As a first timer when planning or travelling to Europe, one common feeling many travelers have experienced is anxiety.
I remember how excited I was once I had pegged down my itinerary, but as the travel date got nearer, literally, a million thoughts crossed my mind. The VISA application process doesn’t make it easier either (especially when you need more than 1). Although this experience can be daunting even for those who “go with the flow”, I want to share a few things to put your mind at ease as you plan and eventually experience your incredible trip!
1. Save babygyal! Obvious one right? I cannot emphasize how important this is. I get that “travel debt is the best debt to have” but when you sit down and think about it, no debt is the best debt to have. There’s nothing like swiping that card in Paris knowing that what you are swiping is your own hard earned money that you do not owe to anyone when you come back to SA. Plan your trip well in advance and take as much time as you need to accumulate at least 85% (if not 100%) of the total of what you will need so that you borrow as little as possible. By doing so, you will be in a better position to prepare and go on your next trip. There are pros and cons to travelling on debt vs travel- dedicated savings and each time I will chose the latter because liquidity is king.
2. Cash vs Card? If you have been wondering about the practicality of taking your money across the border I would recommend both, take some cash and some in a travel wallet. What if you have multiple currencies to convert to and you live in South Africa? hmmm good question, lets take it offline 🙂
3. Travel Adapters? Do not, I repeat, do not buy an international travel adapter in South Africa if your travel destination is not South Africa. No brainer right? Not really… Purchase your travel adapter (should you wish to do so) in each destination country. just note that the UK uses a different plug (a flat 3 pin plug, if that makes sense?) to the EU (a 2 pin plug, literally :D) but each hotel will gladly provide you with an adapter free of charge if you ask nicely.
4. Language barriers!! So I was that person a year before my holiday on Duolingo learning French, Greek, Italian, and German at the same time. No need babygyal! Holidays are not for the overachievers. Learn as you go, there are those phrases you will catch here and there on the journey which will be life savers but either than that, dumb down your English to maybe pre-school level and you will be juuuust fine. No, seriously! However I must send out a cautionary note to watch your pronunciation in France, its a matter of directing your taxi driver to a brothel vs getting him to send you to your hotel… yup. different story for a different post.
5. TSA Luggage Lock. If you can get a luggage bag with this already, you’re A for away, but if your bag does not have a lock, get this type of lock as it not only keeps the smugglers at bay, its easy for airport security to navigate and not have the urge to break into your bag. win win!
6. Travel shoes. I cannot emphasize how important it is to invest in comfortable travel shoes. If this is your first travel experience in Europe, you are guaranteed to get lost, encounter a gazillion flights of stairs, bridges, cobblestones, water taxis, trains etc. (depending on where you are going) but trust me, your ballerina flats and sandals are not going to cut it in an unfamiliar environment, and a combination of hanger, being lost, and having aching feet- not a good combo.
7. Maps. Because you wont have any network connection (unless your hotel has WiFi or you are at a restaurant with WiFi) you’re pretty much “off the grid” to and from destinations/ locations, maps will become your new best friend. Collect them, cherish them, love them.
8. Inter travel logistics… Heavy sigh. When I look back on my recent travel experience, I must say that this was the bane of my existence. Figuring out the cheapest/ easiest/ safest/ quickest way to get to and from location in 8 different countries for 3 weeks, and writing down cost vs benefit analyses each time had me grumpy and anxious AF. If you want to save yourself the hassle of figuring out the overground and the underground and the buses, just stick to an uber in the UK and have enough money for a taxi in the EU (budget between 8- 14 euros per trip in France, I walked everywhere in Florence, but a trip to the airport cost about 20 euros, Venice, I mean haha there are no roads… with Greece whether you were travelling 5km or 20km away, they had a standard taxi fee of around 20 euros for a single trip. If you are staying in a reputable resort, ask at reception for a private shuttle , its a bit cheaper and you get to travel in a Mercedes with air con, I mean these things make a difference if the temperature outside is 38 degrees Celsius mmkay? Alternatively, ask them to call you a taxi. Believe me you are not about to be walking anywhere in Greece, cabs ALL THE WAY. Also, very NB! they do not use cards in most places, because once bitten twice shy, because uvalo, becuase they believe cash is king, becasue Greek financial crisis. So make sure that you have your racks ready for Greece. This should actually be another blog post….) anyway.
9. Bottled water vs Tap water. I would say err on the side of caution always and just buy bottled water aaaaand ALWAYS make sure to check that the seal is not broken on the still water you buy for your table in restaurants. We paid R70 in Venice for tap “mineral water” grates my nips every time I think about it.
10. Live in the moment! “Vivere in questo momento!” as the Italians would say. Don’t sweat the small stuff, capture every moment and live as though each day will be your last because I sure did.
Now that you’ve got the basics down, you’re set to hit the ground running. Look out for more of my travel tips and revelations in upcoming posts! xx