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In the post-COVID era, Americans and other tourists from around the world are flooding Europe. In fact, I’m just wrapping up my third trip in the last year, and the differences between visiting now compared to before COVID are stark. Major tourist sites are simply mobbed with visitors.

If you haven’t been to Europe in a while and you’re planning on traveling there soon, now is the time to prepare yourself for what to expect.

1. Start Planning the Details NOW!

crowds at the Eiffel Tower


I can remember a time when a visitor to Paris, France, could simply stroll up to the Eiffel Tower, purchase a ticket and enjoy it in its magnificent glory. But when I went online to purchase tickets in mid-June, I was informed that all tickets to visit the top of the tower were already sold out for the entire month of July. You may be able to find a ticket as things can change, but thankfully, I was able to purchase two tickets for me and my wife to climb the stairs to the second level, approximately mid-way, and we had a great time. But those who arrived at the tower without tickets faced a long line at best and disappointment at worst.

I’ve recently seen the same dynamic play out at the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, and at the Tower of London in England. The lesson here is that if you’re planning on visiting a major attraction, make sure to purchase your tickets in advance. This will not only allow you to avoid some of the lines, but it may also be your only chance of getting in.

2. Only Purchase Tickets From an Attraction’s Official Website

Hopefully, you’ll take my advice and purchase your tickets online in advance, but don’t be suckered into the numerous for-profit websites that attempt to appear to be official. These websites, with their paid placement on search engines, may heavily mark up the prices for tickets to major attractions, with little or no value added. To get the best deals, ignore the paid search results and make your purchases from the organization in charge of the attraction that you want to visit.

3. Seek Low-Traffic Times to Visit Major Attractions

Seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris may be only slightly less chaotic than being front row at a Taylor Swift concert. But for many tourists, a trip to Paris won’t be complete without it. When planning to visit a major site, focus on finding the least-visited time of the day and day of the week. For example, the Louvre is open late on Fridays, and it’s known to be the least crowded time.

4. Get Off the Beaten Path

Bayeux, France


I like to say that if you want to spend money in Europe, go to a big city. But if you want to spend time there, visit the countryside. Major sites in big cities are fun, but rural Europe is especially charming. For example, the city of Bayeux in the Normandy region of France is a great base from which to tour the sites of D-Day. But it also features a magnificent cathedral that’s older than Notre Dame in Paris (which is closed for restoration).

And we’ve discovered foodie paradises in rural Italy, France, and Greece. Just remember that the key to avoiding crowds is to discover sites that are new to you, rather than the ones that everyone has read about during their entire lives.

5. Avoid Using Cars Near Cities

It’s pretty hard for most Americans to imagine not being in a car for a week at a time, but you need to wrap your head around that if you’re going to visit a major European city. For example, after traveling from London to Paris by train, we decided to splurge and order an Uber to get us the short distance to our hotel with our luggage. However, Uber was no help, as it repeatedly searched for a driver for five minutes before giving up. Lyft isn't available in Europe, and the taxi drivers wanted over $40 to take us just two miles. Ultimately, we just bought subway tickets for around $2 each, which took us where we needed to go quickly and easily.

In both London and Athens, we found that taking a train from the airport wasn’t just far less expensive than a taxi or a shared ride, but also faster. And whatever you do, don’t consider renting a car anywhere near a major city, as you’ll be faced with high traffic, high gas prices, and parking that’s hard to find, pricey, and inconveniently located.

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6. Pack Light

Once you give up on rental cars, taxis, and shared rides, you have to focus on traveling a bit lighter than you’re used to. On our last two trips, we all successfully packed in just a carry-on suitcase and a backpack each. Doing so allows you to easily use public transit to get around. Skipping checked bags will also save you massive amounts of time checking in for flights at the airport (you simply check-in online) and waiting for luggage when you arrive. It also relieves you of the stress of wondering if your bag will be lost.

It shouldn’t be difficult for you to pack up to a week’s worth of clothes this way, especially for summer travel. And during our most recent two-week trip through London and France, we simply found a neighborhood laundromat near our hotel halfway through the vacation.

7. Watch Out For Currency Scams

atm dispensing Euros


Credit card processors in Europe have recruited many merchants into a scam called dynamic currency conversion (DCC). The way it works is that you are asked if you’d like to pay for a charge in your home currency or in the local currency. The question may be phrased in a way to make it more attractive to choose your home currency, and, I found, there’s often a claim of a good exchange rate. But because there’s a huge commission added, you will always pay more if you choose to pay in your home currency. Lately, I’ve been noticing this scam infecting ATM machines as well, so beware.

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8. Use the Right Credit Card

Any time you make a charge outside of the United States, you’ll want to use a card that has no foreign transaction fees, which are often 3% of the amount charged. And when you travel, you also want to use a card that offers benefits like trip delay and trip cancellation insurance and lost luggage insurance. Some credit cards do not offer any travel benefits or they are limited, but premium cards from Chase and American Express offer robust travel insurance policies. Capital One also has cards that offer some travel benefits.

Recommended Travel Credit Cards

Credit Card Intro Bonus Annual Fee Rewards Rate Learn More
75,000Chase Ultimate Rewards Points More Info

Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's over $900 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠. Dollar Equivalent: $1,725 (75,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points * 0.023 base)

$95 1x- 5xPoints More Info

Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases, $50 Annual Chase Travel Hotel Credit, plus more.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

85,000Southwest Rapid Rewards Points More Info

Earn 85,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Dollar Equivalent: $1,190 (85,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points * 0.014 base)

$69 1x - 2xPoints More Info

Earn 2X points on Southwest® purchases. Earn 2X points on Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partners. Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare. Earn 2X points on internet, cable, and phone services; select streaming. Earn 1X points on all other purchases.

Citi Custom Cash® Card

$200Cash Bonus More Info

Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $1500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.

$0 1% - 5%Cashback More Info

Earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, 1% cash back thereafter. Also, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. Special Travel Offer: Earn an additional 4% cash back on hotels, car rentals, and attractions booked on Citi Travel℠ portal through 6/30/2025.

Citi Strata Premier℠ Card

70,000Citi ThankYou® Points More Info

Earn 70,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of account opening, redeemable for $700 in gift cards or travel rewards at Dollar Equivalent: $1,260 (70,000 Citi ThankYou® Points * 0.018 base)

$95 1X-10XPoints More Info

10x on Hotels, Car Rentals, and Attractions booked through 3x -- Earn 3 Points per $1 spent on Air Travel and Other Hotel Purchases 3x -- Earn 3 Points per $1 spent on Restaurants 3x -- Earn 3 Points per $1 spent on Supermarkets 3x -- Earn 3 Points per $1 spent on Gas and EV Charging Stations 1x -- Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on All Other Purchases

9. Be Careful Out There

For the most part, Europe is a very safe place to visit. In fact, I was reminded on several occasions that some Europeans are afraid to travel to the United States due to the frequency of mass shootings. That said, I encountered numerous warnings about pickpockets. I also met an American tourist who had his backpack stolen at an archeological site in Athens. He described taking it off for just a second while seated and placing it behind him, only to find it gone moments later.

Another danger is bicyclists. Traffic in European cities is now dominated by people of all ages zipping around at high speeds on silent, electric-powered bicycles. These are so fast that they are little more than motorcycles with superfluous pedals. So take a moment to look both ways, even when crossing a sidewalk.

Bottom Line

Europe is crowded, but there’s a good reason for that. By carefully planning your trip ahead of time and being aware of your surroundings while you’re there, you, too, can enjoy your European vacation, even if it sometimes seems like the rest of the planet is joining you.


Jason Steele

Jason Steele is a journalist who specializes in covering credit cards, award travel and other areas of personal finance. As one of the nation’s leading experts in the credit card industry, Jason’s work has been featured at mainstream outlets such as Yahoo! Finance, MSN Money and Business Insider.