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First Time Going to Europe

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NOTE: Also posted in Travel Tips & Ideas forum

I am finally starting to plan my first European adventure! I am 22 and will be graduating from college in December. My plan is to leave the US on December 24 or 25th for London. I would like to spend New Years in London, then travel to Italy on January 1st or 2nd.

During my week in London, I want to take the train to Brussels for a day or two, then spend the rest of my time in London. As far as Italy goes I am hoping to spend the bulk of my time in Florence and Rome, but I'd really like to get ideas of small costal towns to visit.

I have no idea where to start planning! I have a list of some of the more common tourist sights I'd like to see but besides seeing those, I'd really like to just go out in the morning and see where the day takes me. I've looked into renting an apartment via AirBnb.com because I don't want to pay for an expensive hotel and I am not a hostel person. I've budgeted about $5,000 for this trip.

I'm in desperate need of advice and travel tips! Any help would be appreciated.

Thank you!

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