Hello, I lived in Switzerland for 15 years, and as a result had the opportunity to travel around Europe quite a bit, visit lots of places, learn a little of three languages and have lots of fond memories. But since those golden days of yore I have been back twice with my fiancée for a three week trip and one 18 day’er.
The first was completely planned with reservations for each night and was high intensity, high stress covering six countries and nearly 1800 miles. How else can you cover all the bases? Actually you can’t and do it any justice at all.
And my friends that is lesson number one
For any trip to Europe lasting less than 3-4 months decide ahead of time and agree that you cannot see it all. There is so much not just the big cities but the countryside and small towns. That is where the heart of the country lies. You have to set priorities on what you want to see and stick to it. This requires quite a bit of advance planning on your part-or if you trust someone else a “Travel Agent”.
And that is lesson number two
Find a travel agent or online travel site who you can trust-one who’s been there many times. Unless you have been to the country before you cannot possibly know all the nuances of foreign travel. Depending on your personality consider doing a tour first. Self guided trips to a foreign country can be very stressful and will perhaps ruin the trip. Book in advance.
Lesson number three
Contrary to an international myth there are speed limits in Europe so watch the signs. Some German highways are without speed limit. It is fun to drive. But carfully!
Lesson number four
Make an attempt to speak the local language. Even in France (with one exception) the locals appreciate you trying to speak the language. Depending on where you go for example most Beneulux countries, Austria, Switzerland, Germany and even northern Italy you can get by with German-and truth be told English if all else fails. But the locals really appreciate the effort and you will be rewarded for your efforts.
Lesson number five
Room sizes like bathrooms and bedrooms are without exception considerably smaller than what you are used to in the USA. So if you tend to be claustrophobic-beware. Also mealtimes are generally different from ours especially in Italy and France. The normal safety precautions should be taken for your room with a alarm door stop or a keep i for added security. Thieves live in Europe too.
Lesson number six
For the really adventurous forget all of the above and just wing it. There is no better thrill in traveling, to my way of thinking, than being able to turn left off the autostrada to go to Venice just because you feel like it.
Traveling to Europe requires much planning and careful preparation. Having a good travel agent that has been to Europe many times is almost an absolute necessity for a self guided tour. If you are with a group you needn’t worry so much. But the most fun of all is doing it on your own without an itinerary.