Here are all the things you need to get done about six months before your European vacation. We'll focus on buying some guidebooks, choosing a destination, and we'll think about learning a bit of a language or two and renting an apartment. All of these things represent the first part of the travel planning experience, and can be done much earlier if you wish. Just don't plan too early and lose your momentum!
Buying a Guidebook
Most of what you need to know at this point can be gleened from our extensive travel resources. Still, having a paper based reference can make sense of you're still undecided. If you haven't picked your countries, then you should just get a big, old Europe guide. Otherwise, get country guides. You'll carry less bulk overall, and you'll get more information.
Choosing Destinations Part 1 - The Wish List
Europe is a big, diverse place. Are there cities you've always wanted to visit? Make a list. Write down all your favorite places. Don't worry, at this point there will be way too many of them. Haven't a clue where to start? Then read about the best of Europe below, or let us suggest an itinerary for you with our suggested European itineraries.
Choosing Destinations Part 2 - Considering Distances
Once you've listed your dream destinations, chances are that you'll need to pare it down. I'd start by considering distances between places. I usually don't want to go more than 200 miles in a normal travel day. (There's plenty of great places within 200 miles anywhere in Europe, don't worry!) Use our Flash based Travel Planning Map to see how far 200 miles is by dragging a circle over the map - the radius is 200 miles. Use our calculator to find the distance between European capitals
Choosing Destinations Part 3 - Time Must have a Stop
Ok, so you've started to get your list in order, and you're starting to see a path between places. Now it's time to think about the duration of your stay in each city or region.
Most inexperienced travelers think that 2 days is enough in a large city. It's not. Too little time in a city is almost equivalent to none at all; by the time you find out where everything is, your on your way to the next destination. Think 4 days minimum in a city like Paris, a week for a large region like Tuscany.
Choosing Destinations Part 4 - The Middle Game - Self Catering
Let's say your planned vacation is three weeks long. You're never going to pack enough clothing to last that long without washing. Hotels will charge you an arm and a leg, and you don't want to spend an entire day in a laundromat...
What do I do? I rent a house for a week in the center of my vacation. I can wash my clothes, go to outdoor markets searching for food to bring home, and chances are I'll save money over a hotel--especially if I'm traveling with family. If I'm traveling by car, I select a rural destination that's not far from a train station--in case I want to visit a large city nearby I don't want to drive to.
- Self Catering - What You Need to Know About Renting a House In Europe
- Top Self Catering Destinations
- Self Catering Resources
Choosing Destinations Part 5 - Making Reservations
If you've chosen to rent a house or apartment, start looking now if you're traveling in the high season; the best ones are reserved far in advance.
I also plan to stay at least one night close to where I land; you don't want to plan a 300 mile driving trip when jet lag has the best of you. Start thinking about that place.
If you're going in the low season, you can wait on these reservations.
Choosing Destinations Part 6 - Need Some Help?
By now you should have a list of destinations you wish to visit along with the number of nights you plan to stay.
1. Unsure whether your vacation is "doable?" Take a good look at any itinerary or list of destinations you're now considering. Chances are, you've chosen to do way too much in way too little time. It's a common mistake. If you have a short period of time, try to make your drives (or flights) between destinations less than three hours long.
2. Sign up for our free newsletter, which features new destinations and vacation information weekly.
Languages - Think About Learning Some Basic Words in a Foreign Language
If you're spending the bulk of your vacation in a single country, why not learn a bit of the language? Knowing even a few of the "polite" words will open doors and make your vacation far more memorable. Think about signing up for a language course at a local community college or cultural center, or learn online.
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