|We love travelling in Europe.
It has so much to offer.
We have taken our children to Europe six times. We
simply plan a rough itinerary and book some plane
flights. Once we get there...we like to say that "we
drive around and get lost."
First Europe Vacation 2001
On our first trip in 2001, we went with few plans and
almost no reservations. It was a little too free-spirited
and as a result, a little stressful to be finding hotels
and visiting tourist info centers (TI's) late in the
afternoon for bookings. We quickly learned that we
packed too much....we could leave dressier clothing
at home and go more relaxed.
We learned to pace ourselves and eat at cheaper
restaurants when we could.
By our third trip to Europe, we felt like pros...
We have the Home-basing down to a science...with a
22 day trip planned...we spent 4 nights in
Sarlat(Dordogne), 2 in Carcassonne, 4 nights in
Arles(Provence) 7 nights free in Nice using Marriott
rewards and three nights in Venice.
We learned to relax. We actually spend a wonderful
day canoing down the Dordogne River and relaxed
and spent a day at the beach in Nice.We researched
the driving times and decided to take a train from
Nice to Venice instead of driving.
|So on our second trip to Europe in 2002, we went a little
more structured. We spent more time researching travel
books for sights to see and places to stay. Most
importantly, we learned how to "home base" That
means to choose an area to stay and day-trip
out...sometimes even driving one or two hours away.
For example, we stayed in Lindau on on Lake
Constance... from here we daytripped to see the castles
of Barvia, we spent a day in the beautiful Appenzell,
Switzerland, and a quick trip to Lichtenstein. We actually
save time this way by not unpacking and repacking
suitcases and cars.
We learned to pack light. We brought a collapsible
cooler and visited grocery stores and markets to buy
supplies for picnics.
In Paris, we learned the value of museum passes and
public transportation. We learned our lesson not to rent
cars in a big city...get out into the countryside before
renting a car.
|By our fourth trip to Europe, which we classified as
United Kingdom on this website...we learned to pack
even lighter....and bring carry-on size luggage. Our
plans to picnic did not work as the weather did not
cooperate....so we ate alot of fish and chips.
Not only did we rely on Rick Steves' travel books, we did
a lot of internet research and found some great B&B's.
We learned to ask our hosts about festivals, packing
lunches, doing laundry etc...
We discovered that several low cost European airline
companies offer great deals..in some cases cheaper
We also learned that we could take some bus trips one
way and abandon the tour half way...asking to bring our
luggage along. This avoided renting a car in London
and got us into the countryside before facing the
daunting task on driving on the other side of the road
|Morale of the Story....
There are always lessons to be
learned...and the fun is in the learning
|On our fifth trip to Europe in 2007, we primarily focused on
Italy. We decided to be brave and travel by train.
We told the kids to pack only a carry-on size suitcase to
make it easier to lift on and off trains
Train travel is easy; however, train schedules in Italy are
harder to deal with than in Switzerland or Germany.
Immediately upon arrival into a new town, we would stop
at the customer service desk and take the time to research
dates, times and track location for our departure.
We also discovered the value of time and money savings
by taking cheap local plane flights from location to location.
We found cheap flights from Naples to Venice...hard to
believe even cheaper than car rental or train travel...and
considerable time savings as well.
|On our sixth trip to Europe in 2008, we combined a 10
night Mediterranean Cruise with an additional eight nights
in the Czech Republic and Austria.
Our only issue was the weight of the suitcases.
Normally, we travel very light, but when packing for a
cruise it made is difficult to include 10 days of dressier
clothes, dresses, formals (and jewelry, hand bags and
shoes) for the ladies and coats, ties, dress pants and those
size 14 dress shoes.
Not only was suitcase weight an issue at the airport we
made the limit)...it was more difficult to handle at the end of
the trip while taking trains and buses and metros. This
was our first trip with NO rental car.
Most of the port of calls we "did on our own" and did not
book shore excursions...so save money...but more
importantly time. We wanted to get the most out of our day
in port and not be stuck waiting for a group.
We learned to study the local alphabet and language a little
more as fewer instructions/info was in English
Make your cheat sheets (Before You Go)
and be prepared.