How to decide where to go in Europe

Old Dec 27th, 2014, 08:58 AM
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Sojourn, I'm afraid you may be missing the point. I get what you're saying, but I'm not asking "Where should I go?" Rather, I'm asking "how do YOU decide where to go?"

I think it's fair to say most people who frequent this forum view Europe—and the world—as a smorgasbord to be sampled dish by dish (not all at once). Given unlimited time and resources, we would probably all like to go everywhere. But we all have our individual constraints that force us to prioritize where we'd like to go, and choose one place over many others.

It's that decision-making, that prioritization process, that I'm asking about. Some of it may be personal, and thus not applicable: Jane Doe always dreamed of staying in a Tuscan villa, so Italy is at the top of her list. But for John Smith, no single place rises above the others, so he has to find a way to narrow down to one. In such a situation—if applicable to any of you—how do you pick just one?

(tarquin: my name is a Monty Python reference:
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Old Dec 27th, 2014, 11:06 AM
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I don't think Raymond is missing the point he gave several suggestions.

- Scotch-themed tour of Scotland (sans kid)
- Beer-themed tour of Belgium (sans kid)
- Iceland (perhaps in spring; OK time to go?)
- Spain (where in Spain? would have to narrow this down further too)
- Switzerland/Austria (Vienna/Salzburg

Wow, if Granny would watch the kid then leave without and take her when she will appreciate the trip. I would lean towards the Scotch themed tour of Scotland. I got a little crazy in Belgium, yes you can buy Belgium beer in Costco but nothing like a Delirium Café here and cheap Trappist ale. We had fun one day looking for the Rochefort Brewery so have maps.
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Old Dec 27th, 2014, 11:58 AM
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<<I am perhaps more interested in hearing how you go about choosing a single destination out of the countless places you would like to visit. Guidebooks, web forums like this one, travel TV programs, etc. Many of these are obvious, but I'm looking for individual perspectives.>>

Hi Raymond! When I was maybe 18 or 19, I started a "bucket list" of sorts that I've added to and edited over the years. It's a well-worn journal with pages and pages of where I've been and want to go and things I'd like to see some day. I started traveling internationally at 15 and have spent the last 20 years filling passports. I travel on average 60 or 70 days a year, more if I have the time, and while I love the comfort of home, I just get antsy! So you asked for individual perspective on how you choose where to go in the world when there are so many options and places to see.

For me, it varies a little, but I usually start with a budget for airfare (or usually mileage!). Where can I go for $X or X # of miles. Or sometimes there's a great sale and that leads my hand a bit. Or a cruise that I've been eyeing for some time goes on massive sale. I've found that if I'm SO dead-set on one specific place, I miss out on 10 others waiting for the timing to line up. I'd rather see something than nothing, so even if Destination B is higher on my priority list than Destination E, I'm not going to wait 10 years for the former to happen if the latter can happen right now! Anyway, that leads my decisions a lot. Another is time. Like many posters have said, you have to really focus on what you want to accomplish in those 7-10 days. If you want to see parts of more than one country, consider staying near the border of 2 countries so you don't waste a lot of time traveling. There have been many trips through Europe when I've said "THIS is the trip I'm going to see x, y, and z" and I just can't make it happen. You have to just know you can't fit in everything you want to do and still enjoy yourself. It sounds like you have a really good handle on your travel style and the *types* of things you would enjoy...the destinations are just your hiccup. My choices are based off a much larger picture of what I want to see in my life - I don't really care when I see them!

There have been times where I see a very small part of a country because I'm on a cruise that has a single day in a city there - but it makes me ache to go back - so that goes on my list. Or I come to a board and read about someone's incredible journey and that makes me start investigating a new place. So I think your "we want to go to Europe for 10 days" is totally valid and narrowing it down makes sense. Nobody can narrow down your own list for you, but you're right in asking for advice from fellow travelers. You can't learn if you don't ask, right?!

Sometimes process of elimination helps sort things out. Figure out where you can fly into, then see what train schedules work. Things eventually fall into place! I think maybe your first step might be to decide if you're going to take your little with you...that really might narrow down your destination/transportation list quite a bit. And that's not a bad thing! Then from there, have a good honest conversation about what can wait...what can't...what might be more fun when your daughter is older, etc. You'll get there!!!

Best of luck to you! Planning is half the fun!!

PS - I'm a bit with flpab - I did a 10-day Scotland/Ireland/Northern Ireland trip two summers ago that was fab. Easy transportation, great tours, awesome breweries, incredible views. Once you pick your place, there is a lot you can learn and discover!
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Old Dec 27th, 2014, 01:12 PM
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Umm, no Raymond you are still missing my point. I'm not aswering "Where should I go?" Rather, I'm answering "how do YOU decide where to go?"

I agree that, "it's fair to say most people who frequent this forum view Europe—and the world—as a smorgasbord to be sampled dish by dish (not all at once)." I disagree with their method of HOW they decide.

I don't think of travel as a smorgasborg. I think of it as ONE place I am interested in going. If you say to me, 'I'm paying, we can go anywhere you want, where do you want to go?', I will give you ONE answer right now. It will be one of many possible answers but it won't take me more than a few seconds to decide on one place.

That may be because I do not think of it as a smorgasborg, I think of one dish to taste at a time. You say, 'sampled dish by dish' but that in fact is not what a smorgasborg is. At a smorgasborg you take a taste of many different dishes at ONE time. That is in fact what most who post about visiting 'Europe' try to do. Visit 6 places in 2 weeks or whatever.

That is what makes it difficult for people to decide because they see 10 things in front of them and want to taste them all. I don't see 10 in front of me, only one. The one I am interested in right now.

It is a fundamental difference in how people think Raymond and I am talking about shifting your paradigm. I don't know how else to explain it, you have to forget all that has gone before and how you think and start from a totally different viewpoint. As long as you continue to think of it as a smorgasborg of choices that you have to choose from, you will have the same problem making a decision every time.

Part of that difference is also that I do not plan beyond A. Regardless of how much time or money I have available, I simply decide to go to A. When I decide I have spent enough time in A and assuming I still have some time and money left, I decide where to go next. I continue that process until either the maximum time available or the maximum funds available are gone, then I go home.

I don't know if there will be a B or if there will, where it will be until the morning I wake up in A and say to myself, 'I'm ready to move on, where should I go now?'

I do not work under the assumption that 'most people who post here' do whether they realize it or not, that there is a 'best' or 'preferable' choice. I can't get it wrong and that is what 'most people who post here' are afraid of. Think about it, that's part of the paradigm shift.

So I'll ask you again Raymond, if you could just drive to the airport and get on a plane today to wherever you want, where would that ONE place be? That is HOW I decide. You asked for help, I've given it. The answer to your question is, JUST DECIDE.
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Old Dec 27th, 2014, 01:33 PM
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deciding where to go isn't some logical process where you analyse the pros and cons of each destination - just go where you feel like going - it's as simple as that

in your original post Scotland was the listed first, so go there as that's uppermost in your thoughts, then in a couple of years go somewhere else

or don't go anywhere until one place "calls you"

ask your other half, ask your three year old - it's not a right or wrong decision
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Old Dec 28th, 2014, 09:38 AM
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You 'get it' sofarsogood.
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Old Dec 28th, 2014, 10:06 AM
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It's like getting married. I chose the one person I was interested in. She said no. I chose the second person I was interested in. She said no. Repeat ad nauseam.

Finally I found someone. When she's ready to move on (soon), I will too. It's really the opposite of a smorgasbord.
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Old Dec 28th, 2014, 10:18 AM
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I'd look it by weather and crowds. For instance I wouldn't go to the beach in Italy in early August if you paid me but would love to visit Italy in June or September.

Then I note your dislike of large cities, well Madrid is pretty small so don't ignor.

So avoid the tourist traps in July and August (generally in that period go Germany and north and outside those months go south.
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Old Dec 28th, 2014, 10:35 AM
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well, rather than give you a lecture or two about shifting your paradigm [whatever one of those is] I'll try to answer your query, though i think that I did have a go at it upthread.

it seems to me that there are two [possibly 3, but then we're back to monty P again] essential elements that YOU need to decide - are you taking the sprog, and what time of year are you travelling?

when we had small children whether we were taking them, and when we were travelling were the two most important elements which we needed to decide. After that, it was very much ease of getting there, what sort of trip we fancied, any particular interests we wanted to follow up, etc.

Ease of getting somewhere is a big thing with me - if you're going on a relatively short trip [which IMO a week to 10 days is] - you don't want to spend half of it getting to where you want to go. So if you're flying, you want to be able to fly direct, and then have an easy journey to your eventual destination. if you're taking DD, that's even more important.

So assuming you're flying from the US, where in Europe can you fly into easily? do you want to do a round trip or are you up for open-jaw? if so, which two places can you easily combine?

eg - fly into London, Eurostar to Paris, fly home from Paris.

once those parameters are set, you can start to make progress.
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Old Dec 28th, 2014, 11:55 AM
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For many who have limited time, with few vacations, a long wish list with lots of interests, and perhaps other travelers to consider, your question is perfectly valid. However, there are so many ways of deciding, it is easy to think people are not trying to be helpful, but it is nearly impossible to give you useful advice.

However, do not know if this will be any help, but in the hope there is some value, here is our approach.

DH and I are always each making wish lists and prioritizing, comparing, discussing, etc. Places are added for consideration. Places are eliminated. We see a movie and say, "Wow! I want to go there." I read about a festival and want to go. I read a novel and want to visit the setting. I read someone's trip report and think, "That sounds fantastic,"

What we want out of the trip is a factor: sight seeing, relaxing, experiencing a new place or culture more in-depth, attending a particular festival or event or activity, how energetic we feel, how much planning we want to do. How much time we have available, cost, what other trips we have done recently, etc.

This shows some of our reasoning:
When we took friends who had never been, we did Venice, Florence, Rome and the AC in Italy.
Because I cried every time we left Venice, we went for a week.
After falling in love with Provence on a short visit, we went and rented a tiny house for a few days, going to markets, cooking, etc. and pretending to live there.
Being a nut about archeological sites, we did a cruise that allowed me to visit some major ones on my wish list.
We braved bitter cold just to go to Basel and surrounding towns for Fasnacht and winter festivals.
Turkey (Istanbul and hot air ballooning in Cappadocia) had been on my dream list forever, but took time to convince DH - best trip ever!
After the movie, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, I want to go to Kefalonia, but we did two Caribbean trips this year and have another in Jan, so an island trip goes off the list for awhile.
I enjoy hot weather and more exotic cultures, so a more extensive tour in Morocco is on my current agenda for Spring.
Doesn't always work out, but we save more Northern areas of Europe for Summer and try to do Southern areas in Spring and Fall, with an eye out for rainy seasons.

In the end, at any given time, one or two places (or events) seem speak to us. Our best trips have had some particular (culture, art, city, event) focus. We go with that and plan the rest of a trip around it. You can see how individual and of the moment the choice is. Is there one city, one country, one thing of intense interest to your or your wife? If so, go with that. Add other things you have time for. It will be wonderful.

The good thing about transportation in Europe is that you can, depending on the places/cities, sometimes settle on two bases and easily visit two quite different areas. You can also choose just one country and see a lot of it. Talk with your wife.

If you leave the little one home, have a lot of practice overnights with Grammy first. The first time away from Mommy can be traumatic, more so for a week or more. I know. I did it years ago without thinking much and it was a big mistake. In retrospect, I would have left my baby with Mom, but definitely taken my 3 year old with me.
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Old Dec 28th, 2014, 12:48 PM
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You keep asking how we decide where to travel. We always have a "bucket list" in our minds, Europe, Asia, South America so far. We chhoose one place and expand on it. Another trip, we may return there to places we saw but didn't spend much time in. And then other opportunities arise..a friend asks us to join them on a trip to X. We travel there with them and add more time after they leave.(being retired =time to travel) Last hear we did two of our bucket list, Turkey and Cuba. We would happliy return to both to explore more. We enjoy slow travel, a week in one place at least.
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Old Dec 28th, 2014, 01:29 PM
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One other thing. We get more out of visiting places we know more about, have read about, studied, etc. I had studied Impressionism and Renaissance art and Roman architecture, so first trips in Europe were to Paris, Italy and Amsterdam. Before going anyplace, we read and learn as much as we can of the history, culture, etc.
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Old Dec 28th, 2014, 02:06 PM
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Thank you again to everyone for the thoughtful replies. Clearly I chose the wrong metaphor with "smorgasbord," The correct food metaphor would be "menu." The former implies trying small samples of a lot of dishes, whereas the latter implies choosing *one* dish from a long list of options, which is what we're contemplating.

In any case, you've all given us plenty to consider, particularly those who focused on the spirit of what I was asking, rather than the accuracy of my metaphor (though sojourn et al., I did ask for all perspectives, so I appreciate yours as well).

I'm sure you'll see more of me here soon as we narrow down on one or two choices and I solicit more ideas and input. It's been a long, dry spell with no stamps in our passports in 5+ years, and another 5+ years of mostly scuba diving trips to the Caribbean before that, so I am very excited to get back to "Europe"!
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Old Jan 28th, 2015, 04:26 PM
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Interesting thread!

I'm very visual so I use Google Images a lot. I Google the countries, maybe get more specific such as Castles Scotland, or Castles Germany, or hiking, gardens, big trees, nightlife, historic sites + the Country. It gives me a lot of ideas as to where we might want to go.

When I find too many places, they go into my "Next Trip" file

Once I decide, I read a bunch of travel guides, Google "Top Ten" + the Country. More Images.

Then I ask Fodorites for HELP!!!

If you decide upon Southern Germany and Bavaria, don't worry about language, most in the Hospitality Business speak English. There is a wonderful cable car up Wank Mountain in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. At the top there were wide hiking trails and lots of families with young children if you take your 3yr old.

I would definitely rent an apartment/cottage if you take your 3 year old, many places might have a yard or surrounding grounds for play. Some will take a 5 night booking. I would also limit your trip to 1 Country or area, you don't say (or I didn't read it) if the 7-10 days is inclusive of your flight days, or would you have 7-10 full days not including flight days?
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Old Jan 28th, 2015, 08:59 PM
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I love to go to Europe, and where I go and what I do is often determined on what city or country I can get to most cheaply. Last year I flew to Lisbon and later took a cheap flight to Paris. The year before, Dusseldorf was the place to fly into. In 2009 my family got a round trip Newark to Cologne for $260, so we spent a very cheap and very fun 10 days along the Romantic Rhine.

As for where I visit, I like to go where cheap transportation takes me. Last summer I got a $100 r/t from Lisbon to Paris, so I took it. If Paris had been more expensive and Vienna had been available for $100 r/t, then I likely would have done the Central Europe trip I've been wanting to do.

Do you have hotel points you can use? If so, plan around them. Are there any cities with bargain hotel rooms? If so, plan around them. Small towns tend to be cheaper than cities, so take advantage of this fact. And by the way, I'm not saying that I always head to the cheapest destination, but if I see a bargain at a place that sounds interesting, I'm up for it.
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Old Jan 29th, 2015, 12:42 AM
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As a Scotsman, I have to input something about Scotland:

It is a great place if you are interested in the outdoors - scenery, hiking, mountain biking,kayaking/sailing etc, particularly if you go to the West coast and the islands. Weather is unceatain but best chance of settled weather would be May/September and the dreaded, "midgie" is less of a problem.

To get the best out of it leave your child at home, they won't remember anything anyway!
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Old Jan 29th, 2015, 03:55 AM
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I had another thought of something I do at times. Go to the website of some of the tour sites ( Nat Geo, Viking River Cruises, etc ) and see where they go, Google some of the places. Even though they hit the major spots, there are always less known areas and sights nearby.

I do agree that your 3 yr old won't remember anything, but that choice is yours alone!
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Old Jan 29th, 2015, 06:02 AM
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Over years of travel you start to discover certain truths about what makes you happy. For instance my husband and I far prefer to travel off season. We agree we'd prefer to deal with cold weather than crowds. Hence we leave for eleven days in Belgium on Saturday.

We are combining our loves of beer and history by visiting Brugge and Ypres with a bit of Brussels thrown in...We will be spending two days touring WW1 battlefields, but also attend the Brugge Beer festival.

In the same vein, what truths do you know about your family? What are your passions? What area will most tickle your fancy?

As for your three year old, we started taking our son to Europe at about that age and it was a fantastic experience. That being said hubby and I are taking this trip as a couple. We truly enjoy both experiences.
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Old Jan 29th, 2015, 06:21 AM
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We have a bucket list of places that is constantly shifting based on a number of variables--timing of vacation, exchange rates, whether our adult children join us, unforeseen opportunities (a business-sponsored cruise), etc.

Since you have a babysitting offer, I would leave the three-year old at home. A three-year old is pretty independent minded and may not want a stroller but also not be able to walk for long periods.

I would look at your short list and decide which would be most enjoyable without a child. Also might factor in the low euro.
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Old Jan 29th, 2015, 07:57 AM
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Raymond, I like your analogy comparing the countries Europe to a smorgasbord, or buffet, or what-have-you. My husband and I struggled with your dilemma of narrowing down choices. Ultimately, it came down to a process of elimination, opportunity and price;

Airfare to Iceland(perhaps not strictly Europe)was offered at a very low price, so I grabbed it. of course there are many factors other than price; for example, we live in a cold area, so getting out in the winter months is enticing. I don't want to go to a hot area in the summer or a frigid area in the winter. Some areas I want to visit require a more lengthy stay than we want to commit to or can afford. Like you, we're independent travelers, and prefer low-key.

After eliminating a number of spots in my mind for various reasons for this year, I kept a close eye on travel sites and waited for something appealing to come up, and it did.
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