When we decided to name this blog That Annoying Couple, I wanted to come up with a post that would live up to the title. And behold, I have done it. Let’s talk about the planning of our trip to Europe!
Kathleen is already on record about her distaste for the term #FirstWorldProblems. I tend to agree, but this post does kind of have those overtones, so let’s just acknowledge that right off-the-bat and move on.
Planning a trip to Europe is, not to put too fine a point on it, a complete bitch of a process. I can certainly understand why some people simply opt for the guided group tour and leave the logistics to someone who knows what the hell they’re doing. But, we thought, we’re savvy travelers; we can totally handle this on our own. So what if we’re slightly directionally challenged? Getting lost is half the fun. Can’t speak a lick of any language other than English? Fuck it, that’s why God invented Google Translate! We’re fucking doing this.
By now we’ve planned a number of vacations, mostly in the Caribbean and in cities like New Orleans and New York. Planning a Caribbean vacation is pretty straight forward: decide what island to visit and pick your preferred beach—easy peasy. Europe, on the other hand, is a totally different animal. Here are just a few things we’ve had to plan/think about for our upcoming trip.
- Itinerary — It turns out that, surprisingly, Europe is really freaking big. We have a lot of places we want to visit, so it took some time to narrow them down to something resembling a manageable schedule. Part of our trip includes a 7-day cruise, which allows us to visit multiple cities in a few different countries without the hassle of providing transport or finding hotel accommodations in each city. But even that part of the planning was made difficult by the cruise line abruptly changing the entire itinerary of the cruise we’d booked, making us re-plan the entire trip. Luckily, we hadn’t yet booked our flights, or I would have gone totally apeshit.
- Language barrier — I’m hopeless when it comes to foreign languages. I grew up in Miami, but I can’t speak any Spanish beyond hello and goodbye, please and thank you, or where’s the bathroom. And this is a language I grew up hearing—not to mention the two years I took Spanish class in high school. So what hope do I have with French or Italian? No fucking hope, that’s what. For a while we tried learning Italian using Duolingo. It’s a great free app that, for someone with more brain power than I possess, will help you learn another language. For the lazier among us, there’s Google Translate, which we downloaded and will most assuredly be using often as we bumble around Paris and Rome.
- Pickpockets — Did you know that Europe is basically one huge fucking den of thieves? There are apparently thousands of gypsy children roaming the streets, just waiting to steal your shit. Go on any travel forum and you’ll see what I’m talking about. So do I keep all my cash stuffed in my sock? Hide all my credit cards up my asshole? Have my iPhone surgically attached to my hand? We decided to go with a money belt, and a cool little wallet that attaches to a belt loop. But is it enough? I’ll consider this trip a success if I manage not to end up in a street brawl with a bunch of Romanian youths.
- Packing — Traveling light is important, but even more so in Europe. Taking trains and public transit—not to mention negotiating the complicated city of Venice and its waterways—are all made more complicated if you bring large suitcases. But packing light is fine in theory, but tough to do in practice. We’re going to try fitting what we need in carry on sized luggage, but our success is yet to be determined.
- Random shit — There’s a ton of stuff I’d never thought about before planning this trip, but which we’ve now had to consider. Did you know, for example, that there’s a big debate on whether you should carry your passport around with you? Some countries require you to have valid ID with you at all times, and for us here in the U.S. that means having our passports available. But many people are worried about having their passports stolen (see the discussion on gypsy thieves, above). So, should we carry our passports around? Make copies and carry them instead, leaving the actual passports in a hotel safe? Stick the passports in my asshole along with my credit cards? We’ve also had to plan things like money (take a lot with us or get it as we go), using our cell phones internationally (should we pay for data and calling, or just use Wi-Fi), tours (what to see, what tour provider to use, how much should we spend, etc.), and simply getting around (how the hell do we get from point A to point B in an entirely unfamiliar city).
We’ve spent hours planning this trip, and sometimes I think it would be a lot easier to just hit the beach somewhere. But then I read something like this about the area where we’ll be staying in Paris, or we’ll watch a Rick Steves travel show, and my excitement will be renewed. I know we’re in for an amazing trip, and you will certainly suffer through many photos of it upon our return—provided, of course, that our camera isn’t snatched by some gypsy street urchin.