This post is the other half of my post I started on our trip to Europe. For that one I focused on the beer, so for this I’m focusing on the travel aspect of the trip. This time we started in Paris, traveled to Amsterdam, Bruges Belgium, Brussels and then back to Paris. The easiest way of describing how I like to travel is to say that my wife and I take Rick Steve’s advice and then go a step or two further.
For this trip (and for our last few to Europe), we didn’t make hotel reservations in advance. It was great to see the reaction on the faces of my co-workers when I said that we were taking backpacks and didn’t have reservations – anywhere!
Now don’t worry, we’re not some hippy-dippy backpackers who camp out on park benches. In fact, since I’m getting a little older we opted for some places that have a few niceties. However, the main principle to follow is this: Do you go to Europe to hang out in a hotel room? NO! As long as we have a clean bed and bath, we focus our funds on the good stuff…sightseeing, food and drink. Here are the basics of how you do it:
- Don’t go at the peak season…and besides prices will be higher anyway. For this last trip we went in mid-October.
- Do actively look for budget hotels…for this trip, my wife used hostelworld.com…don’t worry, it’s not all traditional hostels. They have bookings for budget hotels and bed and breakfasts’.
- Pack light…this is key – you want to be mobile…we do take backpacks and typically travel with a few changes of clothes (1 “nice” outfit for upscale restaurants)…we found it super easy to find laundromats
- Buy an international data plan for your phone…this is also key…you’ll save more in hotel costs than you’ll spend in data (just be careful about it and use wi-fi where you can…typically available even in budget hotels!)
- If you want to play it safe, book the first night ahead of time…but then you want to have the flexibility to book future nights when and where the mood takes you.
We ended up spending a few nights in a chain of budget hotels that originate in the UK – The St Christopher hotel chain…In Bruges Belgium, this was an awesome location and on-site amenities were great. Even though its billed as a hostel, we booked a private room for 4 nights after traveling from Paris, through Amsterdam and into Bruges (we needed to take a break and have a base). The other highlight of our accommodations was staying on a boat in Amsterdam…yes, I did say – on a boat, in Amsterdam!! The Anna Maria II is very cool.
If you like this post, let me know and I may post more travel-related posts or maybe even start up a travel, food, wine and beer blog.
Now, I won’t leave technology totally on the side-lines…While in Europe, I received an education on EMV-compliant debit cards (aka: Chip Cards). A few times on the trip, I was specifically asked why I didn’t have one (in that slightly accusing, indignant tone that really says, “…what’s YOUR problem?”). At first, I was taken off-guard. Of course, several people were anxious to tell me that the USA is behind the times in technology. Even beyond that, several ATM machines and other card-readers simply refused my card for not having a chip. While chip cards aren’t the silver-bullet in security, it is a no-brainer to implement.
I’ll save my rantings on the state of computer security for another blog post, but I’ll leave you with one shocking comparison: Here in the US, Visa and Mastercard are pushing for adoption of chip cards but a shift in liability for fraud won’t go into affect until October 2015. Compare that to another country that already has 70 of the cards switched and expects most/all to happen by the end of May – this year! What country do you think that is? Its Kenya! So the world’s superpower is going to be lagging behind Kenya by more than a year…wow!