7 Tips for BEFORE you GO! // A Crucial Pre-Trip Checklist

7 Tips for BEFORE you GO! // A Crucial Pre-Trip Checklist

Whether you’re heading to London or Seville, here are 7 tips for BEFORE you embark on your wild journey!

1 | Collect your MUST-DO’s

You’ve already decided where you want to go (When & Where To Go To Europe is a great starting point if you still haven’t) but now you need to figure out what the heck you’re going to do. Here’s my go-to methods for collecting trip ideas:

1. Trip Advisor:

Search your Destination, then click the map view on the right, designate Activities, and hover your way across the city or region. Don’t just look at the rating, consider the review count, if 1 curmudgeony tourist didn’t like the bike tour don’t let that deter you. (This slow hover method I collect 80% of my must-do list activities.)

2. Rick Steves

I think I love that man. He provides, hands down, the best travel guides in Europe. Frequently he’ll comment “don’t waste your time on this…” or provide insider tips for ways to avoid long lines or save. His self-guided walks are also not to be overlooked. My only recommendation, ask a local where to eat, multiple times we’ve found his restaurant recommendations to be overrun with other tourists.

3. Travel Blogs

Hi! Real live people, dining, boating, sleeping, hiking all over the globe and documenting their experiences. A simple google search on your destination with ‘Blog’ at the end and you’ll get the real picture on the place. Additionally, speaking on behalf of travel bloggers (ahem..) we are ALWAYS eager to provide recommendations on where to go and what to see in cities we’re familiar with. So email us, we’re happy to help! (Visiting Heidelberg? Email me at: GutenBlogYall@gmail.com for recommendations!)

4. Reach out to someone that lives there or recently visited

If you don’t know anyone at the destination or has recently visited, once you find a cool tour you want to go on, send the tour company an email and ask what neighborhood they recommend you stay or where you can find a fun local dive bar. I do this ALL the time, tour guides have helpfulness in their bloodstream.

5. Pinterest

Talk about wanderlust-inducing, there are numerous places that I’ve visited because of pictures I’ve found on Pinterest. I drove 3 hours to go on this amazing hike in Austria all because of a Pinterest picture. Looking for Pinspriation? Check out my travel boards here.

Follow Margo’s board Travel | France on Pinterest.

2 | Get ULTRA-ORGANIZED (2 Parts)

Part A: Create a Map

As you identify all the places you’d like to visit throughout your trip, add them a custom Google Map to get a better sense of your movements. If you haven’t noticed, I use custom maps all the time in life and in my posts. I’m a very spatial person. Check out Casey’s post on how to create your own custom Google Map.

Part B: Create a Spreadsheet

Google Drive is your friend, now that you have everything in a map. Plotting it out can aid tremendously in itinerary-building. “Hey, Notre Dame is right beside that famous ice cream shop”, that kind of thing. Review what’s most practical logistically and put together a schedule for your vacation (yes, I realized that I just used “schedule” and “vacation” in the same sentence).

Here’s an example of our loose itinerary for my recent trip to Salzburg with girlfriends:

I put this together then shared it with them a few weeks prior to the trip via Google Docs so that everyone could provide input – adding or removing suggestions and flip-flopping days.

3 | Print ALL practical trip information (…then put it in folder with plastic page protectors!)

This is what you need to PRINT:

  • Hotel Reservations
  • Flight Reservations – I swear you’re not going to remember your Check In time and if you’re flying a low-cost airline then you’ll need that puppy printed otherwise you’ll incur fees.
  • Transfer Transportation – Going to more than one place, how are you going to get there?
  • Map of Hotel with surrounding area
  • Tour Reservation (and map from hotel to where it starts)
  • Car Rental Reservation
  • and, of course, that sparkling Spreadsheet Itinerary (#2)

THEN I organize all my travel paperwork chronologically. (If you’re not OCD like me, still do it, it’ll make both of us feel better.)

Throughout the trip FOLD the documents in half once they’re no longer needed and place them back in the page protectors. You never know, you MIGHT need to contact the hotel you just checked out of, so don’t trash them.

4 | Download an Offline Map App

Getting lost on vacation is inevitable. Save yourself from flipping through brochures with microscopic maps in the lobby and download an offline (this is crucial!) map app.

My favorite is app is Ulmon, typically with 6 layer maps for great zooming. It may not be available in every city so I recommend downloading a couple, switch you phone to Airplane Mode then test the quality of the maps (ensure street names are legible, etc).

5 | Airline Lounges (Yes! You can get in there!)

They’re glorious and I think that you deserve to be in one. Yearly memberships and loyalty programs can be ridiculously expensive and often unattainable. Instead, buy lounge access cards off of eBay!

6 | Understand Electricity 

I cannot overstate how important it is to know the difference between a power adapter and power converter. An adapter is a basic tool that retrofits your US plug to ‘adapt’ to the outlet in the wall. A power converter actually transforms the power current to match the voltage coming from the wall (so descriptive, I know).  Keep in mind that the voltage in UK and Northern Europe is match stronger than the US therefore a converter slows it down to work properly with your device. True story: In the UK I made the fateful mistake of using only an adapter with my hair straightener, and not a power converter. I literally melted my hair and straightener. It smelt awful (burnt hair) and was a horrific start to my three week visit. Read this great guide from REI on the subject.

7 | PACK

This one is the beast, that’s why it comes last.
Here are the basics:
  • Brown OR Black: Unless you’re going for more than two weeks, pick one route or the other. If it’s brown, then bring only shoes and outfits that are or match brown tones. Black, well then have at it with black boots, wedges and flats and matching outfits. Yes, you want to pack everything because it’s vacation but undoubtedly you’ll be cursing your bag later when you’re hauling on and off trains and up and down stairs. The one caveat, nude pumps and flats – because I love them and they always get to join the party.
  • Roll, baby, roll: Roll ALL of your clothes, scarves, whatever. It’ll save you a TON of space and amazingly, reduce wrinkles.
  • If you can’t comfortably walk a mile in those shoes then leave them in the closet. Mark my words, you’ll be walking A LOT, don’t put yourself through pain if you don’t have to. I love Sperry’s and Tom’s because they go with pants and shorts, and are still (somewhat) waterproof.
  • Blend in: Europeans as a whole are trendy and chic, don’t instantly brand yourself as a tourist with some loud t-shirt. You’re already going to stick out like a sore thumb with your giant map and camera, give yourself a break so when you finally settle into a cozy little restaurant you can trick everyone else (and yourself) into thinking you’re a local.
  • Bring a rain jacket. No matter where or when you go, you’ll use it at least once.
  • Document it. Remember your camera, charger, memory card and, for the sake of attempting to restore the ‘good ole days’ a journal. Save your train ticket stubs and even restaurant receipts within the folds of the pages. Record daily events, big and small, funny quotes and special moments, you’ll be so grateful you did.
  • Of course you’ll bring your: passport, prescriptions and cell phone (keep that thing in airplane mode!), right?