Now that travel to Europe is opening up soon, I can’t stop thinking about going on a road trip to France! It’s been a long year but international travel is coming back for the summer. Are you going to be ready?
How to Become a Better Traveler
- Be smart with your money. Leave your Amex at home but take a credit card with no foreign transaction fees.
- Stay healthy while traveling by using a pro-biotic supplement that doesn’t need refrigeration.
- Pack like a pro by making sure clothes and valuables inside suitcases are protected against weather and airport tarmacs.
- Drive in Europe on the right side of the road just like the US. Unless you rent a car in the UK which is on the left hand side.
- Research airfares 6 months ahead of travel. Use fare alerts to keep informed on fare deals and pricing.
- Stay organized while traveling using your smartphone. Apps like Tripit can store all your flight, hotel and rental information.
- Keep travel stress to a minimum by planning ahead, staying organized and using “recovery” days to stay healthy and rested.
Before I started traveling through Europe and back and forth across the Atlantic to England, I was a total travel newbie. Each time I’d make a trip I second guessed my packing skills, my navigation abilities and my head for schedules and timetables. But with practice it gets easier.
Although I’m sure my travel skills have gotten a little rusty, I hope to soon be zipping through an airport, checking into the Eurostar waiting zone or driving onto the Eurotunnel. How about you. Are you ready to brush up on your travel know how in anticipation of taking off soon?
If you prefer to fly into London and drive to Europe, it’s not that difficult. Rent a car in England and use the Eurotunnel or channel ferries to make the trip. I love that fact that you can pack all your stuff in a car and make your own schedule.
If so, get ready to find out my favorite slightly unusual travel tips for Europe or beyond. Here we go!
7 Expert Tips to Help you Become a Better Traveler
1. Money Smart Traveling
- Leave your American Express card and checks at home. No one wants them in Europe.
- Once you’re at your destination, use your debit card to get cash at preferred rates
- You may need cash to pay for small items where shops have a minimum credit card charge requirement. Get some pound (British) currency in the UK. In Europe, you’ll need euros. Google “poundtodollar” or “eurotodollar” to get the latest rates. Time withdrawals to favorable exchange rates when possible.
- Before you leave the USA ask your bank to raise your daily withdrawal limit (if you’re comfortable holding cash). The fewer withdrawals the more you save on fees. You’ll need to go into a bank branch to do this.
- Take credit cards that don’t charge Foreign Transaction fees. Try Chase or Wells Fargo.
2. How to Stay Healthy Traveling
- Pack a live culture pro-biotic supplement that doesn’t need refrigeration. Try Bioglan ChocBalls which come in a pack of 30, available in Holland & Barrett stores (England). In the US shop for similar pro-biotics at Costco, Vitamin Cottage or Sprouts. Pro-biotics help keep us “regular” and give our gut support from all the crazy food we eat when traveling.
- Pick up an herbal supplement in case you need help with travel constipation. Ask for recommendations in any of the stores above.
- Pack your favorite pain medication as you may not find the exact same type in Europe (or it may be named differently). Ibuprofen is widely available under different names. Tylenol is called “paracetamol” in England and is the most widely used pain reliever.
3. Packing Tips for Every Traveler
- Your good clothing and valuables need to be protected from water, rain or snow if they get left out on the tarmac waiting to be stowed in the airplane hold! Use waterproof storage bags (Ziploc makes great travel size bags) or packing cubes to pack with. Or a hardshell suitcase.
- Pack a lightweight foldable duffel bag for overflow, laundry or as an extra overnight bag.
- Leave your nice handbag at home. The best travel bags are crossbody, lightweight with room for a water bottle, a dedicated spot for travel documents and your phone. Baggallini is a good brand for women’s travel bags, find them online or at TJ Maxx.
4. Driving Abroad Travel Tips
- When you rent a car in England to drive to Europe via the Eurotunnel or ferry you’ll be driving a left hand drive car to countries with right hand drive (except Malta, Cyprus and the Republic of Ireland). Be aware. It helps to have a passenger to feed toll booths on the right side!
- Europcar is a car rental agency that allows you to rent a car in England to drive to France or Europe. Your US driving license is all that’s needed along with a credit card. Tell them what countries you’ll be traveling to. Ask for a rate with insurance and mileage included in the rate as well as an additional driver.
- Now the UK is out of the EU, there’s no more reciprocity between countries for speeding or motor vehicle violations. So chances are you won’t be charged for that speeding ticket you get in France if you rented your car in England!
5. Air Travel Must Have Tips
- When you start shopping for airfares (6-9 months in advance), set up a fare alert using Kayak, Skyscanner or Hopper.
- Book your ticket up to 3-4 months in advance for international travel. Use the price tracker to give you an idea of what prices to expect. If you see a great deal, jump on it. Fares will only go higher as your departure gets closer and travel restrictions are eased.
- Once you’ve booked and selected a seat, set yourself a reminder to double check your seat assignment 3-4 weeks before your flight. If the airline changes the airplane type, your seat assignment may get bumped. 21-30 days in advance will give you time to re-select a seat instead of getting stuck with what’s left.
- TSA rules are changing all the time especially since COVID-19 reared it’s ugly head. Know before you get to the airport what you can bring.
- On overnight flights dress comfortably but stylishly, for better service. Dress in layers you can put on or take off. Remember it gets cold at 30,000 feet.
- Use the Mobile Passport app to make going through customs in the US. quicker. Mobile passport airports
6. Staying Organized while Traveling
- By planning ahead and keeping all my details organized on my phone I’m able to focus on the journey and not worry about the details. For those of you who like to be spontaneous, I admire your chutzpah but it’s not for me!
- You don’t need to plan every minute. Book where you’ll stay for the night and how you’ll get there.
- I use my smart phone to store all flight, train, and accommodation bookings and forward all these details to the Tripit app (free version). It gives me a chronological timeline of what to expect each hour and each day and now offers Covid-19 specific travel details.
- With an iPhone all my boarding passes are stored in Apple Wallet as well as any train tickets I buy on Trainline. This year contactless has become even more widespread in Europe. Almost all train journeys purchased have a contactless ticket you scan at ticket barriers and show on your phone to the ticket/train conductor. Easy peasy.
7. Conquer Your Mindset Travel Tips
- Even if you love to travel you may suffer some anxiety, stress and sleepless nights while traveling, especially on international trips.
- Prepare as much as you can ahead of time so you feel in control of the stuff you can be in control of. Book flights, car rentals, hotels and special attraction tickets ahead of time. It doesn’t have to be a jam packed schedule. But I guarantee it will be easier to focus on these details when you’re in front of your computer instead of winging it on the fly.
- Set aside one or two days for “recovery”. Schedule something easy or just chill. Chill can happen in your hotel room, at a park or on the beach.
- Remind yourself it’s OK to not be an experienced traveler. It’s OK to make mistakes.
- Try to maintain a regular wake-sleep schedule. I know vacations are for mixing things up, but your body and head will thank you if you get enough sleep.
We’re all looking forward to getting back to some kind of normal life where travel becomes real again, not just existing in our dreams and desires. Now’s a wonderful time to start planning. I’m looking forward to taking off soon! Where will you go?