Traveling on a European vacation is the trip of a lifetime. Where else can you take a dip in the crystal clear water of the Aegean Sea in the morning, climb up the ruins of Poseidon’s Temple then end with a night of Ouzo and greek dancing? Or waking up early for breakfast dining with new friends you made on your Motorcoach tour before climbing up into the bus for a day of sightseeing in Prague. After walking through Old Town with a local guide who explains the architecture and history of how the city started you take the elevator to the top of the astronomical clock. What a view, and you are so high up you can see all the way to Prague Castle your next stop. After a day of sightseeing and a little time to shop for Bohemian Glass, you are then driven to a special dinner to experience a traditional Czech dinner before ending with a night of music at a jazz club.
Here is another scenario, you arrive at the airport where a greeter is waiting for you from the River Cruise line. She escorts you to the bus that takes you to the ship you will be on for the next 7 days. You notice its larger than you expected. As you board another greeter is there to welcome you with a glass of champagne and some delectable Hors d’œuvres. Your cabin is roomy with an outdoor balcony. This is where you will be sitting each morning with a cup of hot coffee gazing at the historic European villages as you sail past. Your local tours are included in the price of your cruise so you won’t worry about the extra cost at the end of the trip. Amazingly tasty food is served morning noon and night. In fact each night the chefs bring out a new creation that is complemented with fresh local wines. It will be a week of total complete bliss.
There is planning you need to do when traveling to Europe. What should you do first? Pick your dates of travel and make sure work is okay with them. Figure out where you want to go and what you would like to see. What is it you would like to do? Is it historical World War II sites you have heard about all your life or maybe its hiking the Alps. Sitting on a beach all day to grab a French Riviera tan for a relaxing trip is nice too. But from there you can venture out a few times to explore some of the nearby hilltop villages or wine tasting. A Motorcoach tour is one of the best ways to see Europe if its your first visit. From the time you get to your destination an escort is with you throughout the trip. If you have questions or feel uneasy they will be there to help you out. Maybe you like to do it on your own, now that will take some research and dedication but it will a trip your way.
While planning to go to Europe adding to the above considerations figure out your finances and what you can afford. Realize you will probably spend more than you ready for. Unexpected room fee’s or taxes, added insurance and road fees on rental cars can all cost extra. Even finding a tourist sight the hotel front desk or even a local told you about could have a heavy admission fee. Souvenirs get me every time, it all adds up. Its better to prepare for spending a bit more than you expect so you are not taken by surprise.
Another wake up call is that not everyone is going to love you. There are times that things won’t go perfectly while traveling and strong personalities can be involved. I have made up my mind that if you don’t come across at least one rude person that you have not had a complete trip. That way when you run across that person you don’t take it so personally, especially if you are traveling to Paris. As much as I love the city rudeness just crops up and now I wonder what happened if it doesn’t take place!
When planning a cruise a one of the best decisions you can make is to add pre and post packages. So many times you will arrive without finding time to visit your departure city. A transfer to the ship and off you go. I always try to add at least two nights, one day to adjust to the time change the next day to get out and enjoy it. One time leaving from Barcelona we didn’t want pay the $300 per person pre package and I could have kicked myself for missing an admission free day to most sights. My suggestion if you are trying to save money think about booking a cheaper hotel on your own. Although the cruise packages includes transfers, a city tour and insures the cruise won’t leave without you, booking the hotel on your own if familiar with Europe is an easy option.
Train travel is another big decision, do you purchase a rail pass or point to point fares? I remember the days where your choices were 1 month, 2 month or 3 month passes, all countries included. But that was 20 years ago. Now the choices are One Country Passes, Regional Pass which includes up to 3 countries, Select Pass includes up to 26 countries even a 28 country Global Pass. On top of that the price depends on how many days you will need the pass starting with 5 days within 10 up to 3 months of continuous use. Taking the train is one of my favorite ways to get around in Europe. Overnight trains are the best, you spend all day in a city use the train with a sleeping compartment for your hotel then wake up ready to go when you reach your destination. Most stations have baggage storage for a fee.
When choosing your hotel it can get a little tricky. I’ve had problems in the past where the hotel site said they were centrally located to find out yes they are centrally located, outside the city limits! Make sure you have a print out of the room you reserved. If you booked a studio unit instead of just a room make sure that portion is in writing. One time we were given a small rather minuscule room with bunk beds in Aix en Provence when we booked a suite! After going round and round we finally got our room but it took a few hours out of our schedule. Although the U.S. is finally comfortable with including a continental breakfast with your stay, Europe this used to be a given. Not so much anymore, check with your hotel to verify its included. Some will charge an expensive fee added to your room bill if you had breakfast but were not aware of that can be quite surprising.
One more tip about arriving into a city and getting to your hotel. I find its easiest to email the hotel and let them know when you are coming in and ask for directions on how to get there. Whether by plane, train or driving ask for instructions from each mode of arrival. Don’t be more stressed than you need to.
Find out about local transportation, if it’s a large city try to get familiar with the metro system before leaving. You can find maps online then mark out how to get to the sites you plan on visiting. Smaller cities allow for walking or taking a bus. If driving you can pick up a travel book through AAA that will have definitions of traffic signs. Be aware some smaller towns have thin tiny streets just large enough for a little car. Also if renting a car be sure to pick up an International Drivers license before leaving for your trip.
Europeans know how to enjoy food!
Dining in Europe is one of the highlights of visiting but food allergies can be a problem for some people. If you are one of them learn the words to let your waiter know or carry an interpretation book or device to let them know. Do some research for the areas you will be in to find restaurants that will fit your needs.
These are just a few tips to get you started. Half the fun is in the planning enjoy every minute of it.