Europe Trip HELP!!

Old Mar 24th, 2003, 03:51 PM
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Europe Trip HELP!!

My wife and I (age 31 and in good health) are planning to go to Europe May 20 - June 8 (19 days). Start in Paris (4 days), day trips to Reims and Caen. Then to Dijon, 3 days of exploring the wine region. Then to Luzern Swizterland for two days, then Germany to the Rhien region for 4 days, the two Munick, and fly back from Frankfurt. We planned on Eurorail pass for 21 days for two, and a rental care in Germany for the wine region. I can get airfare for $496 a person to Paris and back from Frankfurt.<BR><BR>Here's the question: when I spoke to a travel agent about help with the trip, hotels, recomendations etc, she said that first time Europe travelers (which we are) should go on a tour. Europe is hard to get around, diffuclt to communicate, and expensive, more then $200 a night. She said places may only have non english tours the days we stop, etc.<BR><BR>So for the seasoned Europe travels, what do you recommend? Can we do this ourselfs? Are rooms going to be $200 a night? I have Rick Steves books and a few others I have read.<BR><BR>HELP PLEASE!!!!!!!!
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Old Mar 24th, 2003, 04:02 PM
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The first thing you should do is ditch your travel agent - what nonsense! obviously she/he is NOT a seasoned European traveler, either.<BR><BR>There is no WAY you have to spend $200 a night for a hotel. In more than 50 trips to Europe I've only once paid that kind of money and it was a real splurge by my standards. For half that, in most major metropolitan areas of Europe, you can find a perfectly delightful, even somewhat luxurious, room. And if you want to pay a quarter of that, it's possible too.<BR><BR>Getting around Europe is not in general difficult, either. Different from getting around the USA, but not difficult. In some places it's actually easier, even if you don't speak the language. <BR><BR>It's true you may encounter places where you can't get an English-speaking tour at the precise time you want one - so what? Will that ruin the trip? On the contrary, you may be amazed what you can understand and pick up, especially if you read up on whatever site you're visiting ahead of time, despite the fact the tour is in another language. You definitely should make a bit of an effort to learn a few phrases in each language, anyway.<BR><BR>Just give us your proposed itinerary and let the folks on this board plan your trip for you. Forget the &quot;travel agent.&quot;<BR>
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Old Mar 24th, 2003, 04:02 PM
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Maybe she just wants her comission, go ahead and book it yourselves, you will get alot of help from seasoned independent travelers here. <BR>First get an idea of what kind of accommendations and sights you want to see, do a little homework with Rick S. and then you will get alot of help here.<BR><BR>You are both too young and healthy to take a tour, be ambitious and do it on your own, you won't regret it.
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Old Mar 24th, 2003, 04:04 PM
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When I turned 30 my friend and I went on our first Europe trip for 1 month. We did it all ourselves, spent $50- $75 a night on hotel rooms in the 2 star catagory, and trained thru England, France, Spain, Italy and ferried around Greece. There is NO NEED to go with a tour group! You need to get an honest travel agent who isn't interested in just selling you more stuff! Grab your airfare from her and do the rest yourself, it's more fun that way anyway!<BR><BR>Wendy
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Old Mar 24th, 2003, 04:04 PM
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Areinert: Dump the travel agent. They always direct you only to the places they get the good commission from. Do research online, use Rick Steves books (he is really good), Fodors books and some other books. Look up hotels online. Since it's your first trip abroad, I would say to get only hotels that have a website. You can communicate with them and ask for reservations for museums, etc ahead of time. You can get train schedules online, also. Part of the fun of a trip is planning it yourself. You learn more that way and you can get a lot of help on this website and Rick Steves website. Have fun.
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Old Mar 24th, 2003, 04:08 PM
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I forgot to add that if you find someone that doesn't speak English, you will find a way of getting your point across. My daughter was in Florence in an out of the way restaurant and the waiter didn't speak English. He acted out the menu. They all had a wonderful time and it will always be a great trip memory.
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Old Mar 24th, 2003, 04:33 PM
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I think your travel agent is typical of many (not all). She knows since it is your first time it will take a lot of planning if you do it independently. That means a lot of work for her, and possibly ending up losing you as you find how easy it is to do your own bookings. On the other hand if she steers you towards a tour, it is one nice fat and easy commission with a minimum of work. <BR><BR>But I agree. I'd ditch this agent. In fact I probably wouldn't use one at all even for my first trip. You can get more specific information right here than you are likely to get from most travel agents -- sort of sad, but true!
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Old Mar 24th, 2003, 04:41 PM
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I have a trip schedule June to June. Every hotel I have reserved is less than $110 a night, many are about $70. By the way, that is for a family of four!
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Old Mar 24th, 2003, 04:49 PM
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Your travel agent's answer is why that profession is going the same route as the typewriter (remember those). They rarely get you get a deal whether it be hotel or airfare, and are, for the most part, ignorant when it comes to European travel. I know there are some good travel agents, but they are few and far between in my experience both for business and pleasure. To me, one of the biggest pleasures of a trip is planning it. You might make some mistakes along the way, but who cares, you're in Europe. My dad always told me when it comes to traveling in Europe, &quot;Roll with the flow.&quot; Things that upset me here do not upset me there, because it's there country not mine. I remember the first time I got in a shower in Paris and said, &quot;Where the hell is the shower curtain?&quot; Now, after numerous trips to the continent, I look forward to see what crazy shower/bath configuration I am going to get. Europe is a wonderful adventure. And to me, that adventure does not (and never will)include a tour bus. Oh well, I think I have gone beyond your question. I better have a mai tai.
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Old Mar 24th, 2003, 04:55 PM
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How typical ! Of course you can do it on your own, it will just take some work, but that is half the fun. If you want a sample budget, go to www.slowtrav.com and find my budget article under the planning section. But, you are already late for a May trip. You can get good help here.
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Old Mar 24th, 2003, 05:05 PM
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I definitely KNOW you can do it yourself because I've done it myself! But there are some merits to traveling on a tour.<BR><BR>A few years ago my sister decided to go on a 9 day tour of Italy because her boyfriend could not go and she had her heart on traveling. She was wary of tours but ended up having the best time. She felt that she learned much more than she would have going alone and she also felt taken care of. All the details were taken care of so she could just relax. They also had some special events that she would have never thought of on her own. <BR><BR>Do a little research and see which one you think is best for you - not your travel agent.
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Old Mar 24th, 2003, 05:08 PM
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I am not a travel agent, don't care for them, don't use them, but having said that I can see how a good tour could be a good thing for a first time European traveler particularly if they are going to more than one country.<BR><BR>Some people can navigate Europe easier than others, but even with help from others it takes a LOT of preparation to take a successful trip to Europe. Sometimes an overview that a tour can provide is helpful to the first time Euopean traveler.<BR><BR>I have known a few first time European travelers that were basket cases, fighting all the time, confused, disoriented and wasting time and money when they tried to go to several countries. It is an individual decision.<BR><BR>One way to decide is to make a list of the pros and cons of doing a tour or going on your own. You don't need to spend $200.00 per night on a room. I don't think that should be an issue.<BR><BR>Preparation is the key.<BR><BR><BR>
 
Old Mar 24th, 2003, 05:27 PM
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Two good sources for less expensive hotel rooms are www.eurocheapo.com and any book by Rick Steves. RS gives the best practical advice for making transportation connections but his books don't cover all cities and towns. Also, stay centrally located to the historic center of the areas you are visiting. In cities you may need earplugs but I find it is easier to push myself to get back out in the evening if I don't have to hassel with transportation connections to get to where I want to go.
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Old Mar 24th, 2003, 06:24 PM
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Areinert,<BR>I almost booked with a tour - the price sounded reasonable and the &quot;convenience&quot; appealed to me. But when I started researching the hotels, I found they were all on the outskirts of town. Can you imagine being picked up at 4pm and dropped off at the hotel. I suppose we could have wound our way back to the city on our own, but what a hassle. <BR> So we are planning our own trip, and getting there is half the fun. Follow the advice of the other posters, and when you have a question that Rick Steves can't answer, post it here. These folks have helped me a lot and you will get good, up the minute advice. <BR> Europe is not difficult to get around, and you both will have great stories to tell when you get back (much better than if you sit on a bus all day.)
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Old Mar 24th, 2003, 06:36 PM
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I can't think of any canned tour that would allow you this particular itinerary. Do it on your own. Rick Steves is good for first timers and budget travel. Using his books helped us travel much easier and gave us the travel bug!!<BR><BR>The Rick Steves people also offer, for a fee, trip consultations about your itinerary. I have never used this service, but met several couples this past Oct. in Italy who did. They seemed pleased. For me, half the fun of my travels has been the planning ahead of time.<BR><BR>By the way, your plan seems a little ambitious. Slow down and cut out some of this stuff. You will be exhausted!!! <BR><BR>Good Luck on your trip.
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Old Mar 24th, 2003, 07:41 PM
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I think you can do it on your own, and of course hotels don't cost $200. You could find that out easily enough if you'd looked a little at guidebooks or online, though. I think your itinerary is too rushed and complicated, though, especially for a first-timer. I think that is one of the problems a first-timer has, they often don't realize how much time getting around, finding things, figuring things, out, etc take. Your 4-day stay in Paris including two day trips (and not to suburbs) is one example of what I would personally call very bad planning. But, hey, if you hate big cities, mayber there is a reason. <BR><BR>I think your travel agent is dumb or perhaps only deals with people who really can't do it on their own. I suspect the real thing is that your travel agent would be incapable of doing such a thing, perhaps he or she hasn't really traveled much to Europe and wouldn't have the slightest idea how to do what you want. The truth, though, is that what you want is not what you contact a travel agent for unless you plan on paying them quite a bit to do all that reserving and planning for you. They can't spend so much time on you for free, you know. YOu will have to figure out what might be open on the right days, tours available etc (if you want tours, such as of wine cellars, museums, etc). <BR><BR>I think you are not planning very well, however, if you mean you are planning this trip for May 20th of this year. YOu could do that, I'm sure, but it will be a lot of work in a short time frame since you haven't traveled to Europe yet.
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Old Mar 24th, 2003, 09:54 PM
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Exactly, who needs a travel agent when you have Fodor's and Chowhound's message boards.<BR><BR>Also, keep in mind that Rick Steves tends to be skewed towards a slightly older, conservative crowd, where Lonely Planet goes for a younger, edgier crowd.<BR><BR>You probably won't need a 21 day rail pass as you'll only be travelling by train a fraction of the time, unless of course, you want to hop around like crazy.
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Old Mar 24th, 2003, 10:02 PM
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Listen to &quot;bobthenavigator&quot;.I have booked 16 days in Italy-car rental,2 houses and air from Portland using the Internet. I bet you are a Portlander,right? That cheap fare on Lufthansa-Ptld to Frankfurt is fabulous.
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Old Mar 25th, 2003, 12:02 AM
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Of course you can do it on your own!<BR>Here are a few tips to get you started:<BR>1. Book your hotels in Paris and Munich as soon as possible. Although there are many fewer tourists this year, you'd better get those reservations nailed down. If you want hotel suggestions, post on this board (with location/price/amenities indication) or check Rants &amp; Raves.<BR>2. Makes sure you have a good road map for the driving segments. Obviously you can get those in Europe (any gas station in Germany, for instance; you may want the kind that opens like a book rather than the fold and fold and fold kind). <BR>3. If you have questions about trains - seat reservations, stations, schedules, facilities - post them here. There are train experts galore!<BR>4. Ditto daily itineraries for cities &amp; areas. A question title like &quot;Dijon wine region suggestions&quot; may yield some great ideas.<BR>5. If you want to join a sightseeing tour of a city and there is no official English tour offered, join it anyway. Make sure the guide knows that you would appreciate any English translation he/she can provide, and ask if anyone else in the group could translate a bit if the guide can't. You may make a friend!<BR>6. As to $200 hotels...well, you certainly can spend that much, but only if you want to!
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Old Mar 25th, 2003, 04:09 AM
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We spent $50 to $110 a night in Germany last June. All places had private baths and breakfast included. Just search the web for pensions, gasthofs, etc.<BR><BR>Don't know all the cities you'll be visiting, but if you plan to go to any of the following, I can give you info about the places we stayed in:<BR><BR>Bamberg<BR>Hohenschwangau/Fussen area<BR>Rothenburg area (town of Colmberg)<BR>Mosel River (Beilstein)<BR>Near Frankfurt airport (Walldorf)<BR><BR>We also stayed in Munich, but we won't recommend the hotel we stayed in.<BR><BR>Here's a good website to check out hotels in Europe:<BR><BR>www.hrs.com
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