Europe Part I: Getting There

With travel restrictions loosening and flights being more affordable than ever, now is the time to start planning your European adventure! For me Italy has been a dream vacation since I was about 13 years old, Maybe even younger. Every paper I wrote and project I did in school was always on Roman culture and it’s been something that’s always fascinated and intrigued me. So when my best friend said he was going to Europe for two months the first thing I asked was if he was going to Italy and so it began….I finally got to start getting excited about my dream vacation! 

I have a TON of information to share with y’all and will be doing a separate piece on each city. Here’s what I’m covering in Part 1:

Passport

Vaccination and Covid Testing 

Requirements Needed Per Country 

Accessibility of Documents 

Flights 

Tips for Long Flights 

First things first is making sure you have a valid passport and that its not expiring within a few months of your travel dates. I hadn’t received my passport when I booked my flights so it was quite a panic waiting for it to arrive. I mailed mine with expedited processing on June 22 and had it in my possession on July 29. If you have travel pending I strongly suggest getting it expedited as the passport offices have been extremely backlogged and say it can take several months with normal processing. Emergency appointments are available if your departure date is within 72 hours and your passport has not arrived, but I’m not sure if weekend appointments are available or that that process entails other than that you need flight confirmation.

YOU MUST SHOW PROOF OF VACCINATION!!!! I cannot stress this enough. We had to show our vaccine card to board all flights, trains, and ferries, at museums and exhibits, and some restaurants and bars too. If you are not vaccinated you will not be allowed to board your flight or enter another country. Vaccine cards are valid anywhere from 6-12 months, depending on the country, before you’ll need a booster shot. Some countries, like Mexico, aren’t permitted to enter European countries unless they’ve been elsewhere for at least 14 days even with a negative Covid test. We had a friend who was to meet us and sadly wasn’t able to board her flight since she only had dose one of the vaccine and was coming from Mexico City. Uploading your vaccine card is also required ahead of time by most airlines in order to check in and obtain your boarding pass.

Spain and Italy each have their own system for entering the country, both require you to download an app, enter your flight and travel dates and personal information for a QR code that will be scanned upon entry. Here are the links to the apps and websites as you’ll need both as well as the Verifly App for American Airlines.

Spain: https://www.spth.gob.es/

App: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/spth/id1521156190

Italy: https://app.euplf.eu/

App: https://www.immuni.italia.it/download.html

Verifly: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/verifly-fast-digital-identity/id1522957424

A negative Covid test is required to re-enter the United States and board your return flight. I was able to get mine in Rome the day before I left. Note that they are closed on Sunday’s and some require an appointment so make sure you’re prepared. There are tents all over Rome, most near pharmacies, the cost was €22 and the results took about 10 minutes. Make sure you ask for the English version of your results as the US will not accept results in another language. 

Keep your documents easily accessible!!!!!! I screenshot all my flight info, boarding passes, passport (in case you lose it or it gets stolen), vaccine card, and all QR codes. WiFi is spotty everywhere even at airports so having all your documents in one place just makes your travels go more smoothly rather than digging through emails and waiting for apps to load. I created a Europe album on my phone and I can’t even count the number of times I accessed it. 

We looked at flights from Dallas, New York, and Miami and found that flying from Miami to Spain was the most cost effective, $231 each way! Direct flights from DFW to Rome were $1200+ each way and most stopped in either Madrid or Barcelona anyway so I highly encourage you to play around with departure cities to find the best value. I had points on Southwest that got me to and from Miami, those flights were $79 each way had I paid instead so still super affordable. I made sure to give myself plenty of time between flights since I was having to collect my luggage from baggage claim and recheck into another airline. Being stressed and rushed while traveling is something I always try to avoid. I landed in Miami at 12:30pm and took the redeye on American Airlines departing at 6pm and arriving in Barcelona at 9am. This flight did cost a bit more because I only had two days in Barcelona and I wanted to arrive in the morning as opposed to the afternoon (which was the $231 flight). Also note that luggage fees are not included and that was an additional $$$$. Once you’re in Europe the flights between countries are super inexpensive. Our flight from Barcelona to Rome was $60 including baggage fees and my flight from Rome to Madrid on the way back was about the same, both on RyanAir, Europe’s budget friendly airline. On my journey back home I had just under 4 hours between flights which between customs, getting luggage, line to check in, back through security, and customs again to get to the US terminals only left me with about 30 minutes to spare. The lines were super long at the Madrid airport, and as I’ll get into more later, there is zero sense of urgency in Europe and communication in Spain can be challenging. Just be mindful that if you are booking flights on different airlines you need to allow yourself more time than you think you’ll need to ensure you don’t miss your flight!

American was great on the way there, I had the entire row to myself on a 9 hour flight which was lovely and they had outlets and USB ports so I was able to charge all my devices. After that all the flights were completely full. Ryan Air doesn’t not have any ports, wifi, inflight entertainment, or complimentary beverage service. I flew Air Europa from Madrid to Miami and I def felt more cramped, the plane felt smaller and they only had a headphone jack and a single USB port, no outlets so make sure all your devices are charged or that you have a back up power supply or multi-purpose adapter. Both long flights provided meals, snacks, drinks (non-alcoholic), inflight entertainment, and a pillow and blanket. 

Now you’ve gotta get packing and this is where I always struggle. I am literally the worst!! I can’t pack light to save my life and every airline has weight limits on luggage. Most are 20kg (44lbs) and 119x119x81cm (46.85 x 46.85 x 31.89in) for the standard checked bag fee. I was right at the weight limit, 20.5kg and didn’t have an issue.

There are a few things I ordered off Amazon to help keep me organized since I knew we were moving around a lot. First were packing cubes. I’ve never used them before but they helped so much!! I knew where things were and didn’t have to unpack my entire suitcase to find a sports bra or my fav leggings. They’re also a HUGE space saver. I felt like I was able to pack more than I would have without them. 

Second is a hanging toiletry bag. Super easy way to keep everything sorted and easily accessible then a breeze to pack back up. 

And finally an interchangeable European charging adapter. Spain and Italy both have a different outlet style so I found one that has both. I needed to make sure my watch, lap top, phone, and charging banks could all be plugged in and this one worked like a charm! 

Sitting through a 9 hour flight isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially in coach. I for one would never spend the money to upgrade to business or first class. Here’s some things I did to help pass the time. I don’t read so if you do…bring a book. 

Download movies and shows on Netflix. You can access these without internet so you’ll always have something to watch

Charge back up battery packs just in case your outlet is loose or doesn’t work (both happened to me) 

Bring snacks! Let’s be honest, plane food isn’t great. I just get snacks and refill my reusable water bottle at the airport but you can plan ahead and prepare snacks at home to bring on the plane for healthier, less expensive options

Ear plugs and an sleep mask are super helpful if you want to sleep. I’m a super light sleeper so the slightest noise or lights wakes me up. These helped me get some uninterrupted zzzzzzs and land feeling refreshed. 

Bring hygiene products if your travel plans take a full day. If nice to wash your face and brush your teeth and just freshen up after a long flight. 

I brought edibles and melatonin gummies in the same bottle and they came in clutch during my redeye and 10000% helped me relax and sleep. Highly recommend. If you’re too nervous to fly internationally with edi’s CBD gummies would prob work too

Stand up and move around! It’s a long flight so get up and walk or stretch especially if you have joint or back pain

This is prob an obvious one but dress comfy and bring an oversized sweatshirt or cozy jacket and a neck pillow!

That wraps up Europe Part I! I hope you found this info helpful and feel free to drop a comment if you have a questions I didn’t address! Stay tuned for Part II!

xo Leah

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