Pack Smart and Light
Passport, check. Clothes, check. Camera, check. Plan out what you’ll need each day of your trip so you’re not tossing unnecessary items into your bag before rushing to the airport. You may be staying at several different hotels, and you will need to have luggage that is easy to carry. I was recently in Spain and saw a lot of tourists using only carry-ons. I had a carry on and a back pack. We had a 12 day stay and this was enough. I washed a few clothes, but that was easy. One of our most useful packing tips is to bring pieces you can mix, match, and layer in order to keep your suitcase light! Don’t forget to look up what the temperatures will be in your destination, and pack for the weather. Always bring a comfortable pair of shoes. On my recent trip to Spain, I walked 30,000 steps one day. This was equivalent to 14 miles.
Keep Money Matters in Mind
Call your bank and credit card company a week or two before you depart to let them know which countries you’ll be visiting. Know your credit card company's rules on foreign transactions. Chose a card that does not charge them. Exchanging money at an ATM is easy and usually more cost effective. Exchange counters at the airport usually charge an exchange fee and don't give the best rates. There are a few currency exchanges with no service fees. You will find them in large cities along busy streets.
Look up your destination country’s currency.
While many countries in Europe use the euro, it’s a good idea to double check what currency is used in the country or countries you’ll be visiting. Nineteen European countries operate on the euro, but many popular destinations including England, Sweden, Croatia and the Czech Republic do not.
Bring your credit card
While you’ll want to have some smaller currency on hand for tipping your Tour Director, bus driver and local guides, you will be able to use a credit card at many restaurants and shops in Europe. Keep in mind that Discover and American Express are not as widely accepted overseas.
While European countries have different unspoken rules about tipping, one consistent thing you’ll find is that tips are not usually accepted on credit cards. It’s smart to be prepared with a few bills and coins in the local currency. In most countries, a good rule of thumb for taxis is to round up your total and tell your driver to keep the change.
Check with your carrier regarding phone, data and text charges. Many plans now allow international calling or texting at no extra fee. However, you will need to set your phone to international roaming.
Check Ahead of Time for Museum Hours and Prices
On our trip to Barcelona we got free entrance to two museums on Sunday. One museum only gave free entrance on the first Sunday of the month. Entrance fees add up. Also, if you take the hop on and off bus, you usually get a coupon book with discount coupons. This will come in handy. Many of the museums in Barcelona had $20 entrance fees. Also one museum closed early on Sunday.
Know Your Options for Getting From City to City
We flew from Madrid to Barcelona, which took about an hour. There is also a high speech train option that runs between several different cities. The price between Madrid and Barcelona ranges from $!30 to $56 and takes about 3 hours.
You can get a City Card in many places, which allows you to use unlimited transportation and get into museums free or at a discount. For example, see and do everything Barcelona has to offer with this great value city sightseeing and discount card. Choose from 3, 4 or 5 consecutive day passes and receive free entry, great discounts and offers to Barcelona's major attractions. Whether you prefer museums or galleries, cathedrals or shopping - Barcelona has it all. The Barcelona Card offers FREE ENTRY to over 20 of the city's top visitor attractions (including the Chocolate Museum and Columbus Monument), free transport around Barcelona, and access to over 90 special offers in shops, restaurants, museums and much more.
It is $56 for 3 days. You will be eligible for free transportation via bus or metro for the entire period.
Embrace the Unexpected
“Find a bakery, a café, and a coffee shop that seem to be local favorites. Visit an open-air market and browse the colorful stands or buy some fresh bread, cheese, and produce for a relaxing picnic.” In Madrid we found a very large restaurant with a food happy hour. The locals all seemed to be enjoying the atmosphere as well as tourists. It was a fun environment which we enjoyed very much. We also went to the top of one of the El Cortes Ingles and found a rooftop cafe with a great sunset view. You couldn't have asked for more. As we walked back to our hotel one evening from the city center in Madrid, we enjoyed the lighted fountains. We walked down the La Rambla in Barcelona and stopped at the market. It was wonderful to see the variety of local food. There were several times we got a little lost in the city and still had a wonderful time finding our way back. Tips Remember, you can always return!
We could have stayed a lot longer in Barcelona. There is so much to do and see. It can be tempting to try to do it all—hit every museum on your list, visit every neighborhood of a big city, and see every iconic site. Our advice is to spend time savoring the experiences you do have. Certain destinations with so much to offer have a way of drawing us back for another stay.