This summer, Europe is becoming almost unpleasant to travel around. Several factors have created a real travel nightmare:
- Revenge travel. Many people haven’t traveled at all for over two years and even among those who have been traveling domestically, they have avoided international trips due to covid testing requirements and the risk of getting stuck in quarantine.
- Airline and airport meltdowns. Airlines and airports laid off a ton of people during the covid shutdowns and have been slow to hire them back. Despite frenzied efforts to rehire and unretire staff, they can’t keep up with demand this summer and have been forced to cancel flights so the lines don’t become even longer. Even so, lost luggage and missed connections have been very well publicized on many travel blogs and Facebook groups.
- Heat. The temperature has risen to record levels, which has a further affect on aviation and general comfort level of tourists. Many hotels and Airbnbs don’t have air conditioning in places like London, Paris and Amsterdam. This week, there are record temperatures in England and fire warnings in France and Spain.
So, what’s a seasoned traveler to do? I have a few tips for those in Europe or those headed there in the next month or so.
- Plan ahead for tourist sites. Besides your hotel and car rental, you need to book other things too. Look at websites for popular tourist sites and see if they have a pre-purchase option for timed entry. Buy your tickets for the most popular tourist sites in each city at least a few weeks ahead of time. There’s a tough balance between pre-purchasing and having to cancel or delay a visit because of flight issues, but if you don’t do this, you risk hours in line in the heat or rain to visit that must-see attraction.
- Make dinner reservations. While there are thousands of restaurants in places like Paris, you should still make a reservation or risk ending up at McDonald’s or some local seedy looking place with no customers. Look at a walking distance radius from your accommodation and see which restaurants look good and fit your group’s dietary requirements. Try and make reservations for each night of your trip. If you decide to cancel and go somewhere else on the spur of the moment, that’s fine too. Beware of higher end restaurants that require a deposit and make sure you cancel within the terms to get your deposit back. In some case, very popular restaurants might be booked up for dinner, but you can sometimes get lunch reservations instead.
- Map your routes. Look at Google Maps and figure out how to get from your accommodation to the sites you want to visit. In many cases, walking will be faster than driving, especially during rush hour in big cities. Knowing generally in advance which route to take will save time and limit complaints from your family about the heat and walking distance.
- Start early. I can’t stress this enough. With crowds and heat (and the afternoon storms it causes) getting worse, you need to be at these tourist sites at opening time (or book those tickets for the earliest available time). Visit those popular sites (especially outdoor ones) at the start of the day after breakfast and head back to the hotel for nap/pool time in the afternoon at the hottest time of day so you can get back out for drinks and dinner when it cools off a bit. I know it’s vacation and you want to sleep in, but you will enjoy it more if you’re not starting out at 11am and hitting a wall of fellow travelers and 90+ degree temperatures.
These are mostly common-sense tips, but you would be surprised at how many travelers fail to do one or more of these simple things in preparing for a trip. If you’re headed to Europe (or are there now), keep these tips in mind for a more enjoyable trip.
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