Credit: Amberdawn 2011In 2008 I took a trip to Europe for the first time, and I had the time of my life. I want to share the steps I took in planning my English vacation in the hopes that others can have a great time in whatever country they choose to visit. My goal was to save money where I could, but still stay safe and have fun. Use this checklist as an outline for online vacation planning, skipping any steps that don't apply to you, OR if you're as thorough as I am, use each idea as a stepping off point for future research. And have a wonderful trip to Europe!
Be sure your passport is up to date (I did this about 6 months before my trip to Europe). If you need to get one for the first time, you need a specific kind of birth certificate and passport photos, and bring them to City Hall. Give yourself plenty of time for online vacation planning to gather the necessary paperwork and allowing for processing time.
Look into earning credit card air miles to get discounted airfare for your trip to Europe. Or, if you’re a union member, or a member of AAA these organizations usually have offers on discounted airfare. Otherwise try third party booking sites such as Vayama, Kayak, Travelation, Travelocity, Cheap Air, and Expedia. The EXACT same flight was a different price, depending on what site you buy the ticket on! If you are nervous about booking on third party sites, at least shop around when online vacation planning for the major airlines to see which has the cheapest airfare. Read the fine print since some have booking fees.
Decide on your priorities regarding time when you are online vacation planning. Are you willing to fly at an off-peak time, such as a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday? You can get discounted airfare for your trip to Europe on these days. Are you willing to compromise on the time of day, and fly overnight, or early in the morning? Flights at these times cost less. Are you willing to have a layover? This will also reduce your cost of a plane ticket.
Credit: Adam ThomasConvert Your Currency.
First, try a prepaid visa travel card from a bank or AAA office. It works as a debit card for most store transaction, as well as an ATM card overseas. Just check on the fees for at time of purchase, as well as for retail and ATM transactions you make while on your trip to Europe. Or buy traveler's checks. To use them in the foreign country of your choice, you need to cash them at a bank or exchange place for local currency, but be aware when online vacation planning and budgeting that anywhere you go could charge a fee. For more information on exchanging currency, see my resource links below.
Rent a Phone (Optional)
Decide if you want a cell phone for your trip to Europe. I did. And there is a good chance your cell phone will not work abroad. Your options are to look into this further while online vacation planning (see if your phone uses a simm card or a gsm network) or to rent a cell phone. I rented one from planetfone.com. Again, as a AAA member I got it at a discount. They rent the phones per week as well as charging per call.
Register with the embassy of the country you are visiting on your trip to Europe. Any health or safety concerns can be sent to you as your trip approaches. Leave your contact information with someone back home. Be sure to give the number you can be reached, an address, your arrival and departure flight numbers, and the terminals you'll fly in and out of.
Buy Travel Adapters
Do you want to use your electronic devices overseas? If you do, you will need to look for an adapter AND a voltage converter when online vacation planning. However, be sure to read the directions on each very carefully. I made the mistake of using the converter on my PDA, which ruined it. However, appliances such as hair driers need a converter for safety reasons. So again, read the directions that come with the adapter and converter very carefully.
Get an International Driver's Permit
How would you like to get around in the country you're visiting on your trip to Europe? Through AAA you can buy an international driver's permit for $15 (as of July 2008). I did not get one, however. In London I used the Oyster card. Count on about $5 per day to decide how much money to put on it.
Credit: Amberdawn 2011Choose a Hotel
Choosing a hotel is similar to choosing a flight in terms of finding off peak days, booking sites, and organizations that offer discounted prices on hotels when you’re online vacation planning. Another thing to consider is the location. For me, proximity to public transportation, as well as near a grocery store was important to help save money on meals. If being close to major destinations is important to you, this will raise the cost, but it may be worth it to save time traveling in the city.
Check your airline regarding how to pack. Airlines have restrictions on liquids that can be placed in a carry on as well as the size and weight of pieces of luggage. Your airline's website has a lot of information about purchasing travel insurance, printing boarding passes, maps to which terminal you need to arrive and depart from, as well as time-lines for passing through security and boarding.
Next plan your site-seeing! This will vary depending on your country, of course. But you should consider a mix of activities that are exciting and relaxing. Take in the history, but also the natural beauty. Plan some active vacation time that requires some physical exersion (even if for you that means a lot of walking) as well as some passive time, like seeing a show. In any case, have fun!