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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.