Following up on The Traveling Professor's popular blog post, "11 Mistakes First Time Travelers to Europe Make", here are some more mistakes made by first time travelers to Europe:
Misspelling Traveler Name on Airline Ticket or Other Travel Documents: That doesn't sound too serious, does it? Well it can be. Make sure the name printed on an airline ticket matches your passport EXACTLY. On a small group tour to Paris, a traveler almost missed their flight back home because her first name was spelled incorrectly by one character. It took about 45 minutes to resolve the situation at passport control the airport. We suggest following The Points Guy recommendations if your name is misspelled on an airline ticket.
Not Booking and "Open Jaw" Airline Ticket: Many first-time travelers think they need to fly in and out of the same city when traveling to Europe. That can be expensive and inconvenient, especially if doing something like starting a trip in Venice and finishing in Paris. But then again, you don't want to book a one-way ticket into a city, then a one-way ticket from another city. That can be prohibitively expensive. So the way to do it is to book what most airlines call a "multi-city" ticket on a single booking. Look at the Professor's blog post on that subject.
Buy an Airline Ticket or Hotel Room from a Booking Site Like Expedia, Orbitz or Booking.Com: There are a couple of issues here. First, if something goes wrong with an airline reservation (cancellation, delay, missed flight, etc.) the airline often refers the customer back to the booking company, adding another layer of customer service bureaucracy. If not booking with a hotel directly, the hotel could pay as much as 20% commission back to the booking agent like Expedia or Orbitz. Who do you think the hotel will give preferential treatment to? The customer who paid the hotel directly or the one they received 20% less revenue from? Hotel are also usually (not always) a lot more flexible (early/late checkout, amenities, etc.) to direct paying customers.
Not Having a Travel Credit Card: The right travel credit card provides benefits like waived luggage fees, preferential seating or boarding, amenities at hotels, waived fees on Global Entry programs, and rewards programs. These benefits can be found on some low or no fee cards. Some of the premium credit cards (with higher fees) provide valuable benefits like lounge access, travel insurance, and concierge services. If you are going to travel, you might as well travel with a credit card that will give some advantages.
Over Tipping: How much do you tip in Europe? In the USA, we commonly tip wait staff, taxi drivers, and other service personnel about 20%. This is NOT the custom in Europe. I can once remember tipping a driver in Iceland 10% and he gave the money back. In fact, I sensed he may have insulted him. When dining in Europe, and I know some Americans have a hard time with this, only leave a few euros (5 euros is generous) for dinners or lunches. Tipping is not customary at bars or pubs in the UK or Ireland. When hiring a tour guide on our small group tours to Europe, The Professor tells his clients to leave 5 euros for a half-day tour and 7-10 euros for a full-day tour.
Visiting Popular Sites at the Wrong Times: For instance, St. Mark's Square in Venice is a mob scene during the day. Visit in the evening when the cruise ship crowd is gone for a much more enjoyable experience. You and everyone else is trying to outsmart other travelers by lining up at the Vatican Museum in Rome, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, or Versailles outside of Paris early in the morning. Go to these popular sites later in the day to avoid the big crowds. Some places have evening hours (Vatican Museum, Louvre, Orsay, just to name a few) where crowds can be less than half of what is seen during the day.
Not Pre-Booking Reservations: In this instance, the Uffizi Gallery and David's Accademia in Florence and the Colosseum in Rome comes to mind here on our small group tours to Italy. If we failed to book these museums ahead of time, there is a good chance we would get shut out as these popular attractions fill up quickly. Imagine going all the way to Italy and not being able to see some of the great sites because you failed to pre-book. The Professor also recommends pre-booking trains ahead of time, especially on heavy travel days like Sundays or holiday periods.