What to Expect on Your European Road Trip

European Road Trip

European Road Trip

If you want to make the most of your European vacation, you can live like a local by renting a car.

Still, traveling somewhere new can always be a bit stressful, so we created this helpful resource to get a better idea of what to expect driving in Europe for the first time. This will afford you the freedom to go where you want to go, when you want to go.

How much time should you factor in for road travel?

With 44 countries packed into a landmass that’s similar to the US, you can immerse yourself into a number of different and fascinating cultures in a very short amount of time. While Europe is comprised of many countries, most of these countries will actually compare more directly in terms of size to individual states.

For example, the major highways going from west to east in France total 590 miles, while the major highways going from west to east in Texas total 790 miles. The key difference, however, is that it would take 3 days to drive across France, while the trip across Texas could safely be done in 1 day. This is due to road systems being much more direct in the US, rather than slower and winding through much of Europe.

Keep this in mind as you plan out your trip. Always factor in extra stops along the way to fit in time for pictures, site-seeing, shopping, amazing food and other surprises (good and bad).

What are the rules of the road?

  • Expect to drive on the right side of the road except in the UK.
  • There are no right turns on red unless a sign specifies otherwise.
  • On turnabouts, give yourself a full loop before taking your exit to avoid any snap decisions.
  • It is unlawful to pass in the slow lane.
  • Some countries will require the use of headlights (even in broad daylight).
  • Speeding is often enforced via a camera system, so don’t just watch for police vehicles if you want to avoid getting a ticket.

What can I expect in terms of regulations, safety and costs?

Don’t drink and drive! Outside of the UK, expect all countries to have a lower blood alcohol tolerance than our standard .08. Most European countries will enforce a .05 blood alcohol limit, while some will require drivers to have .00 alcohol in their systems to operate a vehicle.

Expect tolls, especially along the Mediterranean coast. Some countries will require the purchase of a sticker (many rentals will have an up-to-date sticker). Toll roads may seem inconvenient but factoring in the time and gas of the more scenic routes, it’s a fair price to pay.

Certain cities may require a congestion charge in an effort to limit traffic within the city. It may be wisest to park outside of the city limits and take public transportation into the city.

Some cities have banned car traffic altogether. Watch for zones that indicate that parking is not permitted, as tickets can swiftly be enforced without your knowledge until you receive the bill at home a month or two later.

It’s best to enter your European road trip with an open mind. Some areas can be strict towards its drivers, while other areas can be very loose (in Italy, drivers can sometimes view red lights as optional, if they do not see any cars coming). Speak with your car rental agency for further driving details and understand that the overall experience is absolutely worth making a few adjustments to your expectations.

When parking, understand the differences of each city/country. In the UK, drivers expect plenty of space in between vehicles, while in France, drivers are encouraged to leave off the parking brake to allow other drivers to nudge (seriously) neighboring vehicles back and forth until they can fit in. Make sure you cover your rental with the appropriate insurance to avoid costly fines.

Assume that each country has its own set of colored lines with different meanings for parking, passing lanes, etc. Get to know the specific details of each country you will be driving in ahead of time to avoid the potential for fines or accidents.

How do I rent a car in Europe?

Just as with domestic travel, you can rent a car for European use on most travel booking websites. You can also add options like GPS, car seats, luggage racks and more.

Make the most of your European travels by collecting valuable travel points on your car rentals and hotel stays. Turn your points into a free flight, hotel stay or fun gift card if you are a Bonwi member. Find out more about Bonwi’s membership program here.

European Swim Etiquette for Summer Trips

european-swim-etiquette
european-swim-etiquette
Travel Tueday: European Swim Etiquette

If you’re a casual swim enthusiast, you have likely not run into many rules or restrictions about what you can or cannot wear while swimming. Most of your swimming experiences have likely been a fun free-for-all. 

If you’re planning a European getaway this summer, you may run into some unique rules regarding swimming pool and beach usage. In order to minimize the inconvenience of arriving at a swimming pool or beach ill-prepared, we’ve put together this helpful resource that covers the dos and don’ts of European swim etiquette and why some swimming venues enforce these strict rules.

An emphasis on cleanliness

At the root of European pool restrictions is the goal of maintaining a healthy environment for pool guests. Ideally, this empowers guests to enjoy their time swimming, splashing and sunbathing, with a significantly reduced risk of spreading germs. The World Health Organization released its guidelines for safe recreational water environments Volume 2, which focuses on swimming pools and similar environments. In this report, you’ll find a number of bacterial and viral infections that are commonly spread in public pools. Utilizing this knowledge, many European countries and cities have established best practices for limiting the potential for outbreaks.

The result is still a very similar pool going experience to how things are in the states, but with heavier up-front requirements. One main theme that is universal across Europe is the expectation, if not requirement, that all swimmers will shower before entering the pool, rather than only showering after you are done swimming. The key benefit to this is that it eliminates many of the surface level germs and dirt from the swimmers before they enter the pool. Swimmers then have the option to rinse off after the fact if they so desire. This can significantly reduce the potential for outbreaks of rashes and other illnesses.

Another effort that some European areas enforce to keep their pools clean is to restrict swimmers from entering the pool area with “street clothing”. This can include longer swim trunks, which are sometimes considered “streetwear” by lifeguards. Some pools even sell appropriate swimwear in vending machines so that unprepared visitors can still swim. Yes, this means Speedos and bikinis! 

Can this be a bit annoying for US tourists? Of course. However, going in with the right expectation and understanding the reasoning behind cultural customs and local practices can mitigate your frustrations. You may actually find it encouraging that you are entering a cleaner public pool than the one back home.

The typical European pool experience

  1. Leave your shoes at the door – Right from the start, you may be asked to leave your outdoor shoes on the designated “shoe bench” before even entering the locker room. Guests are encouraged to either put on a separate pair of swim-specific shoes, place plastic coverings over their shoes or go barefoot. This allows those that are barefoot to go in and out of the locker room without tracking dirt to the pool area and/or inside the pool.
  2. Pre-swim bathing – A heavy use pool could be filled with dozens, if not hundreds, of guests at a given time. Guests will be expected to clean themselves before entering the pool. 
  3. Wearing the proper swimwear – While tiny racing trunks (“Speedos”) aren’t required swimwear for all European pools, some will require a much more tiny garment for men and boys than popularly worn in the US. Most facilities will restrict guests from wearing t-shirts, dresses or bottoms that aren’t specifically designated for swim-use.

All of the above are designed to limit the number of dirt, contaminants and germs carried into the pool space.

What to expect at the beach

No European trip is complete without a trip to the beach! Whether you’re in the UK, Spain, France, Italy or Greece, there are any number of idyllic beach locations to spend a day that you won’t soon forget. Here are a few notes to help you maximize your European beach retreat:

  1. Not all European beaches are sans clothing – There may be a higher percentage of nude beaches in Europe than there are in the US, but it is unwise to assume that a given beach is nude-friendly. 
  2. Expect women of all ages and sizes to be wearing bikinis – One thing that is very common in European beaches is for women to wear two-piece bikinis rather than one-piece swimsuits. So, regardless of your age or comfort with your body, understand that the beaches in Europe are judgment-free zones.
  3. Clothing restrictions are less prevalent – In the ocean, the water is so massive and ever-changing that the risk for the spread of germs is less likely than a public pool. That being said, you will still likely see more tiny racing pants than in the states. Many men are already comfortable wearing shorter trunks, making it less necessary to own a different style of swimwear for the beach.

No matter where your travels take you this summer, traveling with Bonwi can help you find the best deals and accumulate points that can be redeemed for free flights, hotel stays or gift cards to make future travels that much more seamless. Find out more about our memberships here.

It’s FESTIVAL Season: Get Ready with Our Top Festival-goer Tips

Festival Season

Festival season is in full swing! You may have already learned the hard way that having an unforgettable experience at these amazing events requires a decent amount of planning. You can try to go with the flow and hope for the best, or you can take our advice and become an instant festival traveling pro.

#1 Book your lodging ASAP

There are only so many hotels near these venues. In order to ensure that you are getting a good deal, the right number of rooms and/or the best proximity, you have to book your lodging as soon as you get your festival tickets. Look into any hotels that are partnering with your festival for a special discount.

#2 Never act solo

Traveling is always a lot to handle. Having a friend or group of friends to help coordinate your trip, navigate your travels and execute your festival plans can make all the difference. Not only will you be safer with a co-pilot to talk to and manage the Waze or Google Maps, but festivals are a whole lot more fun when you get to share the amazing experience with your friends.

If you’re going to trade off driving, try to always have at least one person awake to accompany the driver.

#3 Pack early and double-check your list

Festivals can either be one long party filled with amazing entertainment, food, drinks, and fun OR they can be exhausting and overwhelming if you feel unprepared. Someone spill their drink on you and you didn’t pack extra clothes? Forget the one thing you can’t forget (the all-mighty phone charger)? By creating your own personal checklist and starting the packing process early, you make sure that among the excitement of the travel and the festival events that you are prepared for whatever comes up. Here’s a quick festival checklist to start with:

  • Tickets/wristbands
  • A physical map for traveling through dead zones
  • More than enough clothes in case of accidents/emergencies
  • Cash – whether it’s for the trip or during the festival, it’s always important to have multiple payment methods at your disposal
  • Sunscreen
  • Hand sanitizer/wet wipes to keep you feeling fresh
  • Bug spray
  • Backpack or similarly easy to carry bag for extended time away from your hotel/tent
  • Tent and sleeping bag (if applicable)
  • Refillable water bottle – likely holds more than 16 ounces so you don’t get dehydrated while you’re busting a move (bonus for cutting down on waste!)
  • Phone charger
  • Chairs for downtimes
  • Blankets or mats to lay down on
  • Cards or other travel-friendly games in between sets or for in your hotel/tent
#4 Get to know the details of your festival

How is your festival laid out? What times are your favorite artists performing? How easy is it to get back to your lodging accommodations? Be certain to answer these questions ahead of time to ensure that you feel prepared to make the most of your festival weekend.

Here’s a list of some of the biggest, baddest festivals

  1. Boston Calling – May 24-26, Harvard Athletic Complex, Allston, MA
  2. Bottlerock – May 24-26; Napa Valley, CA
  3. Bayou Country Super Fest – May 25-26, 2019; LSU Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, LA
  4. Primavera Sound – May 30-June 1; Barcelona, Spain
  5. Governors Ball – May 31-June 2; Randall’s Island, New York City, NY
  6. Roots Picnic – June 1, The Mann at Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, PA
  7. CMA Music Festival /Austin City Limits – June 6–9, 2019; Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN
  8. Bonnaroo – June 13-18; Manchester, TN
  9. Firefly – June 21-23; The Woodlands, Dover, DE
  10. Glastonbury – June 26-30; Worthy Farm, Pilton, Somerset, England
  11. Longitude – July 5-7; Marlay Park, Rathfarnham, Dublin, Ireland
  12. Pitchfork Music Festival – July 19-21, Union Park, Chicago, IL
  13. Lollapalooza Paris – July 20-21; Hippodrome Paris Longchamp, Paris, France
  14. Cincinnati Music Festival – July 25-27, 2019; Paul Brown Stadium – Cincinnati, OH
  15. Mo Pop – July 27-28; West Riverfront Park, Detroit, MI
  16. Lollapalooza – August 1-4; Grant Park, Chicago, IL
  17. Outside Lands – August 9-11; Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA
  18. Woodstock 50 – August 16-18; Watkins Glen, NY
  19. Burning Man – Aug 25-Sep 2, 2019; Black Rock City, Gerlach, NV
#5 Map out your set-list

Which acts can you absolutely not miss? If these acts are headliners, odds are you’re going to have to stake your claim around a half hour before the set starts.

Don’t leave an amazing festival with a sour taste in your mouth because you missed your favorite band or had to wear the same pair of underwear the entire weekend. Start your planning early so that your weekend can be a breeze.

Looking for a great deal on your festival hotel so you can increase your food budget (Chi’lantro is calling…)? Do a quick search with Bonwi.com to review our best offers.

Destination Wedding I-Do’s

Destination Weddings
Destination Weddings

You get the invitation and you’re instantly hit with a mix of excitement and uncertainty. While a wedding in Italy, or Tokyo, or even Key West seems fun and exciting and you’ve been looking for a good chance for you to get out of town for a while, it’s also daunting. Can I take off this much work? How much will this cost? Who all is going?

We’ve put together the most important questions for you to ask yourself before you commit to a destination wedding.

Where am I headed?

A destination wedding that takes place on a remote island is a completely different experience than one that takes place in a major city or a small town two states over. Will you need to be ready for a rugged, adventurous week away, or a posh and metropolitan excursion? Do you need to dress for deep humidity, arid sunshine, or mountain snow? Are non-wedding meals and activities close by and walkable, taking place on an intimate resort, or spread out all over a busy city? How will you keep in touch with the other members of your party?

Know where you’re headed and what that location will imply.

Where will I be staying?

Whether you’re staying in a chain hotel in a block of rooms side-by-side with your fam, nestled into cabins or rooms on a cruise ship, estate, or grounds, or doing something more unique, you’ll want to know what’s included and how to prepare. Are guests sharing accommodations? Is there free breakfast, Wi-Fi, an onsite gym, a pool? Will entertainment be onsite or will you need to keep yourself busy elsewhere?

Prepare in advance.

What’s paid for? (And what isn’t?)

Some destination weddings are an all-expenses adventure for a few key family members or friends. Other destination weddings are a big party with a “come if you can” invitation to every acquaintance. If travel or accommodations are covered, know what else you will need to pay for. If all expenses are paid by you, the guest, make sure you know what those costs look like and whether or not the itinerary includes other expensive events, too.

Plan to tip for room cleaning, transportation and other services, even if it’s an all-expenses paid trip.

What’s the WHOLE itinerary?

Speaking of the itinerary, make sure you know what it includes. If you’re going to Bali for the week, you may want to know if that week includes planned group adventures or tours, multiple dinners out, after-wedding breakfasts, etc. or if you’re just attending a one-night event and spending a week on the sand, or left to your own devices. If the latter is true, make sure you sync up with other guests you know and see what everyone wants to do.

PRO TIP: The best way to optimize and make the most of this expense is to do more than attend a wedding – make sure you take some photos, see some sights, and take in the beauty of whatever area you’re in.

How will I get around?

It’s smart to know where you’re headed and how people normally get from place to place. If you’re headed to an all-inclusive resort or a cruise line, this may be a non-issue. However, if you and the other guests are stationed all over and events are spread throughout the city, you may want to rent a car, arrange for group transit, or know the public systems.

How will I pack your formal attire?

A beachy wedding where everyone is wearing linen and rattan may not require formal attire. Additionally, you may be able to fold everything and press at the hotel. A cosmopolitan black-tie event, however, might require special arrangements. You may need to send your tuxes and dresses to the destination ahead of time, or bring a garment bag as your personal item on the flight. Be ready.

Am I traveling internationally?

If your destination is overseas, you will need to make special arrangements including getting that passport up to date, securing immunizations as necessary, and being ready to exchange currency. We have more international travel tips here.

Am I taking the kids?

Not all weddings are kid-friendly, but many are. If your event is a family-friendly fete and you’re bringing children under 10, you’ll need to entertain them. Address what entertainment options are onsite for families or where else you can go to keep your family happy. Team up with other parents in your group so the kids can team up, too.

How long will I be gone?

This may be the most important question to ask before you RSVP. If you’re just going a couple states away for a long weekend, you may only need to take off 1-2 days of work and get your neighbor to water your plants. If this trip extends past a week, you’ll need to account for your vacation hours at work, make arrangements for your pets and plants, and consider the kids’ absence from school.

Ultimately, couples who plan destination weddings understand that not every guest can swing the trip – especially the further from home they will be. If you can’t sweat the expense or time away, don’t feel guilty. But if you can make it, and it makes sense, this wedding could be an excuse for you to take some much-needed vacation time and rack up (or cash in) all those Bonwi rewards points!

2018 Highlights and 2019 Aspirations

Wonderlust-Bonwi-Partner-for-Aspirational-Travel

Today we announced a strategic partnership with WONDERLUST. We’re really excited to kick off 2019 by working with the top notch team over there. Read the press release here.

Wpnderlust-Bonwi-Partner-for-Aspirational-Travel

2018 was an incredible year for Bonwi. We were rated the #1 hotel booking site by travel points guru Dan Gillaspia of uponarriving.com. We were a finalist in the Travolution Awards for the Best Travel Deals Publisher 2018. We also:

  • Surpassed 5,000 registered members on (sign up here if you haven’t already)
  • Exceeded 1 million bookable properties on Bonwi.com
  • Reached 1,000 subscribers right here on the Bonwi Blog
  • Added public price comparison to site search

Now we’ve partnered with WONDERLUST to differentiate the online travel experience for leisure and business travelers. Bob and his team are a force to be reckoned with.  As the exclusive editorial content provider to Bonwi, WONDERLUST will share features and travel advisories to Bonwi members including inspiration around new destinations and experiences and access to other partners and offers in the highly curated WONDERLUST ecosystem.  In turn, Bonwi will provide WONDERLUST users with:

  • Timely offers for up to 40% back in points when booking hotels and cars
  • Unique registration offers
  • Free dining for domestic bookings, and up to 50% off on dining, shopping and entertainment

Take a look at the world from the WONDERLUST perspective at wonderlusttravel.com.

Thank you for your support and for joining us in another exciting year ahead!

Johnny Ward Gets a Deal Using Bonwi in Oslo

Photo by Erik Odiin on Unsplash

Travel blogger Johnny Ward of One Step 4ward blog is back for more Bonwi, this time to redeem his loyalty points. Last we heard from Johnny, he told us,

“My total booking was about $600, and I got $200 back in points – 33% credit, unreal.”

Those points, they do add up. For Johnny’s trip to Oslo, where prices run high, his Bonwi points helped him out with a hotel for $3.82. Did that sink in?

Johnny Ward got a hotel in Oslo for $3.82. Click to Tweet

“I had used Bonwi to book hotels cheaper than Booking.com, Expedia etc in both Lombok and Komodo, Indonesia, as well as in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Thankfully, through booking with Bonwi, those bookings hadn’t just saved me money, they had also accrued me 13,000 points to use through the Bonwi platform. Brilliant.”

Here were some of his options for redemption:

Pretty nice, eh?

Read Johnny’s full story here, and check out his pics from the trip. Brilliant!

Tips on Eating in Europe

While in Europe, food is enjoyed as much as art, language, and traditions. From sampling local hidden gems to experiencing farmer’s markets, here are some tips eating in Europe while on your travels.

Do Your Research

Scout out authentic eateries to experience the true local cuisine. Go online and spend some time writing down a list of restaurants that represent the cultural local dishes you are looking for. Most of the time authentic restaurants are not located on the touristy main streets.

Tipping is Optional

Not tipping the usual 15%-20% is okay. Don’t worry, you’re not being rude. The prevailing culture in Europe is to not leave excessive tips. You can leave a few euros if you feel inclined.

Farmers’ Markets

Farmers’ markets are a good way to find high quality food at a reasonable price and an exciting cultural experience. Farmers’ markets can be found somewhere in any city just about every day of the week.

Drink in Public

Europe has fairly lax laws about drinking in public. This means it is perfectly acceptable to enjoy a beer or bottle of wine in a park or other outdoor spaces.

By using these tips as a guideline, you can better organize and prepare for your trip. Read more Travel Tips for more in-depth information about the best way to travel.

Romantic, Budget-Friendly European Getaways

Looking to plan a romantic getaway? Check out some of our favorite romantic locations in Europe which won’t break the bank. Below are our top destination choices to wind down and connect with your significant other.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

The cobbled streets and narrow alleys of Amsterdam are perfect for strolling around and cozying up in a quaint spot to wine and dine. For a truly romantic experience, be sure to rent a houseboat to soak up the city’s ambiance and charm from the canals.

Valencia, Spain

Valencia, Spain

Valencia is Spain’s third-largest city and among its most popular tourist destinations. Fantastic architecture, interesting history, unforgettable sunsets, and out-of-this-world food are just a few of the contributing factors to its massive popularity.

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul is a great city for lovers. Indulge in a night-time cruise on a Bosphorus ferry. Catch the boat from Karaköy to Kadıköy at dusk and watch as the city skyline lights up. Find here a wealth of terraces and gardens in which to enjoy one another’s company.

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague, Czech Republic

Considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world since the Middle Ages, Prague is perhaps the best city in Europe for couples in search of romance. There’s music in the air, beautiful art and architecture throughout, and numerous romantic activities available, such as walks along the Vltava river in winter.

Berlin, Germany

Berlin, Germany

While it isn’t quite the same as Paris, Berlin is likely to be far easier on the wallet and certainly has its fair share of romantic spots. The Tiergarten is one of the most beautiful parks in all of Europe, and Pfaueninsel Park (Peacock Island) is the perfect spot for a private picnic.

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal

Romance embraces you on every street corner here in Lisbon. Stroll hand-in-hand through backstreets twisting up to hilltop veranda, hidden courtyards, and vintage funiculars. You’ll soon fall head over hills with the Portuguese capital.

 

Save some cash (use it for a date night) and head to Bonwi.com to start planning that romantic rendezvous.