I recently went on the most epic vacation of my entire life: my first Euro trip! Not only was it my first time in Europe, but I also went with my four best friends from college. What an amazing experience it was to see some of the most iconic places in the world with three other girls who I love and care for so much. It was a once in a lifetime trip.
London, Paris, and Amsterdam were the final destinations for our Euro trip. I’m certainly not a travel blogger, so you won’t find a super in depth post about the top things to do or see in each of these places, but instead I wanted to share what we did along with some tips learned along the way.
Before diving in, here’s a little disclaimer: none of our trip was planned outside of travel dates to each city, train tickets, and tickets for two activities. Everything else was completely on the fly. Not having a plan allowed us to wander and get to know the areas we were visiting. If you allow yourself to relax in those moments of spontaneity, I promise you won’t regret it. I’m a HUGE planner, but I’ve found that sometimes not having a plan can actually be more relaxing (and fun!). You just have to be open minded and live in the moment 🙂 And with that, here it is!
2018 Euro Trip Recap and Travel Tips
Our travel dates were May 18-May 29th as that was the only time that worked for all of us to go. Those dates ended up being perfect because prices shot up closer to Memorial Day and into June (summer vacation prices start around that time).
Tip #1: Don’t overpack! Easier said than done right?
I ended up bringing WAY too much stuff. My advice is this: plan as many outfits as you can and only bring items of clothing you can mix and match together. If you’re going in the summer, dresses will also be a great option. Think about how you can re-wear each outfit on different days. This goes without saying, but bring shoes that are comfortable to walk in! I ended up buying a pair of Superga tennis shoes (which I love!) and my feet were totally fine. I also ended up wearing a sandal that didn’t have much support in it, but I was still fine. Shoes take up the most space so only bring those that are versatile and can be worn with several types of outfits. My new packing motto: When in doubt, don’t bring it!
My girlfriends were all flying out of Chicago, so I ended up flying there to be on the same flight to Europe. This was great because I had airline points from my Southwest credit card that I used for the flight from LA to Chicago, which helped cut down on flying costs. So, keep in mind, it might be cheaper to fly out of a nearby airport.
We all needed to get a few things done before heading to the airport (get nails done, last minute toiletries, etc.) and although we thought we gave ourselves plenty of time to get to the airport, we didn’t take one thing into consideration: traffic. We were in the Uber literally looking at what other flights were available because we did not think we would make our flight. What a way to start the trip, right?!
Tip #2: Don’t save anything for the last moment and
Tip #3: Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport!
Luck was on our side and we ended up making the flight! Shoutout to the Uber driver who drove like a maniac to get us there! The flight to London ended up being a lot of fun since we were all sitting next to each other.
Tip #4: If you’re flying as a group, I would definitely recommend sitting together.
Sitting together kicked off our trip on the right foot (4 glasses of Chardonnay also helped).
First stop: London!
London is 8 hours ahead of Los Angeles, so by the time we got to London it was 6am, but it only felt like 10 pm for me and I was just starting to get sleepy as we were landing. One thing I was told was NOT to go to sleep when we arrived in London, otherwise our sleep schedules would be off. Boy oh boy, did I underestimate the jet lag (plus we didn’t sleep much on the plane because wine). But, we powered through and I am so glad we did.
Tip #5: Power through the jet lag and stay awake when you land overseas!
For all of our destinations we opted to do AirBNB’s instead of staying in hotels. I was nervous about this but it was A LOT cheaper than any hotels we could find. Hotels in Europe are a little different as they only allow 2 people to a room and for good reason – many of them would only provide 1 queen bed or 2 twin beds. We didn’t want to be totally uncomfortable, crammed into such a tiny space AND AirBNB was cheaper anyway. When choosing an AirBNB:
Tip #6: Make sure there are plenty of photos and plenty of good reviews.
I would totally recommend going the AirBNB route if hotels are breaking your budget.
In London, we stayed in an area called Battersea. It ended up being the cutest little area and an awesome location. Battersea had some restaurants and bars we could go to if we wanted to grab something quick or last minute, but was only about a 15-minute Uber ride over to more “touristy” areas (Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, etc). We explored Battersea on the first night which was a lot of fun. A couple of bar recommendations: BarSocial and Four Thieves.
Tip #7: Do a little bit of research on what restaurants/bars are conveniently located in the area you’re staying in.
When we arrived, we were super hungry and wanted to buy some things for the AirBNB (drinks, of course), but none of us had looked ahead of time to see what was in the area. Thankfully, there was plenty nearby, but it would have been nice to have had a little list as a quick go-to guide before getting there.
Tip #8: Two of us arranged for our cell phones to work while traveling abroad (for a fee of course), and this ended up being super helpful.
I had even downloaded maps of each city on my phone, but there were plenty of times wifi wasn’t available and we needed to call an Uber or look up directions.
The next day, we went to breakfast at what quickly became our go-to eating spot: The Farmer’s Mistress. If you’re in the Battersea area, definitely check this place out!
That day we purchased hop-on hop-off bus tour tickets, which we should have planned a bit better. By the time we ended up getting to the bus stop we only had a couple of hours left on the tour… oops! It was fun nonetheless and a GREAT way to see and learn about the city.
Tip #9: Do a hop-on hop-off bus tour, but make sure to look at what time the last bus takes off so you get there in plenty of time to enjoy the entire tour.
On the tour we hopped off at Westminster Abbey to walk to the London Eye. If you’re debating on riding the London Eye, I’d say do it! The line looked long, but went really fast. We took some great pictures at the top and got a fantastic view of the city. #doitforthegram
After our ride on the Eye, we walked along the Thames River on Shakespeare’s Way to go see the London Bridge. This walk was SO fun! We saw Shakespeare’s Globe which was pretty surreal. Unplanned things like this walk ended up being some of the greatest memories of our trip for me.
Funny thing about this walk: we saw a little concession stand selling beer, so we decided to make a pitstop. I asked the lady helping us if we needed to stay in the “bar” area with our drinks and she looked at me with this puzzled look and said “No, you’re in London, you can walk anywhere with it.” … WHAT! Haha, my mind was blown. This was our first realization of just how laid back some parts of Europe are compared to the U.S.
The next day was a day I had looked forward to the most on our trip. We ventured to Warner Bros. Studios to see The Making of Harry Potter!! I’m a big Harry Potter fan (I’m literally watching it right now as I write this post… haha #nerdalert) and this was one of the coolest things we did on the trip. We got to see actual sets and props and learn all about the special effects they used. We even got to do a green screen video of us riding a broom!
If you go to buy tickets and see they are sold out, you might still be in luck! We ended up buying tickets through Golden Tours. These tickets included a bus to and from Warner Bros. which was great because we didn’t have to worry about the Uber/taxi situation.
That night was our last night in London so we went to some local bars in Battersea and had an awesome last night in London.
Next stop: PARIS!
The next morning we woke up, packed up our stuff, and headed to the train station as we were taking the Eurostar train from London to Paris. We were already running a little bit behind because traffic in London was worse than we imagined, but we also didn’t anticipate any sort of security at the train station.
Tip #10: Be prepared for security to take awhile at the Eurostar train station.
We all assumed it’d be an easy process, but security took a lot longer than we expected and we almost missed our train! See a pattern forming here?
Out first day in Paris was one of my favorite days of the entire trip. We looked to see how far the Eiffel Tower was from where we were staying and decided to walk over to have a picnic. We underestimated just how far of a walk it would be (about an hour), but saw some amazing things along the way.
Tip #11: Even if it may be a long walk, do it anyways! You end up seeing so much you’d never see if you took an Uber or a cab.
After making a pitstop at FLOW for some champagne, we then stopped to buy wine, macaroons, and croissants for our picnic. We set up camp right at the base of the tower and WOW… To see something so iconic that close up was unbelievable. And to be there with my best girlfriends was a very cool experience and my top moment of the entire trip 🙂
Once we felt like we could tear ourselves away from the Eiffel Tower, we walked back to our AirBNB and stopped at some local bars before calling it a night.
I should have known better, but all of the wine I drank led to the WORST hangover I had on the entire trip! Boooo. Thankfully there was a restaurant right below our AirBNB, so we stopped down to get some coffee and breakfast.
Small note on a totally unrelated topic: I’ve written about my struggle with anxiety and how it tends to get much worse after a big night of drinking and here is the perfect example: the day after our picnic day, I woke up with the worst hangover after tossing and turning all night long. During breakfast, I knew I needed to get some more sleep, but I was SO anxious about missing out. I went back and forth on whether I should power through or listen to my body and give myself some time to recoup. I ended up going to take a nap and I am so glad I did. After waking up a few hours later, I felt 100% better. Had I tried to power through, I would have been exhausted & potentially more anxious later on. If you can relate, my advice is to listen to your body when you need to. If you need a break, then take a break. I know when I don’t listen to my body, my anxiety gets worse.
That night we went to dinner at Frame Brasserie restaurant (so good!) and then walked to the Eiffel Tower to see the sparkly lights… my 2nd WOW moment of the trip! What a sight to see. I could have stood these for hours just watching. It was so magical!
A friend of mine recommended a bar called Gatsby, so we walked over to check it out. We had the best time here! Great drinks and fun music, what more could you ask for?! (and the bartenders there were loving us American girls 😉haha.)
The next day we planned on visiting anything else that was on our ‘must see’ list as this was the last full day in Paris. Purchasing tickets for another hop-on hop-off bus tour seemed like the way to go and, once again, I would highly recommend doing this. We got to see the different parts of city, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, Musée d’Orsay, Notre Dame, and the Eiffel Tower (you can never see too much of the Eiffel Tower, right?!)
Since we only had 3 full days in Paris, the decision was made not to go into any of the museums. We thought they would take up too much time and the last thing we wanted to do was stand in line. We’ll save museums for the next Euro trip 😉 After seeing everything we wanted to see on the tour, we had been instructed to stop at a cafe for nutella crepe. When in Paris, you MUST stop for a nutella crepe- they are to die for!
We only had one night left in Paris and although we totally should’ve just gone home, we went out. Of course. BACK TO GATSBY! 😂We ended our time in Paris with a bang and had such an amazing last night.
Next stop: AMSTERDAM!
The next day we took a train to Amsterdam and had a TOTALLY different experience at the train station. There was no security and no line. Thankfully, because (as you can already guess) we were SUPER late and almost missed this train too. WHOOPS!
Tip #12: Especially with a larger group, always give yourself plenty of time to get places!
If you think you need to leave at 5:00 pm, I highly suggest shooting to leave closer to 4:30 or even 4:00 pm. Better to be early than super late and it’s hard to understand what the traffic might be like in an unfamiliar place.
When we finally arrived in Amsterdam, I’ll be honest- we were exhausted. We all wanted to take a nap, but we rallied and began to explore the city.
Tip #13: STAY HYDRATED!
It’s important to drink water throughout the day, before bed, and right when you wake up to stay hydrated, especially when you plan on drinking as much as we all did (4 best friends reunited in Europe… we were all prepared for copious amounts of drinks to be had! haha).
I don’t know what I expected from Amsterdam but it blew me away! What a BEAUTIFUL city! We walked to the W rooftop bar to kick off the last 2 days of our trip with some fancy cocktails. Amsterdam has beautiful canals everywhere and it is so clean! It ended up being my favorite city out of the whole trip.
A friend had recommended we go to The Eleventh Commandment bar, so we went to check it out. It was such a fun bar- I would definitely recommend it! After that, we walked around the city and over to the Red Light District. Needless to say, our jaws were practically on the ground as we walked the street… an experience to have, to say the least.
The next day we grabbed breakfast at The Avocado Show– a restaurant where everything has avocado in it… aka an American girls food dream. It was DELICIOUS! And our waitress ended up being from Michigan! What a small world!
After devouring avocado toast, avocado ice cream, and avocado drinks, we walked over to the iconic I Amsterdam sign.
Tip #14: To get the best pictures at any of the main tourist attractions (like this sign), go early in the morning to avoid having a million people in your pictures 😂
That day we had purchased tickets to the Anne Frank House. What an incredible thing to get to see. I was honestly speechless as we walked through the house. We purchased tickets to the Anne Frank House about 1.5 months ahead of time and they were almost sold out at that time, so it’s important to plan ahead.
A group we had met in London highly recommended we go to Winkle 43 to get some apple pie. We figured if someone was making an apple pie recommendation, it must be damn good, so we stopped by: DELICIOUS!
We only had 2 days in Amsterdam so it was spent mostly walking around and sight-seeing on our own.
It was the last night of our Euro trip and we totally intended on going home to pack and get some rest before our flight home the next morning… BUT… where’s the fun in that? We ended up staying out until 3 am and didn’t regret a thing the next day 😊
We flew home, half brain-dead and completely exhausted, but feeling totally humbled by the entire experience.
I can’t quite describe how I felt coming home after a trip like that. If anything, the trip made me realize just how small we all are in this very big world. I felt refreshed, motivated, and extremely blessed. The biggest tip I can give is this:
Tip #15: Don’t just live a little… live A LOT!
Do things you normally wouldn’t do. Do the things you know you probably shouldn’t do. Take chances and don’t have a plan. Life is meant to be an adventure and getting out of your comfort zone is key to exploring all parts of yourself.
I’m already excited for the next adventure to come. What are some of your top travel tips? Where should I go to next? Leave a comment below!