforehand and the mode of transport to get there. In every new city it took us nearly half a day to figure out transport and must-visit places. In our defense, we booked Europe tickets last minute (literally last minute, 6 days before trip). We hardly had time to pick the cities so rest of the planning was left till the day we landed there. It definitely took a lot of our precious time. If it wasn't for Google Maps, we wouldn't have seen a thing.

12. Yes! Google Maps. I'd put in all the locations we wanted to visit in the app and then see where they are in the city and then make a route/loop so we cover one after the another. It was the best way to cover it all in 2-3 days we had in each city.

13. Buy internet. It costed me a hefty 75 Euros to buy European Sim and unlimited data. It was by far our most expensive purchase but also the best investment. Internet saved us in all kinds of situations. If it wasn't for internet, we wouldn't have been to all the places we managed to. The best recommendations, tour operators, best route and hidden gems, it was all on there. Beware! don't spend time reading all the reviews though. That's an adventure killer.
It also came in handy for my everyday stories on Instagram, which I cherish so much now. They are part of permanent highlight reel on my Instagram profile 'Lipsnberries'.

14. Its best to travel to Europe during their off season. European summer is a dream and in winters it is white wonderland. Off-season travel means less crowds and more fun. We traveled during their spring time and it was just perfect. If we go again, spring it is again! Neither too hot, nor too cold. Just perfect.

15. Know people or friends in Europe? Connect with them! Nothing better than catching up with your peeps and having a hot home cooked meal. Our best memories are when we caught up with friends in Nuremberg, Germany. Bonus: It saves on accommodation and you also get to experience local life. Gold!

Home-cooked meal at friend's place were divine
You can even babysit their kids
16. I highly recommend journal-ling your trip. I wanted to remember every detail of this dream trip and even when dead tired & 'exhausted beyond words' after 20,000 steps each day, I wrote details of the day in journal. I am so thankful I did because I can live the trip again through it. All the small details that get forgotten with time are preserved in those pages.

17. If you are pregnant or travelling with kids, don't wait in queues and abuse the parent privilege. I skipped long queues at Vatican Museum and Versailles due to my pregnancy. It wasn't just an excuse though, it's actually hard to stand on your feet in scorching sun for 1-2 hours, when you have a baby in you or out.

18. Don't be like us and plan your trip and itinerary months before you leave, specially the train tickets and accommodations. Needless to say I know, but the price difference is staggering, specially with EuroStar train that travels directly between London and Amsterdam. The early bird prices are released about 6 months in advance.

19. Don't travel by RyanAir and if you do, check your email regularly and do online check-in beforehand. If you don't check-in and arrive at their counter less than 2 hours before your scheduled flight, you will be charged 55 Euros per person as penalty. This was the most painful episode of our entire trip as we had to shell out 110 Euros extra for taking the same flight we had already paid for. This is extra to what they charge for luggage. The staff aren't moved by any genuine reason or excuse, nor your tears. We took this unfortunate flight from Brussels to Berlin.

20. Download Google Translator, it can be a lifesaver. Not everywhere you go, people will know English. Specially handy when you are a vegetarian trying to order food.
Also Google Maps are a must -have. They even have local train timings on it and it's the next best thing to having a phone on you.
GoEuro was our favorite transport app as it gave us all the options from Point A to B, clearly listing the mode of transport (including ride sharing options like BlaBlaCar), costs, connections and the time it would take to get to destination.
EuroStar train also had an app which had also EuroStar timings and connections details. Trainline EU is also a good one.
Uber is also a very handy app to have. Set your account, verification and save payment details before you leave home.
We also had TripAdvisor,, and AirBnB apps on both our phones. We used these regularly.

In addition to that, every country had its own transport app- for eg- GVB (Amsterdam Bus, Train & Metro), NS Dutch Railways- Netherlands), De Lijn (Public Transport- Belgium) , Rome Metro (Transport for Rome), Roma Bus (Public Transport in Rome), BVG FahrInfo (Transport app for Berlin), DB Navigator (App for German Metro), 9292 (Travel planner for all public transport in Netherlands), FlixBus (bus service that covers all of Europe), Moovit app (not region specific public transport app, just select the city you are in), Paris Metro app.

21. Bonus Tip: Europe is all about walking. Wear the most comfortable shoes you own and they'll make your life a lot easier. My AllBirds Tree skipper shoes were a hit. Expensive but so worth it. This pregnant lady walked 306 km and had not a day of swollen feet.
22. I'm kind so here's another tip- If you are pregnant or get swollen feet during long-haul flights, wear compression socks (called flight socks, buy from pharmacy/chemist warehouse NZ) during the flight. I wore them. They felt super tight but kept blood circulation going. I also made sure we got up every hour or so to stretch out.

Those would be top 20 (+2) tips for Europe travel or any overseas travel in general. I would love to know yours! Please comment below and lets chat.


This is Blog 3 from my Europe series. Photo diary from Rome, Paris and Bangkok below.

Blog 1/3- I traveled 8 European countries in 4 weeks while 5/6 months pregnant. Click here. 
Blog 2/3- Europe FAQ's, Readers queries on our Europe trip answered. Click here. 

Castel Sant'Angelo- Rome

Ticking things off the wishlist- Colosseum, Rome

Best Vegetarian Pizza in Rome, on Focaccia bread
Late night strolls at St. Peter's Square Rome

Perks of having AirBnB apartment right next to Vatican

Paris is every bit a cliche but still soooo good

Ile de la Cite, Paris. You can't see on face but I'm dead from all the walking

Jardin du Luxemburg, Paris- Chilling out and looking at these kids playing, dreaming (or dreading?) our future

The famous lock bridge in Paris doesn't have locks anymore. I'm glad. 

Treats from Parisian Boulangerie
Breakfast scenes in Paris when apartment is right opposite a supermarket

Stop-over at Bangkok

Bangkok- so hot & humid but so beautiful. The intricacy in these temples is wow!

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