May 2009 was the first and only time I’ve been to Europe so it’s been a goal to make it back (sooner than later).
We booked this trip ourselves instead of going through a travel agent or company. It was much easier to do than I thought it would be. RomeToRio.com was a big help when figuring out our options for traveling between cities. Cities are relatively close and having the options of train and flying makes it even more convenient. I would even consider hopping between countries comparable to hopping between states here in the US.
As a summary of our two weeks in Europe…
- Cambridge, England
- London Day 1
- London Day 2
- London Day 3
- Bonjour, Paris!
- Tourist Day in Paris
- Versailles (and more Paris)
- Bern, Switzerland
- Hiking in the Swiss Alps
- Barcelona Day 1
- Barcelona Day 2
- Sagrada Familia in Pictures
- Adios, Barcelona
Things We Learned
– I would totally recommend Delta for international flying. We booked through Delta–flying over on Virgin Atlantic and then Delta coming home. We didn’t upgrade anything and chose to sit in coach, but still had a very pleasant experience. Free food, free booze, pleasant flight attendants. (This was my first time flying with them, and I don’t belong to a rewards program with an international airline.)
– We should have invested in the Swiss Rail Pass. Because we changed our trip so late, I didn’t have a ton of time to fully research travel options. The Swiss Rail Pass would have saved us money when traveling to, within and leaving Switzerland.
– Water quality has improved. We drank tap water basically the whole trip and neither of us got sick or had issues. This infographic is a great resource for international tap water. We each took a refillable water bottle, too. I took my Hydaway Bottle and it worked great.
– Train travel is great, but not always the best option. We could have flown between London and Paris for HALF the price as taking the train, but Tim really wanted to take the train. Another example is that it would have taken us 10 hrs to get from Switzerland to Barcelona by train, so we flew instead. Ticket prices were the same.
Things We Didn’t Do
– Check out every tourist attraction. There were attractions that we just weren’t interested in. We didn’t go on our trip with a super strict itinerary. Some days we went with the flow while other days we did have a full itinerary. I preferred it that way…let us avoid some of the crowds.
– Take our DSLR camera. I love the image quality from an SLR camera, but ultimately decided against taking ours this trip. It was one more thing to haul around for two weeks. Between our iPhones and our “life proof” Pentax, we felt covered.
If we ever get to go back…
– Travel to other cities. I loved being able to re-experience London and Paris, but I’m ready to explore other parts of Europe.
– EatWith Experience. EatWith.com has some really great food experiences that are offered through locals all over the world. I really wanted to do one, but our schedule just didn’t align with any offerings for this trip.
– Get a travel backpack instead of a suitcase. When we went to New Zealand and Australia, I used a full sized suitcase and realized it was way too much to deal with. This time I stuck to a carry on sized suitcase and was wishing I had a backpack instead. Navigating through subways and just the general public, a suitcase became quite bothersome to have. Tim has a backpack and I found myself saying “I’m getting one for our next trip” more than once.
We’ll be doing domestic travels for the next couple of years, but I can’t wait for our next international trip.