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Your Ultimate Guide to Travelling to Europe’s Most Luxurious Summer Hotels and Destinations

Here’s how to make your trip to Europe during peak travel season as easy as possible

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By Condé Nast Traveller Middle East | May 31, 2024 | Travel Leisure

After taking hundreds of flights between us, the editors of Conde Nast Traveller know a thing or two about how to make experiences abroad go as smoothly as possible. A few mishaps when away can quickly sour your day, so thank us later when you’re dodging tourists lugging heavy cases down heaving streets, seamlessly planning days to the minute, and saving money on data and hotel services. From what to wear to how to pack to how to best utilise technology, here are the golden rules for travelling comfortably in Europe this summer.

Skip the bulky luggage

Part of the charm of a European summer getaway is stealing off down charming cobblestone streets or taking a ferry to a tiny rugged island. But the more remote the location, the trickier the journey can be, especially when toting a big bulky luggage. Instead, pack strategically (we’re a big fan of compression packing cubes), and go carry-on only – and be sure to make full use of your under-seat bag allowance. BEIS, Away and Monos make larger carry-ons that we reach for when we’re headed off on longer trips and use packing cubes to help further – these keep your case tidy and organised and allow you to pack more tightly and thus squeeze in a few more precious garments.

Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons. Photography by Paul Wilkinson.

Even better for traversing bumpy streets is if you switch your carry-on case for a travel backpack. These are hand luggage-sized bags, which usually open up fully like a suitcase but offer all the convenience of a backpack. Away, Stubble & Co. and Horizn Studios make some of our favourites.

Stay organised with packing cubes

Packing cubes maximise the amount you can fit in your luggage, squeezing out the air so you can fill every inch of space, and they’re also very useful for remaining organised. I usually keep underwear and swimwear in one, shoes in another, and use one for dresses and one for shorts and tops. Any spares are good for corralling tech and beauty items to sling in the hotel bathroom. Using these cubes prevents any need to constantly rummage through an unruly suitcase to grab what I need, which is especially handy if you need to dip into it in the airport or need to reopen your case prior to heading off. See the best packing cubes we've tested here.

Terrace of the Tower Suite at La Residencia in Illes Balears, Spain. Photography by Mattia Aquila.

The Best Travel Apps to Download Before You Fly

There are several apps I can’t imagine travelling without now. Splitwise, for hashing out the details of group payments; Google Translate, for ordering in restaurants and directing in taxis; and Google Maps for easy navigation. Google Maps especially has had a helpful upgrade lately. The ‘category’ function now automatically sorts all the places you’ve saved for your trip via function, such as ‘bakeries’, ‘museums’, ‘bars’ etc.

The private terrace at Castello di Casole in Italy. Photography by Mattia Aquila.

It means that you can pull up each category wherever you are and it’ll show you where’s closest – handy if you're looking for the best restaurant nearby for dinner, for example. Clever TikTokers have discovered another Maps hack. If you use the wheelchair-friendly directions, you’ll be offered a route without stairs, steep hills and with lift access, which is a game-changer if you’re traversing streets with heavy luggage in tow.

Escape the airport crowds and head to the lounge

Exclusive Suite terrace at La Residencia in Illes Balears, Spain. Photography by Mattia Aquila.

As much as I love travelling, the thought of finding a spare seat at Heathrow Airport on the first day of the school holidays fills me with dread. If you feel the same way, you might want to sign up to Priority Pass (or gain access to a membership via American Express). Memberships start at £69 annually and give you access to an array of airport lounges, including Heathrow Terminal 2, 3, 4 and 5, London Gatwick, Manchester International and more. Each lounge has comfortable and quiet seating areas, as well as complimentary drinks, snacks and buffet meals.

Pre-book your airport transfers

Since the pandemic, I’ve found I’ve been less likely to rely on getting Ubers in general, let alone from the airport during busy travel times. Likewise, taxis can be hit and miss and prices can vary widely depending on demand. When I travelled to Greece recently I ended up pre-booking our transfers with Welcome Pickups, which were very reasonably priced (often cheaper than Uber) and wonderfully reliable. If you’re travelling with young children they’re also able to provide car seats and boosters so you can avoid the hassle of bringing your own.

The Designer Suite by Matthew Williamson at La Residencia in Illes Balears, Spain. Photography by Mattia Aquila.

Save money with an eSIM

You’ll likely get a better deal on data abroad by using an eSIM than your phone network’s roaming data plans. Case in point: a friend recently spent £26 on 120mb of data on a recent trip to Bali whereas I, smugly, paid less than £10 for 10gb via Airalo. My friend ran out of data in about two hours, while I was sorted comfortably for the whole week-long trip without fuss. You don’t even need to fiddle about swapping over SIM cards while you’re away as they’re digital – it’s a really great way to save money abroad.

The Raymond Blanc Gardening School at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in the UK. Photography by Paul Wilkinson.

Keep clothes fresh with washing machine sheets

Now, here's something new I discovered recently: washing machine sheets. To be clear, they’re not tumble dryer sheets, instead pre-loaded with a wash’s worth of detergent, packaged up dry in a lightweight box. They can be used in a sink when hand washing clothes while abroad, so pop a pack in your suitcase, and you can enjoy clean laundry for a tiny fraction of the cost of the hotel’s valet service. It’s a much better solution than buying detergent on holiday, which would be too heavy to bring home and a waste to leave behind. I’m a convert – these Spot Detergent ones are my favourite.

This story originally appeared on Condé Nast Traveller.