Things to consider

I’ve only just started to build our trip to Europe, but I’ve already got a ton of things to figure out.

1. Where: Flights: where do we fly into Europe? what airports are least expensive?

2. How: Flights: how do we pay for flights? dollars? credit card points? dollars plus points?

3. Where: Hotels: where do we stay while we are there – hotels in specific cities? night trains between cities?

4. How: Hotels: how do we pay for hotels?  dollars? credit card points? dollars plus points?

5. Where: which cities do we visit while we are there? how long do we stay in each?

6. What: which events or attractions do we want to see while we are there?

7 – a bajillion…. what do we do about food? language barriers? packing? our bags while we are out day-tripping? my mom’s propensity to take 5x as many shoes and outfits as necessary? how do we protect against thieves? what sort of electronics do we bring? how do we avoid looking like stereotypical tourists (and prime targets for scammers)? what sort of cash should we bring – dollars/euros/travellers checks/credit cards/debit cards???????

Holy cow… that is a lot of unanswered questions! It looks like I’ve got a lot of research to do! And it primarily on me, because my mom is one of those “big picture” thinkers – she is very visual and artistic but not big on logistics and details. I’m the one who has to take care of the nitty gritty.

I suppose we can thank my dad for that – when we went on all of those vacations within the US when I was a kid, my dad wanted to teach us how to read maps/navigate/give directions, how to plan schedules and activities, etc. Somehow, we managed to fit in a crazy amount of activities – I didn’t realize just how jam packed our vacations were until I was in college and went to Florida with my parents. We had been to Florida before, but did the crazy “visit all Disney parks in one day”, watch the space shuttle the next day, etc. When we went back when we were older, we pretty much spent a week in the pool or ocean, with only one or two scheduled events for the week. It was the most relaxing vacation I can recall.

But since this will be my first time in Europe, I want to lean a little more towards the action-packed vacations of my childhood and see as much as possible, rather than the single-location, slow-pace, carefree vacations I’ve done recently.

Categories: Planning

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24 replies

  1. Hello! I knew I was a fan of your philosophy as soon as I saw the Mark Twain quote — that sentiment has been inspiring me for years!
    Congratulations on your decision to go to Europe. My husband and I have traveled to Europe on our own three times, and I am currently writing my memoirs about those trips. Keep reading about the places you want to travel with an open mind and your trip will reveal itself to you.

    • Thanks for the comment! I love the concept of your blog – “Realize Your Dreams” – that’s what I’m trying to do! I’m hoping that by doing so much research and reading and planning ahead of time, I’ll feel comfortable about my decisions for destinations (rather than “oh darn, I wish I could have gone to X place”). I think I’m as excited for the planning process as I am for the actual trip!

  2. We always figure out what our “must do” things are and work from there. Build a bit of flexibility in so you can add or subtract things as your research provides you with new and different things to do.
    As for not looking like tourists, that can be hard as you will likely have cameras with you! But, I can tell you that Americans are famous for wearing tennis shoes and jean shorts to everything! Neither of which are a very European thing to wear. I suggested a friend of mine that went to Italy for three months invest in capri pants, flats, cute little cardigans to layer over t-shirts and shirts, a couple skirts, scarves and a big bag to carry the camera and other essentials in during the day. Do your very best to avoid wearing sportswear. In the coming days I will be posting about organising my packing for our upcoming trip and will share some of the types of things I pack.

    • Great suggestions! I’ve read a lot about the ‘typical tourist attire’ and luckily I’m not big on tshirts and jeans anyway. Most of my daily apparel is exactly what you described – flats, light cardigans, scarves, and jersey-material skirts. I’m pretty much just left in the dark about what kind of bag to bring – I don’t want it to be too bulky if I have to carry it for a day of sightseeing, but I do want to be able to carry around some water, sunscreen, my camera, etc. I’ll be sure to check your blog for some packing tips – I’m going to the Caribbean in a couple weeks and can use inspiration for that packing list as well!

      • I always make sure even if I have a big bag that the strap is long enough to wear it across my body so I don’t get tired of carrying it on my shoulder. Plus then you have both hands free for your adventures and it tends to make your handbag a little safer.

        • I love cross-body bags for that exact reason! My day-to-day purses are all cross-body straps. But they aren’t really big enough for travel purposes. I’ll be using my trip to the Caribbean as practice for my trip to Europe next year – hopefully I can figure out what works and what doesn’t!

  3. Hi there! Your blog made me think about my own travel adventures, and made me want to ask: have you ever heard of/thought of Couchsurfing? I’ve been participating through (although I’m a little sad it’s no longer a not-for-profit) and have met some really amazing people through the process. It’s changed my perspective on how I travel.

    Basically, there are three ways to approach it. You can host people in your home (mind you, you decide who you would allow, and can screen them based off of the feedback of other surfers), you can be hosted, and you can just meet up with other surfers in the community for outings or group activities.

    i know it sounds a bit hectic, but it’s actually a very liberating way to look at traveling. The basis of this project is to allow hosts and those who are hosted to interact and basically learn from each other. When I lived in Buffalo, NY I used to take my surfers to Niagara Falls and have picnics by the rapids. You get to see things from a local’s perspective, plus there’s no cost for accommodation- though I always like to offer to cook a meal or bring some wine etc, depending on my host. When I was on unemployment I actually traveled a good deal of the US that way- I made arrangements with hosts to stay with them and they showed me around their home town. It’s anti-touristy because you’re not doing it the atypical way. It’s a much more intimate and memorable experience, and you can meet some lifelong friends that way. I have a whole network of people I’ll be in touch with for a long time, and my door is always open to them (and vice versa).

    And example of a community outing would be the sushi night I posted as a local activity a couple of weeks after I came to South Africa. I was eager to make friends and saw this one place, Sakura, had a really inexpensive buffet on Tuesdays. So I posted it, and about a dozen other couchsurfers showed up for the event. It was a great night and I found myself still in contact with most of them.

    Even if you opt to not be hosted- please consider meeting up with couchsurfers along your journey. You can register a profile and basically post that you’re looking for things to do, and see who all wants to meet up. It is an awesome experience, and you will get to see things in a much more interesting way!

    • Thanks for the comment! I have considered Couchsurfing in the past – it seems like an awesome idea, and through the website I feel like people would be pretty well vetted. But I never really pulled the trigger (why? I’m not sure)… I guess I always felt I should be willing to host people if I wanted to be hosted, and our apartment isn’t really set up for hosting (all we have is a futon in our living room with one shared bathroom).

      But I didn’t realize they also just did meetups in additon to hosting/being hosted. That might be a great way to get to know new people! I’ll have to look into it – thanks for the suggestion!

  4. Planning can be overwhelming, it’s true. But cracking open a guidebook or two can save you a lot of trouble. The trip we just took to Europe was greatly improved by knowing a few simple tricks for avoiding lines–use them! Rick Steves has been very helpful. I watch his shows and use his books. Have fun!

    • Thanks for the suggestions! I have looked at his website – I’ve found it helpful for being aware of what is a scam/what pickpockets do to distract you. I’ll have to look into it some more to see what else I can find on his site. Thanks!

  5. Once you’ve narrowed down where you want to go, Wikitravel is a big help. So are the forums on places like Frommers and Lonely Planet. I just copied the entire article into Word and then cut out the parts we weren’t going to need/added more notes on tours we were taking, etc. On our last trip to Europe, we hopped around to a lot of places, and I created a packet for each place. I also probably went a bit overboard and created a calendar of what we were going to be doing/when we were going to be doing it, and that was my “master” document for the trip. I’m still working on recaps of the trip, but I’m hoping to give more information on what we did to plan it all out.

    When you’re looking to pay for things, I’d suggest opening multiple windows or tabs and comparing what credit card points/airline miles/cash will get you. I had a bunch of airline miles that went further for us when we spent them on hotels than when we tried to spend them on flying to London. Then we spent a bunch of credit card points on the flights/other travel aspects (Capital One has a really good program and they were offering tons of bonus miles earlier this year).

    Good luck with your planning – it’s definitely one of my favorite parts of a trip!

    • Thanks for the suggestions! I like the idea of making a packet for each place – I do things like that too! When we moved across the country and back, I made up a little packet of info with maps, hotel info, etc. for each of us (we had to drive our cars separately).

      And good thinking for comparing airline and hotel points programs. I always forget that you might get a better deal that way, since I’ve never actually redeemed points for a hotel yet.

      Thanks for stopping by my blog! I’m looking forward to see the recaps you post about your trips – hopefully it will help with my planning too!

  6. Look, I hate to tell you this, but you are going to stand out. The brand of your shoes, the way you wear your hair, etc…are all clues. I have German blood, and a five year old picked me out of a crowd with me not having said a word. I embraced my inner tourist a long time ago! My camera is out, I ask stupid questions, I want to see it all! But I am polite, respectful and grateful wherever I go, and people seem to appreciate that I came all that way to see their beautiful country/church/monument/beach. Just keep your wits about you in crowds, and they will assess that you aren’t worth the trouble to pickpocket. They aren’t looking for trouble or a scene–it’s bad for business, so if you don’t look like a target they will wait for one who does. I found on this trip that my best friend were cargo pants. I put my passport and my credit card in the button down pocket by my knee. If anyone went for that one, I would know! Noone did.

    • Refreshing advise! You’re right – pickpockets aren’t looking to make a scene, so I wasn’t looking to blend in entirely – I just don’t want to look like the most oblivious/naive tourist out there. I figure that looking like I’m aware of my surroundings is the biggest part of it – but my mom is easily distracted by art or architecture, so I have to think about keeping her things safe too!

      • I am an artist, so I am too! 🙂 I clip the important things to myself so I don’t leave them anywhere!!! ha ha Your mom is lucky to have you watching her back!
        What are your goals when you go? What’s on your list?

        • I’m really excited to go with my mom – she can explain all the art stuff to me, and I can handle logistics/details. Plus, she has been to Europe before, so she’ll at least be a little familiar with it.

          We’re still trying to determine exactly where we want to go in the two weeks we have, but we do have a few places that are on our must-see list: Paris, Venice, and Poland. We will probably fly in and out of Dublin (I can get the cheapest flights through there), which might lead to a stop in London before going through the Chunnel (another engineering marvel I would love to see).

          Other than that, things are still up in the air. We have a long list of ‘maybes’ (Rome, Switzerland, Vienna, Berlin, etc) but it’ll be a while before we make those decisions.

    • I was mistaken as Irish when we were in London-I definitely look it but wearing a trench coat and tall boots probably helped me fit in. I think the key is to look pulled together and not too disheveled/frazzled.

      • That’s my plan 🙂 I think the temperature in St Kitts in 2 weeks will be similar to the temperature in some parts of Europe in the summer, so I’m using my upcoming trip as a practice run. Even though I’ll spend much of my time at the beach, I do want to look pulled together – no reason to be a slob! We’ll see how well my new ‘travel lightly’ policy will work…


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