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Babcia and Yia Yia!, Travel With Alex: Europe 101

Europe 101: Plan Perfect!

Europe is an icon of the travel world. With so many places to choose from and so many details to consider, any traveler can become overwhelmed! Fear not Euro-traveler! We are here to answer the most important questions! Let’s make your trip to Europe plan perfect. If you are just getting started, we highly recommend checking out our first Europe 101 post and podcast to get your basic plans started.

What can I do to make my trip to Europe better?

Hundreds of destinations and thousands of experiences await anyone traveling to Europe and the best advice we have is to go with your gut and create a balance of activities that you know you will truly enjoy. We love to share our ideas to help you decide if an icon or smaller experience is just right for you. With so many details to consider, here’s our list of starting line tips to make your plans work for you!

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  • When considering booking an Airbnb, be sure to check out if the owner is local instead of a corporation that has a resident manager. It puts money back into the local economy. Ask your Airbnb if they have bikes or other equipment to use. Airbnb is also taking donations to help out Ukrainian refugees so, if you can, consider donating a night or two.
  • Driving a standard can be one of the biggest cost savers in Europe (or anywhere for that matter). The reality of rental car pricing means that more efficient cars like standards are cheaper to rent. Learn to drive the standard!!
  • Be mindful of Spring events surrounding Holy week. Many festivities and closures could put a damper on your best laid plans and create quite a hiccup. Conversely, seek them out! They are fun!
  • Be a responsible shopper and always buy local especially when you are looking for travel souvenirs. Check out where things have been manufactured and only reinvest money into the local economy. There’s no reason to make someone on the other side of the world money.
  • Look up and go down! Europe is full of so much! As you make your way through your trip, be sure to check out Europe’s fascination with ceilings. Then again, plan a few excursions to see what’s under your feet. Here are a few examples: in Rome, look up at all the church ceilings, in Edinburgh, check out the cool closes, in Paris explore the sewer museum, in Nuremberg learn the history of the WWII art bunkers, and in London, take a ride on the mail rail.

Are hop on hop off busses worth it?

Yes and no. Hop on, hop off busses are incredibly popular and there are a few cities where we think they are totally worth it. On the other hand, there are quite a few cities where they clog up the roads and make life miserable. We think that so many choices come down to whether or not there is a good reason to take the bus other than just ride around. Here are our picks and why:

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Yay!

  • Edinburgh: Use it to go out to see the Brittania
  • Rome: The bus links all of the major piazzas together in a efficient ring
  • Paris: but only at night to see the uplit magic of the city of lights

Nay!

  • Dublin: they clog up the streets with the Viking tours
  • Athens: traffic! traffic! traffic!
  • Amsterdam: the canals are far better to get around
  • Munich: bikes or a bike taxi are a better choice

What are the best city passes in Europe?

It’s a decision we go back and forth on often. Is it worth buying the big city museum pass or should we skip it? Our rule of thumb is if you are staying for more than three days and you are attending at least three venues that are included in the pass, then there is a good chance that a museum pass is for you. We do, however, have some favorites:

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  • Paris City Pass: It covers hundreds of places both big and small including The Louvre and Versailles. It does NOT cover the Eiffel Tower.
  • London Oyster Pass: Everything that’s not part of the Royal Household including transport.
  • The Vatican: If you want to see anything past St. Peter’s Basilica, you NEED this ticket!
  • Krakow City Pass: Art, archeology, WII sites and more are included.
  • Amsterdam City Pass: Van Gogh and the Rijksmuseum are both included making it well worth the price.

What tickets do I need to get before going to Europe?

As much as we would all like to just hop on a plane and wing it, the truth is that some of the most popular venues sell out weeks and months in advance. Here are some of the most popular as well as some popular places that really don’t need pre-planning.

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Pre-plan it!

  • Nueshwanstien Castle, Bavaria
  • Anne Frank House, Amsterdam
  • Sagrada Familia, Barcelona  
  • The Vatican Necropolis (St. Peter’s Tomb) Please see our information on Rome by clicking here.                                

Wing it!

  • Blarney Castle
  • Auschwitz
  • Parthenon
  • Mont Saint Michele

What destinations in Europe need a car rental?

  • Ireland, the Wild Atlantic Way awaits and the public transport in this area is not that great. It’s time to drive on the other side of the road.
  • Bavaria, don’t get us wrong, German trains are super great. But, driving these back roads lets you stay on your own time schedule and, quite frankly, they are super fun to drive!
  • Tuscany, a car is certainly needed to explore this countryside. Use the great trains to get you close then pick up a rental near the train station.
  • Normandy, you can also pick up a rental at the Bayeaux train station and then explore the coastline on your own time. This means that you are not depending on public transport to get you to the most important sites.
  • Scottish Highlands, yes there are trains but like Ireland, Normandy, and Bavaria, a car will allow you to coast through the countryside at your own speed.
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6 last tips about very specific places:

Lots of little tips can help you feel more comfortable as you travel. For example, using “international” words like photo and toilet can be far more productive than saying picture or restroom (isn’t that a room where you rest?!). Here are some more little gems that might apply to your next European adventure:

  • Bullfights in the Azores do not kill the bulls! It’s an ethical way to experience this culture.
  • Worst traffic in Europe is in Istanbul!
  • Royal Ascot tickets may be available through your embassy in London. Google their site because you need to apply.
  • You can river raft on the lochs of Scotland! Just on certain days. Check out our coverage of Scotland here.
  • The Notre Dame is scheduled to open back up in 2024 just in time for the Olympics!
  • Your Louvre Ticket will allow you to leave and come back throughout the day whether you use a City Pass or not.
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We can answer:

  • Where should I rent a car in Europe?
  • What tickets do I need to buy in advance in Europe?
  • How can I decide on what to preplan for my tip to Europe?
  • What are the best travel tips for Europe?
  • Should I use a hop on hop off bus in Europe?
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Babcia and Yia Yia!, Notes on Planning and Packing, Study Hall: Essays On Travel

Plus Size Travel 2.0

It’s us! We’re back! Yep! We are back for another look at how the plus size traveler can conquer any challenge that comes her way. Whether it’s trying to find the best spot to sit on a plane or the challenge of streamlining your suitcase, we are here to make plus size travel just a bit easier for anyone who carries just a little more with them than the clothes in their suitcase.

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Plus Size Travel Writers That Are Keeping It Real!

Mary Fran is a plus sized woman who keeps the humor in day to day life as well as travel. She’s become so popular on TicTok that Good Morning America featured her in one of their human interest segments. Meet Mary Fran by clicking here to the original GMA article.

In A Letter To My Thin Friend by Lacie-Jade Christie, the author takes some time to give her friend her perspective on how a plus sized traveler feels dealing with big moments like hiking and little moments like sitting in an airplane seat. Read A Letter To My Thin Friend and link to more stories in this series by clicking here.

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Looking at our clothes

What are you self conscious about when you travel? For us, we are constantly striving to fit in and not impose on others. For us, embracing our size not only means caring for ourselves but also blending into the group we are with or the place that we are spending time. This balance may start with our mindset but always, always, finds its way to our wardrobe.

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Taking our clothes on a test drive.

Recently, we’ve been working really hard to make sure every single thing we put into our bags has a good reason for being there. To test out our ideas, we’ve been giving our travel wardrobe a test drive. Here are some of the results! Note that some of the links below are affiliate links. I only recommend products & brands I love and that I think you would love, too!

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  • The jumpsuit solution: jumpsuits are in style right now and plus size women can seize upon this great wardrobe choice to make going out comfortable whether its day or night! Jumpsuits can look sporty or give just the right glam vibe no matter where you travel.
  • Raincoat regrets: There’s always one item that makes its way to the top of the should or shouldn’t I list and that’s our raincoat. It can be a waste of space or the best thing in our bag. I went to Victoria Falls and never pulled it out even though it was recommended and was in the sunniest part of Germany wishing I had one! Take it or leave it, it’s awfully hard to find one in a plus size when you are out and about.
  • Leggings: Whether you use them to work out or to keep warm or comfy, leggings pack small and find so many ways to be part of any capsule wardrobe. We confess! We fell into the rabbit hole of LuLaRoe and we apologize for even thinking this was a good idea. These days, you can find leggings in our wardrobe that don’t include tacos or palm trees. Some of our favorite leggings include great finds from LuLuLemon and Lane Bryant.     

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The classic V-neck: Plus size tops can be so very difficult. They stretch across our boobs, hang too low or act like an unsightly crop top or simply make us look far larger than we are! We are always on the search for V-necks that compliments our neck line so we don’t look like we are strangling ourselves and are just the right length to cover without shortening our legs so we look like oompaloompas. Call us when you find them.   

Bra Basics: The girls always need a lot of attention when you are plus size. Traveling brings a whole new set of challenges to lift, separate, and flatter. Bras need to be super supportive as well as washing and drying easily. It’s not an easy task! We love these super cheap strapless bras (with no clasp to break) as well as our Third Love bras. TL does a great job of fitting you correctly. Not always something that is done well.  We are hoping that plus size bras become more readily available but we don’t expect this to be something that  to be any time soon.    

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  • Scarves or pashminas: One way that we can save room in our luggage is to forego a jacket during fair weather travels. I mean, in the end, we barely use it especially when we’re ducking in and out of shops and museums. And when we do commit to the whole jacket thing we wind up in a sweat juggling a jacket with packages while my mother looks on in disdain. Can we say overheated?! Lately, our jacket alternative is a pashmina and a light scarf that both have a multitude of uses. It’s a blanket on the plane and a jacket that easily wraps around the handle of our handbag. A lighter scarf is a great accessory and a great way to add a little variety to a capsule wardrobe. Both pack small and both do a better job than a jacket.
  • Plus size swimsuits: Ugh. Can we just say this is one of our least favorite topics? We have, however, over the years picked up a few ideas that help. First, no matter what size you are, there is a two piece swimsuit for you. Two piece swimsuits offer plenty of coverage while being far easier to get on and get off whether you are dry or wet. Trust us! We’ve both been dealing with the swimsuit wriggle for far too long, we know what we’re talking about! The next thing that we highly suggest is to have a dedicated packing cube just for your suit. It will always be ready to go and it will take up hardly any space at all! Our cube is small enough to even fit in our bag.
  • Compression socks: This may be our favorite trip saver! Compression socks are known to help with swelling but did you know it also helps with fatigue which could aid in jet lag!? We’ll take it! Unfortunately, not all socks fit plus sized legs! Check out some of our picks below.

How Do You Streamline Your Luggage?

Pop quiz! If you raise your hand if your suitcase is always bigger than everyone else’s even though you have the same amount of stuff. We’ve come up with a few ways to help streamline the amount of stuff we pack up and here are just a few of those thoughts.

  • Staying Make up free is a great choice we’ve made to keep our skin fresh and our bags just a little lighter. Between both of us, we carry one gloss, a brow pencil and mascara. We are done.
  • Compression cubes shrink things down and can be a life saver when trying to stay organized. We use them for everything especially the “just in case” items like swim suits and rain jackets.  
  • Laundry options including where the laundromats are where you are going and Tide sticks is a huge piece of the puzzle for the “my boobs catch a little of everything I eat” crowd. A few dryer sheets in our shoes are not such a bad idea either.
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What technology do you truly use when you travel?

Let’s face it: travelers need their technology to do double duty. We need items that earn their keep in our bags. In fact, even though we podcast and we have definitely committed to leaving the big camera and computer at home. Instead we focus on making our iPhone earn its keep!           

Stay Inspired

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Babcia and Yia Yia!, Travel With Terri: USA 101

Texas 101: Road Trip, Dallas!

YeeeeeHaw!!!!! We’re going to Texas!!! Recently my podcast bestie, Terri, shared her great trip to Dallas, Texas on our podcast. Her picks were so great that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share them with you! So, let’s take a trip to one of the great American cities the US has to offer. It’s time to travel to Dallas.

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Dallas Treats

The Lone Star State has plenty to offer any traveler, regardless of personal interests. From history and arts to sports and ranching culture, Dallas does not disappoint. Both stadiums in Dallas offer amazing tours for the sports lover (and perhaps their reluctant travel partners as well). While Daley Plaza takes you back to the events of November 22nd, 1963 when JFK was assassinated here. Meanwhile, not far away, the Fort Worth Stockyards give you a taste of the Texas ranching tradition that thrives outside of town.

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Local Eats

Like many metropolitan cities, Dallas is realizing the value of local food venues. With plenty of mom and pop set-ups that serve up great tex-mex as well as regional dishes like BBQ and chicken fried steak. Dallas has it’s share of yummy indulgences- they created the deep fried Oreo– so you will not be at a loss for local treats while you are in town.

Y’all Come Back Now, Ya’ Hear?

Beyond things to do and places to eat, Dallas offers the traveler the very thing we all search for- the people. The Lone Star State is famous for their down to earth attitude and friendly hellos to visitors. Soak in the great accent and the cozy feeling. So, whether it’s your first visit to Dallas or you’re back to enjoy more, Dallas wants you to explore and settle in!