Tips and Inspiration for your European holiday

 

Every time I travel overseas, whether it's for work or pleasure, I always take out travel insurance before the trip. No-one likes parting with money for something that they may never use, however I have always believed it's one of those necessary evils that you just have to pay for, so I never travelled overseas without insurance. In twenty-five years of overseas travel, I'd never made a claim - until my trip to Europe in 2010.  (Updated: November 2015)

Bern, SwitzerlandThe Pyrenean brown bear is the symbol of the Swiss capital, Bern with the legend being that the city’s founder killed a bear on the Aare peninsula whilst the city was being built. From this day on, the bear was adopted as the city’s symbol and it even features on Bern’s Coat of Arms. Rightly, or wrongly, these days, the bears serve as a tourist attraction in Bern, and after many years being housed in a confined concrete pit, in 2009 the bears moved into a new, larger bear park, the Barengraben. Extending right down to the banks of the Aare, the 6000m2 site features a large grass area, two small forests, three caves and a pool parallel to the Aare, allowing the bears to live the closest thing to a real bear’s life.

Just the thought of flying to the other side of the world with children would put many people off but believe me, there are ways to make it quite bearable. Good preparation is the key and after numerous trips to Europe with my kids, I've picked up a few tips that should help you survive the long-haul flight, too. (Updated May 2016)

Visiting one of Europe's local markets is a great way to spend an hour or two as it gives you a true sense of local life. Many towns, particularly in Italy and France, have a regular market where everything from food to clothing is sold. Markets are not only central to the European way of shopping, they are an important social occasion as residents catch up with their neighbours and stall holders that make the weekly trip to market. Food is such an important element in the typical European household that it's no wonder it features so prominently at the local market.

Ballooning Festival, AnnonayEvery year in June, the village of Annonay in France's Ardeche region celebrates the invention of the hot air balloon by the Montgolfier brothers.  The brothers' first flight took place at Annonay in 1783 and the annual festival, known as the Fete de la Montgolfiere, brings an array of colourful balloons to the region.

As an avid reader, there's nothing I enjoy more than a good travel memoir. You know the kind - Mary travels to Italy, falls in love and then becomes torn between staying and returning home. Or Bill and Sue, having become besotted with France on previous trips, buy a little place which they renovate and rent out to holiday makers.

Most of us love a bargain and when it comes to fashion, particularly 'brand name' items, who can resist? Whilst your European holiday is probably going to include visits to plenty of churches, museums and monuments, why not take some time out for a bit of retail therapy and head to one of Europe's many outlet shopping villages?

 

There are a number of different options to consider regarding how you will take your spending money to Europe. Will you take travellers cheques, a pre-paid card or use your credit card? 

These days with the options available, travellers cheques are not as widely used.  Many travellers find it easier to use their ATM card at the thousands of ATMs abroad. I recommend you check with your bank that your card is compatible for use overseas - generally if your card bears the Cirrus or Maestro symbol it is OK - but please check to be certain.  Fees do apply each time you make a withdrawal, so again, check with your bank.

Europe offers the visitor so much variety and deciding which countries and cities to visit can be a very hard decision. This A to Z of European Cities is a brief summary of some of the most popular destinations in Europe.  It's by no means a list of the only places to visit but I hope it gives you some destinations to consider visiting on your next holiday to Europe or the UK.