Tips for Going out of the Country

March 14, 2023

Going Out of the Country: Tips for your First Time

Where to Go

The first step is *obviously* deciding where you want to go. It's important to make note of what kind of experience you want. IMO, there is a difference between a trip and vacation. A trip is active. There are many attractions to visit and you are spending less time relaxing and more time exploring. This is often a trip to Europe (depending on how you plan it). A vacation is leisurely. There aren't many things to do but relax and spend quality time. I view this as a beach destination or minimal plans for other locations.

If you are unsure of where you want to go or how you want to spend your time, try looking on the internet of pictures or attractions that each country offers. Sometimes Instagram also can be inspiring if you go to a location and look at all of the pictures that are tagged there. For beginners, places like the UK, Ireland, or Italy are great.

For my Europe trip in 2019, I decided to let Nick pick since this was his first trip to Europe. He decided he wanted to go to Vienna, AustiaPrague, Czechia, and Berlin, Germany. Since we planned to be in each location for 3 days, I decided we were going to be active about seeing everything we could (aka we walked about 12-15 miles a day).

How to Get There

Deciding on what days you want to go can have a lot of factors. Ours was dependent on the tourist season, weather, and flights. May and June are right around when the tourist season kicks into full gear, and it is not as hot as July/August are in Europe. Flights going to Europe can range from $700-$1500 depending on the airline, when you want to go, and where you are coming from. Try looking at Scott's cheap flights, or look at google flights to play around with the pricing. Another money saver is looking at connecting flights. Typically it can be cheaper leaving from New York or Boston than it is from an airport like Atlanta's Hartsfield Jackson.

Travelling Between Countries...

Visiting three countries, we had to figure out how we were getting from one country to the next. It's important to have an idea of transportation because it's 10x more stressful once you're there.

For travelling to each country, we just took the train. I highly suggest doing this, it's pretty stress free and cost efficient. The way I planned this was I googled the closest stations to where we were staying, then googled direct routes that took us there. Book your train ticket in advance because they sometimes sell out, and then you have to scramble to find a different time. We bought our tickets typically five days to a week in advance of initially leaving. A lot of websites say to wait until the day you leave, but we're glad we didn't because two of the trips were sold out by the time we wanted to leave. Like flights, there are different train lines, so download the app that corresponds to your ticket once you purchase it.

Note: Different departure times can help save you money. For our train going from Prague to Berlin, we decided to leave at 6:00 AM to save about $20 each. That may not seem like a lot of money, but it definitely adds up. I suggest buying your train tickets a few days to a week before your departure date. 

Another note: I suggest buying the nicer ticket if it isn't too much of a budget stretcher. A mistake I made was I purchased first class tickets for Vienna to Prague. At first I felt terrible because we could have saved a little more money. However, as that 4 hour ride went on, it turned out to be a really good thing. We had a little "room" of four seats and had complimentary, OJ, champagne, coffee, and cookies. We felt so bougie and ended up sitting with an older couple who were from California.

Where to Stay...

What I found useful was looking up hotels, hostels, and AirBnB's in the city. From there, I would look at the locations of each place that had good reviews. If there was an attraction or particular area I wanted to see, I would look for stays located near to that. Google "Best Locations to Stay in __" and you'll get an idea of what neighborhoods you'd like. 

The further you go from the city center, the cheaper the prices are. That being said, you will have to make up for that by paying for transportation if it's not close enough to walk. 

Nick and I stayed in two AirBnB's and one hotel while on our trip. We both agreed that the AirBnB experience was better - that's even including the fact there wasn't AC in either AirBnb but there was in the hotel. We liked being able to come back to a space that felt private and a true experience. Plus they had refrigerators and washer machines. We like to buy local beer or pastries to snack on later, so having the fridge to store them in was nice. 

What to Do...

Okay so you made it to your destination, but what do you do once you're there? That's really up to you. I love doing bus tours the first day because it takes you to a lot of the main attractions and gives you brief histories of the city. This is great because we decided where we wanted to visit after viewing all of the main options.

Food tours are also great to plan because this allows you to try local cuisine with a local. It's less intimidating, you can ask for recommendations from the tour guide, and you get to walk around different areas. Our food tour in Prague was one of the best we've been on. They gave us a booklet of everywhere to eat in Prague, and our guide helped us with restaurants in Berlin, too.

Great resources are blogs specifically on the area, Trip Adviser, and AirBnB's experiences. I found a lot by just googling and learning more about each destination. Planning where you want to go ahead of time also helps save money on ticket pricing. Once you're in the country, ask your AirBnB host what there is to do (both of ours gave us maps, binders of attractions & food, and many tips upon arrival) or the hotel concierge.

Keep in mind that planning ahead is great, but doing too much in one day can really cause burnout. I tried to have one scheduled thing a day that I planned ahead. The rest of the day, we just decided based off of how we felt. A lot of our best experiences we ones we hadn't planned or known about prior to visiting.

What to Wear...

People are so worried about not looking or acting like a tourist. The truth to remember is yes, you may fit in looks wise, but unless you speak their language, you are going to stand out the second you speak. Focus on wearing what makes you happy and comfortable! I let myself get too worked up about what I'm wearing to blend in, and I am often disappointed in myself for being inauthentic to my style preferences.

Ultimately, most of your trip will include a lot of walking. Packing cute and comfortable shoes is the best tip I can give you. It is a day-ruiner when you have blisters and sore feet early on. Also make sure to look up the weather ahead of time. I thought Ireland was a lot warmer prior to going. Nick and I ended up wearing the same few jackets because we packed more for our other destinations.

To Remember...

As tourists in other countries, it's important to be respectful of culture and submerge as seamlessly as possible. Make sure you look up the culture and etiquette of the countries you visit, so you don't stand out or offend anyone.

Locals also love an attempt at their language. Knowing basics like "hello," "goodbye," and "thank you," can go a long way. I use Duo Lingo a few months in advance to familiarize myself with some phrases, and it really teaches a good bit in that short time. Google Translate on your phone as an app is also great for menus or signs.

Don't sweat the small stuff! It's okay if you had a bad meal, experience, or did the wrong thing. One of the funniest memories my family has from our Italy trip is this disgusting meal I ordered in Capri. Sure, it sucked at the moment. Now we laugh at how gross it was. Getting lost is okay, too. All the little things are a part of the adventure, it's just your perspective that can make or break the memory.  

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