📆 Days in Europe
The Smiths have seen almost everything there is to see in Europe, from Portugal to Poland and Sweden to Italy. Each country has something unique to offer. If you can only go once, of course there's the temptation to hit all the big name cities: Rome, Paris, London, but there is so much to get out of other, less-visited places, like Krakow, Ljubljana, and Porto. To make the trip meaningful, find something to connect with. The experience in Dresden can be just as meaningful as a trip to Disneyland Paris.
It's the access to cultures other than your own that can expand and add variety to your perspective. If you're not connecting with peoiple when you're traveling, then you're missing the point.❞
Hello! What's your name, where are you from, and where have you travelled to in Europe?
We're the Smiths from Adventure Everywhere. As for where we're from, that's a hard question. We claim quite a few places throughout the US as home, but generally California and Virginia. We've traveled to 22 countries across Europe, so mostly mainland Europe from Portugal to Poland and from Sweden to Italy. Some of our favorite countries include Austria, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Poland.
In one sentence, why should someone travel to/through Europe?
We don't know of many other places in the world where you can experience so many different cultures and languages in one day of driving.
What motivated you to take your first trip to Europe?
Our first trip was for a church mission to Spain before the European Union was even a thing.
What's your travel style, and how does this affect how you plan your trips?
We travel with a go and do style. Sometimes, this means very little planning. We try to experience whatever we can and soak it all in when we get to a place. Yes, we have some very structured trips (you can't do Europe without that), but we also like to just explore when we get to an area. Sometimes, for all the TripAdvisor or Yelp promoted experiences, you can miss the local gems. So, we try to get a good mix of both.
What went into planning your first trip to Europe?
Well, the first trip was a 2-year church mission, and that meant packing up and moving to Spain. Our first trip as a family, however, was many years later - a 3-month stay in Italy teaching in a business program that granted 4-5 day weekends. We planned excursions around Europe for every single weekend and put 25K miles on the car in 3 months. Because we were new to the Europe experience, this meant watching a lot of travel documentaries from some of the most well-read/respected travel gurus. But when we got to Europe, we often had to ditch those itinerary ideas and do what worked for us.
If you had to plan one final, perfect Eurotrip, what would the itinerary look like?
Start in Porto, Portugal and grab some nata, drive to Aveiro and take a canal boat ride while eating tripa, from there, take a flight to Barcelona and enjoy a day at Parc Tibidabo and get some churros and chocolate and watch the sunset. From there, head to Florence, get some Edoardo's Gelato. Drive up into the Veneto region and through the Brenner pass into Austria. Stop in Salzburg for some Kaisekrainer and then head into Vienna and get some Kebabs and Falafel at the Nachtmarkt. From there, head into Ljubljana, Slovenia, enjoy gelato on the dragon bridge by the river. From Slovenia, we'd head into Poland, specifically Krakow and enjoy the sights while downing some pierogis. Then drive to the Wieliczka Salt Mines and lick a salt wall. From there, head to Prague and get some ice cream-filled chimney cakes on the St. Charles bridge and then drive up to Dresden. A few other stops along the way would include some tobbogan runs in the Black Forest Germany, and hitting the Jungfrau region in Switzerland complete with some swiss hot chocolate.
What's your advice for first-time Eurotriprs who are just starting to plan a trip?
You can't see it all in one trip. Choose a good hub with access to key places. Vienna, Rome, Brussels, Munich, and even Dublin are great hubs.
What have been some of the biggest challenges you've faced when planning your Eurotrip?
Choosing among the seemingly limitless places to go.
What resources (books, apps, friends, etc) do you use when planning your Eurotrip?
We've used a mix of books and apps, including Rick Steves and TripAdvisor. But oddly enough, our biggest inspiration for places to go has been the Amazing Race. We also have made friends throughout the countries we've visited and will often rely on their advice as well.
In your opinion, is Europe an expensive place to travel? Why / why not?
It can be depending on your approach. Eating at the top restaurants and doing all the hyped-up activities can rack up expenses. And so many of those experiences can be really overrated. For example, you have to see the colloseum in Rome, but most people don't realize that there are other colloseums in Europe that are just as cool (i.e. Pula Croatia).
What are the 3 most important things to consider when packing for a trip to Europe?
Luggage weight, flexibility of clothing (i.e. can a pair of pants also double as shorts?), and practicality (i.e. No Jeans: Few places have dryers, and jeans take forever to hang dry).
How would you pack differently for a 1-week trip to Europe versus a 1-month trip?
No differently. We pack the same regardless.
What advice would you give first-time Eurotriprs nervous about using public transportation in cities?
If you're nervous, do simple things: wear a mask and use a twist-tie (i.e. from bread packages) to tie up your bags.
What is your favorite destination in Europe? Why?
Every country in Europe is different, and they each have their charms. A better question would be: "What is your favorite destination in X country?" But when all is said and done, Florence is my favorite destination in Europe.
What was your first trip to Europe like?
As a family, it was hectic. I hadn't done my research on traveling, and spent a day driving through the freeways in Austria without a highway sticker. Luckily, we weren't pulled over, but since then, I can't count the number of times I've seen a police officer drive by my car on the freeway and look in the window to make sure we have an up-to-date sticker.
Can you tell us about a funny story/situation you've been in when traveling in Europe?
On one extended stay living in Austria, we did a short-term lease on a car. The license plate was France, so everytime the locals would walk buy our home, they'd try to speak with us in French. We don't speak French.
How do you find social connections while traveling around Europe?
Mostly through our religion. We've connected with numerous fellow church members throughout Europe. It's also fun to connect with the local shop owners. Once in Italy, a fruit shop owner took my kids around and taught them Italian words for each of the fruits and vegetables he was selling.
If you've travelled through Europe more than once, what has changed in how you plan your trip now from your earlier trips?
We take out the fluff. We know exactly what we like to see and we don't need to rely on Rick Steves or Trip Advisor.
What are some specific challenges travelling through Europe?
Generally, it's figuring out what's most cost-effective: rental car, train, or flight. We've never found the trains to be economical, so we've usually rented cars.
What does travel give you that everyday life doesn’t?
It's the access to cultures other than your own that can expand and add variety to your perspective. If you're not connecting with peoiple when you're traveling, then you're missing the point.
When you come home from a trip to Europe, has it changed you? How?
See my previous answer. We've discovered that ways things are done in the U.S. aren't necessarily the best ways to do things. Europe has a lot of advantages in their perspective that the U.S. overlooks.
How has COVID-19 impacted your travel plans, if at all?
Yes. We haven't traveled to Europe in 2 years thanks to COVID. Our next trip is planned Summer 2022.
What do you wish you knew before your first trip, that you know now?
You don't have to get everything in during one trip. Soak it in. Enjoy what you can. Take time to breathe.
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