My European Travel Tips
I am back in Ireland! I was home in Minnesota for most of June and had a great time with family and friends. My trip was filled with lots of celebrations: a wedding, a bridal shower, and my birthday! But the best thing I did was head out to Los Angeles with my sister to see our brother. We spent a day at Universal Studios Hollywood, aka The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was wonderful. Harry Potter World was everything I wanted it to be.
While I was visiting with family and friends I swear everyone had a European summer trip planned. Some are coming to Ireland to visit Mathew and me. Some are off to cool summer spots in Greece, Italy, or France. I am hoping I can tag along with some of them.
These conversations made me think, over the past eleven months Mathew and I have gathered some helpful travel tips for Americans in Europe. Before our visitors arrive, I was personally emailing these tips their way. Now I can direct future visitors to my blog and hopefully help more than just our visitors on their European adventures!
My European Travel Tips
My Travel Motto: ‘If You Want It to Be Like Home, Stay at Home’
This motto might come across as harsh. I am sorry if you read it that way, but I have to include it, and start my tips with this saying my mother made famous in our family. Some things will be different, heck a lot of things will be different, and they should be, right?! So, when I find myself frustrated over the smallest issue I repeat my motto and immediately reset my attitude.
Now that you have the right mindset here are some things to consider before you arrive in Europe.
You will need cash. Research the currency of your destination. Ireland, and many European countries use the Euro (€).
Get cash using one of the following means:
- ATM in European airport
- The easiest option in my opinion. Ensure your card can withdrawal cash and that you know your PIN.
- Currency exchange booths at the airport
- You can use a card to receive cash here but I would use this option to exchange cash for cash. USD $ for Euros € as an example.
- Bank at home
- I had family members feel more comfortable beginning their travels with currency, therefore opted for this option. Not all banks carry all currencies, make sure to plan weeks in advance for this option.
All forms do charge to exchange or take out currency. The charges are dependent on the exchange rate. I would estimate at least a $10 fee.
Notify Your Bank
Since you will also use your credit and/or debit card to make purchases notify your bank/credit card company of your travels. Let them know the countries you will be in, including airports. While I know some companies are moving away from this practice, I would still call. Nothing worse than a frozen card while traveling.
Current Conversion Rate
To covert from € to $ I do the following math daily:
- Whatever the price is in Euros, say €30
- Take 10% of that number, in this case, 3
- Then add the two numbers together, 30+3=$33
- So €30=$33 roughly
Of course, there are apps, like XE Currency, that will calculate the current exchange rate to the minute but sometimes I find it faster to do a basic conversion in my head.
Leftover Cash, Notes Specific to Our Visitors
If you have leftover Euros at the end of your trip Mathew and I can buy them from you, so I would take out more versus less as there will be a fee each time you withdrawal Euros.
Everything in Europe is smaller. The cars, closets, ect. You will enjoy yourself more if you have less luggage to haul around. Plan to re-wear outfits and do laundry (see Laundry).
Recommended Packing List
- Your passport. Obviously. You can not travel if it expires within six months so plan accordingly. If you need a new or to renew your US passport here are the steps.
- Headphones or earbuds so you can watch movies on the plane.
- Comfortable walking shoes. I prefer a nice walking boot for extra warm, but just be comfortable.
- Electricity Adapter and USB Cord:
- The adapter I use daily
- Notes Specific to Our Visitors: I do have an adapter to charge your phone. You just need to bring a USB cord. If you have more than a phone to charge or plug in I recommend bringing your own adapter.
Save Space, We Will Provide, Notes Specific to Our Visitors
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Bar soap
- Cotton balls/Qtips
- Hair Dryer, Straighter, Curling Iron (I only have 1 of each but I am happy to share)
In public, toilets are not as readily available as they are in States. Plan to use the toilet at home, a restaurant, or pub, assuming you purchase something. Shops usually don’t offer public toilets. In some European countries, you are charged to use a public toilet. In Ireland, to request the location of the bathroom say, ‘Where are the toilets?’ It feels a little strange to say toilet, but that is what they are called here.
Showers, Notes Specific to Our Visitors
Our home has 2 showers but only one shower can be in use at a time. We’ll discuss a shower schedule when you arrive. I’m not too worried about it, but just wanted you to know.
Irish Weather, Notes Specific to Our Visitors
Irish weather is fairly consistent. It is like Minnesota fall on a daily basis. My ‘Irish uniform’ is jeans, a long-sleeved shirt, and a sweater for layering. In the fall and winter months I also wear a jacket and hat for extra warmth.
A note for Minnesota visitors, you will see that average temperatures range from 40-60F/ 5-16C throughout the year. And you will say to yourself, ‘that’s not too bad, I can definitely handle that.’ I have learned that while Ireland is warmer than Minnesota, cold is still cold, and being so close to the sea the cold is damp. We have had visitors in August, December, January, March, and April. All of our visitors have commented on how cold it is here/how cold they have been. Plan to dress in layers and to touch base with me before you travel. (I have to say touch base with me because as I type this it is 73F/23C. Which is hot for Ireland. Just like anywhere the weather can vary, it just normally does not.)
We were told it rains all the time. It has not! I think we are just experiencing a great year but as of today save the space and do not pack an umbrella or rain boots.
Temperatures in Irish Homes
Plan to be fully dressed while inside during fall, winter, and spring months. Irish homes are not insulated, so you will be too cold in shorts or a t-shirt. Slippers would be nice to have, socks work too. There is no basement in our home so the first-floor floors are cold. You are basically walking on cement.
Laundry, Notes Specific to Our Visitors
Yes, we have laundry available at our home. But we do not have a drier. (Yes, it is frustrating and a topic I discuss in this blog post.) Therefore, we hang dry our laundry. Plan for 24 hours of dry time.
If it is a drier-emergency the grocery store about a quarter mile away from our home has a communal drier that you can use for €2. Or we can take them to a dry cleaner with a 24-hour turnaround time.
Thanks for Reading
I hope all or some of these tips will help you in your next European adventure. I know this was a lot of information. I hope I was able to present it in a clear and concise form. If you have additional question or wished I would have covered another topic please reach out, I am available to elaborate!