Better late than never, right?
Amsterdam - Omelegg, a neat little breakfast spot near the main train station. Anne Frank Huis would be awesome for the kids. Surreal seeing it in person! If you don't reserve tickets ahead of time, you have to wait in a really long line. Other than that, it's fun to walk through and along the water ways. One weekend, a friend and I stayed for Hillsong Amsterdam church. Think of it like Antioch, lots of energy.
Paris - Musts--Eiffel Tower, Arch de Triumph, The Louvre, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, Musée d'Orsay (my parents favorite museum in the world), Saint Chapelle (most beautiful stain glass I've ever seen).
Brussels - Belgium waffles.
Interlaken - It's beautiful here. Tons of people go paragliding here which is a once in a lifetime opportunity. But they also have a beautiful lake, Lake Thun, where you can kayak and paddle board. We found a beautiful hike in Interlaken and as you could imagine, it had some of the most amazing views.
Kandersteg - This is actually where we stayed (and trained to Interlaken) because it was way cheaper. Luckily this is where one of my favorite things I did all summer was. Mountain Toboggan! This is not my video but it is the same exact coster that I did. Not too expensive. I think it was 15 euro for 5 rides. I believe the allow an adult to accompany a kid. If you wanted to do one ride each with the kids, you can just pass the ticket over the fence and take turns (if that makes sense). We did take a ski lift to get here which also cost. But while we were up there we also did a short "hike" on an actual path to Oeschinensee Lake.
Berlin - I loved Berlin. So much history and cool to see it in person! Of course the Berlin Wall, Check Point Charlie, the parliament building is pretty amazing. Burgermeister, what used to be an old public restroom building is now the most famous burger place in Berlin. Worth the wait. My two friends and I toured the Berlin Olympic Stadium which was very fun to see. Again, very historic.
Munich - I think Munich was my favorite city in Germany. We relaxed at the English Gardens for a good bit. There are parts of the river that go through the gardens that form waves in which people are always surfing. Not something you would want to do (dangerous) but it's fun to watch other people do. A lot of what we did was go to pubs in Munich so this concludes my Munich suggestions.
Barcelona - Definitely see the Sagrada Familia. Probably the most beautiful church I've ever seen. Also make sure that you visit Parc Guell for a beautiful view of Barcelona.
Madrid - Madrid was my favorite city in Spain. It's fun to walk around and explore! My group wen to a Flamenco dance concert which was phenomenal. Unfortunately don't have the name of where we went but let me know if you're interested and I can try and find the location. Raterio Park is beautiful.
London - Although I didn't go to the UK while I was there in Maastricht, I have been before and it's amazing. As historic as any other city and there is no shortage of things to do.
Venice - I only got to explore Venice for two days but it was beautiful and awesome. So many great shops and places to eat. Definitely do St. Mark's Basilica and my top recommendation is get a ferry pass that will get you to Burano and Murano. Two little islands off of Venice. Burano has a stretch of very colorful buildings which is just fun to see and Murano is one of the top glass-blowing places in the world. I attended a demonstration that was fascinating for 5 euros.
Vienna, Budapest, Prague are all pretty far and we only spent a day in each of those cities. I therefor have no great recommendations for these cities. I did love exploring them, just not enough time to enjoy everything.
Make sure you have durable and comfortable (backpacks) bags because they will be used and abused throughout the semester.
Belkin Surge Protector Power Strip
Amazon Link - $20
This was super helpful, especially when traveling in groups and there are few outlets. A cool feature is that you can swivel the plug in the back to make it fit in certain situations.
Portable Charger RAV Power
Amazon Link - $20
Personal electronic batteries die but having a backup when there is no outlet available can be crucial. I personally would recommend any RAV Power charger. They have several others that are more expensive and the main difference is the amount of charge that it hold. There are of course tons of other portable charging devices out there, this is what I would recommend. It can charge an iPhone 3.2 times over.
They suggest to have a money pouch--something to put money and your passport in--I bought one in preparation but in the end never used it. I felt it drew more attention to me as a tourist. Whenever I was in the city or around a lot of people, I tended to put my wallet in my front pocket. This was my personal preference.
Maps.Me - Allows you to download a city map ahead of time (over wifi) that way you aren't using cellular data. Also allows you to pin down locations and put in address offline. Note: Your phone will still show you your location on a map regardless if data is on or not.
CityMaps2Go was another popular map app that other students used.
Google Translate - You can download languages so that you can translate words if needed.
Day One - Fantastic mobile journaling app that allows you to add pictures and locations.
Rail Planner - Great for looking up train times that your Eurorail Pass can use!
Of course iMessage works over wifi but you can also get apps like WhatsApp and Voxer for communication.
Airbnb - For looking up places to stay in other cities.
Amazon Prime Video - If you have Amazon Prime, you can download shows or movies to watch at a later time.
If you're in a big city, i.e. Paris, check on the App Store to see if they have their own Transit app. This is very helpful.
One app you might mention to big groups traveling together that I really loved was Splitwise. Sometimes splitting payment at restaurants can be annoying in other countries and so often times we would take turns. This app helps you keep track of how much each person has paid and who owes who what amount. Each person can access the trip folder form their phones to add any new payment. After the trip, people can use Venmo to pay each other back.
Trip Advisor - Easy way to look up the most popular restaurant or activity in each city.
UBER - Uber can be very useful in certain situations.
I get the question often, "Graham, I'm studying abroad next semester and am looking at getting a camera, what should I get?" I always tell them, get the latest iPhone. It's camera really is amazing and it's small and you always have it with you. A big DSLR camera is just another thing to worry about. I rarely took my big camera with me on weekend trips! I didn't want to stress about leaving it in the hostel or bringing it around with me!
Just make sure you have enough room your phone so you're not having to delete photos all the time to make more room ;)
Hope this helps! I would love to answer any specific questions as they come up!