So you’re planning a trip to Europe – you’re touring Italy or vacationing in Greece, and you’ve got an entire Pinterest board dedicated to the trip. That’s awesome! I’ve been there, and the conceptualization stage is a fun place to be, because the possibilities are endless and the world is your oyster. But when it comes to the nitty gritty of trip planning, things can be a bit more difficult and overwhelming.
Sure, there’s plenty of information about booking your flight or what to pack for your week in Spain, but how do you actually go about planning your trip from start to finish? Where are you supposed to begin?
Having studied abroad as a student and then lived in London for 6 months, I have some experience in this area. My roommates and I planned trips to Copenhagen, France, and Italy while we studied abroad. And when my time as a Program Assistant was up, I traveled with my parents to Germany and Austria and then met a friend in Ireland.
Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about planning European travel! I’ve worked with my family and friends to plan the logistics of multiple trips abroad. That’s why I’d love to share what I’ve learned in this ultimate guide. There are several ways to go about planning a trip, and I’ll walk you step-by-step through each stage of the process so that you can make all the necessary decisions with confidence.
Whether you’ve lived in the UK for a while or are merely visiting, chances are you’ll want to bring back goodies for your family and friends at home. There is so much for Americans to love about British culture: afternoon tea, the royal family, the English accents. So why is shopping for souvenirs so challenging? There’s no way to know what your mom/dad/sister/uncle/cousin might want, so you purchase the typical t-shirt or keychain and call it quits.
Look, I don’t blame you! There’s nothing wrong with t-shirts and keychains (I have both). When I lived in London as a student, it was really important to me to find gifts that were local and authentic. At the time, I’m not even sure I knew what that meant, much less where to find gifts meeting that description. I was totally guilty of purchasing last-minute trinkets at the tourist shop down the street.
In this post, I’ll go over 1) how to select appropriate gifts for family and friends, 2) how to select the best souvenirs for yourself, and 3) the best British brands to purchase from, including a list of gift/souvenir suggestions.
So this was an especially fun, out-of-the-box activity. The O2 Arena is a well-known indoor arena in London, hosting sporting events and concerts. I’d visited the arena multiple times before, once on my way out to Greenwich and twice for concerts (5 Seconds of Summer and Demi Lovato). What you might NOT know about the O2 is that you can pay to scale / climb to the top for a panoramic view of the river and the city.
“Up at The O2” is a bit touristy, for sure, but probably not something first-timers would consider or even know much about. This is why I’ve put it on my list for seasoned Londoners, because it’s something to do with family or friends in an area of town you probably haven’t yet explored.
Unlike other sightseeing / touristy activities, this is more physical. Keep this in mind for the rare dry and sunny day (or evening!). We went mid-morning on a day in early August, and it was quite sunny and hot. We were drenched in sweat by the end!
Anyhow, I can’t believe my time is already up – in some ways it feels like it’s been forever, and in other ways I feel as though time has flown.
But 6 months truly is quite a bit of time. It’s strange to think that I’ve spent half a year in London. In that time, my job kept me pretty busy, and gave me so many unique experiences and opportunities. I thought, rather than attempting to write about it ALL, I’d pick my “top 3” experiences to share with you all today. (This is excluding the three weeks of personal travel at the end of my trip – I traveled to Germany and Austria with my parents and met my friend / coworker Kyla in Ireland. These adventures are a whole other story!) I’m limiting this post to my time as a Program Assistant in London.
Also, know that for the purpose of this post, I am writing about concrete experiences. If I were truly writing about my “top 3” takeaways from my time as a PA, it’d be centered around the relationships I developed with my coworkers and students.
There are plenty of easy daytrips you can take from London, but Brighton is one of my favorites. This seaside town is absolutely beautiful. And sometimes it’s nice to escape the city for a day – I’ve found that spending time in Brighton is peaceful and refreshing.
You can take a train to Brighton out of London Victoria or St. Pancras. If you’re traveling with 3+ people, be sure to purchase “group save” tickets, which ultimately means it’s cheaper to travel together. When you arrive in Brighton, the train station is about a 10-15 minute walk from the beach.