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I hate the first few days of planning a trip to a new country~can you help?

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Thanks. We are a group of 6-10 people from the US that will be making out first trip to Croatia. The trip is planned for the 3rd (?) week of September, 2013. We make plans very early because most of us use frequent flyer miles and to avoid conflicting schedules. After leaving Croatia, we will fly to France for a few days in Provence, Beaune and Paris. I am the unofficial tour guide. Participants in our group have traveled together many times from Australia to Italy. We we be, if I may say so, an athletic group from 60 to 70. Don't want to say price is not important but less so than other factors. Food important but again less so than other factors. Want special local hotels (no Holiday Inns) say 4 to 5 stars ~ location, location and location. Problem, will probably want to spend between 5 and 6 nights in Croatia.

Have spent several hours trying to figure tentative itineraries, hotels, etc. Let me be honest ~ I am confused. Would greatly appreciate your input to get me on the right tract. Sounds like we want to see Dubrovnik, Hvar (maybe Trogir) and Split (only for airport?). Keeping this in mind, what is your opinion:

1. Is this a good time to visit (will want to be on the water and beach or 2)?
2. Best airport to fly into and depart from (e.g., Dubrovnik and then Split)?
3. Using AMEX points (e.g., Delta), best city in Europe to fly into that has good flights to/from Croatia?
4. Dubrovnik hotels (e.g., Hotel Excelsior, Hotel Bellevue Dubrovnik)?
5. Sailboats (with skipper) for day visit to islands (e.g., Hvar) ~ any recommendations?
6. Any sailboats with skipper for 4 night trip between Dubrovnik and Split?
7. Should we plan on Croatia Airlines to get us to and from European hub to either Dubrovnik or Split?
8. Absolutely do not miss sights?
9. Do not miss eating experiences?
10. Itinerary for the 6 nights (we don't like to move except every 2 or 3 nights)?

What have I forgotten to ask to get me more up to date?

Thanks for help. Philip

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