Sunday, January 21, 2007

European Vacation Getaway - 7 Travel Tips

Europe has always been a popular travel destination. Whether you're a seasoned traveler or planning your first trip, there are several important things to keep in mind before calling your travel agent and booking your next vacation:

1. Time of year: While "Paris in the Springtime" sounds very romantic, the truth is that you're liable to spend many days indoors, because the weather can be cold and rainy. Why not try the French Riviera instead? The French Riviera in the springtime boasts warm temperatures, sunshine and beautiful places to visit. If you're not sure of weather patterns, check with your travel agent who can advise you on rainy seasons or other weather-related issues for traveling to a specific spot.

2. Your Budget: Decide how much you've got to spend, and don't forget to include extras like tourist attractions, getting around, souvenirs and meals (which are typically more expensive in Europe than in the states -- dinner can cost upwards of 50 Euros per person, especially in metropolitan cities). If your budget is smaller, consider visiting Eastern Europe, looking for packaged tours, or, if you're flexible, book a "last-minute" trip, which can often save you 30% or more. Check out the current exchange rate between your currency and that of the country you'll be visiting, to have a better idea of what your vacation is going to actually cost you. You’ll have more fun if you’ve budgeted for a reasonable amount, rather than run out of money on your trip and have to miss out on some sights.

3. Political Climate: While most countries that rely on tourism make every effort to ensure the safety of tourists, these days it's always a good idea to keep up on the current political climate of the country you're planning to visit, especially if there have been problems in the past.

4. Know our own "internal clock" or level of tolerance for structured travel: If you prefer sleeping in in the mornings, and "doing your own thing" then a guided tour is probably not for you. Most guided tours start early in the morning, and you're on the go until evening. You may visit several cities in a country or countries within a specified amount of time, and you're required to stay with the group. Make sure you don’t spend money on something you’re not really going to enjoy.

5. Use the resources that are available to make your trip special and save money: Today's travelers have numerous options when planning their vacation. You can use the Internet to find out more about the cities or countries you want to visit, check out prices; even book your flight or hotel room. On the other hand, don’t assume the internet has the best rates. Double check with the airlines or a travel agent to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

6. Get organized: You can use trip-planning software, or your own favorite organizing system to organize and plan your trip. Don't forget things like making sure your passport and picture ID are up-to-date, finding out if travel insurance is something you need, and how and where to exchange your money. The more organized you are in the beginning, the better vacation you'll have. While on the topic of passport, give yourself plenty of time to get your passport, especially with the new passport regulations taking place. There’s going to be a flood of people seeking passports, so it may take longer than you expect.

7. Pack lightly: When planning your trip, look at your wardrobe and pack as lightly as you can. Most of us take too much on a vacation, and end up lugging heavy suitcases and other bags along filled with items that we either don't use or don't need. Take only what you'll really need, and remember that if you forget or end up needing something, chances are you can get it once you reach your destination.

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