March 29, 2006

tips for trippin

For anyone just finding this blog now, I spent the last couple months in Europe. One month working the Olympics, and then about three weeks traveling around. It is truly one of the best things I have ever done, and I can't stress enough that if you have never traveled overseas and you have the means to do so, do it! I have always traveled a fair amount within the US, but overseas travel is truly a different world and rewarding on so many levels. Open your mind and your heart and soak it in. And WHEN you do, here are some tips to help make it easier:

- Pack light, pack light, pack light. Its worth it not have to haul stuff around - even if its only on the train and to the hotel. Use undershirts under tshirts so you can wear tshirts or overshirts more than once. Pack lots of clean undershirts, but re-use the shirts you wear over them. And if you need more space, throw the old undershirts out. If you're going to several cities, you'll find you wear your favorite clothes over again anyway. No one will know you wore the same outer shirt 3 days ago.

- Get to know the metro system. In almost all cities they are easy and convenient to use. Route maps for most cities can be found online if you google "metro [city name]". Most offer day passes that are a worthwhile value instead of single tickets, even if just for the ease of not having to figure out the ticket machines more than once. Most day passes cover all public transport - subways, trains, trams, busses - with one pass.

- Write down the address of your hotel and its name - and how to say it in that country's language - and keep it in your pocket. If you find yourself needing to grab a cab, you can then give him the info even if he doesn't speak english.

- Trains are wonderful. Having a rail pass lets you go when you want. Trains are hassle free and line free, and generally a very comfortable rest between stops, plus great views of the countryside. German and French trains are nicer than Italian trains. My sister says Switzerland has amazing trains - I didn't get to try them. Use your time on the train to regroup and rest, as well as to read up on your next stop. Take note of whether you are in a smoking or nonsmoking compartment if you don't have a reserved seat.

- Before boarding a train, grab a baguette sandwich and a soda to take on the train from a food stand in the station. They make a great snack/quick meal and are cheap and usually pretty tasty.

- Most trains require a seat reservation. The track platform has a diagram of the train to show you where your car number and seats are located.

- Learn the basics of the languages. If nothing else, so that you can make an attempt to speak their language out of respect. If they know English, most are happy to then move to English after you've made the attempt to speak in their language. Please, Thank You, Excuse Me, I would like, and, and I'm sorry - can go a long way.

- Spend some time surfing the internet ahead of time to look for local festivals or events that may be going on when you are there. They are a great way to experience the local flavor and customs.

- Be adventurous with your eating. Look for things you've never seen before or don't know what they are - even at streetside stands or markets. Don't expect things the way you're used to them in the states. Find the way they have coffee or make pizza (or even better, their own foods that you don't find here) that you enjoy.

- Museums and train stations are good places for clean and well kept public restrooms. Train stations usually have a 50-75 cent charge for the restroom.

- If you are able to, keep your plans flexible. If you like a city, stay another day or two. If you don't, go ahead and move on to your next stop.

- Research ahead of time if you can. There are many sites that offer bulletin boards and user reviews. I personally like for advice on making selections because of its user reviews and quickcheck feature. A good site for booking hotels abroad is

bon voyage!

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