Planning A Trip To Europe

Planning A Trip To Europe can be exciting but also a little nerve racking at times. The more prepared you are before leaving on your dream trip, the better your experience will be once you have arrived. My husband and I are leaving on another trip to Europe and I thought I would share how I go about preparing for the journey.

Winding Back Road

A Lovely Winding Back Road In Italy

Whether you are dreaming about joining the thousands of people in Germany for Oktoberfest or experiencing a wine harvest in a small village in Tuscany, the first thing you need to do is plan your itinerary depending on how much time you have for your vacation. Several travel books, a small scale map, and viamichelin.com are helpful in the early stages of deciding where and when to go. You might want to fly into one city and fly out of another so that you do not have to backtrack to where you started your trip.

Preparing For A Road Trip

Preparing For A Road Trip

Once the decision has been made as to where we would like to go, I switch to large scale maps that show more detail as we will be traveling by rental car throughout our trip. My husband and I enjoy exploring small towns and villages off the main roads that lots of tourists never get a chance to experience. I use transparent colored removable stickers on the maps to mark scenic routes and towns that we want to visit.

Mark Scenic Routes And Points Of Interest On Detailed Maps

Mark Scenic Routes And Points Of Interest On Detailed Maps

I scan and print copies of pages from the map book that pertain to our trip. I place them in plastic sleeves in a binder to create a small map book that is simple to use. Each day that we are on the road, I have one page that shows exactly where we are traveling instead of trying to unfold and refold large paper maps or using a big book that covers countries that we won’t even be visiting.

Making A Map Book Of Travel Areas

Making A Map Book Of Travel Areas We Will Visit

Once the planning has been completed, it is time to start making reservations for plane tickets,  the car rental and hotel reservations. If you take time to do some research and can be flexible, you may be able to save quite a bit of money on your airfare. We usually fly American or British Air but this year Air France had the best airfare for the cities we would be flying into and out of with one stop in each direction.

Our Rented Volvo For The Trip...Lots Of Room For Us And The Luggage

Our Upgraded Rental Car…Lots Of Room For Us And The Luggage

Before renting a car, check rates of several car rental companies, auto consolidators and internet travel sites.  Familiarize yourself with the passenger and luggage space of each category because what you consider a large car may be considered an intermediate car in the country where you are renting. If you belong to car rental clubs, you will probably get a better rate online and have the possibility of getting an upgrade when you pick up your rental car. If you pay in advance by credit card, you will get a better rate and the price is locked in so that you don’t have to worry about rising exchange rates. Check with your credit card company to see if they cover the CDW insurance for your rental so that you don’t have to pay the high price the rental companies charge. Also check if there are restrictions on where you are allowed to drive the car. Some countries may be excluded if you are driving certain makes and models of automobiles.

Mediterranean View From The Hotel Room And Balcony

Mediterranean View From The Hotel Room And Balcony

You can check rates for hotels all over the internet, along with reviews by customers who have stayed there. Once I know the best rate I can get online, I like to write the hotels directly. Many times you will get a better price from the hotel as they do not have to pay commissions to an online booking agent. If you are a member of a hotel loyalty program and book through them, you may be upgraded to a larger room or one with a view.

Choose A Hotel By Its Location, Charm And Amenities

Choose A Hotel By Its Location, Charm And Amenities

The way we travel has evolved over the years. When we were young, we would rent a car, drive all day enthralled with the scenery and then try to find a hotel that had a room available for one night which wasn’t always easy. Now we make hotel reservations in advance and plan on staying for three or four nights at each location. The choice for each hotel is determined by its location, reputation, charm, amenities and if it has a good restaurant. During the day, we make excursions in the surrounding countryside and then return to our hotel in the evening to relax, have a cocktail and enjoy a good meal.

Vineyards Along A Back Road In Alsace

Vineyards Along A Back Road In Alsace

Planning a trip to Europe is something I always look forward to doing every year. We have had wonderful experiences whether we have left with just two weeks notice or have planned months in advance before leaving for another adventure. If you are thinking about making a trip to Europe,  I hope that some of my tips will help make your journey a relaxed and enjoyable experience.

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About Karen

I travel the back roads of New England and beyond, sharing great food and interesting places.
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204 Responses to Planning A Trip To Europe

  1. Sue says:

    Hi Karen!
    We used to just “wing it” as well with travel, but find that at times , we had difficulty finding a room and would sometimes have to settle for less than adequate rooms. Nothing worse than being exhausted from a days travels and not being able to find a room!
    I think planning the trip is half the fun. I LOVE your idea for putting the days’ maps in different pockets—how clever. There’s nothing worse than trying to flip through large maps finding where you are! Wonderful solution!!
    Now, don’t forget to “pack Sue” on that list—-LOL!!!
    Have a GREAT trip, and don’t forget—lots of pictures!!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sue, I agree with you that “winging it” can be daunting at times. Making a map book has worked out well, I’ll never go on a trip without one. There is a spot reserved for you in the backseat…dust off your passport. Thank you for your wish and I’ll be sure to take lots of photos. :)

  2. viveka says:

    Please, don’t forget Sweden …. *smile

    • Karen says:

      Hi Viveka, We do need to get to the northern countries on one of our trips. You know Sweden would be at the top of the list. :)

      • viveka says:

        Karen, I was only joking … I know you will come one day. *smile – You’re like me … the planing of a holiday is 50% of the enjoyment of going on a trip.
        I’m all excited for you two and I know there will some fantastic report and posts coming for me to enjoy!

      • Karen says:

        You are so right…the planning is fun. Now if we can only get better weather than last year as I want to share lots of photos. Thank you for your sweet thoughts, I know we are going to have a wonderful time. :)

  3. It looks like a little trouble but the rewards are so great! I enjoyed learning how to do it – my former in-laws went every single summer for 30 years and just 2 years ago decided they couldn’t get around so they began a trek of all 50 states……..they’ve always loved to travel!

  4. lvaletutto says:

    I hope you enjoy your upcoming trip to Europe. What parts of Germany will you be traveling to this year? If you ever make it to the Cologne area let me know. :)

    • Karen says:

      Thank you Laura, for your nice wish. I was hoping that we might have gotten to Cologne on this trip but couldn’t get it to workout. We will be in the regions of the Hohenlohe, Neckar River, Black Forest and Bavaria before heading into Austria. Hopefully we will have nice weather this year…there is going to be some outstanding sights to share with everyone.

  5. Gary Lum says:

    Great advice and tips Karen 😃

  6. I am in awe of your organization…very, very cool. :)
    OH! and if you can’t drive a standard transmission, you should make that clear when reserving a rental car! Automatics aren’t as plentiful – at least that’s been our experience in France.
    Can’t wait to see where you’re headed this time! Hubby arrived in France this morning – once again, alone…But at least he’ll bring me chocolate!

    • Karen says:

      Thank you for your compliment, Marie. Being organized ahead of time makes everything work smoothly once we are on our holiday. We always make sure to get an automatic transmission…I think it makes driving easier, especially in the mountains. We are headed to a few new places and some old favorites in Germany and Austria with some day trips into the Alsace region of France. I’m glad your going to receive French chocolates from your sweet husband…I know you wish you could be with him.

  7. Lots of great ideas here Karen. The idea of just finding the perfect hotel at the end of the day is so romantic but in my experience it rarely works out that way and it’s much better to be organised. Have a brilliant trip and I look forward to reading about it!

    • Karen says:

      I’m glad that you enjoyed the tips, Kay. When we traveled without hotel reservations, we sometimes found fabulous hotels at the end of a drive only to be told they were completely booked. Thank you for your wish, I’m happy you are looking forward to future travel posts.

  8. I can’t wait to visit Europe one day :D
    Your posts make me so excited about it!

    Cheers
    CCU

    • Karen says:

      Hi Uru, Hopefully you will get a chance to visit Europe in the not too distant future. I hope you will enjoy the posts to come. Thank you for your nice comment. :)

  9. Good ideas and I hope you have a wonderful trip. We’re hoping to go on a trip in 2014 that would include Amsterdam and Luxembourg. A visit to my uncle’s grave in the American WWII Cemetery in Luxembourg has been on my bucket list. :-)

    • Karen says:

      Hi Judy, I’m happy that you enjoyed the post on trip planning. I have been to the cemetery in Luxembourg…it is a very moving place visit. Thank you for your wish, I know we are going to have a great time.

  10. Carolyn Chan says:

    We are planning our trip to France and I find planning sometimes the most stressful part of a holiday. Once that’s done, though, the rest is just enjoying all your hard work ! Some very good hints here, Karen – thank you !

    • Karen says:

      Hi Carolyn, I’m happy that you enjoyed the post and hints. The only thing I find stressful with planning is waiting to get confirmations on hotel reservations. As you say, once the planning is done…you can relax and enjoy your trip. I know we will have a great trip and I’m sure you will too.

  11. Fabulous tips Karen. I love the idea of the maps and seeing your trip set out before your eyes. If things haven’t changed, Air France serves great wine. Germany should be gorgeous in the fall.

    We normally stay in one place and plan day excursions from there. If you are going to stay in Europe for a month or more, here’s a tip we learned about car rentals. We stayed for two months in Provence and it made a lot of sense $ wise to lease/purchase the car rather than rent. We got a brand new Peugeot diesel manual transmission with unbelievably good gas mileage. At the end of the lease/purchase, we turned the car back in at the airport and it then belonged to the company. It’s a great deal for Europeans too who want a new car. The VAT tax is very expensive on a new car, but if they buy a “barely used” car, there is no VAT tax. .

    Have a great time in Germany. I’m saving your tips for our next trip.
    Sam

    • Karen says:

      Thank you for your nice compliment, Sam. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and tips. I had written about leasing a car and eliminated it from my post when I thought it was getting too long so I’m glad you mentioned it. We have leased a car in France and Italy from Renault and were very pleased. Hertz gave me such a great deal this year…no one could come close to their price.

  12. lulu says:

    I am sure you will have everything worked out down to the very last detail. I am somewhere in between as I like to leave room for the unexpected, however, that does not include leaving a place to stay to chance. Wherever your travels take you, enjoy to the fullest.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lulu, The unexpected is always just around the corner when traveling. I just don’t like to have bad surprises lurking about. Thank you for your wish, I know we are going to have a memorable trip.

  13. Mad Dog says:

    I’m lookking forward to seeing the pictures of your trip – bonne voyage :-)

    • Karen says:

      Thank you Mad Dog, for your wish. I’m happy to know that you are looking forward to future posts. We are going to some beautiful spots so hopefully the sun will shine and I can share some nice photos with everyone.

  14. Norma Chang says:

    You sure are a planner. Have a great trip. Looking forward to travelling along with you. Will you be posting from location as you did on your last trip?

    • Karen says:

      Thank you Norma, for your compliment and wish. I’m happy that you are going to be following along on our adventure. Yes, I will be posting during our travels. I may not have time to comment as often as I do on other peoples blogs and it may take me awhile to answer everyones comments but part of the fun of our trip is to share our travels with my readers.

  15. Hi Karen, I enjoyed reading your ideas for trip planning as I, too, am a planner! We always rent a car in Europe so we can explore off the beaten path, and have found that the smallest and least expensive is not the way to go as the travel time is such an important part of the enjoyment of the trip–it is much better to be comfortable. However, we did have a Mercedes once that we were not allowed to take into Italy! Another thing I always do before traveling is to read books on the culture or history of a locale so that we can appreciate more fully the importance of a site or area. I enjoyed the photos from your last trip and am looking forward to seeing the new ones. Have a wonderful time–autumn in Europe is our favorite time there. Linda

    • Karen says:

      Hi Linda, I’m glad that you enjoyed the post since you are a planner as well. It sounds like we both are very much alike when it comes to traveling…comfort is very important. We have had the same experience with not being able to take a Mercedes across the border into Italy. You have to let the rental company know where you are traveling so they can give you the appropriate car for certain countries. I’m happy that you are looking forward to future posts…thank you for your nice compliment and wish.

  16. Karen, so many helpful ideas for planning the most perfect trip – I am also in awe of how organized you are! Respect! I certainly hope that you will have an absolutely wonderful time in Europe and that you will post many pictures and wonderful descriptions and explanations of all the places of interest that you are going to visit and all the fabulous food that you will enjoy while there!
    Take care and have a wonderful and enjoyable vacation!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Andrea, I’m glad that you thought the post was helpful. I know that we are going to have a great time. It is too bad that we are going to be in Germany but not close enough to many of my German blogging friends to get a chance to meet. It just means that we will have to make another trip. :) Thank you for your nice compliment and wish.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Rosemary, Thank you for your nice compliment. Smart maybe but older and wiser for sure. :) I’ll be thinking of you when we land at the Stuttgart airport.

  17. Sissi says:

    Karen, I am impressed by your meticulous planning! The only thing I plan carefully are restaurants and hotels. I totally agree about hotels: even though sometimes prices might seem lower on big websites which sell many hotel rooms, if you make a reservation directly on the hotel’s website not only you can be surprised with a lower price but also with a nicer room or special breakfast inclusive offer. I’m looking forward to following your European adventures once more.

    • Karen says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Sissi. I’m with you about reservations at restaurants…you know me and good food. I have made plans to dine at a few Michelin starred restaurants on this trip and sometimes reservations need to be made weeks in advance. I’m glad you agree about booking directly with hotels, I’ve always gotten a better deal as well as nice little benefits and a warm welcome. I’m happy that you will be following along on our adventure…it should be fun.

  18. I wish I could be as organised as you Karen. When my husband and I travel, we book our plane tickets and that’s about it. We have so many crazy adventures along the way, Now that we’re both older though and have a child to consider there is no way we could continue to do that, so this post would definitely come in handy for me xx

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lisa, I’m glad that you found this post to be helpful for your future travel plans…thank you. I do try to be organized when I travel as it makes the trip more enjoyable. My husband wishes I could be as organized with other things in my life as I am with making travel plans. :)

  19. monique says:

    A lot of great tips here:-)
    Bon Voyage!
    One thing that worked well for us..as we were gone 1 month..was Achat-Rachat with the car.

    • Karen says:

      Thank you Monique, I’m glad that you enjoyed the post. We have leased a car several times from Renault for delivery both in France and Italy but the last two years, Hertz has had the best price as I am a member of their car club. You really need to check around for prices on similar cars as it can vary from year to year and country to country. Thank you for your wish!

  20. Great ideas! I like your method of using stickers to highlight places you want to visit. You sound very organized! Which countries in Europe are you visiting this year? I hope you have a wonderful time and I look forward to seeing blog posts about your trip.

    • Karen says:

      Thank you for your nice compliment, Grace. I’m happy to know that you enjoyed the post. The see-through colored stickers are very helpful when I’m looking at the maps in the car each day to pinpoint exactly where we are headed. We will be in Germany, with a day trip or two to the Alsace region of France and Austria. We are returning to some of our favorite places along with some new areas. It should be a lot of fun and I’m happy that you will be following our adventure.

  21. spree says:

    We’ve done much the same as you in planning our vacations abroad (and like you, love exploring the off the road, remoter places.) I really like the idea of creating your own specific little map books, and your use of the see-through sticky labels. Very clever! Will borrow! Thanks Karen.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Spree, It is nice to know that you have similar travel habits. There is so much to discover on the back roads and not a lot of crowds and tour buses to deal with. I’m happy that you like my map books. I use them every year even though we always rent a car with GPS.

      • spree says:

        This year we bought the little SD card on European roads to go into our own GPS (saved SO much money over renting cars that are GPS-equipped) and carried it with us. Used it eevery step of the way and it worked Great! The point though in creating your own little map book to carry along is more for planning your route and what places you want to see along the way than helping with the actual navigating. I love your idea.

      • Karen says:

        If you have a portable GPS, it will definitely save you money. You are exactly right about the map book, I have the locations of castles, wine routes, etc. marked on the map that I don’t want to miss. Plus, I have to fool the GPS sometimes by putting in locations along the way so that it will take me along the scenic route. :)

      • spree says:

        It doesn’t take us too long to figure out how to outsmart those GPS’s! : D

      • Karen says:

        They sometimes can be little know it alls but we humans do have our little tricks. :)

  22. i’ve never had any guts to plan my own journey instead of the tour travel journey before,
    what a shame, i salute for you my friend……
    this is tempting to try!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Dedy, Having access to the internet has made travel planning so easy. Perhaps after you have read about our travels, you will give it a try sometime. Thank you for your nice compliment.

  23. First of all, I love that you use real maps to plan Karen! And the too small car nightmare …had one of those when we couldn’t fit my ex’ golf clubs (don’t ask) in the trunk!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Paula, You should see my collection of maps. They are the best way to plan a trip and know that your routes are achievable. The first car that we ever rented was tiny and getting suitcases in and out was a problem. I can imagine the ordeal of golf clubs. :)

  24. Karen, if you hear a scuffle in the back seat it is me trying to push Sue out! I want to join you on this marvelous trip. So very looking forward to hearing all the wonderful experiences you will encounter.

    • Karen says:

      Oh Tin Man, You have me laughing out loud with your funny comment. I always plan on a large crowd of followers in our back seat. Sue is a lot of fun…so don’t worry. I look forward to having you both on the trip. :)

  25. Tessa says:

    How exciting! I’ve never been to Europe before and it’s definitely on my “to do” list. I look forward to seeing the photos of your visit. Have a safe trip!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Tessa, I’m happy that you will be joining us on our adventure. I’m hoping for sunny weather so that everyone can enjoy the beautiful places we are headed to. Perhaps it will give you some ideas of places to visit in Europe someday. Thank you for your nice wish, the trip will be fun.

  26. soffiagudrun says:

    Oh wow, that´s awesome! have a great trip,

  27. ohlidia says:

    Wow Karen! I know who I’ll have planning my next vacation… :-) Have a great time!!

  28. Karen Harris says:

    Thanks for the valuable tips. Have a great trip!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Karen, I’m happy to know that you enjoyed the tips…I’m always happy to share what I have learned from past trips. Thank you for your compliment and wish.

  29. Sarah says:

    Have a great trip Karen – you’re certainly very organised… but like you say, that’s all part of the fun of a holiday. My research before going away usually revolves around food – I’ve just booked a hotel in Paris for the end of the month on the basis that it is near to two bakeries that I’d like to visit!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sarah, Food is always a big consideration during the planning stage of our trip and you will see a lot of it in my future posts. I love that you booked a hotel because it is near to your favorite bakeries. A true foodie…it sounds like we are a lot alike. :)

  30. Karen! Thank you for this…so timely. We are planning a trip to Germany (for sure) next summer but I am trying to figure out where else to go while we are there. I would love to go for three weeks but I think hubs is only wanting to do two. I am thinking Austria/Switzerland/Italy in addition to Germany (one or all if possible). I have already searched your archives on your trip to Germany looking for pointers. Right now I feel overwhelmed as we have not been to any of these places before. So thank you for this post!

    Have a great vacation!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Heather, I’m happy that this trip is timely. Germany is one of our all-time favorite countries to visit. My husband started out thinking that a ten day trip was good but this trip is almost a month. After all, you have to consider that you loose two days traveling, the big expense is paying for the airfare so you might as well make the most of it…see where I’m going. :) Southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland and just the northern part of Italy would make a great trip…we have done it several times. Maps will really help you see the distances that are involved. Thank you for your wish…join us in the backseat, there is plenty of room.

  31. TasteFood says:

    Love it. Traveling with you in spirit!

  32. wok with ray says:

    Thank you for the tips and ideas you shared. Have a safe and fun trip Karen.

  33. We haven’t done extensive land travel in Europe for ages. Over the past decade we’ve done a lot of cruises which have the virtue of never having to unpack, and being able to sample — very lightly sample — a lot of different places. But there’s no substitute for spending quality time on the ground. (Although a cruise is the best way to visit St. Petersburg IMO — the ship just docks for 3 or 4 nights, plenty of time to get out and see all the sites.) Great trips. Looking forward to hearing all about your trip when the time comes!

    • Karen says:

      Hi John, I’m glad to know that you enjoyed the post and are looking forward to following along on our adventure. My husband isn’t crazy about cruises but I do have to agree with you about a cruise that would include St. Petersburg. I’ve always wanted to go there…I’ve read to many books about that famous city. Thank you for your comment.

  34. I love your tips and you know I am looking forward to your pictures. They give me my “Calgon Take Me Away Moments of my Life.” Hope your journey is fantastic!

    • Karen says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Southern. I’m happy that you enjoy my travel posts and appreciate your nice wish. Hopefully we will have nice weather so that I can get lots of photos of the beautiful areas we will be visiting.

  35. You make me want to run away to Europe to enjoy all it’s beauty! We were in Germany and London last year and wish we could have spent more time there, enjoy your trip!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Pamela, I know exactly what you mean…it happens every time I read someones post and photos of Europe. I know you must have had a wonderful time on your trip last year. We are looking forward to our trip, thank you for your nice wish.

  36. Great post Karen. Now all I need is a travel partner!

  37. A_Boleyn says:

    I wish I was planning a trip anywhere cause it’s great to get advice from a seasoned traveller like you. :) Looking forward to the posts of your trip when you come home.

    • Karen says:

      Thank you for your kind words Boleyn. We have arrived in Germany and I will be commenting and posting while we travel as time allows. I’m happy you will be following along.

  38. lizzygoodthings says:

    Hi Karen, I just love the photographs you have shared here. They make me yearn for a getaway overseas. You’ve shared some sage planning advice here, thank you…. where are you headed? If it’s the Black Forest area, I will be curious to hear if the forest has rejuvenated since I visited in 1994… pollution was killing many of the beautiful trees. Peter and I are talking about a trip to the UK, Sweden and Hungary in the future…. just waiting that last few weeks/months before we can retire. Keep us posted xo

    • Karen says:

      Thank you Lizzy, for your nice compliment. I’m happy that you enjoyed the post and photos. We have arrived in Germany and will be in the Black Forest for a couple of days in the near future. We have been in this area over the last few years and the forests have been rejuvenated.

  39. Raymund says:

    Wow you are going there, I was there last July and August and it was amazing food and everything. For car I suggest try Peugeot Eurolease their prices are really low and they give you a brand new car so thetes a high possibility it will not breakdown, its a marketing strategy by Peugeot and French govt from what I heard.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Raymund, Car leasing is an excellent option…we have done it several times through Renault USA when we traveled in France. For the past couple of years that we have traveled in Germany, Hertz has had a better price and they have always upgraded us as I am a Hertz gold club member. They have given us a new BMW Touring…very pleased.

  40. Eva Taylor says:

    You are indeed a well seasoned traveler, Karen and your knowledge and tips are very much appreciated. It’s a great idea to carry a paper map book as you do, we have been caught once with the GPS running out of batteries and the cord not working in that particular automobile! It was stressful. Then another time, the little town we were in was too close and the GPS was not able to triangulate! We had to get a cab and follow him to our hotel! We too, have found the best rates in speaking or writing directly to the hotel, plus you become a real person to them as opposed to a name on a reservation sheet. It is so much easier travelling these days with the internet, I remember booking a small family run hotel after reading about it in a travel book, we were there for 5 days, it turned out that they didn’t accept credit cards (they did when the book was published, but not a year or so later!) so we had to scramble to find cash, before the days of the debit machines working for us overseas. Fortunately the American Express office offered a solution with our card, so we narrowly missed a potential problem!
    I would also suggest that some car rental companies offer a discounted rate if they need to get a particular car back to another city; sometimes dropping a car off in another city can be very expensive!
    I must say that I am very envious of your travel plans; due to my current employment position, we have to put off any major travels until I can secure full time employment. But I am looking very much forward to seeing your beautiful photos and reading your prose.

    • Karen says:

      Thank you Eva, for your nice compliment. I’m happy that you enjoyed the post. I would never travel without GPS anymore as it is very convenient but you definitely still need maps. If you are traveling into one country and out another, I agree that it is always good to see if you can get a better rate for taking a car back for the rental company…as you usually can save on a drop off charge.

  41. Amy says:

    What a good planner you are! Want to take me along on your vacation? ;) Have so much fun!

  42. How wonderful for you. What type of camera do you take? Do you buy a phone in Europe or? What about insurance?

    • Karen says:

      Thank you Madonna for your comment. I use a different camera when I travel…a Canon S100. It is small and fits easily in my hand bag. We take our iPhone when we travel and purchase an international rate from ATT for a month. We have never bought extra insurance while we travel but some people feel more comfortable doing so. My American Express card would covers most problems, if they were to happen.

  43. Jane says:

    This is terrific advice, Karen…I truly wouldn’t know where to start. We are hoping to take some overseas trips in the future. I have such a difficult time planning and packing for trips right here in the states, I need all the help I can get! :)

    Wherever your next adventure is, have a wonderful time!

    XO,
    Jane

    • Karen says:

      Thank you for your nice compliment Jane, I’m happy that you enjoyed the tips for planning a trip. We are in Germany now for the first part of our holiday, I hope you will follow along.

  44. Great travel tips, Karen. When I traveled before the advent of the GPS, my secretary always prepared binders for me with plastic sleeves containing maps, itinerary and useful information. I’m sure you will enjoy your trip and I look forward to seeing your posts and photos. :)

  45. I really do admire such responsible planning, Karen. Quality research would maximize your enjoyment throughout your travel time, leaving all the energy to the experience, not problem-solving. You have taken some really wonderful trips! I will look forward to hearing more about your new plans as they evolve! :-)

    • Karen says:

      Thank you for your nice compliment, Debra. Planning ahead does make for good times while traveling. We have arrived in Germany for the first portion of our holiday and will be posting and trying to answer comments when time allows.

  46. I have been dreaming of visiting Germany lately (probably because I imagine how fun Oktoberfest would be).

  47. Eha says:

    I had been meaning to ask you for the whole of last month when you would be off this year: well, now we know and happy travelling! Odd how people may organize in the same way as for decades I worked on exactly the same principle as you and always left with a meticulously planned folder ready for each day. In my time tho’ we had a wonderful travel agent who ‘fretted’ if some hotel did not promptly reply!! Had a rather ‘fussy’ husband then, who even asked for certain floors, decor and views from each hotel :) !! I also oft made dinner reservations way ahead, if some ‘hatted’ place had a limited number of tables . . . Fun, fun, fun!! For me Asia has always been the prime destination: am totally enarmoured by the huge learning curve as far as lifestyles and food experiences go . . . Anyways, do enjoy!!!!!!!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Eha, Yes we are off on our travel adventure again. We like traveling in the fall as there are not as many tourists, there are usually harvest festivals going on and the weather is usually cooler. It sounds like we have had similar travel experiences. We have now arrived in Germany for the first portion of our holiday. Thank you for your wish.

  48. Velva says:

    Enjoy your journey to Europe! Great post. Very informative. One of the ways we seek out accommodations in Europe is through home away.com -Europeans enjoy staying in guest houses which can be very economical and provide a personal experience.

  49. megtraveling says:

    I think planning is one of the most enjoyable parts of travel! It really does help make the whole experience more relaxing and fun…

  50. Great advice to help in the future…looking forward to seeing your next trip.

  51. Hotly Spiced says:

    I agree with you that it’s certainly a good thing to be organised in advance especially when you plan to visit a number of different countries all speaking different languages. You are very fortunate to be able to visit Europe so frequently xx

  52. Krista says:

    Such excellent tips, Karen. :-) I thought I was a very organized and prepared traveler, but compared to you I’m a gypsy! :-) Love the idea of a personalized map book. :-)

    • Karen says:

      Thank you Krista, for your nice compliment. I’m happy to know that your are a prepared traveler as well and that you enjoyed the tips. I think you will find a map book very handy for your next trip.

  53. ChgoJohn says:

    You certainly do know how to plan your holidays, Karen, and it certainly does make getting around much easier and less stressful. Your upcoming trip sounds wonderful and hope you both enjoy yourselves.

    • Karen says:

      Hi John, I’m happy you enjoyed the post. We are now in Germany on the first leg of our holiday. Thank you for your wish…I know we are going to have a great time.

  54. ladyfi says:

    Oh, what fun! I love travelling although I’m not a very good planner…

  55. mjskit says:

    You plan a trip just like my husband! He starts months in advance and the table top looks just like yours. Of course, I don’t complain because I always enjoy the outcome. :) How exciting for you and your up and coming trip!

    • Karen says:

      Hi MJ, It sounds like your husband is just like me. We have arrived in Germany for the first portion of our trip…I know we will have a great time.

  56. Stacy says:

    Love your maps with little stickies, Karen. I tend to plan like you do but without a physical map. I print the Google map directions for each day, along with information about restaurants or sights to see plus hotel confirmations, and keep it all in a plastic sleeve, unstapled. That way the first pages can be shifted to the back and the next day’s itinerary is at the ready. Also, we’ve started booking small apartments through airbnb.com rather than hotels, if possible. I love to have a kitchen, especially if we are spending a few nights in one location. Your tips and lovely photos have made me want to get on the road again!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Stacy, We are “on the road again”, having arrived in Germany for the start of our trip. It sounds like we do similar planning. The maps with stickers give you a good overview of each day’s travels. The map pages are also handy if you want to make detours for an interesting sight that you might learn about while traveling. We rented a villa in Tuscany one year and cooked but my idea of a holiday is letting someone do the cooking for me for a change. :)

      • Stacy says:

        Don’t get me wrong, we do still eat out but it makes me sad to go into the lovely markets and not be able to buy and bring everything home. We had a week in Italy a couple of years back and stayed in hotels, until the last couple of nights in Rome. I was thrilled to be able to cook! Such lovely produce!

        I am sure you are having a fabulous time. I look forward to traveling vicariously with you!

      • Karen says:

        I know what you mean, the markets are so great…they make you want to cook. I’m happy that you are going to be following along…our first stop was terrific.

  57. David says:

    Karen – these are brilliant tips! As we are in Venice now, I wish I had had these nuggets of wisdome prior to departure! Next time, for sure! On this trip, we rented a car to drive through the Veneto looking at Palladian villas, but it involved a lot of complicated driving where a map really wasn’t helpful. Mark, using Google Directions, Google Satellite and Google Street View, “took the entire trip” virtually so he was able to see exactly where we would go, then annotate the directions with specific landmarks, e.g., turn left at HUGE red brick church, or turn right at Audi dealership. This turned out even more important as Google Directions tells you to turn right on specific streets, yet (in Italy) most streets ar not marked!

    One other tip – if you have have favorite cold medications, bring them along as a kind of insurance. I have come down with a nasty cold and of course cannot find anything I usually use to stave off the nasties! :)

    Thanks again for your great tips – and have a wonderful tie in Germany and Austria. That is one of my favorite parts of the world, too! I spent quite a bit of time in Heidelberg – if the Hotel Hackteufel is still running, the food (many years ago…) was excellent. Bäckerei Müller – across from the hotel, has a wonderful confection called Ananastortchen…. Have one for me!

    • Karen says:

      Thank you for your lovely compliment David. I’m happy to know that you enjoyed the tips and that you took the time to comment while you are on holiday in Venice, I hope you are having a great time. You are very wise to use Google street views for Italy because of there being a lack of street signs. We are only about an hour from Heidelberg now but are not going there this trip but I’ll keep your suggestions for another time. Sorry you got sick, hope you are better soon. I always make up a little first aid kit with everything from Band-Aids to cold medicine. I think every trip, it has been opened for one thing or another.

  58. Sophie33 says:

    I see what you mean but sometimes, I chose a hotel not by its charm but for real comfort or a more modern design hotel. Germany is a great country, so is Belgium. Xx

  59. Have a beautiful and exciting trip to my neighborhood Karen! I hope that the weather will help you enjoy and see many places!

    • Karen says:

      Thank you Katerina, for your lovely wish. We have arrived in Germany, but unfortunately the weather is cloudy and a little rainy like last year. We will make sure to have a good time, no matter what, although I’ll be happier if we get some sunny weather.

  60. Larry says:

    Well done and very helpful Karen

  61. Matthew W says:

    My in-laws just got back form Italy.
    The f-i-l fell off his bike and broke his hip.
    Buy trip insurance and try not to get stuck in an Italian hospital !!
    But have fun !!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Matthew, sorry to hear of your FIL’s accident. Unfortunately, I have been to an Italian hospital in Sienna. A few years back, I broke my foot on the first day of our trip to Tuscany and had to go there to get it set and ended up with a cast up to me knee. Being on crutches for several weeks in Italy was not easy. Thank you for your wish…it is going to be a nice trip. :)

  62. Gourmantine says:

    Wow, Karen, I am so impressed with the meticulous organization. We usually just book something for the first few nights and then plan as we go (and making reservations literally the last minute, you can get very nice deals everywhere), I love the free and unscheduled holidays. Good luck with planning and looking forward reading about your adventures :)

    • Karen says:

      Hi Gourmantine, My husband and I used to travel the way you do but not anymore. We were disappointed too many times when we were unable to stay in the towns we wish or a particular hotel. I’m happy that you are going to be following along…thank you.

  63. jimsgarage says:

    Hey, I think your tips would enhance a road trip to any country, even the US. Wonderful stuff.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jim, Really nice to hear from one of my earliest followers. I’m happy you enjoyed the post and tips. Your are right…they will work on any road trip. You would love driving the roads we will be on during this holiday…lots of windy, twisted roads through the hills and mountains. My husband is very happy with the BMW Touring rental car they gave us in Stuttgart for this trip. Nothing like a German car on these roads. :)

  64. Oh Karen – I just love when “we” go on a trip! You really have the planning down to a science & some very good tips. Can’t wait to see where you’ll be taking us this time.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Diane, I’m so happy that you are excited to be traveling with us again this year. I’m really going to take everyone to some nice places…I think you will like them. Just wish we had a little sunshine so the photos would be nicer but what can you do. :)

  65. Hannah says:

    Safe travels and have fun! It looks like you are well prepared and will enjoy yourselves immensely. Thank you for sharing!

    • Karen says:

      Thank you Hannah, for your nice wish. We have started our trip and I’ll be sharing the first of several posts while we are on the road soon. Thank you for following along.

  66. Hi Karen, I often think that planning a trip is as exciting as the holiday itself. I hope you have a great time in Europe and I am looking forward to reading about your adventures. Bon Voyage. ;)

    • Karen says:

      Hi B, I have to agree with you about the planning…it gets you excited about all the wonderful sights you will be seeing. I’m happy to know that you will be following along.

  67. We’re in the beginning stages of planning a trip to Europe with friends for next year. We’re still deciding on dates and locations. I love the planning process!

  68. Bookmarked for when I go!

  69. How wonderful to start planning the details of your trip! You are so organized which is great! See all you can, don’t waste a moment, and take lots of pictures!!

  70. Great tips, it helps to be highly organized! I hope you have a wonderful trip – I went to Italy around this time last year and how I wish I was in the process of planning and packing again!

    • Karen says:

      Thank you Laura, for your nice compliment. I’m happy to know that you enjoyed the post and tips. Thank you for your nice wish, I know this is going to be a lovely trip.

  71. You are making me ache for home. I adore Europe and the longing to return is unbearable at times. But with 4 kids, it’s not something we can just up and do right now. I am trying to find a way to move back to London….
    Thanks for this Karen.

    Nazneen

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nazneen, I’m happy to know that you are going to be following along on our journey. I know how hard it is to travel with children. Hopefully, you will get your chance to return to London in the future.

  72. Juliana says:

    Yes Karen, can be stressful planning for a trip, but at the same time exciting…I hope you enjoy every moment.
    Have a lovely week my dear :D

  73. Lots of great tips. Thanks.

  74. Thank you for these tips! I hope to go to Europe next fall!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Elizabeth, I’m happy to know that my tips will be helpful for planning your trip to Europe next fall. It is our favorite time of the year to visit.

  75. Awesome tips Karen!! I cannot wait for your amazing pictures on your return, I will be living vicariously through you!! ♥

    • Karen says:

      Thank you Didi, for your nice compliment. I’m glad to know that you enjoyed the post and tips. You won’t have to wait for our return to see photos. I’ll be doing posts while we are traveling…one should be up in the next couple of days. :)

  76. I love the idea of using removable, transparent tape to mark the towns and roads…I look forward to trip to Europe! The planning part is a lot of work, but so exciting! Safe travels!!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jennifer, I have found the colored transparent stickers on my maps is very helpful. I use different colors for different things like the towns we will be staying in, towns that have special interests such as castles and for themed routes like wine roads. I’m glad that you like the idea. Happy to know that you will be following along.

  77. afracooking says:

    Wishing you a most wonderful trip (but with this much planning I am sure you cant go wrong) :-)

    • Karen says:

      Thank you Afra, for your lovely wish. Advance planning does make for a more pleasant trip. If everything goes like our first hotel stay, this will be an wonderful trip. :)

  78. Oh I love those stickers – I use them all the time to mark pages in books, well in fact I use them for all sorts of things! Wishing you safe travels my friend

    • Karen says:

      Hi Claire, Don’t you just love those stickers. I can place them on a paper page for a year or two and then pull them without a mark on the paper. The stickers are perfect for use on my maps, I use different colors for towns we are staying in, ones I would like to visit if there is time and specific routes (such as wine or castle) that are our chosen small roads to travel.

  79. Karen, have a great time on your upcoming trip. I must say the past few years when I travel to Europe or Mexico or Southeast Asia my planning and anxiety is at a minimum. I check out things online, grab some money, debit card and passport..as few clothes as possible, get the dog taken care of and “leave”. I do not plan hotels ahead of getting there, no planned eating places, etc. I have never had this way of traveling fail me and have had the most interesting things happen because of it. It is just so much fun for me to “not know” what is going to happen all the time. My non-vacation life if very organized, planned and scheduled…my food styling jobs are “knowns” so when I go off…I go off.
    Different traveling strokes for different folks which is what makes the world so fascinating isn’t that right? Bon Voyage.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Teresa, You are so right, we all are very different in how we like to travel. The main objective is to have a fun and memorable trip no matter how we do it. Thank you for your nice wish. :)

  80. We do everything but the daily maps. What a clever idea!

  81. great tips have a fab time love European road trips

  82. Adri says:

    What a beautifully organized article! And so helpful. I remember winging it when I was a teenager. It was exciting, and perfect for me at the age of eighteen. But now, I want organization. I feel more comfortable that way, and your tips are super helpful! It sounds like you are a very savvy traveler. Have a wonderful trip, and I look forward to hearing and seeing all about it!

    • Karen says:

      Thank you Adri, for your lovely compliment. I’m glad that you enjoyed the article. I’m with you…planning ahead of time makes travel easier. I’m happy to know you are going to be following along. I think you will like our first stop in Germany…it is wonderful.

  83. Even though I’ve been to lots of differing countries within Europe chances are you’ll be travelling to places I’ve never even heard off! Can’t wait for the photos. I vividly remember some of your trip from last time. An hotel in Austria looked amazing. I think I commented then on how wonderful the food was when I was in Austria. Only in the Eastern part of the country. Was so impressed!

    Safe journey!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Johnny, Thank you for your wish. I’m happy that you are looking forward to our adventure. We do tend to travel to areas that are not as touristy as some well known spots. I think you will find our first stop in Germany very nice…we thought it was wonderful. I’ll catch up with all your delicious cooking soon.

  84. rozpaige says:

    I have been prepping for our trip to Italy this coming spring and snapping shots of my planning activities as I go for a future post next year, so we are certainly on the same page in that regard. I love your ideas too and although I do many things similarly, you’ve definitely got things covered! Enjoy your trip and I can’t wait to vicariously travel through your posts!
    Roz

    • Karen says:

      Hi Roz, I do think we tend to plan similarly…it makes for an enjoyable trip. I’m happy to know that you are going to be following along on our holiday.

  85. Kathy says:

    Karen, you Lucky Duck! How very fortunate that you get to go. I could have used your advice a couple years back. My daughter and I went to Italy-Switzerland-France and then on a second trip to Belgium-Netherlands. Would love to take Barry some year if he could ever get off work for an extended time. Have fun–I’m sure you’ll be sharing with all of us.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kathy, I have to agree with you, my husband and I are very lucky. I do hope that you and Barry get to take a trip to Europe in the near future. Perhaps you will get some ideas of new places to visit from the next few posts. Our first stop was wonderful…we loved the area.

  86. Mary says:

    Very practical planning! I really enjoyed your trip tips – oh, if your hubby can’t go, I’d be happy to! LOL!

    • Karen says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the travel tips, Mary. My husband was able to come along…he is the one driving us along the back roads of Germany and Austria. I hope you will enjoy following along.

  87. wow! great tips! you are so organized!

  88. How wonderful Karen! I remember the beautiful Bavarian architecture and delicious food from lasts years post, so very much look forward to more if this, later in this year.

    My sweetheart and I are yet to have our first european adventure, but I’ve no doubt that much planning & prep is the way to go! The thought of driving and looking for accommodation along the way is nerve wracking, but you and hubby certainly sound like pros at this!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Alli, I’m happy that you enjoyed last year’s adventure. We are heading to some new places and a few of our favorites. I’m glad to know that you will be following along. You are right, it can be nerve wracking to be traveling at night without a conformed reservation…never again. :)

  89. You are the pro! Wow, what great advice and detailed planning. Thank you so much, it will be really helpful in the future!

    • Karen says:

      Thank you Chris, for your nice compliment. I’m glad that you enjoyed the travel tips…I’m hope you can use one or two on your next journey.

  90. Thanks for all the good advice, Karen. We have just started planning a four country trip next September. I love all the research and anticipation involved. We enjoy traveling so much more when we know some history about the areas we visit.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cathy, I’m happy that you enjoyed the post…I do think is nice to be familiar with where you are traveling. I’m sure that you will have another wonderful trip next year.

  91. cabinet stew says:

    SO glad it is that time of year again for you. ( and me!) I love traveling vicariously through you – you go to all the best restaurants! Can’t wait to read the first installment – Bon Voyage!

  92. Planning a trip is half the fun of going on the trip itself! It helps prolong the experience of the trip when you spend time in advance planning it and anticipating what you’ll be seeing and doing! Lucky you off to Europe again! have a great time!

    • Karen says:

      Thank you for your wish, Ducky. We are having a great time in Europe. I agree with you about the planning…it is part of the pleasure of traveling.

  93. This is tried and true advice! I love the planning notebook. You could add trip photos to complete it.

  94. Some truly fantastic advice, Karen. I’m bookmarking this for future reference and I love the tip about calling the hotels directly!

    • Karen says:

      Thank you Betsy, I’m glad that you enjoyed the post regarding my travel tips. I thought sharing what works for me might help anyone planning a trip, no matter where they are traveling. Dealing with the hotels directly has always gotten me a nice room at a good price. :)

  95. Sartenada says:

    We love planning. It so great to see in advance in our imagination future sceneries. We also love off highway roads. They are just for fast riding to change places, especially in Germany and then to stay in one place longer time and from there make road trips slowly enjoying the atmosphere. The car after Volvo could be ours BMW. Safe driving!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sartenada, It sounds like we are just alike with our planning, traveling the back roads and even the cars we drive. We had the Volvo last year and a BMW Touring this trip. :)

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