A few tips for a European City Break

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  1. Buy a real map! Crazy right? Who needs a map in this era of technology? But technology can fail, particularly if you are on a limited data plan while abroad. Having a real map not only saves you data, but gives you a better sense of the city in which you are traveling. While you may look embarrassingly like a tourist while holding open a map on a street corner, a guarantee you’ll feel much more like a local after a few days of traversing the streets without google maps to guide you. (Sub-tip: make sure the map is coated in some way, as a trip to Amsterdam taught me, a torrential downpour can quickly render a paper map entirely useless).
  2. Do your research. This doesn’t mean you have to spend days pouring over travel books and exploring every corner of the internet, but it is definitely worth spending some time looking into the sights, activities, food, and culture of your destination, particularly if it is your first time there. Its great to get a general idea of the things you will want to do so you can make a rough schedule. You may find, for example, that the museums you want to visit are closed on Mondays. This is an important thing to know before you show up at a museum on a Monday!
  3. Pack for all types of weather…..even in summer. No, a down coat is not necessary in July. That being said, in some European cities it can be relatively cold even in summer, and layers are always helpful. It can be handy to bring a few go-to sweaters or jackets that can be easily paired with many outfits. In terms of shoes, sandals alone will not sustain you. Definitely bring a pair of shoes, boots or sneakers, that you don’t mind getting wet  in the rain.
  4. Ditch the hotel. Airbnbs, flat rentals, or even hostels can be a great way of making the most of your trip. Renting an apartment or Airbnb can give you a taste of living like a local, not to mention you can save a bit of money by preparing some of your own meals. Hostels can also be a great way to save money, and also provide an opportunity to meet other travelers.
  5. Surf Airbnb. Airbnb is a great spot to find a place to stay, but it also has a wealth of activities. On our last trip to Amsterdam, we participated in two city tours that we found through Airbnb, both of which were informative and interesting, led by enthusiastic and friendly guides. Airbnb can be a great place to find activities that are a bit more off the beaten path.
  6. Walk! Walk as much as you can! While many European cities have excellent public transportation, walking is an excellent way to get a sense of the city, and will have you feeling like a local in no time. (Biking is also an excellent way to view a city while covering more distances, and most cities have easily accessible bike rentals).
  7. Have Fun! Ok, an obvious one, but it had to be said. Try not to stress about fitting in every site and every museum, and focus more on enjoying yourself and soaking up your environment.

-A

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