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Helpful Europe travel sites

Discussion in 'Non-Vegas Chat' started by makikiboy, Jul 19, 2012.

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  1. makikiboy

    makikiboy VIP Whale

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    Okay, I have enough miles to travel to Europe (all the way from Hawaii) and I am looking into that next year. My company has us on furlough and I saved that up so I have to take 26 days off by the middle of next year (tough huh?).

    I heard that the tour groups are more rush rush and my friends suggested I just go on my own and stay at hostels (senior hostels maybe since I'm close to that age) instead. That way I can just wing it and stay longer if I like the place or take a day or more off if I want to relax someplace.

    I know the pluses of taking a tour group, everything is taken care of, buses, hotels, etc. but I was thinking of saving some money by staying at lower end hotels and hostels (I'm probably going solo so will have to pay extra for hotels). I also heard from friends that because of the rush rush nature of tours everything may be a blur and I may not enjoy the countries/cities as much. The other plus is that the tour will probably take me to all the standard tourist locations and book me with the standard tours so I don't have to do much planning and booking on my own.

    What do you guys think? Take a package or just wing it? Comments?

    Anyone know of europe travel sites (I know about lonely planet) that can help me plan and book an European vacation?

    Are senior hostels more mellow and safer than regular hostels?

    Anyway, any assistance and any input is appreciated.

    thanks in advance!

    makikiboy
     
  2. HoyaHeel

    HoyaHeel Grammar Police & Admin

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    I'm a planner, and I'm flexible enough to roll with changes, and I'm a control freak and want to do what I want, when I want to do it. So no tours for me. I think planning a trip to Europe is certainly a doable option - if you want to do the work. The internet has made travel so much easier! (I remember trying to make middle of the night phone calls and send faxes back in the 80s when working on family travel with my parents:confused2:)

    Tripadvisor can be somewhat helpful (get general ideas of things to do, impressions of hotels - read everything with a grain of salt, I tend to read "in the middle" for most reviews) For Italy hotels (ooh, guess they're more widespread - I learned about it for Italy) Venere: http://www.venere.com/

    I like Europe for Visitors: http://europeforvisitors.com/

    Cruise Critic has a Ports of Call forum with locale information. So does the FlyerTalker board. Obviously, those message boards are geared toward specific demographics but can still be exceedingly helpful.

    Rick Steves website has lovely walking tours & free podcast tours you can download/print, and I think message boards too. Watch some of his shows on PBS for travel ideas.

    What I might like to do with 26 days is rent an apartment someplace central and really get to know the area, or possibly two places (2 wks each). But I love going to local markets and love having a kitchen (or at least some facilities ) available
     
  3. tatterdema

    tatterdema VIP Whale

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    I have traveled a couple of times to Hungary, Czech republic, Slovakia, Austria, and Germany. I went in the winter months, and never paid more than $50 a night for hotels. In fact the only countries I paid that much was in Germany and Austria, simply because I did not book in advance, and stayed close to the train stations. My point being, it can actually be less expensive to stay in hotels than hostels if you do your homework. If you go in the spring or summer it is a different story. I personally would not do a tour, simply because I am like Hoyaheel, a bit of a control freak.

    I found Rick Steves to be priceless with help on train travel. I also used trip advisor a lot, asking lots of questions. For travel once you get there, airfare between many european cities is dirt cheap. Less than $50 in many cases. Skyscanner.com is a good site to check airfare.
     
  4. HoyaHeel

    HoyaHeel Grammar Police & Admin

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    Budget Travel - the website and the magazine (might be available in your public library) are great for information. I've been a subscriber to the magazine for years. Yes, I still like to read magazines:evillaugh
     
  5. Bruinfan1

    Bruinfan1 Tourist

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    Hostels are great, especially in Western Europe. It's so common for people of limited means (but refined character) across all ages to use hostels, and you'll find it quite acceptable (if spartan) accommodation. Cousins (late 60's) were shocked that they wouldn't be doing hostels on their stay in Canada. If you're outgoing, you'll find that the socializing you'd do within a tour group is quickly replaced with evening encounters at the hostel - much more social than a hotel stay! There are groups such as Hostelling Int'l and Elderhostel - now Road Scholar - that can help you find and organize a stay (never used them myself), or a self-guided tour, or the whole trip if you really want.

    If you're comfortable rolling with the punches, definitely avoid the multi-day tours. Comfort includes struggling through language barriers - something you perhaps encounter with Hawaii visitors more often than the rest of us here? Spend the money on the train pass first, keep a sizable budget for eating and drinking (again, more in Western Europe), and then with what's left you can figure out how often to "splurge" on hotels. If you're going for 26 days, you will learn while in Europe what excites you, what bores you, and that will guide the remainder of your visit. Trying to guess the right tour(s) beforehand is OK...but you'll regret at least one of the choices.

    Train pass, train pass, train pass.... http://eurail.com I like the suggestion earlier that you might find a place to stay for a few days, get to immerse yourself in a town or small city. Just because you have the pass, doesn't mean you have to use it every single day. Don't know about staying somewhere for 2 weeks - so much to see, perhaps only chance to do it.
     
  6. HoyaHeel

    HoyaHeel Grammar Police & Admin

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    I do both kinds of trips - quick visit or more in depth exploration - and the more in depth exploration makes me happier - I don't feel rushed that I have to "see" all the important things from the guidebooks. I do what I want, when I want. And if I don't see the entire planet, well, I'll have thoroughly enjoyed what I have had a chance to see. That's just my travel philosophy.

    If "you" (anyone, not directed at Bruinfan or the OP:peace:) haven't seen "If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium" - you must. I saw it on TMC or AMC or such back in the 90s I think, after my mom making jokes throughout my childhood that I didn't get:ssst: (plus I spent my junior year abroad in Belgium, which I adored, so....)
     
  7. makikiboy

    makikiboy VIP Whale

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    thanks for the info guys. keep em coming!

    yes, I heard from friends about the hostelling thing versus the tours. I also like to be flexible, that's why I didn't think the tour group thing would work for me (plus I'm travelling alone so might have to pay singles rates at hotels although I heard that they can pair me up if someone was available).

    btw, is it safe travelling solo? When riding the rail would it be safe to leave my bags when I go to the bathroom? I was afraid of going to the bathroom and come out and find my things gone. Maybe a bike lock and lock my stuff to something? Or am I just paranoid?

    I was already checking out the hostelling sites and found that their rates were a lot lower than regular hotels and hotels that were in the tour groups. I thought the senior hostels might be better since they might be mellower (than the younger crowd), plus I can just hang out on my own without anyone bothering me (I get grumpy when I'm tired, lol, lol). Since I'm from hawaii I won't be travelling during the cold times although one coworker went in may and said that it was still very cold for him.

    I figure to hit europe in may, I figure the locals might be more "friendlier" since they didn't have to put up with us tourists all winter so would be happier to see us than in the fall. I thought that going in October would be more "tiring" for the locals, since they had tourists all spring, summer and fall months they might be tired of seeing us tourists as the season winds down.

    This thing takes a lot more planning than my vegas (florida, cali, ny, etc.) trips. Luckily I have over 9 months to plan but I better start planning now and I probably need to book my mileage soon when there are more seats available.

    thanks again!
     
  8. BackInVegas

    BackInVegas VIP Whale

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    We traveled some of Europe last year

    With the internet now, you can do most travel plans on your own.

    My 14 year old is traveling Greece, Crete, Sicily, and Italy as I write this in a group trip. He is a lucky kid as he has now been to Hawaii, Mexico, England, France, Norway, Greece, and Italy in the last three years. Looks like Canada is on the docket next year. Someday he will appreciate it.

    The big cities are probably not the safest places to leave your unattended bag. Paris I would not trust anything there. Rome, supposedly the pick pocket capital of the world. Although I would be willing to make a large wager on Tirana, Albania.

    While in Norway, on the Atlantic Coast, I was never worried leaving anything, anywhere. People leave their babies in the strollers outside of the businesses, mostly because the business is not big enough to accomodate multiple strollers.

    England I was somewhat worried. Paris, France, I was very worried.

    Looking at pictures of where our son has been the past two weeks, my wife and I are very jealous. The ruins of Greece(Athens, Delphi, etc.), Dikteon Cave on Crete, Mt. Etna, and today in Cefalu, Sicily. Then up to Italy on Tuesday.

    Cefalu, Sicily

    Dikteon Cave in Crete, birthplace of Zeus


    Are there countries you are dying to visit? My brother designed his own high end Italian tour last year and I am sure he still has his itenerary from that stored. I probably have it also, but I would have to search for it.
     
  9. makikiboy

    makikiboy VIP Whale

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    BackInVegas....Hi dad! how about helping me out on my trip too, $$$, lol. Wow, your son is very lucky to have parents that will allow him to go to so many places. I never had that opportunity, except for maybe travelling to the neighbor islands, Kauai, big island for sports tournaments.

    I have no real itinerary on where to visit (yet), guess I was looking at the standard places, visit london, paris, italy, then maybe switzerland, germany, belgium and amsterdam. Maybe make a stop in egypt to see the great pyramids if possible. I didn't want to go to greece and the eastern side of the med (or spain) since they look kind of hot and dry.

    I heard about Italy not being safe already so will be on my toes (and not stay in the main cities).
     
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