Quicktip: My top 5 tips for travelling between Europe and US / Canada

Taking a step back from my usual viewpoint of miles and points, here's a post about more general tips.


Whatever side of the Atlantic you live on, and however much you have travelled, I've condensed the most important tips I learnt from the school of hard knocks:

  1. Jetlag is far worse going eastbound (i.e. North America to Europe). If you can only afford an upgrade in one direction, do it on the eastbound.
  2. If arriving in the USA from an international destination, try to sit as far forward in the plane as you can to save on queuing at immigration. (But if you are eligible, consider applying for Global Entry)
  3. Check if your electronics can take both 110V and 220V mains. Most modern electronics have relays built into the transformers which allow both voltages.
  4. In USA, dates are written MM/DD/YY. In Canada and Europe it's DD/MM/YY. Do yourself a small favour and write dates in a way that's unmistakable, e.g. “4th May 2014” especially when trying to meet up with people!
  5. Learn the difference between: European Union, European Economic Area, Schengen Area (and also realise that UK and Republic of Ireland are not part of the Schengen Area!!). It'll become important for determining how much time you need for airport transfers, immigrations and customs.

There were several others that didn't make my list of 5, but what do you think? What are your top tips for other readers?

About Tim

Tim Lai is a Chartered Engineer and a typical nerd who analyses every travel deal, travel hack and is one of the world's leading travel experts. He has travelled to around 90 countries and also speaks Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin. He has been featured on the likes of CNN, BBC and also broader websites websites like Nomad Capitalist for his deep knowledge of EU travel laws. An accredited journalist, he is happy to speak to other journalists who need expertise on travel topics.

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  1. Generally speaking I agree with 1. But if on an early to mid-afternoon departure I can’t sleep, even in business. In those cases I opt to return in J to enjoy the experience. Gives me something to look forward to on the outbound.

  2. Nice post. I don’t have the same jetlag experience. I tend to be much worse coming back. It’s most likely just me. If I had choice I would book F coming back Westbound at the end of my trip as I am most tired then. Just personal experience. I do the same after a cruise from North America. I will do the nicer seat coming home so I can sleep.

  3. I agree with DaninSTL. I live in NYC and I always have a hard time getting rid of jetlag when I come back here from Europe (I tend to always wake up at 3am or 4am the first few days!)
    Since most transatlantic flights from NYC leave in the evening, it doesn’t matter to me if I’m in economy or business since the flights are only 5-7 hours and 2-3 of those hours are meal service times. Regardless if I’m in business class or economy class, I always don’t get enough sleep. I do, however, tend to upgrade myself to business class on the way back since flight time is longer due to the winds and flights are during the day which means I can enjoy J!

  4. Don’t forget your pen for the customs line! I did this and had to beg and borrow from another and they weren’t happy about having to wait for me to fill out my form before they could proceed.

    Jetlag is horrible flying back to the west coast. If you’re tall or wide, splurge for the upgrade. Unless you’re a sadist and enjoy the punishment or have nowhere to be the next day or two to sleep it off.

    Eat minimally and no crazy foods that may potentially upset your stomach. Some people just don’t get it or don’t care that they’re sitting on a plane for half a day sometimes (west coast) and you have no privacy or comforts of your home medicine cabinet (unless you’re a keen traveler and came prepared).

  5. The thing that has cured eastbound jet lag for my wife and me: get up at 4am EST the day before your flight, and 3am EST the day of your flight (even if your flight is not until the evening), and don’t take a nap! Yeah, you’ll be cranky, but wouldn’t you rather be cranky at home than be missing out on your trip because of jet lag?

    Since we started doing this, we’ve been able to travel to Europe numerous times, take a 2-3 hour nap on arrival, then be completely switched over and ready to go.

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