Apr 20th, 1999, 08:33 AM
Roy Martin
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We are planning a trip in the fall. We are retired and have never been out of US. Would you suggest free lance or a guided tour. We have thought of a railpass & just follow our instincts. Advise.
Apr 20th, 1999, 08:59 AM
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We need a bit more information about the two of you. Think about the trips you have taken and what you liked / didn't like about them. Do you enjoy following someone elses schedule, or do you have to be in control of your day? Are you very active/fit or are looking to spend a relaxing (less physically active) holiday? How adventurous are you - love to try new foods or will you want to eat McD's everyday or somewhere in the middle. What kind a budget are you on?

If you are thinking of a rail pass you sound more adventurous. So you might want to start investigating the costs and restrictions associated with that option.
Apr 20th, 1999, 09:51 AM
Bob Brown
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My suggestion would be to consider an English speaking country or countries first: England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland would certainly fill the bill.
Canada, although a foreign country, is very similar to the USA, except for Quebec, particularly if you get outside of Montreal. The British Isles certainly offer a great deal of cultural diversity that will enable you to see and do a lot, yet all within the comprehensive framework of our native language. Whether or not you take a guided tour depends on how much preparation time you want to invest. If you scroll down on this forum you will find a thread on the joys of planning a trip. I strongly encourage planning because I don't suggest going as the spirit moves you unless you have unlimited time and loads of money. You will undoubtedly end up missing highlights that other people are enjoying. True, guided tours tend to regiment your daily routine, but they can also take some of the hassel out of travel, particularly if you don't grasp the idea of planning.
My general reaction to multi night guided tours is that they don't give me the freedom to pursue my own agenda. I always read about the target area and have a list of travel objectives. The best tour I have taken was an air/hotel package with day trips optional. We flew to England and stayed for 8 nights at the Tara Hotel in Kensington. The tour service provided transportation to and from the hotel, and served as the booking agent for the optional tours that were handled by London companies. Although we were under no obligation to take any of the day tours, my son, 16 at the time, was able to go on a day tour to Bath, Salisbury and Stonehenge while Mom and Dad pursued their own agenda. He later went on another organized tour while we did something else. So there are pros and cons both ways when considering guided tours.
Once you learn the ropes of travel in an English speaking area, then you will have the confidence to tackle other regions.
Apr 20th, 1999, 10:09 AM
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I think your initial instincts are what you should do.

Buy a rail pass and enjoy France, Switzerland and Germany (Italy if you have time). Go where you feel like going (the only must-see is Paris) and have a good time. Don't worry about booking hotels ahead of time because the rail-pass will let you take a night-train to somewhere else if the city you are in does not have lodging (or you can try a smaller city in the region).

Bring a French and German phrase book and remember:

"Guten Tag"
"Entschuldigen, sprechen Sie Englisch"
"Danke schoen"

"Bonjour Monsieur/Madame"
"Pardon, parlez-vous Anglais"
"Merci beaucoup"

And have a great trip because there is lots to see! (and wear a money belt/pouch and keep your passport and credit cards in it)
Apr 20th, 1999, 10:47 AM
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I agree with the poster who suggested the British Isles. There's a lot to see, they are beautiful, and the language barrier is almost non-existent.

As pointed out earlier, there are advantages and disadvantages to a group tour. I would investigate a few of them as many are more flexible than others and see what suits your personality.

Have fun...Also, if you decide to go as the spirit moves you and travel to more than one country, include Italy..more art and beauty than one can imagine.
Apr 20th, 1999, 11:10 AM
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This, I suppose, it what happens when you let people who don't know anything about you tell you what to do. Try spending some time curled up with one of those big fat general guides to Europe and see what appeals to you, then ask us mre questions. We have advice and opinions to spare.
Listen to Bob Brown. He is wise and good.
I'm with Michele on the wonders of Italy. I can't imagine sending someone to Germany on an inaugural tour (bad food and rude people will not whet your appetite for more), but Jim & I have been given too much room to spin our own theories. Stop us before we opine baselessly again!
Apr 20th, 1999, 12:15 PM
wes fowler
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It is truly difficult to offer suggestions without knowing a bit more about you. I'd suggest you repost your query (with a more specific title) and give us some basic information about yourselves and your interests. If you have the time, and the discipline, planning your own trip so that you know what you want to see and why you want to see it can be doubling rewarding - first the planning, then its realization. If you are "free spirits", I would think the regimentation of a guided tour would not be for you. If you're intimidated by the new and unfamiliar, a tour is probably the answer. Rephrase your question and in the interim, explore some of the related queries and responses that appear here in the forum. There are tons of them!

If you'd like some suggestions or advice, feel free to Email me directly.
Apr 22nd, 1999, 07:40 PM
Mary Ann
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If you are going in the fall it is nice to think reservations are unnecessary. However, there are a lot of conventions in Europe in the fall. We are going and a hotel we wanted in Venice was already full, one in Budapest was not sure if they could accomodate all nights and one in Vienna mentioned if our plans changed to let them know, it was a popular time. It really depends on how particular you are (bathroom, view, location, price). The best advice per above was to do research, determine where you want to go and then where you would like to be in the cities. Planning is half the fun, and you will enjoy it more when you get there. Have a great trip!

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