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First time travelers to Europe ?ís

Old Jun 3rd, 2018, 10:04 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 25,734
If I wanted a tour for Europe I would use Rick Steves - I have in fact taken a few of his tours. But before deciding I would read his "Europe Through the Back Door" which will help you figure out how to travel on your own.

There is no need to drive in Europe on a first trip, a car is only needed for wandering through the countryside. Nor should you worry about lines - buy tickets for the most popular sites online ahead of time.

Last edited by thursdaysd; Jun 3rd, 2018 at 10:13 AM.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2018, 10:05 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
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Absolutely don't get into a tizz about using a car, a very old fashioned form of transport, the train is the way to go on holiday in Europe.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2018, 01:02 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
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Car is especialy a hassle if going to cities as most first-timers are want to do - trains so easy - book in advance and take taxi from station right to hotel - so easy - all pre-booked except cabs which are always at any large train station. Some English always spoken by train personal - and cabbies in tourist cities and hotel desks. Nothing wrong with group tours if that's what you want but do not be daunted by going on your own via train.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2018, 01:45 PM
Join Date: May 2008
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I second reading Europe Through the Back Door. Rick Steves gets a lot of grief on these forums, which have a lot of very experienced travelers, but he is writing for just the kind of travelers you are - people who don't want to travel with a group but are nervous about managing on their own. He has helped a lot of people take that first independent trip. If that doesn't give you a shot of confidence, then you will probably be happier on a tour.

If you do decide on a tour, avoid those that just stop a night here and a night there. On the average tour, you will spend a lot of time on the bus, and one-night stops mean having just a handful of hours in a location - not really enough to get a sense of it. The temptation is to sign up for one of those tours that goes ten places in two weeks, but going more places doesn't equate to seeing more - it equates to more time on the bus and less time seeing the sights.

If you have two weeks, you could easily do London, Paris, Venice, and Rome or some other similar selection of cities. Three or four nights in a large city stuffed with sights will not be too many even on a first taster trip.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2018, 03:11 PM
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Posts: 148
Thank you to everyone! Appreciate your comments. Thinking London, Paris and then onto Berlin, as our son is doing Berlin Marathon.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2018, 05:14 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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Since you have a place to go "off the beaten track" (Berlin) for first timers, you might do London and Paris on your own, rather than take a tour. Research and find the best hotels within your budget, but do concentrate on location. While you likely can take the subway from almost anywhere in either Paris or London, for orientation purposes it helps to be as central as possible. Stay in a hotel, rather than an apartment, and take advantage of the front desk and concierge services to help you with advice and directions. Get good guide books and do your research and plan before you go. Both Paris and London are big, historic cities. If time permits, allow yourself at least four or five days in each before heading off to Berlin, which you can then travel to by plane or train (again, time permitting). Trains allow you to see a little more, but will, of course, take more time to get you to your destination. If traveling by train, you might make one or more stops along your way to break up the trip.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2018, 11:48 PM
Join Date: Aug 2005
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London, Paris and Berlin sounds like a great trip.

A few thoughts to make your trip successful: Stay in a central location in each city. Stay at a hotel or B&B, not an apartment. Hotel staff or innkeepers can be very helpful in getting you a cab, a dinner reservation, explaining where a tourist site is on your map.

One thing that can seem daunting is where to start. Since you have a date for the marathon, in a way that makes it easier because you can build around that. After you have dates, book your airfare, flying into London and home from Berlin. Next, book your hotels. Then, book the train or plane between each leg of your trip. And finally reserve any day trips or events you want to see.

You can ask questions here every step of the way. I would encourage you to come back after you've booked your flights, because people here have helped me so much with what areas of the city to stay, and even which hotels.
5alive is offline  
Old Jun 4th, 2018, 08:47 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 9,650
Be sure to book lodging with a liberal cancellation policy. No non refundable rates! Also get trip insurance. Very important.
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Old Jun 4th, 2018, 11:30 AM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 3,873
Trip insurance is a good idea whether you go on a group tour or on your own.

When we took my dad to Europe in 2015, we got a policy with Travel Guard. They offered 3 levels of coverage and the differences were clearly explained. I was mainly interested in medical and emergency evacuation. (I do not work for Travel Guard, by the way or know anyone who does.)

Regarding cancelling lodgings: I do agree that for your first trip, it would be best to book lodgings that can be cancelled (or at least up until the week before your trip).

You can book lodgings directly from the hotel or B&B's own websites. You can also book the same hotels from a major travel site like Travelocity or, just like you are on a vacation at home. These sites will also usually offer a free cancellation option. Be sure to read the fine print--wherever you book.
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Old Jun 5th, 2018, 01:22 PM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 1,289
We sometimes self-insure our trips if the elements can be cancelled (such as hotels) or have change fees that are lower than the cost of the insurance. What we have purchased is medical evacuation and health insurance. Not all Medicare plans will cover you abroad so be sure to check on that now.
Scootoir is offline  
Old Jun 6th, 2018, 07:08 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 78,322
medical evacuaion insurance is vital especially for older travelers - if frequent European traveler get a Medicare Gap coverage that reimburses European medical expenses like I have.
PalenQ is offline  
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