Style and Comfort

5 Additional Girls Guide Tips for Traveling in Europe in Style and Comfort

A trip to Europe is on the agenda of many high school and college students. Here are a few additional tips to consider, no matter what your age.

  1. Be aware of different business hours, especially banks!

In Europe, businesses, especially banks, are conducted at different hours that we are used to in the United States. For example, many banks are only open from 8 AM to 4 PM; with a long lunch break in between. In addition, in Spain, most businesses close mid-afternoon for a siesta. However, with the exception of banks, most reopen for the evening. When you arrive at your destination, do a little research into business hours and take care of your money situation right away. With those two pieces of advice, you will never be without cash and won’t be disappointed.

  1. Always utilize your travel time, whether that means time on a plane, train, or bus.

During my semester in Spain, I traveled nearly every weekend. For me, that meant a lot of time on buses and trains. I made the most of it. I used that time to read, listen music, or finalize trip plans. It was also nice to simply write or take in scenery. The point is, make the most of the dead time. It will mean that you can make the most of your trip.

  1. Visit Cathedrals, but you can take in too many at once! The same goes for historic churches.

Europe is filled with historic churches and cathedrals! They are wonderful to visit and the architecture is simply amazing. No two are exactly alike. That having been said, you can do too much of a good thing. By the end of my trip to Spain, I could have cared less as to whether or not I would ever see another cathedral in my life. If you are into visiting cathedrals and churches, just don’t overdue it. Mix it up and go shopping for a day!

  1. Do hit the main sites.

Many college students who are into being non-conventional may wish to skip the Eiffel Tower, the Tower of London, and the like, but such huge tourist attractions are big tourist attractions for a reason. You owe it to yourself to do the touristy thing at least once or twice, just try not to stick out like a sore thumb.

  1. Plan fun, out of the way excursions.

While it is fun visiting the main sites in a city, it also can get boring, especially after a full day or two of doing the touristy thing. There is so much more to Europe than what is in the guidebooks! For example, I was in Cáceres, Spain during Valentine’s Day 2002. I decided to get all dressed up, go to a free play all by myself, and then met up with a bunch of friends at a local hang out. It was a blast! I had the best of both worlds: I spent time alone and then had the time of my life partying with all of my friends. It was a great evening and took very little planning. In many places in Europe, all you need to do is visit a café or small store in order to find out what is going on locally. You won’t be disappointed.

By following the advice given above, you won’t go wrong. You will have a European experience that you won’t soon forget.

Helpful Tips when Planning a Trip

Helpful Tips when Planning a Trip

Planning a trip is exciting. Just the thought of getting away from routine is exhilarating. But planning a vacation can also be stressful. Will you forget to bring an extra pair of shoes? Will you remember to print out your boarding pass? Will you miss your flight?

Relax. The whole point of taking a trip, unless it’s for business, is to relieve anxiety and tension, so when you decide to take a vacation, preparation will make the trip run smoothly and it will make your life much less stressful.

Some helpful tips for planning a trip follow:

Setting a Destination (U.S.)

Unless you’re one of those people who likes to get in the car and just go wherever life takes you, utilize Yahoo Maps. Yahoo Maps tell you not only how to arrive at your destination, but also how long it will take you to get there.

Along with Yahoo Maps, GPS systems provide a great backup plan to help you arrive at your destination with less stress. However, if your GPS system is more than a couple years old, you will have to update it.

When my sister and I took a trip to Florida recently, we took along my GPS. Orlando’s roads had changed since I got my GPS system, though, so we were routed to a road that no longer existed. Unbeknownst to me at the time, most GPS systems offer update software online. Garmin, for instance, offers updates at Garmin.com (click the link).

Setting a Destination (Abroad)

Utilize the help of the U.S. Department of State. They offer travel information and alerts, and if you sign up for their Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, they will assist you in case of an emergency. Their web site also provides links that will help you become better acquainted with the laws of the country you will be visiting. Visit the U.S. Department of State Tips for Traveling Abroad for more information on how to have a safe trip.

Also, when traveling abroad, check your insurance coverage to make sure you are covered for medical emergencies in other countries.

Military, AARP, and Other Discounts

If you belong to the military or AARP, ask about discounts. Most places won’t offer that information up front – you have to ask. My son, a U.S. Marine, along with his wife and children, stay at the Hyatt whenever they travel. Not only do they get a great break on hotel prices (comparable to priceline.com and expedia.com), but they also accumulate points they can use toward future stays. Right now they have almost enough points to stay at a hotel in Hawaii FREE for a week!

Pack Like a Pro

Before you go anywhere, you have to pack. Knowing what to pack for a trip requires some forethought. Questions you need to ask yourself are how many days you will be gone and what types of events you will be attending.

Start a list. You will refer to it both before you leave and again when you pack to return home. Once you know what types of clothing you will require, pack all necessary blouses, shirts, skirts, dresses, shoes, socks, panty hose, jewelry (you might want to keep your expensive jewelry at home in a safe), hair ornaments, and other accessories. Don’t forget sleepwear, swimwear, and underwear.

One item often forgotten is sunglasses. A second pair of glasses or additional contacts (along with contact solution) could help, too, in case something unforeseen lengthens your stay.

Pat attention to weather changes. Dress for the climate. But also dress for whatever the temperature will be when you return home. I once left a jacket in San Diego that I didn’t remember until I arrived at Midway Airport in Chicago one cold winter day.

The best way to make sure you don’t forget anything is to go through your day from beginning to end. From the time you awaken in the morning, write down everything you need. Items you use in the shower might be available in hotels, but if you have a preference for specific shower items, make sure you pack them.

From razors to makeup to personal sanitary products to hair supplies, continue writing your packing list. If you take medication, make sure you pack enough meds to take you a couple of days beyond the date of your return in case of inclement weather. Most medications can be purchased in drug stores across the country, but if you are receiving aid from the state in which you reside, you will have to pay full price for your medication across state lines.

Pack laptops, cell phones, iPods, or any other electronic devices you might need for yourself or for other family members, and don’t forget the chargers. If you will be driving a rental, don’t forget to pack your GPS device.

And finally, don’t forget your outerwear, boarding pass, passports, visas, photo IDs, day planners, tickets, itineraries, and your packing list.

Allow Yourself Plenty of Time

If you are someone who is notoriously late, the last thing you want to do is miss your flight. Pretend you are leaving an hour earlier. Rushing is counterproductive. The more relaxed you are when you leave your home, and the more time you give yourself, the more likely you will get to the airport on time.

Airport Security  amp; Homeland Security

Before you leave home, check the current threat level through the Homeland Security Advisory System. As of this writing, for instance, the threat level for all domestic and international flights in the U.S. is High, or Orange. The higher the threat level, the longer the time you will spend going through security.

Homeland Security also asks travelers to establish an emergency preparedness kit and to prepare an emergency plan (links are provided for both by clicking on them).

Depending on where you go, you might have to pay an airport security fee. Guatemala, for instance (as of this writing) requires a fee that equals approximately $2.50.

Check with the airline(s) to see how many suitcases you can bring on board and how many you are allowed to check in.

Also, check the contents of your carry-ons. Something as simple as hand lotion may be confiscated at the security check point. You must dispose of water bottles too.

How to Meet Your Friends Halfway

Sometimes travel includes meeting friends or relatives, but finding a midway point is difficult. Even grabbing a map and measuring the distance doesn’t help, because you don’t always know exactly where to meet. Midway points need not be a problem though, due to Geomidpoint’s “Meet in the Middle” tool. Geomidpoint helps travelers find the midway point between two cities. It also offers choices for restaurant, hotels, movie theaters, golf, shopping, entertainment, and more. Just plug in both addresses, or both cities, and you will find your midway point, along with some places to meet.

Bring an Empty Suitcase

If you plan on shopping while you are gone, you may want to bring an extra empty suitcase. Souvenirs take up room and if your luggage is already packed to the gills you won’t be able to accommodate any additional clothing or gifts.

Customs Inspections

Make sure the items you purchase as souvenirs will pass inspection. If you are carrying items that you think other countries might find suspicious, contact the Customs Inspections departments for the country you will be visiting. For information on acceptable entry items into the United States from other countries, go to CBP.gov.

In Closing

Tell at least one person where you are going. While getting away from everything and everybody seems like a great idea, leaving without telling somebody can be a deadly decision. Somebody should know how to reach you. People who love you, if they haven’t heard from you shortly after you are supposed to return, will be grateful for having a way to contact you. Leave behind a copy of your itinerary, and alert at least one person if you expect a delay in your return.

Finally, be safe and enjoy!