11 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid on Your First Trip to Europe
Jetsetting to Europe for the first time can be both a blessing and a curse. Though you’ll never forget the once-in-a-lifetime moments like first seeing the Eiffel Tower or taking a gondola through the canals of Venice, if you go unprepared, these beautiful memories can be tarnished by rookie mistakes.
To avoid all that from happening, we’ve laid out exactly what not to do overseas. Learning from the following rookie mistakes ahead of your trip will minimize the stress of traveling, while also saving you time and money.
1. Taking a Cab
Nope, not even from the airport. Most major European cities have reliable public transportation, so use it as soon as you arrive. Not only will it give you a better feel of the area, you’ll save money by avoiding high cab fares. And if there’s ever an option to walk, and you're able, don't miss a chance to experience the historic streets.
2. Buying Tickets Late
Waiting to get museum or popular sight tickets when you’re there is a bad idea. Scrambling last-minute — especially in Paris or Rome — will either leave you in a terribly long line or worse, the venue will reach capacity and you may not even be able to enter at all. Do yourself a favor and book all that you want to see in advance.
3. Settling for the First Restaurant You See
Don’t be surprised if the prix fixe option by the mob of tourists isn’t as good as you’d hope. When it comes to food, don’t take any chances. Do your research and make a separate meal itinerary with reservations to local hot spots that will likely be more affordable or at least worth your money.
4. Carrying a Ton of Cash
Don’t worry, a lot of places actually take credit cards and we bet you have one in your wallet that won’t charge foreign transactions fees. (If you don't, look into signing up for one.) While it's good to carry some cash, don't carry around a ton.
5. Not Spending Plenty of Time Outside
Europeans love eating and drinking outdoors, so do as they do. Bring along a picnic blanket, pick up some refreshments at a grocery store, and have one of your meals at a plaza or by a river. It’s a budget-friendly and fun way to switch things up so you aren't constantly dining out.
6. Forgetting to Check Your Phone Plan
More mobile carriers are incorporating international roaming with their plans. Read through your plan’s details or give the company a quick call a few days before leaving to see if you have data abroad. Don’t miss out on being able to use your Google Maps app.
7. Ordering All the Bread and Water
You probably think these things are a given, but at many restaurants they’re not free and can quickly drive up your bill. Unless you’re sure you want it, make it a point to refuse that bread basket once you sit down. To cost-effectively steer clear of dehydration, grab a jug of water for a fraction of the cost at a convenient store, fill up a water bottle, and carry it with you.
8. Not Claiming Your Refund
If you went shopping in Europe, you may be eligible for a VAT refund (http://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-tips/budgeting-currency/how-to-handle-vat). All you need to do is ask the retailer for the proper documentation and show it to the proper agents at the airport. The exact processes may work differently in each country, but getting money back makes them all worth a try.
9. Ignoring 24-hour Time
If you’re on a schedule or have timely plans, we recommend setting your phone to 24-hour, or military time, to make sure you don’t miss anything. I once hung out at the Real Madrid gift shop while the game was already going on because I misread the time — don’t make the same silly mistake I did.
10. Downplaying Comfort
Regardless of where you’re off to, there will be walking involved and it’s important to pack accordingly. Exploring in uncomfortable attire or footwear is no joke. Don’t be that person who complains and slows others down because you’re dressed inappropriately. Trust me — been there, done that, and it’s awful for everyone. (If you don't already have a go-to travel shoe, here are some comfortable, travel-friendly shoes to consider.)
11. Neglecting to Smile
Even if you remember not to do all the things on this list, there will likely be some bumps along the road. However, you can’t let just any mishap get you down because at the end of the day, you’re on vacation — and probably somewhere beautiful. Take a deep breath, and enjoy yourself.