Latina Mom's Travel Tips- Navigating Europe with My Daughter

Mom and daughter take an adventurous 2 week trip to Europe in celebration of daughter's 16th birthday.


Whether traveling for business or leisure, planning ahead and for the unexpected is always a necessary part of ensuring a pleasant trip. 

I recently took my daughter on an adventurous 2 week trip to Europe in celebration of her 16th birthday where we traveled to 5 countries by car, stayed in different hotels each night, and although we had a general direction, we never really knew where we would end up. It was the closest thing to “backpacking in Europe” that I had ever done, and it was very well worth it.

Paris, France

Gen lost her breath as we came up from the subway onto this view! Literally, she was speechless and in awe. Notre Dame and more. Since she was 3yrs old she’s talked about this...Happy 16th my love!!

Mom also had to bring Gen’s Madeline doll of 16 yrs...if you know the story she’s a little French girl attending an all-girl school in Paris with a dog named Genevieve..
Unexpected surprise...our room number is 16!

Barcelona, Spain
Like most of Europe, Barcelona is a wonderful mix where old is treasured and new is welcomed. Gothic, Roman and sprinkles of hippie are all around. 
When you leave a place wanting more, you know it has something special. Maybe it’s my heritage and hearing my dad’s stories as a kid but I truly love Spain and always feel I am “coming home” some how. Cheers to future tapas,Rioja wine and all the beautiful people! 

We planned this trip months in advance, and I realized during some unexpected situations how critically important planning really was and how it should never be underestimated.  There are many things to plan and review, but here is my “down and dirty” list of non-negotiables:

1. Use multiple banks

Always take more than one bank debit card for your purchases, and use different banks.

No matter how much you love your bank (or don’t), never rely on just one source to access your funds.  As strange as it may seem, ATM machines, foreign languages, and translation apps sometimes just don’t blend well. I often found myself having to switch from one card to another while crossing borders with long car lines behind me.

Moments like paying to use the bathroom are not the ideal time to call a 1-800 number to find out why your card doesn’t me. Having different banks can also help should you lose a card, as I did.  I was able to very quickly block the lost one and transfer funds into another one using my mobile device, allowing me to continue on my way. 

While on the bank/finance topic, also make sure to advise your bank that you will be traveling abroad to ensure no security blocking of accounts takes place.  

Shopping for a bank that doesn’t charge you any additional service fees for foreign exchange can also be a big money saver.

Montpellier, France

If I were ever to fall in love again this would be the place that would steal my heart...Montpellier, France.
Things move slower, flowers are brighter and the air is light. Its a place where you can stay in bed for days on wine & bread in love. It’s the kind of village where parents walk their children to school in the mornings & pick up fresh cut flowers in the afternoon. Time seems to have stopped here and even the carousel horses don’t mind. The stillness of time and presence is captured by something magical here and it leaves you hopeful knowing there is more waiting just around the bend. 

2. Rent a car

When looking at my transportation options, which were either by car or public transportation, I chose to rent a car and drive myself. 

I really wanted to enjoy the views on my own, and the random shopping sprees with my daughter at gas stations were always a treat.  Stocking up on junk food like chips and foods that were foreign to us always made for an exciting adventure. 

When selecting a car, I chose a small 4-door that was good on gas.

Renting a manual vehicle versus an automatic one saved me hundreds of dollars and made for fun driving; also, using a visa credit card for the payment that offers car rental insurance will save you some bucks.  

Italian Alps

As we continue traveling in Italy, we hear the Italian Alps calling...sorta like “Ricola” but in Italian. Lol! With only a few days left we figure let’s go for it and end up finding the most amazing and incredible rainbow along the way as if to say, “I have your back and pot of gold waiting just for you.” It’s a rainbow like nothing I’ve ever seen...from start to finish and even seemed to follow us for a while! It was another gentle reminder once again that God has our back and will never forsake he promised.
The gas stations here are shops not just for gas, they carry liquors, cheese and sweets galore making each stop an adventure. As we continue to elevate through winding roads and mountains that feel as though they will suck you in, a chalet seems fitting for the night and so one shows up. We find ourselves in a quaint space made of wood and shingles with a dining room all to ourselves. The music playing is a steady reminder of my younger years with sounds of The Doors, Led Zeppelin and the likes...definitely some people not wanting to be found up here from their hippie days. The risotto, pasta and red wine makes you feel like “mama” was in the kitchen singing and waiting for your arrival. We eat, drink and laugh and as if this was not begins to snow. My daughter got to see snow for the first time in the Italian Alps, in a chalet after a rainbow that took her breath away. Here my friend, is the pot of gold! Happy 16th Birthday to my spirited, caring and wise daughter! You have traveled 16 years with me with many twists and turns but always moving to a better place and towards the sun. You have taught me much and always keep it real. I live in gratitude everyday for the many joys in my life and look forward to a lifetime of travel with you. I hope you enjoyed your birthday gift! 

3. Keep your phone current

Keeping your phone current with updates and with ample storage space will be a lifesaver.

Downloading translation apps, hotel apps, and weather apps (just to name a few) will be your best friends.  After long days of driving through France, Spain, Italy, Monaco, and Switzerland, it was common for us to select a hotel late at night.  

Having hotel sites with completed profiles made for easy reservations and gave us additional membership perks along the way.  

Listening to music already downloaded was another enjoyment and being able to understand the police officer in Monaco while being issued a driving citation was a welcomed relief!

Josi and daughter

 Overall, always allow room for the unexpected. 

The wrong twists and turns, lost signals and moments where things just don’t make sense will inevitably occur.

I suggest you take them in stride, smile and enjoy the unplanned moments just as much as you savor the plans that work just right!  It truly is about the whole experience of travel: the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Travel and explore!

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About the author

Josi Gago

Born in Coral Gables, Florida to immigrant Cuban parents. She grew-up with unconditional love, traveled often, and experienced many cultures, Haiti being her most memorable one. The poverty she witnessed made an indelible impression. She attended college, married and had a 25-year "corporate grind" in banking.  When her position was "displaced" she decided to turn her lemons into margaritas, and changed her lifestyle. Her mind, body and spirit were re-energized through yoga, meditation, and a healthy lifestyle. Living in Davie, Florida with her four children, cat and dogs; Josi is an Entrepreneur, Motivational Coach, Yoga Instructor and Speaker of Truth (doesn't "sugar coat" reality). She loves her yellow Jeep and takes her sense of adventure everywhere she goes!