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Mistakes I made when planning my previous trips to europe

Mistakes I made when planning my previous trips to europe

Old Aug 13th, 2004, 03:32 AM
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I think the biggest travel mistake I make is trying to find the perfect gift for the friends and family at home. I finally learned if I saw something perfect while I was doing what I came to do, fine, buy it, otherwise the gift they get is my stories and my pictures...
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Old Aug 13th, 2004, 04:24 AM
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Don't say to yourself "Oh, I'll buy that later" or "I can find it cheaper at another store." I've made this mistake a few times. No longer. If I see something I like, I buy it. I won't worry about saving a few euros. You may not see the item later and it may be too late to return to the original place.

I agree with the previous posters about not "seeing it all." Just stick to a few important sights per day and if there's time for one more fine. If not, plan another trip!

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Old Aug 13th, 2004, 04:30 AM
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piggybacking on what monica said...

If you see something you like in a store in Venice, DON'T wait to buy it later because you'll never find that shop again!
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Old Aug 13th, 2004, 04:34 AM
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Here's one that I knew was a mistake even as we were putting the itinerary together -
If it's an extended trip, say 10 days or longer, try to break-up your time between city and country. On our trip this past May-June, we spent entirely too much time in large cities (Munich, Vienna, Budapest, Prague), rushing from here to there, this attraction and that, another museum, another church, etc. for 16 days. We had a great time, but what I needed was a few days to chill out in the woods somewhere.
Won't make that mistake again.
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Old Aug 13th, 2004, 05:02 AM
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Pack light and don't choose luggage that is already heavy when empty.

Don't plan to wear something different every day - mix and match.

If you have to check in luggage, do something to make it recognisable! There's nothing worse than trying to find your ordinary black bag in a sea of black bags.

Don't pack more stuff just because there's empty space left!

Pack an extra bag that is collapsible -you're guaranteed to use it on the way back.

Don't pack a ton of toilettries and make-up, hair-dryer etc. etc. Put everything in plastic bags in case they leak on the plane.

Don't spend 2 hours getting ready in the morning especially if your travel partner is waiting to get into the bathroom also. A 5-min shower and brushing your teeth should be enough! (That's a hint to my friend)

Don't make plans that are difficult to change.

Relax! It's not a competition about who can see the most sights in a day. Nor is it Amazing Race.

Don't trust anyone just because they decide to talk to you. Keep your hand on your belongings in a crowded place. Don't look frightened if you get lost or in a crowd etc. Confidence can do wonders.

Don't talk loudly to your travel companions. Europeans tend to talk in a lower voice and may consider loudness rude. Especially in museums, churches, other cultural establishments.

If you made mistakes --- so what? We all do. Even Europeans
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Old Aug 13th, 2004, 05:41 AM
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Ooooh! I've got one!

When driving the backroads through the French countryside on a Sunday afternoon (this might also apply to backroads in other countries as well), don't wait until the gas gauge is nearly on Empty before you start looking for a gas station.
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Old Aug 13th, 2004, 06:06 AM
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Great post! I have a couple to add:

I agree with the poster above; its usually worth the extra money to stay in a centrally located hotel. I got a great deal on a hotel in Rome that wasn't anywhere near anything. It took 20 minutes to walk to the hotel from the nearest Metro stop. It doesn't seem like a long time until you've been sightseeing all day and are exhausted! Won't make that mistake again.

I also agree about rental cars. While the train system in Europe is, for the most part, wonderful, driving definitely has its advantages and can allow for a more leisurely trip. We rented a car in London to drive around the England and Wales countryside, and it ended up being our favorite part of the trip.

Don't underestimate how long it will take to get from one location to another. For instance, getting from Florence to Rome may only take a couple of hours, but by the time you check out of one hotel, walk to the train station, wait for the train, travel, get off of the train, find your hotel and check in, that "couple of hours" turns into the whole afternoon. We were planning on spending 3 full days in Rome, but because of this mistake it only ended up being about two and a half. We majorly underestimated the time it would take every time we traveled from one location to another. People who jam pack their itineraries don't realize it until they get over there and waste valuable time.
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Old Aug 13th, 2004, 06:17 AM
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My biggest mistake on my first trip was that I felt so tired after my flight, I took a nap in the afternoon. When I went to sleep that night, I woke up about 3am and it took me almost a week to get acclimated to the time difference.

Since then, I have made it a point to stay up until at least nine or ten when I reach my destination. Even though sometimes it has been hard to make it, I'm always up and running on Europe time the next day.

I know there are some who can get away with a nap the first day, but from the dozens of travelers I know, that is the exception not the rule.

And, of course, most importantly....always enjoy the local wine.
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Old Aug 13th, 2004, 06:21 AM
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Always make sure you have ALL of your packages, suitcases, etc., before moving on to your next location. I left a valuable print in our hotel room in Lindau and didn't realize it until we were half way to Lucerne. We phoned the hotel to let them know we were coming back and it was still there. But we lost valuable sightseeing time.

I never make reservations at hotels that require a large deposit or require cancellation more than 2 days in advance. To me, it's just a complication I don't need if something goes wrong before or during the trip. It's not worth it just for a place to stay.
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Old Aug 13th, 2004, 06:23 AM
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What a great post! I'll add my two-cents:

1. Don't fret if you get lost. Take it as an opportunity to see things you wouldn't otherwise see. Get a taxi if you end up hopelessly lost.
2. Walk as much as possible. The very best way to see a new place is on foot.
3. Ship things home with abandon. Don't burden yourself with increasing luggage weight as you travel. Keep your suitcase light and mail your purchases home every few days. Most post offices even sell boxes and tape, so it is quite easy and convienent to send things home.
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Old Aug 13th, 2004, 06:44 AM
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Don't forget your money
Don't forget your passport
Don't forget you tickets

Anything else can be overcome!
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Old Aug 13th, 2004, 06:46 AM
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My $.02, for emphasis:

* Fit EVERYTHING you will take into a carrryon. Especially if you're training.

* Don't sleep when you arrive until it's bed time. And make your first stop upon arrival at least two nights, preferably three.

* Splurge once a week and have the hotel do your laundry while you're out and about.

* If you're a Foodie, make lunch your Big Meal. It's better for you overall, and you'll often get the same food (as supper) at a lower price.

* One-nighters are unavoidable some times, but try and spend at least two nights everywhere you go. That's usually enough if you're ambitious.

* Allow enough leeway to stay (over) three nights at key stops. That might mean "winging it" a couple of times, but...

* ...a trip like this is a good way to find out about someone you're considering spending a lifetime with. And Life is all about winging it.
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Old Aug 13th, 2004, 07:58 AM
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I have thought of a few more that I have not seen posted here.

1. DON'T take work with you on a trip. I made this mistake on my honeymoon in England while I was in law school - I thought I could study on the train. I never did the work I was supposed to do, the books weighed a ton, and looking at them was a constant reminder that I was slacking.

2. Don't immediately go to sleep after a long overnight flight. Stay up until at least 2 or 3 in the afternoon, nap (if you must) but then force yourself to get up in time for dinner.

3. Don't second guess the decisions you've made (re: hotel, city, time of year, etc.). Once decisions like this are made, then can't be undone - so just make the best of them.

4. Don't wonder while you're on the trip whether you could have done it cheaper. You've spent the money, you've done the research, now enjoy it.

5. Don't sleep late in the morning no matter how tired you are - you'll regret the lost time for the rest of your life.

6. Don't waste time walking around an entire museum if you only want to see one thing just because you paid the admission fee or 8 million guide books say its a great museum.

7. Don't waste time fighting with your travelling partner. My husband and I always start to bicker after a few days and we wasted an entire day on our first European trip because of a fight. Since then, we have learned to stop and agree to have this fight when we get home (which of course we never do).

8. Don't forget to ask the people back home what THEY would like as a souvenir. I assumed my father, who has never been out of the country, would not care what I bought him, but I asked him anyway. Turns out my dad, is an expert on scotch whiskey and knew obscure brands that were only available in Scotland. You'll be amazed at what you learn about people when you ask them.

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Old Aug 13th, 2004, 08:13 AM
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When we lived in Germany, every single friend and family member that visited found that they had underestimated the size of Europe and how long it would take to get from place to place. Europe looks small on the map compared to the U.S. or Canada, but when you actually start travelling you realize the distances are usually much further than anticipated. Don't spread yourself out too much or you end up on the road for most of your trip!
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Old Aug 13th, 2004, 08:15 AM
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"1. DON'T take work with you on a trip."

I know for some it might be an impossible task, but to me it is sacred.

I am partners with two other people in two separate businesses. Both of my partners and I made a pact that unless it is the most dire of emergencies, that when the other is on vacation, the one at the office handles everything while the other enjoys his vacation.

I can't imagine enjoying a wine tasting day in Chianti or sightseeing in the Loire knowing I have to make a business call later. Vacation time is very important to me (and fortunately both my partners feel the same) and something to savor. You'll have time enough for work when you get back.

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Old Aug 13th, 2004, 09:05 AM
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1. Don't be afraid to try out your execrable Italian (or French or Spanish or German...). Yes, you will have no idea what the person is saying to you in response to your question when they answer you in their native tongue. Or, yes, you will feel mortified when they answer you in English. But you will get better even in a matter of days, and will be less afraid to venture into locals-only pubs, cafes, shops, etc. This will greatly enhance your trip. (And, as a previous poster said, do speak softly while you are butchering their language.)

2. Don't get too upset, if, say, the Italians (or whoever) aren't as friendly as you've seen in movies. If you're in a city, the people who live there tend to be city people; many will be friendly, but if they're brusque, it's probably because they are busy city people. It's nothing personal.
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Old Aug 13th, 2004, 09:31 AM
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My two cents' worth (great thread!):

1. Don't forget band-aids.
2. Don't forget phone #'s of all the places you'll be staying in case you have to change your plans and call ahead.
3. A small dual language dictionary is invaluable for those museums that don't post descriptions in English. I use one in Italy all the time for the smaller, uni-lingual museums. Great for menus as well.

As mentioned many times above: DON'T pack too much and no one night stands unless you're trying to make an early morning connection. Happy travels!
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Old Aug 13th, 2004, 09:32 AM
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The biggest mistake we made on our first trip to Europe, London actually, was not making our hotel reservations. We knew where we wanted to stay, on Gower Street, but it took a long time to find it and we were told they were full. In March? It must have been my long hair at the time!

We stayed in a crummy place that night and the next morning, before I awoke, my sweet wife went back to the B and B that had rejected us and conviced the owner to let us stay. We had a wonderful time the rest of our trip. The B and B owner came to actually like me, I think.
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Old Aug 13th, 2004, 12:23 PM
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Good tips and I don't think there is too much to add but here are my essentials:

1. Pack light - as in, if in doubt, leave it out! You can always buy stuff you need while there.

2. Pack light!

3. If using your ATM card, make sure you know the numerical PIN because some European banks do not use letters on their ATM key pad. A few years ago, this was true in Denmark and it caused a bit of aggravation until I finally figured out my numerical PIN.

3. Always pack valuable items or things like prescription drugs in your cabin bag. For a trip to Ireland, a friend of mine packed his migraine medication in his suitcase. Big mistake! His suitcase was lost for a couple of days and it ruined the beginning of the vacation for him.

4. On the subject of cabin bags, also pack your toothpaste, toothbrush, makeup and clean underwear just in case. Some wet towelettes are good to have on hand too. Bring a along a thick, engrossing paperback novel for waiting at the gates and on the long flights.

5. Make copies of all essential travel documents such as passports, tickets and ID cards. Take a set of copies with you on the trip and leave another set at home.

6. As much as it is nice coming home with rolls and rolls of pictures, don't get so caught up taking photos of everything that you miss out on the main purpose of your trip - to enjoy, explore and experience foreign lands, people and cultures first hand. Remember that you can often buy postcards later on that will be far superior to anything you can take with your own camera. This is particularly true of castles, church interiors and other imposing sites.

7. Don't be afraid to travel alone, especially if you are a woman. This has been true for all the places I've visited so far. I have often been told that I'm brave to travel alone, something I've never really understood. If I wait until friends and family can find the time or the money to accompany me, I may well be waiting forever. Life is too short!

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Old Aug 13th, 2004, 12:49 PM
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3 words

"Italy in August"
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