Try These Nine Tips to Improve Your European Vacation

travel mistakes
Photo by beer5020/Getty Images

Zeneba Bowers and Matt Walker, owners of LittleRoadsEurope.com, travel to Europe up to five times a year and are willing to offer some do’s and don’ts when preparing your next vacation:

DON’T: Skimp on the airfare. Saving a few dollars on airfare won’t be worth it when you get stuck for an eight-hour layover. 
INSTEAD: Spend a few more bucks on airfare. “Your time is a commodity,” they write, and arriving at your destination relaxed and in a timely fashion is the best way to start your vacation.

DON’T: Pack too much. Few things are worse than lugging around a heavy suitcase around an airport or city en-route to your hotel. Deciding which outfit or comforts to leave behind may be difficult but it’ll be worth it.
INSTEAD: Leave room in your suitcase to bring items home. Those extra pair of shoes won’t be worth it when you can’t bring any cheese, wine, or antiques (bring bubble wrap) home.  

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DON’T: Plan too many activities. A packed schedule will be more trouble than it’s worth and if hectic is what you wanted, why go on vacation? 
INSTEAD: Enjoy a few things thoroughly. Barely scratching the surface, covering too many activities, will barely register and you’ll have a less memorable trip.

DON’T: Try to cover too much distance. Taking a trip to Italy? Stay in one region. If your hotel is in Rome, a trip to Naples or Florence may seem nice but that’s equivalent to staying in New York and day-tripping to D.C. or Boston.
INSTEAD: Get an idea for what’s in the location you’re staying at. There will always be something to do and, if not, grab a coffee or drink and people-watch, Bowers and Walker recommend.

DON’T: Hit all “must-see” destinations. Everyone wants to see the must-sees, and you’ll spend your entire vacation waiting in a crowd. 
INSTEAD: Go early in the morning or during an off-season for reduced crowds. They’re generally must-see destinations for a reason, so if you insist on going make sure you plan smart.

DON’T: Just “wing-it” during mealtime. Plenty of European cities will cater towards American tourists, but then you will be missing out on the authentic cuisine.
INSTEAD: Do a little research and make reservations before you leave. Search “destination restaurants” to aid you. If you find nothing, you can always ask a local.

DON’T: Rack up debt or penny-pinch. Why go on vacation if you’re only going to limit yourself when you arrive?
INSTEAD: Save before the trip. Look up what things cost (i.e. food, gas, lodging) and make a budget for yourself. 

DON’T: View your vacation through your phone. Human eyes capture detail much better than your new iPhone, they write.
INSTEAD: Use all of your senses. "What sounds are happening? Are there interesting scents? What does the sun and breeze feel like on your skin? Try to put those 'markers' in your brain, and when you get home you will be able to recall these precious moments more accurately and with more pleasure," says Bowers.

DON’T: Base your happiness off a checklist. Wanting to get too many things done can lead to a stressful vacation, and it won’t let you go on an impromptu journeys.
INSTEAD: Pick out only a few things you must do but give yourself time to explore. “Make your goal to end each day having experienced something new,” they write. It will be worth it when looking back on your vacation.

The “don’ts” will cause your vacation to be an exhausting marathon of crowds, unauthentic food, and stressful travel. If you follow Bowers and Walkers “instead” list, you’ll have a chance to really experience and enjoy another culture. 

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