With such a variety of cultures, landscape and history, the hardest thing about taking a trip to Europe can be deciding what to do first. Sip tea in the shadows of Buckingham Palace? Sip wine in the French countryside? Or bask in the sun on the Riviera? The options for European travel are endless and most of your choices will undoubtedly sound glamorous to your friends back in the United States. But before you start packing, you will need to do your homework.
A perfect day on the Riviera
Step 1Obtain a passport or make sure your existing passport is up-to-date. You can obtain the proper forms by going to the U.S. Department of States’ passport site (see Resources). For renewal, most people will be able to mail their two passport photos and the proper fees and documentation to the central passport agency for processing. If this is your first passport, you will need to appear in person at the nearest passport agency. It can take up to six weeks to receive your passport, so allow plenty of time to receive it before your scheduled trip. You’d pay double the regular fee if you need your passport rushed. According to Europa, the portal site for the European Union, your U.S. passport is the only document you need in order to travel freely in the European Union countries.
Step 2Decide what type of vacation you are looking to take, for example, a cultural tour of cities, a beach vacation or some time in the mountains. Consider whether you would like to join a tour or travel independently. Check with travel agents and do research online. Because each country is relatively small, it is possible to see many different places in a shorter amount of time. When you’ve narrowed your focus down to a specific area or countries, purchase a guide book to give you more detailed information.
Step 3Book a flight to your chosen destination from the online booking agent of your choice. If you are planning to travel around by train, bus or car, consider booking a flight into one of the larger airport hubs like Frankfurt, London or Paris. Those hubs tend to have a lot flights coming and going from the United States, so you may save some money. Look into purchasing a Eurail pass for train travel throughout Europe, a selected area or individual countries (see Resources).
Step 4Book your accommodations. Many hotels and guest houses offer online booking but if you have to call them, don’t be shy about asking to speak English. Most Europeans speak at least some English–something that can come in quite handy when you’re lost or confused.
Step 5Pack your luggage according to the projected weather but always have at least one outfit for the opposite type of conditions. Pack light. Heavy luggage will get to be a big burden and more restricted airline allowances for luggage are in force.
- menton, french riviera image by Sean Wallace-Jones from Fotolia.com
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