Well the first major leg of my tour has come to an end, covering 7 cities in 13 days and somehow living to talk about it! It was quite an experience, from spending time behind the scenes of an extensive European tour with Nick Howard to covering ground in Amsterdam and Paris with little guidance and contacts. Here’s a little recap of the most important lessons I learned when it comes to traveling in Europe… I like to think of it as “I made the mistakes so you don’t have to.” Read and learn…
1. There’s no such thing as a cheap flight. Most people who have traveled throughout the EU (European Union) have heard of the notoriously discounted airline, Ryan Air. While, yes, the initial flight prices themselves are rather cheap, there are tons of hidden costs to beware of. Checked baggage will cost anywhere from $25- $40 each way! Plus once you throw in taxes and additional service fees your $40 flight is suddenly $120. Trains are a great way to travel if you book far enough in advance… they are clean, efficient, and do not charge extra for baggage (or instruments/equipment). I had a great experience on the NS HiSpeed from Amsterdam to Paris and the Eurostar from Paris back to London. ALSO. Make sure to check WHERE your flights take off and land. That great deal does not work out so “great” when you realize you are an hour from the departure airport and the destination airport, which is what happened to me on my first trip to Germany. Once you tack on time and money for additional transportation to get to and from these cities, you might as well have opted for the more expensive but completely direct flight.
2. Book in advance as much as you can. I waited until I got here to book the majority of my transportation arrangements, and I paid for it. You can get some great deals on lines like Eurostar, EasyJet and even major airlines if you plan it out. Also, I would suggest a round trip ticket with trains or cars in between cities when possible. For example, Nick started and ended his tour in Berlin, so most of the band paid for a round trip ticket and traveled through the rest of the countries by van. Plan out your tour to come full circle… you’ll save money, time and probably get to see more of the countries you are visiting.
3. Hotels are expensive in Europe. No kidding, you’re probably thinking. But seriously. If you are traveling with a band, definitely book rooms for groups. You can get multiple bed rooms without having to stay in a hostel, many with breakfast included. I stayed in single rooms in almost every city and the cost really added up. Other options: staying with friends and/or relatives of friends in nearby cities (although then you have to account for transportation) or trying a website like AirBnB. AirBnB is a budget website for travelers looking for rooms to stay in cities all over the world, or hosts with a room to spare. You’re able to see reviews from previous guests, message with your potential host beforehand, avoid uncomfortable hostel dorm-style rooms with strangers, and save a few bucks in comparison to most of the city hotels. Make sure you map out WHERE your potential room is though… my first weekend in London I booked a place that was a great rate but 3 tube station changes into central London. I probably made up the difference in money I saved on train tickets. **NOTE: If you are a touring artist and you have a van, you need to make sure there is private and secure parking available at your hotel. Not every hotel can accommodate large vehicles.
4. Repeat after me: You are a tourist. I have been stopped multiple times at Customs because of the date on my return ticket. Every single Customs officer has grilled me on my work, how much money I have saved to be able to afford this, and what my purpose in London is, and as a result I have learned that I do not respond well under intense interrogation. You either need to come prepared with a bank statement showing you have the funds to travel, or say you are visiting relatives for vacation and have a realistic address to put on the info card. Or be ready to cry. Musicians, you have to be particularly weary about this. I’ll get into details in later posts, but for one you should plan to ship out any merchandise beforehand to a local address so you don’t have to deal with claiming anything.
5. Travel LIGHT. The bag I toured with for 14 days weighed 22 kilos at check in. That’s 48.5 pounds. And that was with me leaving a small carry-on at a friend’s house in London, and NOT including my shoulder bag with my laptop and camera. Completely unacceptable. My body, the bag, and every staircase in Europe, paid for it. You do not need as much as you think. Trust me.
Looking back most of this seems like common sense, but you’d be surprise how much of that goes out the window when you are planning and juggling multiple things at once. The bottom line is if you want to be a touring musician you need to be organized, efficient, and completely prepared for multiple scenarios. Or have a seriously kick ass tour manager. Either way, it’s hard work that will pay off if done properly.
Category: ON TOUR
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