There is absolutely nothing like traveling to London and Paris for the first time, and I am here to tell you it’s a possible and very magical experience. Yet, I must be honest with you. With the fear I felt and the mistakes leading up to the thrill of the plane touching down in London, the emotions were high. There are obvious steps to brainstorming the places you want to visit and, of course, checking that visa requirements for Europe and multi-city tickets are cheaper vs. round-trip. However, if you find yourself with a major case of European wanderlust and a dizzying array of questions about how to turn those travel dreams into your actual first trip, this short checklist is for you.
Get a Travel Agent or Expert
As someone who hasn’t been to Europe… I had everyone offer their opinions of what we should do. This leads to an overcrowded itinerary and a surefire way to end up overwhelmed, exhausted, and not getting to appreciate all of the magnificent places you’re seeing. I opted to use The Peak, led by Sierra Gray, a self-described travel bestie, and dedicated to helping travelers plan their adventures. She made it so easy from start to finish. I know it may seem a little mundane to hire someone to plan your trip, but it was wonderful to have an itinerary that was tailored to you. You don’t have to follow their suggestions exactly but it gives peace of mind to have options because I personally like to explore new places like a local.
Learn Local Languages
Oh, my experience with issues with language barriers was non-existent, mostly because we were on the tourist trail. But I did try to educate myself on the culture and languages. I watched a lot of Emily In Paris with captions to learn from her mistakes. JOKING. But you will almost certainly encounter some monolingual Europeans, and either way, it will definitely enhance your experience in the country to know a bit of their language especially when ordering at restaurants or asking for directions.
Use Inner City Transportation
When it comes to traveling between each of your destinations during your vacation in Europe, you might find that you come up with quite a mix of methods! For example, in London, we walked almost everywhere. But we decided to take the tube when visiting Notting Hill (yes, Notting Hill is the location of Julia Robet’s rom-com). We took The Eurostar train from London to Paris (be sure to purchase these as soon as the flights and hotels are booked to get the price locked in). While in Paris, we walked mostly, but we also downloaded the G7 taxi service app (much cheaper and more convenient than Uber).
FAQ About Traveling Abroad
Q: Is jetlag a thing?
A: Yes. I am still experiencing it as I write this. Exercise, stay hydrated, and give yourself time in your schedule to recover.
Q: Do you need Euros and other currency?
A: My travel companion wanted to exchange just for the experience and a keepsake. However, be sure to check foreign transaction fees and ATM fees with your bank before leaving and let your financial institutions know that you’ll be abroad. Apple Pay is a thing. Saved my life.
Q: Can I use my phone in Europe?
A: If your phone is unlocked, the cheapest and easiest way to use your phone in Europe is to buy a local SIM card. Make sure your phone is unlocked before. It will save you a lot of time and headaches. And you should also check with your carrier and see what they offer as far as international plans go.
Q: Will I need an adapter for electronics?
A: OMG yes! Guys, why didn’t I learn about this until the week before that European outlets aren’t the same as ours (slap forehead)? Adapters are an easy find and work for most European continents, so I am told.
Q: Can you drink the tap water?
A: Yes! Order still water. In French, ask for une carafe d’eau “tap water.”
Q: Should I be worried about pickpockets?
A: For my experience in London and Paris, I wouldn’t say I was worried, but aware would be likely the word I would use for Paris. Carry a crossbody bag instead.
Q: What to pack?
A: Oh, I believe this question deserves its own article in which I will give a more in-depth look at what I was wearing. However, I would say look up where you are going on Instagram and see what others are wearing to gather some inspiration.
Q: What is London like?
A: London reminds me of New York City with areas very reminiscent of Soho and Chinatown (with the added bonus of Buckingham Palace).
A: Try the fish and chips along with traditional UK foods. What stood out to me was the cuisine of the ethnic cultures that reside there.
Q: What is Paris like?
A: The architecture and language scream romance. But keep in mind that most places don’t believe in AC. But with the right attitude, you get past that and see the magic.