Hi all!!! I hope you like the new face lift the blog has gotten…I’m totally in love with it! I wanted to start blogging about some of my travels, as I am a firm believer in experiences vs. material things. As some of you know I recently went on vacation to Europe with the hubby in April. I wanted to write a little bit about how we prepared for the trip, what we packed, and the traveling side of it. I researched a ton before we left and there was still things that came up that I had no idea how to handle, so if I help one other lost traveler, writing this will not be for nothing.
Europe has always been on my bucket list ever since I can remember, and since we are still young and childless, we decided why not now? Originally the plan was to do London, Paris, and either Italy or Ireland. However, once we started looking at the last two it really seemed like those needed to have their own dedicated vacation, especially Italy, just way too many places to go. So we decided on London and Paris and we started planning. As we started to figure out an itinerary, the hubby suggested an Amsterdam day trip, as I am a huge history fan, and especially of the holocaust, I was all for it as long as I got to go to the Anne Frank house. We started researching and a day trip was the same if not more expensive than just taking the train there and then flying out of Amsterdam. So we decided on this itinerary finally:
April 8- Fly from San Antonio to London
Spend April 9-13 in London
Take the Eurostar to Paris
April 13-17 in Paris
Take the train to Amsterdam
Spend April 17-18 in Amsterdam
April 18-Fly from Amsterdam to San Antonio
First we booked our flights and hotel through Expedia, however they only give the option to travel to two destinations, so I booked our flights, London and Amsterdam hotels and then booked our Paris hotel through the hotel website (this was to also guarantee we got an Eiffel Tower view, as Expedia’s descriptions were a little vague.) Our flights were through Delta, and we had absolutely no problems, we did take a smaller plane from San Antonio to Minneapolis and there wasn’t enough room for our carry-ons, which unfortunately for me had my camera bag in it, so I took that out and sent our bags and prayed they met us in London (thankfully they did). I really believe our flight times could not have been any better, we flew out of SA around 6pm, and then flew out of Minneapolis at around 10pm, so we tried with everything we had to sleep on the flight, that was not easy, so we were pretty groggy when we landed in London at about 11am the following day. Though after a quick power nap we felt good enough to start sightseeing so it wasn’t too bad. Our flight coming back home left at 3pm, so we just watched movies the whole flight and I did take a short nap but we landed in SA at 10pm, drove home, and went to bed, and woke up at a normal time the next day. Neither one of us experienced any jet lag, I woke up fairly early the next week, but I really felt like we got right back on schedule. So I recommend trying to get a schedule somewhere close to that to help with the jet lag.
I really can’t recommend a way to find a great hotel, there are just so many options, we wanted it to be nice but didn’t need extravagant and we wanted to be close to landmarks and attractions. I basically read a lot of reviews and blogs and then ran the final list by my brother-the travel agent.
We stayed at the Millennium Bailey’s in London, it was in South Kensington. The very best thing about this hotel was it was literally less than 100 feet from the Tube station. This was amazing as London is fairly spaced out, you pretty much have to take the tube to get most places. The hotel itself was pretty small, but this is to be expected in Europe and the air condition most definitely did not work… which really sucked. But as far as the room, cleanliness, staff, everything was exceptional and there were quite a few restaurants and cafés in the area which was nice. Would I stay here again? Probably not, I feel like the Westminster area would have suited us better as it was much closer to a lot of attractions, and is very London feeling. Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the London Eye, among numerous other places are all here, of course you pay for this convenience but it would probably be worth it.
In Paris we stayed at the Mercure Paris Centre Eiffel Tower, this hotel was much fancier than the Millennium, but we also paid a lot more for it. The staff were all fairly friendly and everything was very clean. Our Eiffel tower view was a bit obstructed by another hotel (that ironically enough was also on our final list of hotel options) but we still saw the upper half of it and we could see the light show at night which was awesome. This was definitely the smallest hotel room I’ve ever been in, Lenton had his suitcases stacked on top of each other in a chair and mine were stacked on the luggage rack. It was crazy cramped. Looking back I think the area we stayed in was very touristy, so I don’t feel like we got the true Paris feeling, so if we went back I would probably try to stay in another area, but I’m really just guessing some place else would be better.
Amsterdam’s hotel was aaaaaaaaaaamazing, it was huge compared to the others- a king sized bed!!! We stayed at the Room Mate Aitana. It had a huge bathroom with a soaker tub, a great view of the canals and the staff were extremely friendly and helpful. It was kinda far from the Anne Frank House but there was not much else that was bad. After being in tiny cramped rooms for 8 days, I felt like doing cartwheels in this one.
As far as purchasing our train tickets, I used the blog- Seat 61, this had some great tips about booking and also had much better train diagrams than the ones on the website, this was good because we could pick seats with outlets and windows and that were facing the direction we were traveling. From London to Paris we booked through the Eurostar website and they were around $90 each, and we booked our Paris to Amsterdam through the Thalys website and they were pricier because we waited too late, coming in at around $125 each, both of these would have been cheaper had we booked further in advance.
We also booked an airport transfer through Expedia, because we knew we would be exhausted when we landed in a completely new and foreign country, I just wanted to be able to go and not have to worry about finding the hotel.
Just by researching Pinterest I found lots of super helpful blogs. Here are some of my favorites:
Tripomatic.com was extremely helpful, you input your travel dates and your hotel and then it gives you a map with most every attraction you can imagine, this was amazing because you can plan your itineraries by area, it also gives suggested times you will spend at each place as well as visitor information like ticket prices, opening times etc.
I also downloaded the Trip Advisor app and downloaded the city guides for the cities we were visiting, we used these the most for maps and restaurant recommendations. I also downloaded the Tripomatic app, which is much like the website, and a currency converter app as well as a basic French app.
Wow, this turned out to be much longer than I expected, I think I will save our packing recommendations for another day, so I don’t completely bore you to death. Anywho, hope you enjoyed and found this helpful.