Tag Archives: europe

10 Tips for Planning Your Trip to Europe

If you’re reading this post, there’s a good chance you have an incredible trip to Europe coming up. I must admit, I’m a little envious. My month-long trip to Europe with my besties last summer was seriously one of the highlights of my life. I wish I could do a trip like that every year. I truly think about the memories we made every day! So, world-traveler, it’s time to get EXCITED and start PLANNING!

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Are you the planning type? Let’s be honest, planning a trip to Europe can seem pretty daunting if you aren’t type A. Luckily, I am, and planning this huge trip was, yes stressful, but also so much fun. We went to 5 different countries, 8+ cities, had to figure out the maze of transportation, and were working on a TIGHT budget. But hey, we did it and did it well. So friends, if you’re about to sit down and nail out your own trip, let me offer some advice to ease the stress. Here are some tips I learned after planning our own trip to Europe last year.

  1. Grab a friend and make some lists:
    Whether your traveling with your significant other or traveling with a group, put your heads together and brainstorm all the places you may want to visit on your trip. When we started planning, the first thing we did was browse Pinterest and see what countries really sparked our interest. It’s important to consider everyone’s contribution and make sure you hit places everyone wants to see. We crossed off places, added new ones, and finally had a concrete list that worked with our time frame. We opted for spending more time in less places. I highly recommend this. We had more time to experience the culture of each place, plus, it really cut down on our travel costs.
  2. Plan out your ‘musts’:
    As fun as it is leaving room to explore in each city (more about that on number 8), it’s so important to nail down the things you really want to see while in each city and country. For me, a day at the Vatican was a priority. Even though we only had 3 days there, we made sure to do all our research about this place we knew we wanted to see. It was a good thing we did, because we realized we were able to buy tickets online which saved us literally hours and hours of waiting time.hbkspain-38
  3. Figure out your budget – This is probably the hardest part of planning out a Europe trip – figuring out the budget. Depending on where you are in life, you may have a really luxurious trip, or a really budget-friendly trip like we did. Our budget for four weeks in Europe after purchasing our plane tickets was $2500 for four weeks. We had to sacrifice a little here and there, but overall this budget is completely do-able. We worked our butts off saving enough to do this trip and a trip like this was hands-down the best way to spend your money. You wont regret a penny.It’s important to know in advance where your money will be going. That’s a huge reason we decided to book the majority of transportation and stay before. That way, we already knew what we were spending and could better budget out our days accordingly.

    We mostly ate breakfast at home in the mornings, cooked dinner at home some nights (Shopping at local markets is an experience in and of itself. It really makes you feel like a local), shared plates at restaurants, and left a little wiggle room for nicer dinners. It’s completely do-able, you just have to get a little more creative when on a smaller budget. On average, we budgeted about 30 euro a day per person on food. Some days we spent more, some days we spent less, but it’s always nice to overestimate than underestimate.

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  4. Grab your type a friend and get ready to get detailed – As I mentioned above, I was the type A friend of the group, and I highly recommend that if you aren’t type A, to bring in someone who is. There are so many little details that need to be planned, so it really helps to have another person there who is a little more naturally inclined to notice them and help plan them out.Do your research on each city, noting different neighborhoods and places to go, researching if there’s anything you need to buy in advance. Getting an idea of what you’d like to do will really help you estimate how much you will be spending. A great source for me was pinterest. There are a ton of blogs that have laid out travel tips and expenses. See what I’ve pinned here, it may be of help to you!

    When researching transportation to and from each city, pay attention to every possible route. Sometimes, it may be cheaper to fly from Paris to Rome than from Rome to Paris. Seeing these difference will help you identify the best route for your trip. Additionally, be sure to check on prices every day. They regularly fluctuate.

  5. Pick one person to make most bookings and transactions – This was something that really worked well for us. I was usually the person to make the bookings for travel and stay because I was a big part of the planning process. It made things a lot easier, because instead of there being a lot of loose ends between travelers, everything is concise with one person. After the bookings (pre-trip), I just totaled up what I had spent and divided it by three. We used the square cash app to pay each other back.italy-39
  6. Book your stay – Everyone travels differently. I heard from some people that fine details like hostels and hotels can be booked on the fly, giving you flexibility while you’re there. Through my experience, I completely disagree. There was SO much stress and worry and time saved on our trip by having our stay pre-booked. We had one instance in which we didn’t know where we would stay for the night. Figuring out where we would stay in peak-season took so much time and energy, wasting time we could have been exploring the city! That being said, I recommend booking your stay (or as much of it as you can) before you hop on your plan to Europe. This is where setting your dates in step 4 comes in handy.Instead of hostels, like most of our fellow travelers did, we opted for airbnb’s. For some, hostels are a great way to meet new people, but for this trip, we really wanted quality time with each other, which a private apartment provided. This was seriously the best decision we could have made. It was so nice to have our own space to come home to, privacy and security for our belongings, and gave us the true cultural experience. In peak season, most of the time, staying in a hostel was equal-priced or more expensive than splitting an airbnb 3 ways.

    Sometimes, though, airbnb’s weren’t always so easy to book. When we just needed a place, Hotwire was an incredible resource. On hotwire, you put in where you are wanting to stay, and it gives you a list of hotels in the region without their names. The downside is that you don’t quite know what the hotel is called until you book it, but the upside is that you get a WAY cheaper price this way. It’s not like you’re booking in the dark though, when picking the place, it gives you the neighborhood it’s located in, price, and customer reviews. We had great experiences with it!

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  7. Book your transportation – For the same reasons I recommend booking your stay before your trip, I also recommend booking your transportation. Let me say this first: Figuring out trains in Europe was probably one of the hardest things to manuver. So, if you’re wanting to pull your hair out, you aren’t alone. It was definitely confusing. While planes were definitely a more comfortable route, traveling by train is so much fun.
    By train: For our train transportation, we ordered a Eurail pass. This pass MUST be ordered before your trip. The site can be pretty confusing, so really allow yourself time to sift through it and see what is the best option for you. Since we were going to less places for more time, an unlimited pass didn’t make sense for us. Instead, we did a select pass that allowed 4 trips. For the rest of the transportation we needed, we went by plane.
    By plane: Traveling by plane was definitely, for the most part, a more comfortable option since it was familiar. We did a lot of our flights through Ryanair. We heard some negative things about flying with them, but our trips with them were actually a great experience!
  8. Leave your days open for adventure – As much as I recommend planning ahead on the big things, be sure to leave each day open to adventure. Sure, there will be a few things in each city that are a must-see, but wandering around, adventuring, and exploring are half the fun! Savor each moment.hbkspain-30
  9. Make copies of your documents – Travel tip 101, be sure to make copies of all your documents or take a photo of them on your phone. Passport and credit card are important things to have copies of. Send pictures of these copies to relatives so that if you loose your phone, you have a backup!
  10. Take a deep breath – Planning a trip to Europe can be overwhelming and stressful,  I know firsthand. But this is going to be a trip you will remember forever. Take a deep breath and just know that regardless of if you have every wrinkle ironed out, this is going to be a trip for the books. Enjoy the process and don’t be afraid to ask for help!

I hope these tips helped you in your planning process! Now grab a cup of coffee, read through your favorite travel blogs, and get excited because you’re going to Europe!

European Travels part 5: London

Hi, friends! Life has been crazy and I keep putting off the last 3 cities on my Europe recap. As little time as I have, I just want to get them on here, or else I know I’ll never finish and it will drag out waaaay longer than it needs to.

London, England. England was the third country we traveled to and was the place we were in the longest. We were in London 6-7 days. For those of you who have been and know how expensive it is, you probably thought it was a little crazy of us. We decided to stay in London the longest because of the fact that we had free places to stay here. Being hosted by friend is by far the best (and most budget-friendly) way to travel!

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Our first connection was with a family in Croyden. Croyden is a suburb about 30 minutes south of London. Now, before we got to London, 30 minutes didn’t seem like too far from the city. Once we got there, we quickly changed our minds. The cheapest transportation pass (per day) in London was about 18 pounds. Crazy! As soon as we figured this out, we scheduled our time accordingly and scrambled for a new place to stay in the city. Luckily, Hannah had a connection in the city who was actually going to have a vacant apartment during the time we would be there! She let us stay in her apartment for free the rest of our time in London. This made a HUGE difference, being in the middle of the city. If you’re going to London, do your best to find housing downtown!

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London is painted with historical buildings and architecture everywhere you turn. It’s a beautiful mix between the old and modern London. They do an incredible job preserving the old buildings and homes.

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The Camden Market is a district filled with thrifty finds, vintage stores, and an eclectic mix of tourists and locals alike. There is a clothing market and a food market. As funky as the clothing market was, I wasn’t too impressed with the quality of items. I was more drawn to the food market because it was filled with vendors giving you a true ‘foodie’ experience with foods from all over the world.

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The Borough Market is another great place for you foodies out there. They have every type of food you could think of! It’s a great place to get a meal + some souvenirs!

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One of our favorite spots was a coffee shop we stumbled upon called “The Book Club”. It had a great environment for enjoying a coffee, people watching, or grabbing a bite to eat.

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One of my favorite memories in London was when we did a ‘high tea’ at the Dean St. Townhouse. High Tea’s are very common in London, especially for special occasions. Everyone orders a different type of tea (you get your own pot), finger sandwiches, scones, and desserts. A perfect way to spend an afternoon. You feel super cultured and girly while enjoying a high tea. A little pricey, but it was definitely one of the highlights of our trip!
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  • High Tea at Dean St. Townhouse
  • Lunch at the Borough Market
  • Fish and Chips at Shakespeare’s Pub (it’s a must!)
  • A stroll or bike ride through Hyde Park
  • Seeing Buckingham Palace! It’s pretty surreal.
  • TRY PIMMS CUP! My trip to London made this drink one of my new summer favorites.
  • Camden Market
  • Clapham Commons. Grab a pitcher of Pimms Cup and a blanket and lay out on the grass!
  • Clapham Junction is a really young, hip area of London full of great restaurants and pubs.
  • Harrod’s. We never went, but I wish we would have just to have seen it!

Next Up: Amsterdam! Thanks for following along on my trip recap!

European Travels Part 4: Day Trips in Italy

On our trip, we spent the most time (a full week) in Italy. We knew that there were a few core places we wanted to stay (Rome and Florence), but we also knew that there are so many places in Italy we just couldn’t miss. Today I’m going to be recapping our three day trips in Italy: Tuscany, Cinque Terre, and Venice! 

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Ah, Tuscany. The wine region. If there was anything on my bucket list for Europe, it was to do a wine tour in the rolling tuscan hills! And, we did just that. For this specific outing, it was just me and Hannah. We went with Tuscan Wine Tours for our wine tasting. It was about $100 a person and that price included a wine tasting class to start your day, transportation to and from Tuscany, tour of two local wineries, a classic tuscan lunch at the second winery. Let me just say, this was probably the best thing I spent my money on the whole trip. If you have the opportunity, you must do this!

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^The three sections are different grapes which produce different types of wine. 

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We learned so much, met a bunch of great people, and had one of the best meals of our whole trip. An unforgettable experience!

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Cinque Terre, have you heard of it? If you haven’t, you’re welcome. Cinque Terre is a region on the coast of Italy, made up of five different small towns. If you’ve ever seen that picture floating on pinterest of all the colorful little houses off the coast, this is the place. A lot of people hike from town to town, but we just decided to stay in one city for the day, explore, and lay on the beach.

One big mistake we made: I didn’t really know that one of the main attractions of Cinque Terre was the public beach. I had always known water was a part of Cinque Terre, but didn’t know how much beach there actually ones. Unfortunately, we didn’t bring our bathing suits for this reason, but it was for sure one of my biggest regrets!

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Caprese salad while overlooking the italian coast with wine for the table. Doesn’t get much more italian than that! 

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Venice was our last stop in Italy before we flew out for London! While I’m glad we can say we went, Venice was actually one of my least favorite spots. Don’t take my word for it though, I’ve heard some people say it was their favorite! For me, I kept wondering where everyone was! The streets seemed empty, which was quite the change from the busy italian streets we were used to. It was fun to get lost on the streets and alley ways of Venice, though!

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*My best advice for your time in Italy is to do a wine tour! You wont regret it!

*Get a liter of wine at every meal.

*Cinque Terre – don’t miss it. But be sure to bring swim suits. I would have loved to stay the night there if I had the option to.

*Gondola rides are way overpriced, but you can haggle!

*At some of the wineries, they also harvest olive oil! Since we didn’t check luggage, bringing home a bottle of wine wasn’t really an option. But, olive oil comes in a travel size, so be sure to get two or three or ten to bring home to loved ones!

*Be sure to try your best to stay in Venice when you visit. We stayed on the outskirts, which made the commute way further than desired.

To sum up my time in Italy, I will just say that I could have spent my entire month in this wonderful country. I’m set on coming back, that’s for sure. Next up, London Town!

European Travel part 2: Rome

Italy. The land of wine, carbs, and culture. Italy was our second country on the ‘HBK Euro Vacay’ and it definitely claimed a special place in our hearts. We went to 5 different parts of the country, and took an incredible amount of photos. How could you not? From the architecture to the landscape, every part of this culture is picture perfect. As I started this Italy recap, I realized that I had way too much to share to just do one post for Italy. So, for that reason, I’ve split it up into three parts. Today I’m sharing a recap of our time in Rome

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Rome is a city full of history, beauty, and tourists galore. Even though hearing italians speaking english on account of the american visitors lessens the magic, it didn’t take away from the awe of being in a city so rich in history. From the Colosseum, to the Vatican, to St. Peters Basillica, every inch of Rome is humbling and reminds you of how small you are in context of history.

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We had our first experience of an Air Bnb in Rome. We stayed in a private room. The ‘private room’ option here was our first and last time. It is definitely not as enjoyable as having a whole home to yourself! However, we had a beautiful overlook into the street, had cafes down the street, and the location was walking distance from the historical attractions!

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We spent our first night in Rome wandering around the Trastevere area. This neighborhood of Rome is a must. It is full of the rich italian culture that you can sometimes loose with the touristy areas of Rome. It is filled with amazing restaurants, friendly italians, and some of the best gelato around. We had our favorite meal of the trip in Trastevere.

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We had a nice little cafe right down the road from our Airbnb! It was called Cafe Negresco. Cappucino & a croissant is the standard breakfast in Italy. But be sure only to drink cappucinos before noon! A *cultural* thing that the all-day coffee drinker in me didn’t quite understand. If you’re feeling sluggish, grab an espresso!

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Since we had limited time in Rome (2 days!) we had to cram a lot in in a short amount of time. We had to miss some stuff, but we made sure to spend our money on the things we didn’t want to miss: The Vatican Museam (get the audio tour!), The Sistine Chapel, The Colosseum, and St. Peter’s Basilica!

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It is pretty unreal to see the amount of artwork that filled the Vatican. Not to mention, it was a crazy experience to see in person the artwork I’ve been studying the last four years as an art major!

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We made it to the Trevi Fountain! Although, unfortunately, it was under construction for the summer. They had a little kiddie-pool sized water area where you could throw a coin in, though!

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The Vatican Museum: One of the highlights of our whole trip was getting to see the Vatican Museum. I would reserve at least half a day for it! It was unreal to see the artwork that filled the walls of that place. I recommend doing the audio tour and BUY YOUR TICKETS AHEAD OF TIME! The line for tickets is insane, but if you buy them online prior, you can just walk straight in!

Sistine Chapel: The Sistine Chapel is part of the Vatican Museum. It was a crazy moment to see the famous Michelangelo painting on the ceiling.

Trastevere Area: Best area for culture and food!

Gelateria Valentino: Gelato in Italy…you just can’t beat it. My favorite place for gelato in Rome was a place called Gelateria Valentino. It’s near the Trevi Fountain. The gelato is sweet, but the owner is even sweeter!

Breakfast: Croissant + Cappuccino was a daily ritual in Italy. The croissants are amazing in Italy.

Pizza: The pizza in Italy is NOTHING like here in the US. It’s amazing. Get it. All the time. Also wine.

Affordable Wine: In most places, wine was cheaper than water! Not to mention, even the cheap stuff is incredible. Have it as much as you can, bring some home, nothing beats an Italian wine in Italy. 

*Stay Tuned in the next couple of days! Next up is my personal favorite: Florence!*

European Travel part I: Spain

Where do I even begin? It has taken me a little bit to start posting about my trip to Europe because of  the struggle of not even knowing how to recap a trip like this! We had a month filled with memories and adventure, and I am so excited to start posting about each place we went to, travel tips, favorite spots, etc. My hope is that you would be inspired to do something similar. Maybe it’s a trip like ours, maybe it’s a cross country road trip, maybe its moving to your dream city. Whatever it is, I promise that if you just give life a yes, the details, the money, the rest will work itself out. So, with that little bit of encouragement, let’s start! I’ll be sharing about our trip through the photos below.


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The first place we had on our trip was Spain. We had about 4 days in Spain. Our flight was roundtrip from Madrid (we found an amazing deal and just decided to make it work!) and so we decided to spend a day there before we went to Barcelona. So, I want to share a little mishap that happened with our flights. Back in January, when we had booked our flights, I (as the type A person I am) wanted to make sure our flights were 100% the same, that we were seated next to each other, that we all got the same deal, etc. So, I got everyone’s American Airlines information, logged each of us in on three devices (all right in front of me) and made sure every detail was the exact same. It was the biggest relief to hit that purchase button! Well, fast forward 5 months to about a week before we left, life seemed to be crashing down around me as I realized that somehow, I had scheduled my flight 24 hours after theirs. Yikes. I had a minor melt down, you know, right as something like this happens it feels like the end of the world. After making some calls, I found out it would be almost double my ticket price to change my flight. So, I flew in the day after. Which, in retrospect, was not a big deal at all. Of course, it was sad to not spend that flight all together, and communicating in a new country was hard as I got off the plane, but hey, it worked out! Future tip: have a few people look over your flight information before you hit purchase 🙂

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Spain was a perfect place for us to start our trip. Kristie speaks a little spanish, her dad was born and raised in Spain, and she had already visited a couple times. It helps so much to have at least one person who has a little bit of familiarity with a culture. For our three days in Barcelona, we stayed at Hotel U232. It was a cute little boutique hotel in a great part of town. Every day started with a chocolate croissant and cafe con leche at the cafe down the street. We would spend a good amount of time there waking up, people watching, etc. We spent most of our days roaming around (lots of walking!) and eating amazing food. Tapas, Paella, and Sangria are the big three over there. And I’ve gotta say, I recommend every single thing. I’m not sure I had a bad meal!

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The Mercat de La Boqueria is a well known, must see food market in Barcelona. It is crowded with tourists, but is so rich with culture that it’s something you can’t miss. Spices, meats, cheeses, foods of all kinds are on display at this market, along with local vendors urging you to try whatever it is they are selling. This is a great place for picking up souvenirs or grabbing a quick, well-priced lunch!

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At La Boqueria, they have these juices everywhere. Essentially, its a bunch of different types of fruits, juiced! They are only like 1-3 euro each, and are delicious! A quick, affordable taste of culture! I got the dragonfruit juice!

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So much history covers the streets of Spain! It’s hard to walk a block without seeing a building or piece of architecture that’s hundreds of years old. 

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On this particular day pictured above, we went to Park Guell. If you’ve ever googled pictures of Barcelona, pictures of Park Guell more than likely pop up on the screen. Its a mosaic type of structure overlooking Barcelona. Well, we spent the majority of the day walking up stairs and very steep hills to get to this overlook. We ended up going up three times the elevation we needed to, only to find a not-so-great overlook. I mean, the view was beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but when you’re expecting the structures in the picture and only find a dirt patch overlook, it can be pretty surprising, ha. But hey, you can get beer up there, which is great when you’re as hot as we were! As we climbed down, we saw the real overlook, which we then found out now has an entry fee of about 10 euro. Our whole Park Guell experience was not idea, however, I do think if you’re going to Barcelona, you should go. Just plan better than we did, and be ready for walking up a lot of steep hills!

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Our favorite neighborhood of Barcelona was by far Gracia. It’s a must. When we arrived, it’s like all of our expectations were finally met. It is the younger, artsy neighborhood of Barcelona. It’s filled with young people, live music, outdoor restaurants, and art galleries. We found this particular restaurant pictured above and were instantly drawn to its bright colors and beautiful design. It was called Cantina Machito. People in Barcelona don’t eat dinner until 9 or later, and since it was still late afternoon, we decided to just get an appetizer and drinks. It was at this restaurant that we ended up meeting some real-life spanish Tuna’s (google ’em)! They’re the guys with the spanish costumes and guitars. They sung and danced and were so much fun (pictured below). We ended up spending a good amount of the night with them, making memories, taking selfies, and laughing through the language barriers. 

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Above is the lookout from Park Guell! The hike is not the easiest, but the overlook is so worth it!

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*Menu del Dia: Menu of the Day. This is pretty much the best deal you can get for lunch or dinner. It’s a set price that usually includes: an appetizer, main meal, bread, and a beverage! We loved these because they helped us get a great amount of food for our money!

*Paella: A classic dish in Barcelona. It is essentially a cast iron skillet filled with rice, veggies, and seafood/chicken. It’s very filling and easily splitable.

*Sangria: Grab a pitcher at a sidewalk cafe and just enjoy. 🙂

*The Mercat de La Boqueria: Wander around, see the culture, eat the food, grab lunch, try the juices.

*Park Guell: Beautiful park, great way to see the city, amazing overlook, and tons of art. The main overlook costs money and tickets are purchased at the bottom of the park when you enter!

*Start every day with a chocolate croissant and cafe con leche.

*Gracia: make your way over to this neighborhood, wander around!

*To eat and drink: Tapas 24, Milky Way Coffee, Cantina Machito

Thanks for following along with part one of my Europe recap! Next up: Italy!

LET’S PLAN: Europe 2015

If you saw my news on Facebook & Instagram about a month ago, you know that this summer I’ll be traveling to Europe with my two best girlfriends, Hannah & Kristie. Our tickets are booked, and we will be traveling to 5 cities in 4 weeks from mid June to mid July. A couple of us have been to Europe, but never for the sake of traveling country to country. We are so excited and so eager to learn all we can about each city and Europe as a whole!

Below I have listed the five cities we plan on visiting. I would love to hear your travel tips, recommendations, must-sees, air bnb or hostel recommendations, etc! We are so eager to start planning and booking! Let’s start planning! Yay!

amsterdamCanals, bikes, beautiful colored buildings. Amsterdam is somewhere we are all excited to go to. It’s a new place we don’t know much about, but have heard its a ‘must see’!

italyOh, Italy, Your charm, your artistic culture, and especially your wine have been drawing me in. Italy is the one place that we are open to traveling to multiple cities in. We know Florence & Rome are musts, but what are some other places we should visit? We would love to visit a winery! Got any recommendations?

barcaI have heard from so many people that Barcelona is a place we don’t want to miss. Plus, I’m pretty excited about having a beach nearby as well.

parisFor all of us, Paris is the place we are most anticipating. The city of romance, fashion, and art, it speaks to each of us for so many different reasons. We have some friends in Paris, but are still on the look out for good places to stay! 
london
London seems like a familiar spot, and I’m excited to arrive there mid trip as a little breather from all the cultures and different languages we will be experiencing. I’ve never been, but have always looked forward to the day I would get to experience good old London town. Favorite coffee shops? Places to stay? I wanna hear it all!

We are so excited to start planning our itinerary, booking trains, flights, etc. Feel free to comment below or on any of my social media outlets of travel tips, must-see places, and recommendations!

photo source: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5