First Time Europe

Old Jan 23rd, 2000, 01:34 PM
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First Time Europe

We're planning a first time trip to Europe, 2-3 weeks in Sept. or Oct. of 2000. I'm interested in suggestions for how to prioritize what to see. We like the idea of travelling without an agenda, but how much do we need to arrange ahead of time? Finally, any suggestions for a tour company that offers reasonable prices & a lot of independence?
Old Jan 23rd, 2000, 02:37 PM
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Try Randonnee Tours (, who offer detailed local maps & hints & rental bicycles (or cars) and arrange lodging. Or you might try Jet Vacations or Go Ahead Vacations, both of which (I think) offer group-rate lodging, maps, hints, and not much interference.
Good luck.
Old Jan 24th, 2000, 05:33 AM
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Dear Natalie
Once you narrow down what countries/cities you want to spend your time in, this Forum can provide lots of help. If you will want to stay in small popular hotels it is never to soon to start booking them. I like making arrangements by fax. That way I have a hard copy confirmation to bring with me in case I need it.
Tour companies, even those that just book the airfare and hotels for you but leave you to travel independently, can sometimes offer good savings, because you are getting a "group rate". However, always check out the offered hotels thoroughly as to location and price. You may not be saving much, particularly if the hotels are in out-of-the-way locations and you spend too much time and money commuting back and forth.
Also, a tour company may offer "free" extras like a half-day tour of the city, or breakfast included in the price of the room, or some such incentive. However, if you're not much of a breakfast eater, or if the half-day tour is inexpensive enough to book on your own, the "savings" may not be worth it to you, particularly not if the hotel is not well-located.
Most of the major airlines also offer tour packages to a combination of destinations.
Check out the tour companies cancellation policies, and look into cancellation insurance just in case.
If you decide to book everything on your own, narrow down your destinations, your budget, and the length of your trip, and ask some more questions here.
Good luck
Old Jan 24th, 2000, 08:31 AM
the turnip
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This is just one veggies opinion, but I feel you really need an itinerary. Without it, it's just to hard to make good decisions. Feel free to leave some days open for flexibility but make a plan of some sort.

When my wife and I took our first trip we sat down and each picked one or two "must sees". She always wanted to see Paris and I longed to cruise the Autobahn in Germany and see Ludwig's famous castles. As easy as that we had two our two "must sees. We added London and had a working itinerary.

Do some research. Talk to friends or Fodorites about their favorites. Try to determine how much you can afford to spend and the amount of time you'll have. If you try to put to many destinations on your list you'll end spending way to much time and energy in transportation. Instead of seeing Europe you'll see mostly train stations/airports or gas stations. Yuck. Whenever possible soend at least 3 or 4 days in the same location so that you can feel at least a little bit like a local.

If you come up with a list, post it again and your fellow travelers will be happy to offer suggestions both pro and con about it. They may help you weed out so-so destinations and get the best out our trip. Hope this helps!
Old Jan 24th, 2000, 03:14 PM
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There was a great thread several months ago about "how do you plan your trip?", lots of folks starting where you are, Natalie "I wanna go somewhere, now what".
Whenever I start planning a trip for the Loons, I send out an email/postcard to the girls "We're thinking about going to {fill in a place}; if you want to go, what would you not want to do/visit, and what DO you want to see?". Do the same for yourselves; if you hate small spaces, skip the Paris sewers. If you love Impressionism, but hate Renaissance, skip Florence and go to the south of France. Do you like cities, or the countryside? (we have one Loon who HATES farms, so we have to arrange our stays so we aren't in the middle of a cornfield). When you think of Europe, what pops into your head? Marie Antoinette, or Heidi? Mad Ludwig's castle or the Riviera? That's the beginning for prioritizing.
You'll need to do that before you start looking for a tour group. No point in getting info on groups that visit breweries and distilleries if you're tee-totallers.
Old Jan 24th, 2000, 03:22 PM
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Okay, try this: you can either spend time transferring from one city to the next and catch a number of the Biggies (London, Paris, Rome, Vienna, etc.) or you can really go up-close and force yourself to choose one or at most two countries and no more than maybe 4 or 5 cities, so you can spend at least 3 days each place. Then think about whether you want to have a checklist of sights you've always wanted to see (Notre Dame, the Pieta, Venice) or want to experience some particular corner of Europe -- Mediterranean, Scandinavia, La France.
If you've made a couple of lists, you'll probably start to see a couple of places that show up on each list. Go there.

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