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Trip to Europe for Someone Who Has Never Been Abroad


Jul 7th, 2003, 07:51 AM
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Trip to Europe for Someone Who Has Never Been Abroad

My husband and I are trying to plan a European vacation this September. My husband has grown up in the Midwest and has never been abroad. I am looking for a trip to someplace that won't scare him out of future trips to Europe. He's heard horror stories from friends about horrible hotels and bad experiences. Any advice on an easy European primer?
iorioj is offline  
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Jul 7th, 2003, 08:04 AM
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I think the Rick Steves books are a good starting point for those who've never been to Europe before. They have specific information on how to get around, what makes a reasonable itinerary, what cultural differences to expect and advice re how to embrace them rather than being frustrated by them.

His hotel picks have gotten broader, but those at the low end of the budget spectrum tend to be pretty spartan. I use Fodors (see Rants & Raves on this site), Frommers, Sandra Gustafson's "Great Sleeps" series, and sometimes the Karen Brown guides, combined with text searching here ("hotel AND rome", for example) to find accomodations.

You'll need to decide on your destination(s) before you can begin much planning. Does anyplace in particular speak to you? Many people advise a first trip to the UK, since there is no language barrier to contend with.

I suggest spending some time at the library and/or the bookstore, taking a good look at the many guidebooks available and getting a feel for which suit your style and budget.

Bon voyage!
Lesli is offline  
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Jul 7th, 2003, 08:05 AM
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London and the British Isles would be a good place to start. You are beginning your planning a little late for September. You better decide quickly and start booking hotels.

Paris isn't that difficult and it is fun to take the fast train to Paris from London. Amsterdam is another easy one as is Brussels (Brugge).
Ronda is offline  
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Jul 7th, 2003, 08:11 AM
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England (or the UK) is a good first time trip because they speak English! The fact that you are computer literate & have found this forum will give you an advantage in avoiding horrible hotels & hopefully bad experiences. In addition to getting advice here, use tripadvisor.com and epinions.com to check user reviews for hotels.

Decide where you want to go & for how long. Take your interests & preference for city vs countryside into consideration. (I think many people make the mistake of going to a big city in a strange country for an entire vacation, when they live in a small town & would find a big city in the US daunting!) If you're from a small town, spend just a few days in London & then travel the countryside which is beautiful in September. While tour packages are appealing for first timers, they often use less desirable hotels that wouldn't otherwise get filled.

My other piece of advice is don't go for too long for a first trip. Get just enough so you're anxious to go back.
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Jul 7th, 2003, 08:14 AM
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Hello iorioj.

It is true that while change can be fun, sometimes we want it in small doses. Perhaps you could try booking at least half of your hotels in 'chain hotel' type establishments that, while admittedly not full of character, rarely deliver any surprises. Mercure and Novotel, both part of the Accor chain, are usually solid and reliable, although not the cheapest available. Try, though, to book the odd BandB or smaller hotel, so as to 'dip your toe' into new experiences - you may be pleasantly surprised.

Others here will have lots of ideas - but first, what 'bad experiences' are you concerned about?
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Jul 7th, 2003, 08:20 AM
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This is not exactly what you asked for but...find something that he is really good at and ask him to help in the planning. For example, I plan most of the trip but I am not good at reading maps and directions. My husband is good with maps so he is "in charge" of getting us around on our trip. He gets a "travel thrill" out of getting us where we want to go. After our first trip together we both enjoy yearly trips back to Europe and I can always plan on his help to get us around. Have fun and good luck!
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Jul 7th, 2003, 08:26 AM
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Just to extend on Sue's answer, if you try B&B here in England, I would opt for the 'deluxe' or 'highly commended' rating which is usually displayed prominently, or written next to the name of the B&B (like star ratings). I have stayed at some quite embarrassingly bad places. But the deluxe and highly commended ones are tastefully decorated, clean, with nice amemities. One particular place in Derbyshire had a gorgeous four poster bed and the owner used to bring us fresh tea and homemade cake when she saw us coming back after a day out
EnglishOne is offline  
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Jul 7th, 2003, 08:28 AM
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I agree..we need to get those horror stories out in the open so we can dispel or confirm them and tell you how to AVOID it, as necessary.
Although I agree somewhat with the "language barrier" issue raised in some of the above posts, depending on where you travel, speaking only English isn't nearly the liability it was a few years ago. The Netherlands is one example of a country where most everyone is conversant, and happily so.
In terms of the so-called "chain" properties that some here seem to dislike so much (sometimes because they don't wish to pay the money)...a LOT of hotels in Europe belong to some sort of chain or another..some well-known to us and some not so much so. You'' hear a lot of people talking about "charm" when, and if, you start asking about hotels..but make certain WHAT amenities you expect and don't want to live without when you start booking..and STICK to it when you can regardless of the "charm" factor.
I also agree with the Rick Steves recommendation..a great way to start and you might also go to the Rick Steves website for some ideas.
Have a wonderful trip!
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Jul 7th, 2003, 09:12 AM
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I don't necessarily agree with all the advice to stick to an English speaking country. I think it might be good to choose something quite different from home and just make sure that you plan carefully so that you know your hotels will be comfortable and friendly and the experience will be incredibly memorable (thereby ensuring future trips!)

Obviously, you know your husband's interests and curiosities, as well as your budget. But I might start with Lyon, staying at Cour de Loges in Vieux Lyon. (comfortable property, wonderful food, interesting area with helpful, friendly French people - dispelling the "arrogant French" myths) Or go even further out - Dubrovnik, staying at the Hotel Villa Argentina. Absolutely nobody can fail to be impressed and won over to European travel.

Good luck!
Grasshopper is offline  
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Jul 7th, 2003, 09:16 AM
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I think an ideal first trip would be to split your time between London and Paris, arriving first in London to get your European "sea legs" while speaking a common language (more or less), then chunnel to Paris.

I'd leave driving for another trip unless your husband really wants to try the right-hand thing.

You can get lots of good recs here for hotels once you have your budget set.
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Jul 7th, 2003, 09:22 AM
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London is a great starting point, BUT how does your husband feel about really big cities - The fact that London(or paris for that matter) is a huge bustling metropolis may scare aaway some people. I love big cities, but being from the midwest
dgruzew is offline  
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Jul 7th, 2003, 09:25 AM
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Sorry - hit reply on accident!!

London is a great starting point, BUT how does your husband feel about really big cities - The fact that London(or paris for that matter) is a huge bustling metropolis may scare aaway some people. I love big cities, but being from the midwest(assuming not from Chicago since you said "From the midwest") You may want to start somewhere smaller - like Amsterdam(holland) - or scotland,or ireland
dgruzew is offline  
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Jul 7th, 2003, 09:27 AM
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Am I correct that you are starting to plan for a trip to Europe *this* September?

If so, you will have to start booking hotels and airlines yesterday.
ira is online now  
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Jul 7th, 2003, 10:15 AM
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My advice would be not to try to go to alot of different places in too short a time.

To me, the potential for a "melt-down" comes in rushing around (every move - pack, check out of your hotel, taxi to train, train to new place, taxi to hotel, check in new hotel, possibly hate new hotel, unpack, etc.).

Depending on what interests your husband I would simply pick 7-10 days in Paris, or Venice, or Amsterdam. Fly directly in, stay put, see what you can on foot and public transportation.

And pick a nice normal but European hotel (not an American chain and not a B&B) in a pretty & central location of the city.

suze is offline  
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Jul 7th, 2003, 02:55 PM
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Many, many years ago... I was like your husband. But MY husband wanted to travel.(again) So.. first trip was to England: there is so much to see and do in England and Wales. Just do research.
Second trip was to Scandinavia ( my "Homeland"). Third trip was to Italy. As they say: the rest is history. -
Grandma is offline  
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Jul 7th, 2003, 03:10 PM
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I would go to the library and get some travel videos as well as guide books. That's a good way to get started.

Also, have you considered a tour? I myself am not a tour-type person, but for a first timer it is a very low stress way to approach European travel. Most airlines offer tour packages that can offer a surprising amount of freedom. We considered Alitalia's tours before deciding to go solo. They offer packages, for example, that include the airfare, hotel for a certain amount of nights, and train or car transportation. There are no tour groups to join, so your leisure time is strictly your own. It does, however, give some structure to your trip.

I would get moving, though. Time really isn't on your side for a September trip!
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Jul 7th, 2003, 03:15 PM
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Out of curiousity, has your husband also heard positive stories from friends about wonderful hotels and great experiences? Reason I ask is that, while it's great to hear positive things about Europe from people here, or from travel writers like Rick Steves, the opinions of friends can matter a lot to some people.
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Jul 7th, 2003, 06:26 PM
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I would suggest that you try a country other than England because part of the real European experience is to have to deal with another language part of the time. That said, many people in prime tourist locales do speak English. My second suggestion would be to choose two major metropolitan areas that are connected by good train service, like Paris and Strasbourg for example. That way you could get a feel for 2 different cities and also have the opportunity to take day trips out of the cities to smaller interesting locales so that you do not feel overwhelmed by being in big cities all of the time. Frankly, we find that much of the charm of Europe is found in the smaller towns rather than the large well-known cities so be sure to make them a parat of your itinerary. Third, I would stick to one country so that you are only dealing with one new language. Get some language tapes now and start practicing because every little bit helps and you will feel so much more confident if you at least know how to count and ask where the bathrooms are. Or, if either of you ever studeied a foreign language, choose a country where that language is spoken. Finally, do not rent a car on your first trip. We rent tham all of the time, but it would probably cause for some major marital stress trying to navigate, figure out European traffic signs and a different language all of the time. Also, if you will be taking the train, travel light.
julies is offline  
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Jul 8th, 2003, 12:44 AM
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Agree with Suze, as she makes valid points (IMO), and with LVsue on NOT driving...talk about marital stress! As many have stated here on Fodor's, so much of what you get out of the experience depends on YOUR attitude. Have an open mind, go with the flow (or bumps), and have a wonderful time! And it's never too late to travel...I'd jump on a plane tomorrow sans reservations and all if I could!
klondike is offline  
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Jul 8th, 2003, 04:28 AM
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I would feel more confident for iorioj if she had said that her husband has always wanted to visit Europe but has heard . . . etc., etc. If he and his peers are of a critical mindset to begin with and expect European travel to be exactly like home and he is lukewarm about the whole idea, well then she should leave him behind and go to Europe with several of her friends. I'd hate to see her invest all that emotional effort dragging him around, not to mention having to listen to negative comments the whole time.

Alternatively, maybe they should try a short hop -- like a one-week spectacular tour in one spot, w/o a care in the world, to give him a taste and see how it strikes him. Budget permitting, of course. I don't think folks, who are not just out of college and who are used to a certain comfort/convenience level, need to apologize for making a packaged tour their introduction to European travel. Then they can return again and again on their own. IMHO. J.
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