Where To Begin

Old Aug 15th, 2001, 07:54 PM
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I wrote this long thing this morning and then only "..my additions are.. came up" Trouble with the sight. At any rate, in the interim, the other responses covered much of what I wanted to add.
Definetly get Rick Steves book Europe Through The Backdoor. For a first time traveler it will be loaded with information. A lot of people have issues with Steves, I love the office and find their info invaluable in planning, (I live in Seattle where he's based). The website is helpful but call them too. Everyone in the office travels, leads tours, knows their stuff and they will answer any question! What they aren't is a travel agent. Also, for a relatively low price, ( I think $30?) you can arrange a half hour consultation on the phone to help with ideas, itineraries etc.(e-mail me if you want) more info re ETBD)
London is the perfect city to start with though it is huge! Get a Tube map at your bookstore travel section and read up on how to use the system. I don't mean memorize stops, just familiarize yourself with how it works so you aren't frustrated upon arrival.
Include your son in planning so he has specific sights he looks forward to.
If you're a pleasure reader, get London, The Novel. It is long, but a great epic story which gives an incredible history of the city. When visiting for the 3rd time last summer, seeing the places from the book was kinda thrilling.
If you are able to, try to plan your arrival for afternoon. Stay up until at least 7 or 8 the first night and you'll really limit jet lag. If you do arrive in the morning, don't sleep for more than 2 hours no matter what occurs! (the words of Daniel Day Lewis), You'll kick yourselves and be screwed up for several days.
Just little tidbits. Its fun to support a first time traveler. Nothing will equal the thrill of this first trip!
Old Aug 15th, 2001, 08:18 PM
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Christy--Once you have your passports, make at least TWO photocopies of the inside front cover (where your photo and ID number are) of each one. Leave one complete set at home with someone you can contact if need be, and keep the second set in your carry-on (NOT checked) luggage in a place apart from wherever you're keeping the passports themselves. In the event that you lose the passports, this will make it much easier and quicker to get them replaced.

Someone above mentioned establishing an email account that allows remote access. To that excellent suggestion I would add this: once you have that account, send an email to yourself that contains all your flight and hotel information as well as contact information for anyone really important back home.

Finally, you asked about packaged tours. Definitely go to your local travel agent and get some brochures. Looking at the tour itineraries will give you some ideas about how to organize your time, what attractions are located near one another, how much time you might allot for each place, etc. They'll also offer you a basis for comparison with the air fares, hotel costs, and other expenses of the trip relative to what you can organize on your own. A word of caution if you think seriously about a guided tour: most do not attract families with children, and your son might well find himself the only teenager on a 30-person bus.

Check out www.londontown.com both for tourist and day trip information and for deals on hotels.

Finally, ENJOY THE PLANNING! If you're not having fun as your peruse your guidebooks and websites, you're missing a great part of any vacation--the anticipation. As proof, I offer all the folks who spent time every day on this BB. Heck, my next trip is Mexico in October, and I won't get back to Europe (will it be Spain or Turkey? hmmm...) until next year, and I'M here!
Old Aug 15th, 2001, 08:36 PM
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First, do not feel overwhelmed. Though there is much information to be gathered, the planning process can be quite enjoyable.

You're already way ahead of the game by connecting with the Fodors posters. You'll gather great information here from fellow travellers!!

In addition to the suggestions above, when planning my European trips, I've found it useful to go to a travel agent and gather up their tour books. I personally don't advocate group travel, simply because I prefer to do things independently. But I do find that reviewing tour group itineraries is helpful in determining the 'must see's' for given destinations. I then formulate a more modified itinerary based on my personal preferences.

My best advice to you is to NOT to take in too much on a given trip. You'll find the experience much richer by spending more time in various destinations rather than the less. The 'if it's Tuesday, it must be Belgium' approach is not only exhausting but also doesn't allow you to fully explore your new surroundings. My travel experience has taught me that 'less is more' and I reconcile myself to taking small bites out of Europe, allowing for another trip/another time!

I wish you and your family many happy travels!

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