Over-stuffed SuitcaseDoes your suitcase look like this when you pack? Oh the horror of not being able to zip your suitcase. (Usually the night before you leave or even the moment before you are supposed to leave.) Does the thought of packing make you want to skip traveling altogether? I hear you! Packing can be THE least fun part about travel. But…I’ve got it all figured out for you. Stick with me and I’ll show you how you can do it easily, do it well and you won’t be skimping on anything! I swear.

 

 

Luggage

In this installment of my packing series, let’s start with what we’re putting everything in – luggage.  Yep, I’m going to say it, the word you may dread hearing, “carry on.”  Unplug your ears.  It’s okay.  It’s the best decision you will ever make.  We have easily traveled for 6 weeks in only a carry on.   You only have 8 days when you travel with us, so you’ve got this!  We get the 21″ size and actually still check it, so I don’t have to deal with the liquids situation.  I’m very particular about the characteristics of my carry on and why it’s important – more on that later.  Let’s just say, for starters, the smaller your luggage, the less you have to lug around on all modes of transportation or try to stow away in your hotel room.  Don’t worry, there’s still room for souvenirs!  Our favorite carry-on is the Travelpro Maxlite (in whatever the latest edition is).  It’s expandable, doesn’t tip over and all the wheels spin!

 

clothes for Europe packing listClothes 

What to bring, what to bring.  Ugh, decisions.

My general rule of thumb is neutrals, with a pop of color here and there so you don’t completely bore yourself.  I know it looks boring, but you won’t look boring!  Scarves and jewelry can always up the visual interest on your outfit and they don’t take up much space.  (You can use those scarves to stay warm on the plane too.  Usually I have one around my neck and use a warmer one as a blanket as those dang plane blankets aren’t exactly cozy.)  Mixing & matching is key!  My personal hack is that if I had to get dressed in the dark, 85% of the time, my pants, shirt and sweater would match.  My go to fabric is merino wool because it keeps you very warm even if the sweater is thin, so you don’t need to compromise room for souvenirs or Belgian and Swiss chocolate because you brought too many bulky sweaters!  For a more comprehensive list of what we pack when we travel, check out our packing lists for women and men.  Note, these links are our personal lists for approximately 6 weeks of travel, but you get the general idea.  Layering is key here as it gives your more options and combos.

 

Here’s a list for your 8 day tour with us:

  • 2-3 bottoms – pants/skirts/dresses
  • 3-5 sweaters/long shirts (I always do a button down or cardigan for nearly all of them as it makes for easier layering.)

  • 1-2 tank tops

  • 3 tee shirts

  • pajama pants

  • pajama tank (can use a tank from above after you’ve already worn it)

  • 3 pairs of shoes (This includes my running shoes and an optional dressier pair like foldable flats, booties, loafers, lace up

  • 1 coat
  • 2 scarves

 

Running gear:

  • 2 workout bottoms
  • 2 workout tops – maybe an extra if you want a long sleeve
  • 1 sports bra
  • Socks can make or break it.  They don’t take up much space, so bring what you need – especially for your race!  *Tech gear dries quickly, so you can wash your running gear in the sink with shampoo or suck it up and run in some stinky gear for a day to give you a break on laundry duty.

 

So, I hope this has been a helpful start to tackling the packing situation!  There is so much more to come on this topic.  I’ll get into the nitty gritty on all categories of packing in deeper detail, so stay tuned!

Okay, here we go – packing!  I’m guessing for most of you that this is THE most hated part of the travel process.  I get it.  I don’t like to pack either.  But…I’ve developed some guidelines, strategies and downright hacks that make it easier to make decisions, keep it efficient and allow you to have everything that you truly need.  There’s a lot to cover about packing.  I’ll be constantly sharing on this topic, so you can get every nugget of useful information.  Consider this a broad overview kicking things off  – packing can be something you conquer and master instead of dread!

 

Luggagecarry on suitcase luggage

Let’s start with what we’re putting everything in – luggage.  Yep, I’m going to say it, the word you may dread hearing, “carry on.”  Unplug your ears.  It’s okay.  It’s the best decision you will every make.  We have easily traveled for 6 weeks in only a carry on.  We get the 21″ size and actually still check it, so I don’t have to deal with the liquids situation.  I’m very particular about the characteristics of my carry on and why it’s important – more on that later.  Let’s just say, for starters, the smaller your luggage, the less you have to lug around on all modes of transportation or try to stow away in your hotel room.

Backpack – I do prefer a backpack.  I carry this on the plane and it holds all of my in-cabin necessities – book, compression socks, eye mask, neck pillow, computer, etc.  I am partial to a backpack because it is one less thing I have to carry.  It just seems easier to deal with because it’s already strapped to me.

Purse – cross body, for sure!  I like it big enough for a water bottle and umbrella if necessary, but small enough that it’s not weighing me down.  Guys, Dan carries a “man bag,” “man purse,” whatever you want to call it.  Seriously, it is a life saver.  And so many men carry these in Europe.

 

clothes for Europe packing listClothes 

What to bring, what to bring.  Well, we’re there to run, so let’s start there.  Your shoes!  The most important thing, don’t forget those darn running shoes.

  • 2 workout bottoms
  • 2 workout tops – maybe an extra if you want a long sleeve
  • 1 sports bra
  • Socks can make or break it.  They don’t take up much space, so bring what you need – especially for your race!  *Tech gear dries quickly, so you can wash your running gear in the sink with shampoo or suck it up and run in some stinky gear for a day to give you a break on laundry duty.

 

For the rest of the trip, my general rule of thumb is neutrals, with a pop of color here and there.  Scarves and jewelry can always up the visual interest on your outfit and they don’t take up much space.  (You can use those scarves to stay warm on the plane too.  Usually I have one around my neck and use a warmer one as a blanket as those dang plane blankets aren’t exactly cozy.)  Mix & match is key!  My personal hack is that if I had to get dressed in the dark, 85% of the time, my pants, shirt and sweater would match.  My go to fabric is merino wool because it keeps you very warm even if the sweater is thin, so you don’t need to compromise room for souvenirs or Belgian and Swiss chocolate because you brought too many bulky sweaters!  For a more comprehensive list of what we pack when we travel, check out our packing lists for women and men.

Shoes…yikes, this is a beast of a subject that can really stump people.  3 pairs – max!  That’s it.

  • Running shoes
  • Sneakers/Comfortable walking shoes – go with everything and you can last in them all day
  • Dressier shoe (definitely optional here) – flat, bootie, loafer, leather lace up

 

So, I hope this has been a helpful start to tackling the packing situation!  There is so much more to come on this topic.  I’ll get into the nitty gritty on all categories of packing in deeper detail, so stay tuned!

We are so happy to see in-person racing is starting back up around the U.S.  And, now we are starting to get the details on Europe opening back up to U.S. tourists.  Here’s what we know, and some tips for you to get ready to join in the fun.

In-Person Racing

Marathon in France - Running TourWe are already seeing in-person races being rolled out around the U.S.  Europe is a little behind the U.S. in this regard, but in-person events have started up there as well.

What changes can we expect in the post-Covid world?  Limited number of participants has been the most common change so far.  So, make sure you register for your race early — or, join a tour with us and get guaranteed entry!

Other common race features for Covid-19 safety:

  • Mask requirements at the start and finish
  • Limited pre- and post-race gatherings
  • Staggered start times
  • Pre-packaged food, or no food offered
  • Single-use water bottles, or “bring-your-own water” requirement

While the events may look a little different, we are excited to finally be gathering together and racing again!

Europe Opening

Run In Paris, FranceYipee!

The European Union “will accept, unconditionally, all those who are vaccinated with vaccines that are approved by EMA [the European Medicines Agency],” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, told the New York Times. The three vaccines that have been approved for use in the United States—Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson—have all been approved for use in Europe.

It’s great to hear that all of Europe will be opening soon, but von der Leyen didn’t give much information on when or exactly how that would be happening.

Luckily, France was more concrete with their plans.  French President Emmanuel Macron released a detailed road map for how the country plans to emerge from its current lockdown and begin relaxing restrictions. The plan includes allowing foreign tourists with a “health pass” to visit France again starting June 9.  Greece is already starting a phased opening, and Italy and Spain are not far behind.

What’s a Vaccine Passport?

Vaccine Passport EuropeThe truth is, we don’t yet know.  France’s plan seemed to indicate that either proof of a vaccine or a negative Covid-19 test would suffice to gain entry.  But, there is talk about a more strict requirement of proof of vaccine only.

A digital “vaccine passport” has been speculated by many in the travel and tourism industry, but actual details are not yet known.  The E.U. is working on “Digital Green Certificates,” to prove vaccination status, recent negative tests, or recovery from the disease.  We U.S. travelers may need to submit a proof of vaccine document to the country we plan to visit.  That country would then issue us a digital certificate to meet the E.U. requirements.  But, at this point it’s too early to know exactly what the process will entail.

We do know that Europe is eager for tourists, so I wouldn’t expect the process to be a difficult one.

Make Your Reservations

Race in Europe - Running TourA travel boom is coming, so be ready to make your plans!

A Travel Technology Association survey found that over 80% of Americans plan to travel this year.  And, AirBnB CEO Brian Chesky said, “we think there’s going to be a travel rebound coming that’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen.”  We at Finish Line Travel agree – everyone wants to get out and run a race and TRAVEL!

What can you do to be ready to travel once the borders open?

  1. Keep an eye on flights – there have been some good deals popping up, so be ready to snatch that flight when the price is right.
  2. Pay attention to cancelation policies – most airlines are offering free changes and free cancelations.  But, don’t expect those terms to last past the New Year.
  3. Book early to guarantee your spot.  Our Finish Line Travel tours are small – so, they will fill up!  Book early to guarantee your spot, but also know that your tour can be canceled or changed without hassle.
  4. Go run, travel & enjoy!

Runners in the Luxembourg Gardens ParisWe runners are a big family.  No matter how fast or slow we are, we are runners!  A part of being in the running community is “The Wave.”  But, is the runner wave universal?  Or, does the runner greeting differ around the world?

As we run in Europe, we have come to notice some distinct trends, patterns or general etiquette of greeting your fellow runners when you’re out there getting your sweat on.  First of all, wherever back home in the U.S., big city or not, we find that runners tend to acknowledge each other with a nod, a quick wave or a brief “hi.”  Of course, this is a generalization, but you know what we mean.  Of course, in big cities in any country there is always an element of anonymity, so you don’t always acknowledge each other.  Living in the mountains of Colorado, we don’t have a lot of extra oxygen to expel when coming across a fellow runner, so we just give a quick little hand raise.

Enter our travels…we read recently that the French do not smile at strangers (running or strolling) and that they find it odd when we Americans do so.  They find it almost indicative of some sort of senility – that we think we know these people at whom we are smiling.  We don’t know if the French would agree with this.  But, yes, the French culture is different than ours in the U.S.  They are more to themselves, they’re not going to mow you down with a big bear hug.   So, when in Paris we’ve gotten used to not addressing anyone which was very weird at first, but then we adapted to their ways and thought nothing of it. But, at a race, it’s a different story.  The Parisian runners are full of smiles, high-fives and “Allez!  Allez!” (Go! Go!)

Enter Belgium, where we forgot our manners and weren’t quick enough to respond when we got the nod.  Yep, it’s the nod.  It took passing a few more runners to get into the nod ourselves…those who we encountered earlier in our run probably thought we were rude, nope, just slow on the draw!

Runners in SwitzerlandFast forward to Switzerland…we got a mixed bag, but one super enthusiastic and terribly cute older gentleman who we came upon on a woodsy trail stands out.  He was really chatting us up…in German.  (We don’t speak German.)  He was asking about one of our obvious injuries and trying to explain his.  We commiserated with hand gestures and each then went on our way.

Even stateside, enjoying a run along the beach in SoCal, you get a “hang loose” hand gesture.  Everyone’s got their thing!

And circling back to France, when in Brittany, running on a lovely path near a quaint little town complete with a cathedral (seriously, it could not have been more idyllic), we received an onslaught of “bonjours” complete with smiling faces.  Who’s senile now?  Well, so much for all of that business about the French.  (You can read our rant on why the French aren’t rude here.)  Perhaps, like in most places, it’s just a big city thing there in Paris.  Enjoying all of the beauty of Paris while running is certainly “bonjour” enough.  Enjoy all of the greetings (or lack thereof) along the way!

 

*We would like to make the disclaimer that generalizations are abundant in this post as we certainly did not cross paths with every runner of each country mentioned and hopefully no offense was taken by any smiley, wavey, chatty international runners (wink, wink).

(This post is an update of our previous post – Running Etiquette – Addressing (or not!) fellow runners)

Last week (How to Run Faster – Part 1 – The Plan) I mentioned that when I hear runners asking how to get faster, the first thing I always hear is that they should add intervals and speed work.  Intervals are important, but they shouldn’t be the first tool you reach for when trying to improve your running pace.

Prague MarathonA 2016 study of marathon runners showed that runners who ran intervals completed their marathon 3 minutes – 5 minutes faster than those runners who did not incorporate intervals into their training.  However, when comparing runners who ran an average of 30 miles per week during training vs. runners who ran 50 miles per week, the higher mileage runners saw an improvement of 25 minutes – 32 minutes in their marathon time!  I believe that for the vast majority of runners, running more miles should be #1 on the training plan if you want to run faster.

So, what is happening in our bodies when we run more?  Your heart gets stronger and is able to deliver oxygen-rich blood to your legs faster.  You gain muscular endurance as your mitochondria (the “powerhouse” of your cells) increase in size and quantity.  The capillaries that deliver blood to your muscles grow.  And, your muscles and tendons learn to be more efficient at the running motion – so, every step is a little easier than it was before.

 

I always use the analogy of a car when talking about running more mileage versus intervals.  Starting to train with intervals and speedwork is like putting high-octane fuel in your car — it’s going to help you get the most speed out of what you have.  But, running more miles consistently is like putting a bigger engine in the car.  You will be able to go farther, faster.  And, when you are ready to add that high-octane fuel, you will get even more out of it.

 

The Magic of Miles

If I have been injured, or maybe over in Europe for an extended period researching new races and running tours, my weekly mileage drops a lot.  So, when I’m ready to start increasing again, I find that once I hit about 60 – 65 miles in week, magic happens.  Even though I’m increasing my miles, and my legs are tired, I will all of a sudden start running faster, my heart rate will drop for the same run I did the week before.  And, my Garmin Recovery Advisor will show that I need 10 – 15 hours to recover from my runs, rather than the 15 – 20 hours that it would recommend in the preceding weeks.

Now, I’ve always been a higher-mileage runner, and a 7-day/week runner, so don’t take “60 miles” as gospel.  Each of us is different and you need to listen to your body.  (It’s better to run less and be healthy, rather than get injured!)  But, I encourage you to increase your mileage slowly and see if you can find that same magic.

How To Safely Increase Mileage

Lot’s of people talk about the 10% Rule for increasing mileage.  The rule says that you should add no more than 10% more miles each week.  This is a decent rule-of-thumb, but don’t it’s not written in stone.  If you are running 4 times per week for a total of 20 miles (5 miles each run), then you may be able to add another day of running to your week without too much risk of injury.  That would be about a 20% increase.  On the other hand, if you are already running 40 – 50 miles per week, then 10% may be too aggressive.  In order to stay injury-free, you may need to limit yourself to a 5% increase.

The other plan I like when increasing miles is to step up for 3 weeks, and then step down for 1 week to let your body recover.  So, you may start at 40 miles, and in the following you bump up the miles to 43.  Then, 47 miles, and then you have a recover week where you drop it back to 42 miles.  And, then you start the process again, but the starting point is a couple miles higher than the previous month.

If that is too aggressive for you (some body’s can handle increasing mileage easier than other), then I would suggest stepping up the mileage 5% and keeping it at the new level for 2 – 4 weeks to let your body adapt before increasing again.  The most important thing is to not get injured – so, back off if you feel an injury coming on.

 

 

While I said that increasing mileage is more important than intervals, that doesn’t mean that intervals aren’t important.  Intervals are another tool to help you run faster in your next marathon or half marathon, and I’ll talk about interval training next week.  So, stay tuned and get out there and run!

We love the café scene in Paris. Sitting at a sidewalk café sipping a rosé and maybe enjoying a “croque” while watching the world go by – it’s relaxing and exciting at the same time.

But, there seems to be a million cafés to choose from. How do you know you are finding a good one, and not a tourist trap? Here are 3 quick tips:

1. Get away from the busy tourist spots. Sometimes we want to sit with a front-and-center view of the Eiffel Tower. But, just know that you are over-paying for that glass of wine, and the atmosphere & service may not be top-notch.

So, when you find yourself on a busy square surrounded by tourist sights, walk around the corner, or just down the street. Or, better yet, find a quiet alley nearby. You will be sitting with the locals, rather than other tourists. The service will probably be better and prices will not be inflated.

2. Look for a busy spot. This may seem to go against tip #1, but if you can get away from the busy tourist area, and find a busy café that means that you found a good spot. If the locals are flocking there, you want to be there, too. It could be that the café has great happy hour specials, or it means the food, drinks & service are great. Either way, it’s a win for you!

Now, it can be a little uncomfortable — you will probably feel like you are sitting on the lap of a Parisian. But, it will be worth the effort.

Paris Cafe3. Sit outside, facing out. Many cafés have cute interiors, but when in Paris, sit outside.  If it’s cool, don your scarf and sit by a heater.  If it’s warm, find a table under the awning, or just bask in the French sunshine!  Outside is the place to be!

Our favorite cafés have all the chairs facing out to the street. Sometimes, you just can’t find that setup, but when you do, grab a spot! People-watching is a favorite Parisian pastime, so a table with both seats facing out means that everyone get’s to take part. Sit back and watch the action of Paris.

Please note: European (and, Parisian) restaurant etiquette and procedures are a little different than how it works in the U.S.  Keep an eye out in the next week for our post on tips to make you seem like a local.

There is so much to love about Belgium, and beer is at the top of the list!  Our running tours to Belgium would not be complete without tasting a few (or, maybe a few cases) of the best beer in the world.  Belgium has over 160 breweries and more than 1,100 beer brands.  Some pubs in Belgium have over 400 beers available — they break out the “Trapper-Keeper” when you ask for the beer list!  I have had people tell me that they “don’t like beer,” and to me, that is like saying, “I don’t like food.”  With over 700 taste profiles, you are bound to find a beer you love (and, maybe even some you don’t!)

Below, I’ll give you a quick primer on Belgium beer.  Some of the information is a bit “beer-geeky”, but you’ll need to join us on a tour to taste for yourself how amazing and unique some of these beers really are!  (But, you don’t need to be a Beer Geek to enjoy it!)

The Beer GlassBelgian Beer Glasses

The Belgians take their beer very seriously.  Each beer has it’s own glass, which is meant to enhance and highlight the beer’s particular qualities.  The glass may be wide-mouthed, tall, or fluted, with or without a stem, tulip-shaped or straight – and, it will be branded with the name of beer you are drinking.  If, for some reason, a bar doesn’t have the correct glass available, they will ask you if another glass is acceptable, or if you would like to order a different beer — that’s how important the correct glass is!

In Belgium, don’t insist on ordering a “tap” beer.  Many brewers “bottle condition” their beer (this means the final fermentation happens in the bottle) and other small producers (such as Westvleteren) package their beer only in bottles.

What the heck does “Trappist” mean?

A Trappist brewery has a strict legal definition.  This has nothing to do with the style of beer, but rather it is about who made the beer – Trappist monks.  The designation “Trappist” on a beer label guarantees the following: the beer was produced at the monastery, monks manage the brewery and production, and the profits benefit the community and social services.  Therefore, these monastery breweries are not out to maximize profits — the proceeds must only be for the monastery’s upkeep and the monks’ social services.  (But, I think  keeping our taste buds happy is a very worthy social service!)

The six Trappist breweries are: Westmalle, Chimay, Rochefort, Orval, Achel and Westvleteren.  (You can also find two Trappist breweries in the Netherlands, and one each in Italy, Austria and the U.K., and even one in the U.S.A.)

An Abbey beer is similar to Trappist, but it does not have as strict of a definition.  The beer may be produced at a monastery, but not a Trappist monastery (for example, it may be produced by Benedictine monks), the beer may be produced by a commercial brewery in partnership with a monastery, or it may even be a commercial brew branded with the name of a defunct abbey.

Belgian Beer Styles

Kwak Belgian BeerThere are no strict beer styles in Belgium – two beers may technically be the same “style,” but they may have completely different taste profiles.  (So, be prepared to taste lots of different beers to find your favorite!)  But, below are some general guidelines for the beers you will taste in Belgium.

Belgian White Ale (Witte / Witbier)

Brewed with wheat, this beer has a unfiltered, hazy and very pale color – giving it it’s “white” name.  It is often brewed with orange peel and spices.  It’s a great beer for a warm summer day. (Alcohol – 4.5% – 5.5%)

Dubbel

The name is said to originate from the beer requiring twice as much grain as a “regular” beer.  This style has been brewed by monks and secular breweries for centuries.  Dubbels are typically dark brown in color and it’s flavors are malt-driven — dried fruit, chocolate-caramel with very little (or no) hop bitterness.  (Alcohol – 6% – 8%)

Tripel

As with the Dubbel, the Tripel required three times the grain of a “regular” beer.  Even though the Tripel is higher in alcohol than the Dubbel, it is much lighter in color (a yellowish, golden color versus the dark red or brown of the Dubbel).  The flavors will be spicy with bright fruit with tons of carbonation.  The alcohol is often not very detectable in the flavor, so be careful with this one!  (Alcohol 7.5% – 10%)

Strong Blond Ale

Duvel Belgian BeerThis beer is similar to a Tripel, but it is a little less sweet and more bitter.  It will have some fruity and spicy flavors and dry finish.  This is what most people think of when they think “Belgian beer.”  The name is often a give-away for this style — Duvel (meaning “Devil” in Flemmish), “Lucifer” or “Delerium Tremens.”  (Alcohol – 7.5% – 10.5%)

Strong Dark Ale

Westvleteren Trappist BeerA Belgian strong blond ale may be a close cousin to a tripel but a Belgian strong dark ale is not closely related to a dubbel. One important distinction is that the strong dark ale often uses roasted malt, which achieves a darker color and more toasty flavor than a dubbel. The flavors are  rich, sweet, bready,  and caramel-like with dark fruit notes like prunes, plums or fig.  This style includes the Westvleteren 12 which many beer connoisseurs describe as the best beer in the world.  (Alcohol – 8% – 12%)

 

Sour Beers

Belgian Lambic BeerSour beers could be a complete article by themselves!  Sours are made with spontaneous fermentation – the beer vats are left open to wild yeasts in the air.  This produces unique flavors and sometimes very sour flavors.  There are a couple different sub-types:  Flanders Red and Brown Ale are generally aged in oak barrels where the microorganisms help to create the sour, almost vinegary flavors.  Lambics, Geuze, Oud Bruin & fruit beers – these use open fermentation and are mostly brewed near Brussels.  These can range from sour to mild and are often blended to achieve a balanced flavor.  The fruit lambic beers are blended with strawberry (Framboise),  cherry (Kriek) or other fruits.  The fruit lambics can be sweet or slightly sour — some people compare them to a dry champagne.  (Alcohol – 5% – 7%)

Warning!

Most of the Beglian beers have a relatively high alcohol content.  Be mindful of this and make sure you don’t over-indulge!  Those cute cobblestone alleys can get a bit tricky after a few 10% beers!

Taste for Yourself!

We will be tasting many Belgian beers on our Great Breweries Marathon & 25k Tour and the Great Bruges Marathon & Half Tour.  You’ll get to see our favorite pubs in both Antwerp and Bruges, plus there will be ample time for you to explore bars & breweries, and, finally, we will head out to the countryside to visit the Westvleteren Trappist Abbey tasting room where you get taste the famous Westvleteren 12Cheers!

We have used many different phone services on our vacations to Europe over the years.  There are many pros and cons, but we feel we have found our best option using Google’s Project Fi.  Read our entire evaluation below.

Expensive International PhoneActivate Your International Plan (Easy & Expensive)

The easiest option is to call or go online to your current mobile phone service and activate international service.  Most phone companies will charge you a fee for activating international service and you will receive a limited amount of phone minutes and data for that month.  Be aware that the amount of data is very limited!  If you go over your limit, be prepared for a huge bill when you return home!  When you are back home, call or go online again and deactivate international service.

Verizon (and maybe some others) have another option – pay $10/day and take your domestic talk, text and data allowances with you.  On a short visit to Europe, this can be an easy decision – you know your costs and don’t have to worry about tiny data limits.  However, if your trip is a long one, $10/day can really add up.

 

European SIM CardPurchase a SIM Card (Difficult, but Cheap)

The least expensive option is usually purchasing a SIM card once you are in Europe.

How it Works:

  • Visit a mobile phone store, department store or newsstand and purchase a SIM card (make sure to get the correct size for your phone!)
  •  Have the clerk help you set up the SIM on your phone.  This will give you a European phone number for your phone and pre-paid minutes and data.
  • When you run out of minutes and/or data, “top up” the phone by visiting a newsstand, tobacco shop, mobile phone store and tell the clerk how much credit you want to add.  The clerk will give you a voucher or send the credit directly to your phone.  (Note: some companies will let you top up your credits online.)

This is the least expensive option, but one drawback is that your phone will now have a European phone number (until you put your old SIM back into the phone.)  So, if you want to receive calls from home you will need to give all of your contacts your new European phone number.

 

Google Project FiGoogle Project Fi (Easy & Cheap!)

If you travel to Europe often (and, even if you don’t!), check out Google Project Fi!

Project Fi has very simple pricing:

  • $20/mo unlimited domestic calls and texts
  • $10/GB for data usage
  • International usage – free texts & the exact same $10/GB!
  • International calls will vary in per-minute fees, but incoming calls and calls made over WiFi are free
  • No contracts!
  • Bill Protection – if you use over 6GB in a month, the maximum charge is $60
  • Get $20 credit with this link:  https://g.co/fi/r/8EF5M1

One potential drawback for some people is the choice of phones.  There are a very limited number of phones which work with Google Project Fi.  The highly rated Google Pixel phones are compatible as well as a couple Moto & LG phones.

Google Project FiInternational PlanEuropean SIM Card
Easy & Convenient
Inexpensive
Keep Your Number
Any Phone
Overall

 

A couple of weeks ago I posted about my jet lag experimentSo, did it work?!?

As a recap, some scientists say that our bodies can only adapt to one hour of time change per day.  So, to cure my jet lag faster, I woke up 30 minutes earlier (and went to bed 30 minutes earlier) each day for the week before my European runcation.

The morning of flight to Zurich, Switzerland, we awoke at 4:00 am for our afternoon flight (needless to say, my wife was not thrilled with this experiment).  After driving down to Denver, then taking the train from Union Station, and finally getting on our flight, I was exhausted.

I watched a short movie as the flight started, and as I saw the flight attendants wheeling the food carts up the aisle, I was struggling to keep my eyes open.  With almost 6 hours remaining in the flight, I was ready for sleep!  So, if I was in a first-class, or business-class seat, I think the “Jet Lag Experiment” would have been a great success.  I would have had a decent night’s rest and I would have been waking up around 9:00 am local time.

However, we flew economy, so my sleep was fitful.  Because I was so tired, I did get the most sleep I have ever had on an international flight, so I would still call this experiment a mild success.  I made it through the first day in Switzerland without a nap, and we were in bed around 9:30 pm for a good night’s sleep to reset our internal clocks.

My wife doesn’t sleep on planes as well as I do, so the results from her experiment weren’t as good.  Since she got very little sleep on the plane, getting up so early in the morning just made her more tired for her first day in Europe.

We had a direct flight from Denver to Munich.  So, after dinner I was tired, and I knew I had 6 hours before I had to be awake.  If our flight had connected first somewhere in the U.S., I don’t think this experiment would have worked as well for me.  By 7:00 pm, I was ready to sleep.  If we had connected, it would have probably been a couple of hours later before I could close my eyes, and it would shortened the amount of time I had for uninterrupted sleep.

So, I would say that this jet lag “cure” could work with the following caveats:

  • You are in a business-class or first-class seat, or you sleep well in an economy seat.
  • The timing of your flight and connections will mean that you are settled in and done with dinner by 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm.

Check out our reasons why you should take a carry-on to Europe, and then check our video of how we pack for six weeks in Europe in only a carry-on.  (Or, check out the men’s version of this list!)

Here’s the list!

  •  3-4 pairs of pants

  • 1-2 skirts/dresses (weather dependent, of course)

  • 1 long sleeve tee

  • 5 -6 sweaters/long shirts (I always do a button down or cardigan for nearly all of them as it makes for easier layering.)

  • 2-3 tank tops

  • 4 tee shirts

  • pajama pants

  • pajama tank

  • 3-4 pairs of shoes (This includes my running shoes and foldable flats that don’t take up much room.)

  • easily packable jewelry

  • 5 pairs of underwear

  • 4-5 pairs of merino wool socks (I use already worn socks for my running socks.)

  • 2 pairs of running pants

  • 2 running tanks

  • 1 long sleeve running shirt

  • 1 sports bra

  • 1 coat

  • 2 scarves

  • 1 running hat

  • 1 umbrella

This list varies slightly considering the time of year, but for the most part, it remains the same as far as functionality.  I would just adjust the thickness of some sweaters and the material of some dresses/skirts.  In the fall, I take a pair of tall boots and in the spring I only bring 3 shoes total or a pair of easily packable sandals.