I'm very far from being an expert in European travel but I have learned a few tips (mostly through making mistakes!) since my first trip abroad 16 years ago. Here are just a few things I wanted to share from an American traveler visiting Europe.
1. Take money out of the ATMs - when I took my virgin trip 16 years ago, I remember my parents helping me prepare by going to the bank downtown and getting foreign paper money as well as travelers checks. Oh travelers checks. Remember those? Well, now that we're in the future and computers rule, I recommend taking cash out of the atm once you reach your destination. This way you don't have to worry about traveling with large amounts of dollars to change over to the local currency. ATMs can usually be found in baggage claim at the airport, just remember to watch those fees on your card.
2. Learn to say hello - you don't have to learn entire languages or fill your brain with as many words as possible but at the very least, learn to say hello. It will get you far. Locals will appreciate it. I've spent a solid chunk of time using the Duolingo app on my phone, which teaches you to read + say a lot of words or phrases in other languages. Give that a try before your trip.
3. It's ok to fly cheap airlines - when I was first traveling through Europe on my own, I was really hesitant to book anything on the smaller airlines that I wasn't familiar with. I only wanted to use the bigger ones I knew and trusted. The name EasyJet sounded a tad sketchy to me... how easy are we talking here? However, these smaller European airlines can be just as trustworthy and can be an absolute steal. (EasyJet is delightful, in case you were wondering!)
4. Take a train - the train system is a underrated method of transpiration in the US but it's very well utilized in Europe. They run heavily throughout many countries and to multiple big cities, with stops at little ones on the way. Plus the Europeans are masters of the bullet trains, which not only can provide you with a great view as you but get you there in record speed. I took the Eurostar under the channel from Paris to London in only two hours. Can't beat that now can you?
5. Reach out to a local - if you don't know anyone in the city where you're traveling, have someone put you in contact with someone they know. Facebook or Intstagram can be such a huge tool for this. In my opinon the best part of visitng Europe is getting to experience the wide range of cultures. Being given the insider tips from a local is priceless and by far the best way to make the most out of visiting a new country. Plus, you'll have a translator! Huge bonus along with the possibility of lifelong friends around the world.
I also recommend the Lonely Planet series of guidebooks. The little pocket size ones have long been my go-to's and I love looking at their little rainbow spines sitting on my bookshelf, reminding me of places I've been. Bon voyage!
Don't forget to check out My Best Tips for Traveling Solo and Five Tips for Taking a Long Term Trip to Paris (or Anywhere Else in the World!) A lot of the tips found on those posts crossover as well.