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New to this board & overseas travel..have a question

New to this board & overseas travel..have a question

Old Jan 19th, 2003, 01:19 PM
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New to this board & overseas travel..have a question

We are finally in a positition in our lives where we can travel overseas - would like to plan first of many! We are not sophisticated travelers; would like hints on where to start. Should we plan a group tour with a travel agent, or boldly strike out on our own? Our main concerns would be:
1) Safety - Unfortunately, all countries have areas that may be questionable. How does one learn of these?
2) Getting around in an unfamiliar area
3) Best times of year to go

We usually take our vacations in the winter months. We are considering Ireland or Germany for our first trip. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Old Jan 19th, 2003, 01:39 PM
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I think Ireland would be a good first trip. You could take Brian Moore Internationl or Scepture Tours one price for air, car and B&B's. Pick up your car (upgrade to automatic!!)at the airport and your off on your own! If you go April-May it will be chilly but not bad and you would miss the heavy crowds making not having to have B&B resevations possible (except in Dublin, have to have reservations there) Go to townandcountry.ie and check out the B&B's. The West and Southwest of Ireland is wonderful!! Dingle Peninsula,
Connor Pass, Slea Head Drive....Planning your trip will be half the fun!!!
Old Jan 19th, 2003, 01:46 PM
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I think you'll find those who frequent this site will help with everything except reading your guide books and paying for your trip.

Before you start you've got to make a very basic decision.

Are you the type of people who are willing and able to carry your own suitcases? Are you at all organized?

Or do you want to sit and watch your trip go by?

This will determine if you should plan and go on your own trip or go on a tour.

I think you'll find most people on this site are planners and oers.
Old Jan 19th, 2003, 01:46 PM
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Before I begin planning a trip, I decide on places I've always wanted to see and pick one or a few. Then, I buy a lot of guide books and study them, along with doing various searches on this board and other web sites. All this planning starts out about a year in advance so that I am thoroughly prepared knowing the areas/sights, as well as being financially prepared.

Then, I strike out on my own with a planned itinerary. A good starting point with guide books is the Rick Steves collection.

I think that striking out on your own or going with a group depends on how much of an independent traveler you prefer to be. There are pros and cons with both.

Good luck in whatever you decide!
Old Jan 19th, 2003, 02:15 PM
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Katie? Katie(ne O'Brien) O'Reilly?
Husband Sean O'Reilly?
Then a "roots" trip would be in order!

Germany or Ireland would be good first picks. You'll find fluent English in both.

Familiar, modern conveniences, customs, etc. Using rail travel, subways, an occaisional day tour bus and you'll be fine on your own, travelling lightly.

Old Jan 19th, 2003, 03:07 PM
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we need hints of what kind o people you are.. what your interests are..

are you guys budget minded. or money no isue.

are you adventures..etc..

then we can help you better..
Iralend, seems easy enough.. but in winter, I don't know..

if you decide too take a guided tour it dosn't really matter if your going too libya or where ever. they tend too put you in upper scale hotels and your well fortified from the locals.

Old Jan 19th, 2003, 03:53 PM
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I drove thru So. Germany for a month (so beautiful in October, albeit a bit chilly on that trip, didn't even have time to go elsewhere except for a couple of days in Austria). Driving there is easy if you mind the rules of the road - stay to the right except when passing). Advantage is you're driving on the right (I'm assuming all of Ireland drives on the left which I did all over England but it's a bit more stressful; however, would do again in a second).

I've taken both tours and gone independently and prefer independently as you can go and stay wherever and how long you want. To me, a car is the best bet vs a train where you're still confined to a schedule. First trip to Europe was independently and great!

Best time: my choice would be May or October. Safety: never encountered any problems in Germany. Getting around: just a good map.

If you would like my trip report on Germany just e-mail me directly.
Old Jan 19th, 2003, 05:38 PM
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I think almost all first time travelers to Europe can benefit from an organized tour. First time trips can be mind bogeling, particularly if intense and careful planning has not been done. BTW, I am not a travel agent.

Go to Ireland and Germany and other places too. See what you like best.
Old Jan 19th, 2003, 07:04 PM
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Agrees with uuuu...Unless you are a free spirit is nice to travel with a group tour on your first overseas trip...You will be able to relax and enjoy the sights,also it will give you an idea of what to do in planning your next trip.....Have Fun..
Old Jan 19th, 2003, 07:12 PM
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Do a group for your first trip. We have done over 25 trips to Europe..most by ourselves but some with groups. We prefer to go independently by rental car but for someone that is going for trip #1 you will probably be better off in a group. The trip #2 can be by yourself.
Old Jan 19th, 2003, 08:57 PM
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A friend and I took our first trip overseas to France a few years ago, completely on our own. We bought plane tickets online and researched the rest on the Web and in guidebooks. We started at the library and then narrowed down our destinations before investing in our own guidebooks. I should mention that both of us were recent college grads with starter jobs and student loans, so we agreed to do things cheaply but not scrimp entirely.

That said, I'm so glad we didn't buy a tour package. We were in France for 10 days, most of it in Paris, with two day trips. We were able to adjust our plans on a daily basis when it was necessary -- we postponed a trip to Monet's gardens at Giverny that was planned for a day when the forecast called for rain all day, for instance. If you're more adventurous and like to explore more than museums and the obvious tourist spots, you might not want to be pinned down with a group. Also, it seems to me that group tours tend to isolate you from the people in the place you're visiting. You may end up socializing exclusively with the group rather than getting to know other folks along the way.

The benefits of going with a tour, of course, are that far less advance planning is required and you'll be in good hands if you don't speak the language. Besides what other folks have said above this entry.

Finally, poking around in these forums -- as well as those at Rick Steves' site, lonelyplanet.com and Rough Guides -- will give you a lot of insight into others' experiences, from travelers who stick with 5-star hotels to those who prefer hostels. The forums on this site and Rick Steves' site were integral to our planning.

Bon voyage!
Old Jan 19th, 2003, 09:45 PM
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I have always traveled independly, but have often taken a city tour my first day in a new (large) city to get my bearings and decide on places that I wish to go back to. All advice above is good. Do decide on your interests and hit your local library and/or bookstore. I have also rented vidios from my library to see some of the features of countries that I am going to. Have a great trip.
Old Jan 19th, 2003, 11:02 PM
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I always like to begin planning a trip by watching Rick Steves travel tapes. You can purchase them at his site or check them out from your library if available. I just set my VCR to tape all his shows on PBS. You can also read the transcripts at his site.

I like to watch these tapes and orient myself before I branch out to other travel books. I like to visualize where I am going. This helps with getting around in an "unfamiliar area". It took my husband a long time to talk me into going to Europe but now he can't keep me home! We have never taken an organized tour. I do all the planning.

I also like the Eyewitness series because they are broken down into areas with pictures and maps.
Old Jan 20th, 2003, 04:04 AM
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For the first trip I would try to find a nice fly/drive/hotel package probably with an already set itinerary. We ended up doing on of the suggestions with a little twist and got help from a travel agent to book most of it. It was great, and no worries. Now we have some experience and know what we want and try to plan everything on our own. We do not like being stuck on a bus all day, but was a little anxious about all the booking needed. The Fly/drive worked well for us, and it was nice knowing where to stay for the night. Another tip would be to follow the itinerary of a group tour, but do it in your own pace.
Old Jan 20th, 2003, 04:56 AM
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The very fact that you found this site and bothered to post a question indicates to me that you would be able to go on your own rather than a tour. On a tour everywhere you go it will be with tons of other tourists - those on your tour and all the other ones. I can't tell you how many times we went by some major tourist site and saw several tour buses, and all their passengers - the places were mobbed. We'd skip the place then and come back later after the tour buses left and enjoyed it much more. This goes for whole towns, not just museums or attractions. I'd definitly stay away from tours unless you really have trouble carrying your own bags and thinking for yourself - or - unless you want to go to more exotic places that are not used to tourists. Most of Europe is very easy to do on your own.

The above suggestions re Rick Steves are great. He really explains things for first timers. Read his books, watch his videos and go where he suggests for whatever area you are in.

I always go to Barnes and Noble and spend hours looking at all their books (then buy a few) to get ideas. If you have a large library they will also have many travel books. Two travel magazines I find useful are Arthur Frommes Budget Traveler and National Geographic Traveler. Then there are all the internet sites - do searches here, or just ask questions and people will point you in the right direction for sites to book hotels, airfare and car rentals or train travel.

If you are considering Ireland why not add some of England to that trip and start with London. They really know what to do with tourists and they speak English of course. Personally I didn't find driving on the left that difficult, I did it on my first European trip. But you can certainly see plenty by train and "day tours" from cities. In those cases you are on you own for most of the trip but when you get to say, London, you sign up for a bus tour to places like Bath and Stonehenge and do those with a group. That's a good way to start if you don't want to drive. (But you miss a lot of quaint little out of the way places).

Welcome to being a travel addict.
Old Jan 20th, 2003, 07:15 AM
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I've spoken to people who've gone on planned tours and think they've seen everything.

I ask questions and these are the answers.

10 days includes the day you leave the US and the day you return. My math gives me 2 days less than that.

They get you up at the crack of dawn to get on the bus.

Be sure to rotate seats on the bus so that everyone gets an equal view.

Long rides with some obscure (though played up) stopping point(s) during the day.

You arrive late in the afternoon (4-5PM) with just enough time to stroll before a planned dinner.

Read the daily itinerary. You leave one location, pass another and arrive at a third. On the way to the hotel you will get a view of...., then pass ....., and get off bus for a private tour of ....

Some friends of ours were in Sorrento and believe they saw the highlights. Got there in the evening in time for dinner, next morning went to Capri and were driven to Annacapri (told of less tourists there) for lunch, back to Sorrento for dinner. Left next morning with a stop in Pompeii.

Old Jan 20th, 2003, 07:30 AM
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I prefer to plan my own trips, but if you're too uncomfortable with that on your first trip, you could check out Untours. I've never used them, but I've read some of their brochures. They arrange your lodging and provide someone to give itinerary suggestions and help with problems, I believe. Maybe someone else can give you more info on them, or I think you can find them on the web. Good luck with whatever you decide!
Old Jan 20th, 2003, 07:59 AM
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Germany is my vote, easiest but scenic and different.
Old Jan 20th, 2003, 10:29 AM
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Try www.travelvantage.com/ire.html for suggesions on itinerary in Ireland.
Old Jan 20th, 2003, 11:23 AM
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Hi Katie,

Some things you may want to consider.

1. How comfortable have you been when you have traveled domestically . . . airports, driving, food, large cities, etc?
2. How adaptable are you to different food, accommodations, different modes of local transportation (subways, buses)?
3. Do you generally take a zillion bags with you when you travel (best not to in Europe).
4. Do you like to be in control of things? Are you spontaneous? Self-sufficent?
5. How do you deal with the unexpected? Is it frustrating or a challenge to overcome?
6. Is research and planning 'fun' or a nightmare?
7. Are you comfortable asking questions of strangers? Do you respect the perspective of others?

The body of answers can help direct you into the decision of self-guided travel of tour group travel.

I would suggest that chose a destination for your first trip that is a native based (to you) country. If English is your first language - Ireland, England, Scotland are good choices. I also suggest both a large city and country experience to establish a base line for setting expectation for future trips.

Have a great time.

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