European Travel FAQ

We feel somewhat qualified on the subject with our 19 combined trips to Europe. These are just our ideas but do your research.

What to pack, the Rick Steves travel bag

Here is a great reference, Rick’s Packing List. For the last couple of trips, we have used roller bags, small enough to fit in an airline overhead compartment. The semi-soft sided bags are better in that they will flex a bit when pushed into a tight space. We also like backpacks.

Do you use a travel agency and tour group?

We did one time and oh-my, were we the rebels. Yes, it is simple and yes, they do almost all of the thinking for you, but you only see the commercial stuff meant for Americans. OK, an example.

Rosellen and her Grandfather Joe, gifted a European tour to her parents for their 20th wedding anniversary. There was a series of schedule conflicts and 5 years later they had still not taken the trip. We were helping them finally plan the trip, and decided to go along too.

We get into Brussels, and that night the tour is hosting a pasta dinner near the hotel. The event is on the second story of a gas station. We had other ideas and hired a cab to take us to the Palace des Martyrs and find this beautiful historical square and the Feast of Wallonia. This is one of the two largest festivals held every year in Brussels. It was a seafood feast on a grand scale, a beautiful night with all the tables pulled out to the street. In the center of the square, there were clubs and dance teams in historical costumes providing entertainment. A block away we found the Mannekin Pis, the famous bronze statue of the little boy pissing in the gutter. The next morning where does the tour go but the same historical square, there is a large cleanup operation underway, as if there had been a big event the night before. Yup, got daytime pictures of people picking up trash.

There was a consistent pattern. The bus would pull up to a historical location, and the guild would lead everyone “left” to a gift shop. We would go “right” and find where the locals shop, explore a church, etc., and later reconnect with the group, along with our bottles of wine, cheese, and chocolate.

How do you find out where to stay?

The guidebooks are very good. We especially like those by Rick Steves. Now you can take your smartphone and with a cell plan like Google Fi, your GSM phone will work everywhere. Today I would do both, a small guidebook and the phone. We generally book a few rooms in advance but find that limits our flexibility.

What about money, local currency, and credit cards?

So easy now with the Euro. Visa is accepted everywhere. You can get Euros from any ATM using your Visa-based debit card but do inform your financial institution when and where you will be traveling.

What are your thoughts on security and travel?

You are generally safe in any of the tourist areas. In the cities, like any big city, there will be places to avoid. The TSA will allow you to travel with Pepper Spray in a checked bag. You might ask your hotel attendant where to walk and night and what to avoid.

If you could take a 22-day European adventure today, what would you do differently from the 2013 trip?

We would spend more time in small towns and off the beaten path. Back in the day, we were both working, with kid events, home maintenance, and a packed schedule that did not afford much time to research and plan in advance. Today we have time to research and plan and the small towns tend to be less crowded and are more authentic.

I would bring the same Nikon D7000 and Tameron 18-270 zoom, possibly upgrade to the D7500, it has wireless communications with your cell phone. We would also rely heavily on cell phone photos. As I have written here, the Google Pixel 6 takes amazing photos and videos.

In July you want to be in the Alps or north of the Alps.

One could do 22 days in Europe every summer and never visit the same place twice. There are so many places to go, so many places.