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Need helpful advice on planning a first-time trip to Europe

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Hello! My husband and I are planning a trip to Europe when he finishes his graduate program. It has always been a dream of ours to travel there before we start a family and real life gets under way. We have about three weeks to spend over there. We have never traveled abroad to Europe so I have many questions. We have our hearts set on seeing a few different places while we are over there, but I don't know if it is possible or practical. We aren't planning on going until March 2017 so I realize I have a while to plan this all out but I'd rather get a jump on it now and start doing the research rather than waiting until the last minute! I also plan on purchasing some travel guide as well to give me some additional information. Here are some of the more pressing questions I have! Sorry there are so many! I'm sure there are more that I didn't even think to ask so feel free to share anything else you feel would be helpful to me! Thank you in advance to all who comment! It's truly appreciated!

1) Having never been to Europe, should I enlist the help of a travel agent or try booking it all on my own (flights/accommodations/tours)? I spoke with one travel agent that suggested a pre-planned tour but I don't know how I feel about having every day of my trip dictated for me. I was hoping for a bit more freedom to explore on our own! I don't mind planning trips and being adventurous but I am concerned that trying to do all this for places we've never been may be too daunting or difficult.

2) The cities we desire to see are London, Dublin (or anywhere in Ireland really) and Rome, with the majority of our 3 weeks spent in Italy. Is that too many locations to fit into three weeks or can it be done without making the whole vacation seem to rushed? We want to see a lot because we don't know when we will get the chance to go back, but not too much to where we are rushing through it all and can barely remember what we've seen.

3) Any thoughts on booking rentals abroad on websites such as homeaway.com or vacationrentals.com? Should I stick to tried and true bnb's or hotels instead? What are the pros and cons?

4)What are the best ways to get around in Europe? I've had some people recommend renting a car in places such as Ireland so you can drive and see more of the beautiful sights and then sticking to railways, taxis, buses etc. for locations such as England and Italy.

5)Should I change some currency over before I leave or do it once I get there? Or are credit cards the better way to go, provided my bank doesn't charge astronomical fees to use it?

6)Is it best to book certain things like tours or admission tickets for venues such as museums before we arrive to avoid lines or would it be better to wait until we get there?

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