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.

We have already posted about why we think everyone should travel to Europe with a carry-on.  But, here’s a quick recap:

  • Planes, trains & automobiles!  When you are traveling around Europe, don’t make your transportation more difficult by bringing a huge suitcase.
  • “Old-World” hotels. The rooms are smaller over in Europe, and sometimes there may not even be an elevator – so, make your life easier!

My theory for packing is mix and match the best you can.  I shoot to have about 85% of my clothes all coordinating with everything.  Think of having to pull out a top and bottom from your suitcase in the dark and the likelihood of them matching should be greater than them not matching.  I lay everything out and how many items coordinate with each other.  I like to stick with neutral colors, but always add a pop of color or a small print in a shirt here and there.  Jewelry and scarves can help with this too.

As you all know quite well by now, I love Merino wool.  Banana Republic has had some great options for machine washable Merino wool.  Merino wool doesn’t stink and keeps you warm in cooler weather and cool in warmer weather.  It’s a no-brainer.  I usually do all cardigans or all cardigans and one crew or v-neck.  Cardigans give more versatility for easily taking it off if it gets warmer during the day.   I can layer a tank top under a tee with the sweater on top for a little extra warmth as well.

As for bottoms, one of my pairs will be a stylish legging for travel days or lounging in at night.  (Speaking of lounging, the long sleeve tee, yes, mine is Merino wool as well, is for casual travel days or lounging at night or putting on top of my pajama top on a lazy morning.)  Back to bottoms, the rest of the pants are jeans, but a darker denim wash and a black wash for a dressier look and then I usually do a gray or army green pant.   I would throw in a cropped pant for spring/summer as an addition or in place of one of the jeans.  In the fall, I do a sweater dress.  It’s a little bit dressier, but also really warm.  In the spring/summer, I do a nice knit dress that can look a bit dressy with some jewelry.  I do count the dresses as one bottom and one top!

I wash underwear in the sink to save on space, same for socks.  And same for everything else for that matter if I don’t actually have laundry facilities, but with Merino wool, you don’t need to wash much!

I like the Yosi Samra foldable flats.  They are great for warmer days in the fall and for spring/summer.  They dress up your outfit and are good for a few miles for sure.  I’ve been doing sporty New Balance sneakers and am now trying the Allbirds Merino wool sneakers as, once again, they are breathable.  Thanks to the sneaker revolution in Europe they are acceptable anywhere and you don’t feel underdressed.  All the Europeans wear them.  Mind you, I’m not talking about your chunky athletic shoes.  If you don’t want to look like a tourist, stick with something sleek or simple.  Converse are always popular and the Stan Smith Adidas are on everyone’s feet.  I bring tall boots in the fall to keep me warmer, but also as a dressier option than sneakers.  And it’s often just nice to change your shoes out as you are usually on your feet a lot!

As for running gear, I try to get a couple wears out of each piece to limit my obligation to have to wash them when I could be doing something better like enjoying a glass of wine.

For jewelry, I use a large pill container for the days of the week and put everything in there.  It’s small, keeps things separate so you can find them easily and they don’t get into a tangled mess (for the most part).

Finally, scarves…I bring two as it’s nice to have one that is warmer and one that is lighter.  I often wear the scarf on the plane and the warmer one I can wrap around me for extra warmth because that airplane blanket just isn’t enough a lot of times.  I like to have one that is solid and one that is a print.  Again, this is to allow for mixing and matching as much as possible.

This sounds like a lot of things..but it really does all fit and you’ll be glad you packed light!

(Check out the Men’s Europe Packing Tips and Men’s Europe Carry-On Packing List.)

 

We have already posted about why we think everyone should travel to Europe with a carry-on.  But, here’s a quick recap:

  • Planes, trains & automobiles!  When you are traveling around Europe, don’t make your transportation more difficult by bringing a huge suitcase.
  • “Old-World” hotels. The rooms are smaller over in Europe, and sometimes there may not even be an elevator – so, make your life easier!

Just like the Women’s European Packing Tips, for us men, we focus on getting the maximum versatility and options. I choose nice quality t-shirts over a button-down or polo-style short-sleeved shirts. It is easy to use the t-shirt as an undershirt in cooler weather, but I’m still able to wear it separately in warmer weather. And, when touring a city there have been many instances where I am cool at the beginning and end of the day, so I wear a sweater or long-sleeved shirt, but in the middle of the I’m warm, so I remove the outer layer and just wear the t-shirt.

I swear by the Mizzen+Main long-sleeved, button-down shirts. The “tech” fabric is wrinkle-resistant and moisture-wicking, but it really looks nice — not like the “slouchy” tech shirts I usually see.  I like the Spinnaker shirt for travel days because the 4-way stretch is unbelievably comfortable. The Leeward shirt is great for times when you want a slightly more “crisp” look, but still, retain the comfort of a casual, wrinkle-resistant shirt with a slight bit of stretch to it.

My other go-to item is a lightweight, merino wool sweater. The merino wool is soft and comfortable (not your grandmother’s itchy wool!). It wicks moisture away from your skin, keeping you cool in warm weather and warm in cool weather. Merino wool is naturally anti-microbial and that means no stink! (Even after multiple wearings!)

I also like a light zip sweater.  On travel days, I may be standing on a cold train platform, or stuck in a hot airplane.  So, it’s very important for me to be able to quickly add a layer or shed a layer.  The light zip sweater does exactly that for me.

For all t-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, and sweaters, I strive to have everything match everything else. It’s not 100% possible, but I try to get as close as I can. Almost every t-shirt looks good under almost every long-sleeved shirt or sweater. It makes getting ready in the morning that much easier and quicker, and I should never have a day where the only clean clothes left in my bag don’t match.

The great features of Merino wool are why I also only bring Merino wool socks. They keep my feet cool and dry (or, warm and dry!) and, again, no stink! They also dry very quickly, so I can easily wash them in the hotel room sink, and they are ready to go the next morning.

Shoes take up a lot of space in carry-on sized luggage, so I try to find that balance of comfort and style to allow me to take only one pair of shoes (in addition to my running shoes, of course!) I am currently wearing Cole Haan. It has just enough support for long days of walking around Europe, but it also looks nicer than an athletic shoe. (We always strive to look like a local, and not a tourist!) I am also very interested in trying Allbirds. Allbirds meet all the specifications of my current shoes, but they have the added benefit of being made of Merino Wool. (and, you know how I love Merino wool!)

For pants, I usually bring two pairs of jeans and one pair of khakis. I have a pair of jeans with a bit of lycra, and the slight stretch makes for a much more comfortable plane and train rides!

Don’t forget a scarf!  When you are packing light, it’s a great way to add the warmth you need, but without a lot of bulk in your luggage.  It’s amazing how a scarf can make the difference on what would normally be a bone-chilling day of touring.  (Plus, you will look very “European!”)

Finally, get a “man bag” — ok, call it a purse if you like!  🙂  Everyone over here has one, and they are so functional.  Keep your money, phone, passport, plane tickets, a small umbrella, a bottle of water, and snacks with you and easily accessible.  Plus, I think it greatly reduces the chances of becoming a victim of a pickpocket!  You can rest your hand on your bag in busy & crowded spots, and there is almost no chance of a pickpocket swiping your wallet.  I think diligence is the best way to combat crime — if you look like you are paying attention to your surroundings and your “stuff,” the pickpocket is going to look for a more distracted victim.

Why am I awake at 5:30 am on a Saturday?!?

We are in the midst of writing an ebook giving you all the tips and hacks to have the perfect destination race or runcation.

One of the biggest obstacles to overcome with a destination race is jet lag. Some scientists say that our bodies can only cope with one hour of time change per day. That means if we are flying from Denver to Paris, we will need more than a week to fully adjust! A vacation may be over by then!

So, one school of thought is that we should start adjusting to the new time zone before we leave our home.

As your dedicated guinea pig, I am adjusting my bedtime and morning alarm by 30 minutes every day until we depart for Europe! By Tuesday, that dreaded alarm will be sounding at 4 am… Ugh! But, that means my biological clock will only be about four hours off of Europe time, rather than eight.

I will report back with the verdict – until then, more coffee!

Traveling to a destination marathon can be stressful and difficult. Get the most out of your destination marathon with these 5 travel tips.

Get Over the Jet Lag

Plan your destination race travel carefully!  You want to get there in enough time to get over your jet lag.  We like to plan our tours so that runners arrive on Friday morning for a Sunday race.  This is enough time to adjust, but not so much time that you are tiring yourself out with visiting tourist sights.

Find a Great Hotel

This goes hand-in-hand with getting over the jet lag!  You need a great hotel in a great location to help you perform at your peak in your destination race.  At Finish Line Travel, we have tried out many hotels, so we know the ones that have comfy beds, spacious rooms, peace and quiet, and the most attentive staff.

You will want a hotel near the race start… usually.  Each city and marathon is different.  Some are right in the city center, some are on the outskirts of town, and some are point-to-point.  Research your destination marathon and see if it makes sense to be in the best location for your touring activities, or for the race.

At Finish Line Travel, we choose a hotel that maximizes our enjoyment of the city.  It is close to all the great sights, but we also make sure it’s good for running.  We stay near parks or pedestrian-friendly areas so you can get out for a shake-out run before the marathon, or get out later in the week to work out your soreness.  Often, we will be near the race start, but if not we coordinate a private transfer to and from the race start.

Set Your Expectations

International travel is tiring and can be stressful.  You may not be able to find your go-to pre-marathon meal.  You may have spent all week on your feet visiting tourist sights.  You need to factor everything in when setting your race expectations.  This may not be a PR, but it will definitely be fun!

With a Finish Line Travel tour, we plan every detail so we can to minimize anything which could be detrimental to your marathon performance.  We take all the stress out of your travel.  We plan our touring activities to make sure your legs are fresh!

There’s More to the Trip than Just the Run!

Don’t just fly in for a destination marathon, run your race and then fly out!  You have traveled all that way, so spend some time getting to know the city and country of the race.

We hire private local guides to show us the top sights and the hidden gems of the area.  We set up private curated experiences to go deeper into a culture.  Whether it’s a private wine-pairing dinner in Paris, a private beer tour in Belgium, or an artisan cheese tour in Switzerland, we create an experience that you can’t get anywhere else!

Run “Local” in a Foreign Country

The “World Marathon Majors” are an amazing experience, but don’t pass up a “local race.”  In some of our marathons, you may be the only runners from the U.S.A.!  While the races we participate in aren’t “small” (some have up to 40,000 runners), they are more “local.”  Whether it’s the Great Bruges Marathon in Belgium, the D-Day Landings Marathon in Normandy, or the Swiss City Marathon in Lucerne, you will be part of a first-class event, but slightly off the beaten path of major marathons.

You will get a chance to interact with the locals, enjoy a festive marathon party with local runners, and share a post-marathon beer with your fellow runners in a way that isn’t possible at a marathon major that has almost as many foreigners as locals.

Ugh, insurance.  After budgeting for your trip, who wants to shell out more cash for insurance??  We get it.  But, keep in mind, a trip is an investment and if things turn upside down, whether it’s something that happens at home before your trip, or something that happens during your trip, you really want to make it easier on yourself by having travel insurance to cover you.

Travel insurance covers situations from an illness preventing you from taking the trip to lost luggage, flight delays/cancellations, or even the extreme of medical evacuation.  Most travel insurance companies offer various packages with different coverage options priced accordingly.

Note that some coverage options require you to purchase travel insurance within 21 days of your first deposit towards the trip, i.e. the purchase of your flight, hotel reservations, etc.  This can be tricky as part of purchasing travel insurance is knowing what your trip is worth so you can insure it properly.  If your travel insurance needs don’t require you to book within 21 days, then wait and see what your final costs are.  Otherwise, figure out your general budget for big ticket items like flight, hotels and transportation, so you can purchase your insurance lickety split.

We have found that Yonder has always suited our needs – it compares many insurance providers and helps you find the best insurance for you.  Check it out and make purchasing travel insurance one of the first things you do on your trip “to do” list.

Once you get that checked off your list, you can breathe easier that you have yourself and the investment you’ve made in your trip covered.  Travel happy!