11 July 2012

Tips: Planning A European Vacation

Posted By Happy Homemaker UK

Putting together a European vacation can be really overwhelming
There are so many choices here

I admit to finding myself frozen in indecision

Thanks to the internet
we can save money (but not time)
by becoming our own travel agents

Here are a few tips I have picked up along the way:

Google your desired location and click 'Images'
to see photos captured by real people 
to see if it is what you are looking for

Use TripAdvisor and Expedia to research the heck out of hotels by reading reviews
Look at photos posted by travelers as well as by hotels

Cruise Critic provides reviews on cruises

Jetsetter offers great accommodation deals by signing up for their free alerts

i-escape has some good getaway ideas too

If you have more than 2 people traveling in your group,
ask for quotes for creative rooming such as a Junior Suite,
which can be cheaper than a connecting room

Ask the hotel to arrange transportation to/from the airport
It can be the same price as a taxi and takes out the stress of
negotiating a price in a foreign language/currency

Find one stop shopping for airlines at Kayak
The two major London airports are Heathrow and Gatwick,
gateways to many European cities from the US

Discount airlines from England to the European continent
include Easy Jet and Ryan Air
among many more

The time of using travelers checks is way gone
Once you arrive at your destination
find an ATM to retrieve money in the local currency

Most European hotels do not have clocks in the room,
so bring one

Many countries within Europe have different plugs,
so buying one of these clever adapters is a good investment

Global Adapter with 2 USB ports via Brookstone

Don't bring your hair dryer or anything that creates heat (ie curling/straightening iron)
 because you'll need a electrical wattage converter too
Just use a hair dryer provided by the hotel

If you plan to use your mobile phone abroad,
be sure to talk to your phone carrier in advance to get on a daily international plan
International roaming and calls can cost a fortune

And you may want to take photos of your luggage with your camera phone
to show the airlines in case bags are lost in transit

Lastly, learn from my mistake: bring your camera battery charger :)

What tips do you have to share?

- all photos by me -

* Traveling to England with kids? See my list of historical fiction for kids here *


Joyce said...

Before leaving home make a photocopy of the id page of your passport and leave it with someone there. If your passport is lost or stolen your family member or friend can fax you the copy which makes replacement much easier.

Ola said...

1) before going, print what you agreed for with the lessor
2) negotiate, negotiate and negotiate - due to the crisis you can spend your holidays much cheaper than it used to be...

Blog about life and travelling
Blog about cooking

Minerva Black the shoppe keeping cat said...

Very practical post! We've had so many wandering holidays and almost always end up buying things which we have at home becuase we lacked foresight to bring them. Good tip from Joyce too, same goes for car insurance documents.

One thing we have found is always take layers of clothes that go togther and can be swopped about at will. You never know when you will need a sweator or raincoat!

And of course, do not forget the camera!

Caliowin said...

Handy tips! I always use my electrical items in mainland europe, and never have an issue. I'm guessing that was for US people.

I always put the address of my destination inside my case on a piece of paper, on top of my clothes. DON'T put your home address on your OUT bound flight- put your HOTEL address (you don't want people knowing where you live as they'll know you are away, and you don't want to come home to a burglary). It's a great help if your baggage gets lost as the airline can quickly find where you are. Then when you are flying home, replace the hotel address with your home address.

Chelsey said...

All good tips!
Here is a collection of some of my travel tips including how to fly budget airlines in Europe and how to pack light! http://joshandchelsey.blogspot.se/search/label/Travel%20Tips

Leigh Powell Hines (Hines-Sight Blog) said...

That is an awesome idea. Really good thinking.

ann said...

No tips, but a question: what do you use for currency? Debit card? Travelers' Checks? When I traveled, I made the mistake of putting a bit on the credit card that had a hefty charge for converting pounds to dollars.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

For the day to day purchases, we use cash from the ATM. I would talk to you bank and credit card company to compare the conversion fees. Unfortunately I think there is not a good way around it. This is more of a problem for Americans, as I think there are lower conversion fees with European banks. You bring up a good point, Ann.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Great idea! I also leave my credit card info with my parents so they could call to cancel it if stolen. Thank you ;)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

1) I would agree because internet doesn't always work in the hotel (I think people assume they'll be able to pull up confirmations if needed)

2) I wish you could help me with this one. I am awful at negotiating. How do you do it?

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Great idea - thank you for adding :)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Good thinking! As for the electrical, I do think this is just for Americans due to the difference in voltage between the US and Europe.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Off to check it out now. Thanks for sharing!

Ola said...

2) I am attorney at law:)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

HOW do you do it? Via emails? Phone calls? What is your angle?

Barbara said...

These are great tips, especially for hotels. European hotels are not catered for groups larger than 2 like most American hotels that can fit up to 4.

Ola said...

by finding interesting lodging via net and than start discussing with owners but I do it much much earlier, like in January

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Ah ha! Thank you, Ola ;)

barefoot mama said...

Thanks! I bookmarked this because someday I will plan a trip like this:)

Mary Timmers said...

I have a very small tip, but one that's important to me. Bring our own wash cloth if you use them. You will almost never find them in European hotels and B abd B's. This won't affect everyone, but I for one can't shower, bathe or wash my face without one!

Gesci said...

I'd say to take advantage of the discount airlines as much as possible- as much of a pain as they can be, they usually make up for it with the price.
I use Pinterest, too, to search for popular sites at a destination. The only one that's failed miserably for me there was searching "Brussels"- I got mostly brussel sprout recipes!
I'd also say to check into holiday apartments- it's not something I'd have ever considered in the States, but in Europe they can often be cheaper than a hotel, especially if you've got more than two people. Not to mention it gives you a small kitchen, and a quick trip to the local market saves you £/€ for breakfast each day and maybe a dinner or two!

Great post!

Gail Dixon (Louisiana Belle) said...

These are all great tips, but the hairdryers all over Italy were abismal. I told my husband he could blow on my hair with his mouth and do a better job. After that I swore to bring my own dryer henceforth. The only other thing for my camera that I didn't bring enough of: memory. Other than that, you nailed it!

greenthumb said...

Planning our trip to Phuket in Januray we used a lot of online sites one I found helpful was Trip Adaivsor.

Pondside said...

Good tips, all, and I'll follow some of them in prepartion for September!

Older Mum said...

Really good tips and fabulous photos!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

What a great way of using Pinterest - I hadn't thought of that before. You are right about short term rentals - we've done that before and saved on meal expenses. Thank you for adding! XOL

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Thank you for mentioning :)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

That's funny :) More camera memory - definitely! XOL

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Phuket - I've never been. Sounds wonderful - can't wait to hear about it!

Happy Homemaker UK said...


Happy Homemaker UK said...

Thank you :)

likeschocolate said...

I can't tell you how many times I have forgotten the battery charger for my camera. I now keep everything in a camera bag that I need. While it is an extra bag it is worth having everything you need. I use a flat iron for my hair, so I have a box that has a converter and plug adapters. It cost about 50 U.S. dollars. Well worth it for those who aren't born with lovely hair. I have used blog in getting good tips, but it is important to check the information given. Things can change in the time the blog post is written and when a person travels. I agree that trip adviser for hotel information. However, you really get what you pay for. Cheap hotels are great if you just want a bed and safe money, but if you know that you like to spend time in your room then it is better to invest in a more expensive hotel. Also, Ryan Air and Easy Jet arbe great alternatives to major airlines; however, Ryan Air can end up being more expensive if you aren't backpacking it and have little children since they charge for car seat, crib, and any extra bags. They also usually don't fly out of the major airports, so you can end up spending money on transportation.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

You bring up some excellent points. We find European hotels to be more expensive than in the US, so we have to pay more than we'd like for a nice hotel (ouch).

People seem to love or hate the discount airlines - if you have children, definitely pay to board first so you can sit together and if transferring airlines, be sure it is at the same airport. We've been happy with EasyJet for weekend trips with hand luggage only.

♥ w o o l f ♥ said...

laura! you live in england! you lucky so&so!!
i shall with great enthusiasm return here, because i am anglophile {whilest being an ordinary belgian, flemish to you}.
your blog looks yummy, your pictures quite stunning!
safe travels ahead, and looking forward!
ps - too right about the socket...

Me said...

Thanks for those tips. We leave for NZ in less than a month so they have come at the right time !
Have a great weekend !

Happy Homemaker UK said...

You are welcome to pop over any time ;)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I want to go there! I can't wait to hear all about it. Safe travels :)

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

No need for the clock, our mobile phones will do that job!

Emm said...

Fabulous tips! I found myself nodding along enthusiastically to all of them. Except the currency, we find we get better deals locally and most places we use take the money back free of charge too.

I love your photos, I can see that I need to keep coming back to your blog!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

You are right - I LOVE smartphones for conversions, translating, maps, and clocks. But I'm never smart enough to figure out the time difference when it is significant :)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Do you get your currency from the bank, post office, or somewhere else?

Privet and Holly said...

Our tickets are booked
for a London visit over
Thanksgiving break! We
booked a ticket straight
into Heathrow from our
airport in Minneapolis.
Hopefully we can connect!

xo Suzanne

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Ooh, yea!! Off to email you now :)

maya frieda zureich said...

Dear Laura

if you're heading for Switzerland, please let us know if you have any questions! My friend Nina and me blog about leisure and events in Zurich and as to a real friend, travellers can ask us questions and we answer them on our blog, so please don't hesitate :)