I've received a few emails asking for any travel tips I might have within Europe since I spend most of my time over here, so I put together a few things that I hope are helpful. I would love to hear your travel tips!
Getting around in Europe
Flights within Europe
Regardless of when I purchase my tickets (I try to book as far in advance as I can, but sometimes I have to make last minute travel plans), I like to use SkyScanner. It scans a bunch of different sites to bring you the cheapest. Lufthansa is my favorite airline, but really any flight within Europe will be relatively short so it probably doesn't matter what airline you fly. (Here are my on flight essentials.)
Trains within Europe
When I was eighteen, I was an au pair in Switzerland. It didn't work out, so I wound up making London my base and traveling around Europe from there. I remember trains being so cheap and reliable back then. They're more expensive now, but they're very comfortable and clean. We took a train to Paris a couple years ago and it wasn't memorable (which is a good thing). A few friends and I haven't had great experiences taking trains within Germany (see the 7 hour trip no where), so I personally wouldn't recommend Deutschebahn, but it might've just been bad luck.
Driving on the Autobahn
I mostly just drive within Germany, so I can't speak for the other countries, but here are my tips for driving on the autobahn:
-Trust- People take their driving seriously in Germany. Germans must attend a driving school, and the process and testing to get the license is long, and extremely expensive (1500 euro is the average right now for just driving classes!). Rules of the road are obeyed (I've never seen anyone drive in the breakdown lane during traffic jams. Drivers are calm in traffic jams. People don't tend to cut each other off. It's really crazy to see coming from the US!) For many parts of the autobahn, there isn't a speed limit, so that can be intimidating. But trust the other drivers. They are, from my experience, excellent drivers.
-Stopping short- Whenever there is a traffic jam, or any time a car has to stop short, I notice that the cars tend to put their hazard lights on so the cars behind them know to break.
-The fast lane- Ok, the far left lane is no freaking joke. Do not just hang out here going 80mph. You will see a car in the distance in your review mirror and before you can even blink it will be on top of you. Drive in the middle or right right lane.
Phones, Computers & Electronics in Europe
You can often swap out your American SIM for a pay-as-you-go SIM. You'll need your passport to do this, but it's an inexpensive way to have a phone number that will work while you're in town.
You can bring your own, but just make sure to buy a European adapter or head to the closest Starbucks for free wifi. Alternatively, leave it at home and use an internet cafe, which you should be able to find in any major city.
Things like hair straighteners and electric razors are best left at home. If you really need them, you can buy them in Europe, but don't risk using a converter with the ones from home. I have too many friends whose flat irons and curling irons have fried up on them.
Food in Europe
-Quality - Europe has pretty strict standards for their food, (for example, some food coloring isn't allowed!), so generally the food will be fresh and wholesome.
-Typical dishes - I think it's best to eat like a local rather than trying to find the most American food you can. The local dishes will taste better (and probably be more fresh), so research the typical dishes of wherever you're going ahead of time so you'll know what to look for.
-Water - Water is often more expensive than beer, and waiters have told me a number of times that getting water from the tap "is not possible", so specify whether you want seltzer bottled water or still bottled water. Alternatively you could pack a water bottle and just refill it when you find a water fountain (at any town hall, info center or mall).
-Snacks - I like to bring snacks with me when I travel because airports and convenience stores don't usually have much in the way of nutrition. I usually bring trail mix, egg muffins, and fruit. Here's what I brought from back home this year.
-Special diet - If you're on a special diet, plan ahead and pack accordingly. Here's what I did when I went to Dubai and India while on the GAPS diet.
-Allergies - If you have a serious allergy, consider hiring a freelance translator from Elance to write it out in the language of the country you'll be visiting. Not everyone speaks English, and it's better to be safe than sorry.
-Where to eat- Trip Advisor is great for recommendations and photos, but you can't really beat suggestions from locals. They always know the best place in town.
Where to Stay
Hotels in Europe
When I travel solo, I prefer to stay in hotels. In general, hotels in Europe are pretty small. And the star rating isn't quite like the US. A four star hotel in the states will be beautiful, and large, and nearly perfect. A four star hotel in Europe will be quaint, exquisitely decorated, charming, small, and will have room for improvement. Keep that in mind when booking. I always check Trip Advisor when vetting a hotel because I like to see travelers' pictures and read their reviews. For a deal, I've had success with agoda.
Apartments in Europe
When I travel with friends or with my husband, I like renting apartments from AirBnB because you get a kitchen to cook whatever you want if you need a break from restaurant food, a washing machine if you want to pack light, and wifi and they're usually less expensive than a hotel room.
What to do
Things to see
Besides the obvious google search, I also like to check personal travel blogs and read about people's experiences. Travel bloggers like Adventurous Kate, Nomadic Matt and Legal Nomads are usually the type of people who are on the hunt for the gems off the beaten path, so they have great tips. Another thing that's always worked out well for me is asking the locals. Usually they are proud of their city and happy to offer a few tips.
One of my favorite things to do is simply wander around. Obviously it's important to make sure you know that the area is safe before getting lost, but once that's been cleared, it's fun to explore all the little nooks and crannies of old European cities. To find your way back, just use HopStop, an app that tells you how to get to your destination via the local transit system.
-Yoga isn't as popular in Europe as it is in the US, so I just do my own practice when I travel. I do like looking through Yoga Finder for master classes - sometimes there are really great opportunities to study with traveling teachers. But for the most part, I just pack my travel yoga mat (review here) and do my own thing.
-Renting bikes can be a great way to get around (and get some exercise). We did that in Paris (made easy by their city bike system) and had the absolute best time!
So those are my tips - do you have any you'd like to share?