How I Planned My Europe Trip

As you all know, I am no travel agent but if there's anything I'm very passionate about, obviously, and unapologetically so, it's travel. I've traveled lately twice to the continent of Europe, a mere 15 hour direct flight away, and isn't easy to get to.

I received several inquiries both online and offline on how I planned my recent trip. For the one I did in August, it was through Trafalgar, so that made everything easy. All I had to do was show up.

For the October leg however, there were a lot of planning that happened. Every trip, international, or domestic is different and below are no universal truths. They happen to be what I did for my own trip and they worked for me so far. I wish they'd help you as well and give you the most for your time and money.

 

  • If you're headed to Europe, choose which cities you want to go to. I always get the comment that since I'm there anyway, I should make the most out of the trip and try to go everywhere. I admire the people who have the energy to go city to city each day. I am no such type. I like taking my time in a city, maybe stay 4 to 5 days or 10, so for two weeks, I only have two cities as itinerary: London and Paris.
  • Now that you know where you're going, choose your entry. It was a no brainer for me because PAL just started flying to London, there was a travel expo, where I got a super inexpensive roundtrip ticket. Of course, I had to get two visas since UK is not an EU territory, so I did this as early as August. For tips on how to apply for a Schengen visa, follow this link. For the cheapest flights, check out Skyscanner, eDreams or go to the travel expo like what I did for my London flights which I got really cheap.
  • Decide where you want to stay. I was traveling with a big group of friends but we had different budgets, which we all agreed on in the end. We stayed at an airBNB at the Mile End of London. For Paris, since it was just a friend and me, we stayed in a charming Parisienne apartment in the ninth arondissement. It's important to stay near a train station in any European city to make sure it will be easy for you to come home. Also, ask which floor the apartment is, if it's a BNB. Ask if there's an elevator. If you're booking a hotel, check out Agoda.comfor discounted rates.  
  • What do you want to do? I had a lot of non negotiables for Paris, for London, not so much. In Paris, I visited Oscar Wilde at Pere Lachaise Cemetery, ate at Laduree, went to Eiffel {cliche, but of course}, spent half a day at Louvre, another half day at Musee D'Orsay, another half day at Centre du Pompidou, go to Shakespeare & Co. and catch an exhibit at the Gagosian Gallery. Of course, it was either stay longer or choose which ones to go to, where I just chose to stay longer in the city. Know which ones are your priorities and which one aren't and try to stick to it as much as you can. Visit a City is a great planning tool {a site I discovered through my friend C}where you can plan itineraries according to which places are near each other. If you're traveling with friends, make sure you like your travel buddy enough to last as long as 14 days. In my case, I was traveling with a good friend who lent her makeup to me when I forgot mine, and whom I shared a lot of laughs with. It's important to like your travel companion or at least like him/her enough to say sorry to or forgive when things go wrong.
  • Book online. Sites like Musee Louvre, for example, often attract thousands of tourists so it's always worth it to buy online {I got mine with Paris Museum Pass and picked it up from the tourism office}. This way, you don't have to line up. For the Making of the Harry Potter tour, I suggest buying it online as well since tickets sell so fast!
  • Research the weather. It was autumn when I went to Paris and London and it was a bit cold for my tropical skin. I suggest not buying autumn clothes in Manila though and just buy there. H&M is much cheaper there, too. Plus, the looks are more updated when you're there vs. recycling coats from previous autumn trips. Also: legit reason to shop =P
  • Save your first day as a get-your-bearing-day. I did this for Amsterdam and Paris, got my bearings on the first day, familiarized myself with the train stations and the maps before jumping off into the organized train stations of Europe.
  • Arm yourself. Whether it's insurance {I get mine from Malayan Insurance, so easy to buy!}, apps {I love Google Translate, Triposo apps which alerted me about Louvre's late closing every Wednesday} and all the audio guides I needed for Louvre}.
  • Enjoy. This is your vacation so I do hope you get to do what you intend to do on these days. Make the most of it though some days you will just want to sleep. Bring your vitamins, Echinacea {to fight off illnesses} and your cure all, if you have any.

Bon voyage!
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xx