Wanderlust

Wanderlust. Wikipedia defines it this way: a strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world.

The older I get the more I find myself suffering with a severe case. Something keeps telling me the time to travel is now, while I’m still young enough to withstand the rigors of long flights, carrying luggage and lots of walking.

Last night as I lay in bed, head spinning and wide awake when I should have been asleep hours before, my mind kept going over and over all the questions I have about travel. There are so many things I wonder about and these questions are what keep me from taking the plunge and strapping myself into a skinny, metal tube with a few hundred strangers, willingly hurling our bodies at a high rate of speed over tall mountains and deep oceans for 9-10 hours. Sometimes this is referred to as “flying.” 😉

Plane (2)

Image via Delta Airlines

As I lay there unable to sleep last night, thinking about all the questions I have about traveling outside the United States to another country, it occurred to me, if I’m pondering all these things, maybe there are others out there with the same questions and concerns. And who better to ask than those who have already traveled that road, or flown that sky? Travel is expensive so if I’m ever going to get off my duff and go, I’d really like to get it right the first time.

So, I need your help. I thought I’d list some of the questions I have, at least the ones I can think of, and based on your personal experience, I’d love to hear what you recommend.

Please leave a comment and answer as many or as few of the questions below as you wish. I can’t wait to read your answers, especially your answers for #1. Actually, I’d love to hear your answers to all of them!

Okay, here goes:

1. When you travel, do you use a travel company like Rick Steves or Tauck (that’s who my dentist uses) and if so, is there one you would recommend and why?

2. What is the best light-weight, point and shoot camera (with a good built-in zoom) to take when traveling?

3. What is the minimal number of days/time you recommend spending in Europe or another country if you just spent 9-10 hours getting there by air?

4. What would be the maximum time you would want to be away from home for a trip to another country that took 9-10 hours to reach by air? 1 week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks? Is 3 weeks too long to be away from home and touring another country?

5. Is it better to take a direct flight from the U.S. to Europe or is it better to have a stop along the way which gives you a chance to walk around a bit and stretch the legs?

6. Is a nighttime flight best (so you can hopefully sleep all the way) or is a daytime flight best? What do you do for 9-10 hours in a cramped little airplane seat?

7. If you’ll be lugging around your own baggage (a la Rick Steves tours) and will just be taking along the typical small carry-on bag, what would you pack for a 2 or 3 week trip?

8. What is the best light-weight laptop/computer to take on an overseas trip? A friend recommended a Chromebook. I would need to be able to resize photos and edit them as needed to post at BNOTP on a trip. I think that’s possible in the latest versions of the Chromebook.

9. What was the one thing you left at home on your last trip that you wished you had taken? What was something you took and never needed or used?

10. Name a few things you would you do differently on your next trip.

11. What country/city have you visited (outside the United States) that you would very much love to visit again?

12. What’s the worse thing that’s ever happened to you during a trip outside the U.S.?

13. What’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you during a trip outside the U.S.?

14. What’s the best way to call love ones back home, or is it best to just email?

15. Anything vital a person should know or do before traveling to another country, especially Europe? Nothing is too trivial…please share!

Thanks for sharing any tips or information you think is helpful about traveling. I’ve never left the United States other than 3 separate trips to the Bahamas including a trip to Atlantis that was amazing, so I’m eager to see Europe!

Can’t wait to read your answers! Feel free to ask any questions you may have in your comment and maybe someone reading this will have an answer!




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Comments

  1. Mary Ann says:

    I have traveled to Europe several times and use Globus and highly recommend them. My favorite place is Italy and am planning another trip there this summer. I have a small Nikon camera with built in zoom that has taken good pics. Minimal number of days=at least 9-10. I personally would not want to be away longer than 2 wks and I prefer flying early evening with 1 stop ( to stretch your legs). I take my Kindle and read for a while then watch movies on the plane. Worst thing that has happened was getting lost from my group in Switzerland! You can notify your mobile phone service that you are going out of the country with the dates and they will set everything up for you. One of the most helpful things I do is make a copy of the international money exchange currency and keep a copy with me when shopping. You will know how much things are in US dollars. Hope you travel and sent plenty of pics. Enjoy your blog so much!

    • Hi Susan,
      I’m not a true globetrotter, but I have some suggestions that helped me out on my first trip to London/Paris. First, I received as a gift a money pouch that goes around the neck. It was large enough for my passport and had a couple of zippered pockets so I could keep the euros and pounds separated. I tucked it in my shirt and pulled it out when I needed it. At first I thought I’d be embarrassed, but even before boarding the plane I saw another traveler whip it out at the checkpoint to retrieve ID. My friends had other model money pouches (waist and bra styles) but mine was so easy, I ended up carrying their passports too. Have correct currency before you get to the country in case you have to pay for a restroom. Second, get a good quality outlet converter. My kids got me a great one on Amazon that came in a neat case and had converters for several countries. Third, I fly what is cheapest. My first flight to London was nonstop and a doctor friend prescribed an Ambien that I took right after takeoff. It worked like a charm. Fourth, don’t worry about the language aspect. My son bought me CDs to learn French. I practiced key phrases and they didn’t sound too bad, but when I tried them out, they answered me in French. Ha ha, didn’t think about that. I am excited to be traveling to Greece and Italy this summer. My son warns me to look out for pick pockets in Rome and do not accept anything from strangers. Anything they are “handing out” is not free and they expect payment.

    • I vote for Globus as well. I’ve only been to Europe once for 3 weeks and used Globus for that trip. I can’t say enough good things about them. Go and visit ASAP, who knows what tomorrow may bring. Happy travels!

  2. I always travel in Jeans with Dressey Jacket in carryon always have.Cosmetics,sleepware,change of clothes.
    My wardrobe is always Chico Blackpants,skirts,jacket then have color in shirt.you can wad them up and they don’t wrinkle. Always pack peanut butter crackers,Gum,Mints over there they can come in handy to share with others also.Carry at least 50.00 in dollar bills.Israel was my favorite place to visit.Switzerland beautiful.Short flight Costa Rica for Beauty

  3. julie h. says:

    I took a 9 hour flight to Germany. My most memorable moment? Plan to use the bathroom about an hour or so before you land.
    DO IT……I wasn’t prepared for the waiting to depart,waiting for a shuttle,time in the darn shuttle,maneuvering the crowds and foreign airport to find the restroom. Also, prearrange with your credit card company you will be out of the country. I also got currency once I landed, not all ATM’s worked. Have fun!!

  4. Donnamae says:

    I’m excited for you…no matter where you go! I’ll see if I can answer some of your concerns. We always book through AAA…great service, and small fee, but there is peace of mind. Our most recent trips have been to Scotland, left Wisconsin, flew to Pittsburgh, layover there, then on to Glasgow, overnight there, then to Isle of Man. Air time 14 hrs. Or so…but much needed layovers. I try not to think of it as a slender metal tube hurling through the air! I read, talk, watch movies, sleep…and get up to walk as much as possible. Compression stockings are something you might want to think about…as well as bringing your own neck support! Our last trip timeline was for 13 days. It was the perfect amount of time!

    Best advice…comfortable clothes, comfortable shoes…drink lots of water…must stay hydrated…and keep your sense of humor…you’ll probably need it, and it makes the whole adventure much more enjoyable! 😉

  5. Susan, you have very good questions about travel. I have been to 38 countries over the past 15 years – Europe, Asia, and Africa. I would love to share with you what we have learned and experienced. The time to travel is while you have good health, because it is very demanding on the body. Don’t postpone if it is something you want to do. Perhaps, we could email! Blessings, Pam (everydayliving.me)

  6. Hi, Susan. My biggest piece of travel advice is: Just do it! I promise you that no matter whatever you take, whatever you don’t take and however you decide to do it —- it will be fabulous! I have never used a travel company because I prefer to do it on my own and have the freedom to be more flexible, but some people love tours.

    The place I can’t wait to visit again? That’s a tough one, but probably Ireland. The beauty of Ireland is indescribable! And it’s a great “first country” since they speak your language (mostly!). Let us know what you decide to do!

  7. celeste says:

    My husband and I have traveled now to several places. I think for your first trip a tour company would be great. It helps you with all those different questions. My parents used Tauck many times but my husband and I are more action oriented so we have used Active New Zealand to bike, hike and kayak in New Zealand, we’ve used Trek Travel to bike in Ireland and Bike & Barge to bike thru The Netherlands for 2 weeks. I think you need 2 weeks to go overseas, much less and you will just be jet lagged the whole time. We are looking to spend 3 weeks in Australia in the fall when we go there to compete in a race.
    We like non-stop flights, less chance of losing your luggage. You are probably not going to sleep well on the plane so flight time doesn’t matter much though most flights from US to Europe tend to be overnight we have found.
    Another great way to travel is to take a cruise, no need to pack and unpack as you go from country to country. We have taken several and would love to cruise Europe someday.
    The worst thing that happened while on a trip with my mom was when one of our companions fell and broke her hip while in Poland. The health care system is very different from here and the language barrier is hard. One of the best things that happened on our Netherlands trip was meeting two very nice couples that we still keep in touch with 7 years later. In fact one of those couples is in Europe right now getting ready for another bike trip and is planning something special for us all next year.
    We just emailed with family and sent some postcards using Postagram, an app for your smart phone.
    Figure out what you want to see and how much you need to be taken care of and that should help you narrow down your choices. Good luck and have fun planning your trip.

  8. NEPA Gina says:

    Hi Susan. I can’t answer a single one of your travel questions! But, IF if I were to travel overseas I know exactly where I’d go. My husband & I have recorded all the Rick Steve’s & Rudy Maxa shows we could & have watched them over this veeeerrrrryyyyy long winter we’ve had in Northeast PA. (BTW, we had a other 6″ snowfall late yesterday, schools dismissed early & 2 hour delay this morning). Back to travel. I cannot say enough about these shows, both guys have pointed out all the highlights & off the beaten path places to see. You can also buy their DVD’s, but we recorded the shows from PBS & AXS TV. We both felt like we were right there with them. So that would be my only recommendation-find some of their shows & see the sights for yourself! If we had to choose a place to go right now, we’d start off going through the Alps, then off to Ireland, England & Scotland. So good luck in deciding & I’m sure your many, many followers will be answering all those questions for you.

  9. First thing get a passport now. It takes time and may hit snags. Second thing notify your credit card company of the countries and dates you will be abroad. Read about the new places as much as you can. When packing put a bandanna in your carry on. If traveling with another be sure they do. It is easy to find each other if you have the same color in a crowd. Lastly enjoy and see as much as you can.

  10. travel, my favorite. i have a few answers to your questions, and one recommendation. first-my recommendation for europe travel is to not do it all at once. it is sooo easy to think since you’re there, you should stop here, and go there, because it’s simply easy to do that. for example, last april we went to france…should we also do germany? what about a train to london? i have realized that i truly want to get to know a place, not fit in a million places to say i have been there. so we spent 1 week in paris and then another exploring the normandy region. yes, we could have gone to different regions, but then i wouldn’t have as good a handle on the regions we did visit. i hope this makes sense.

    so, for answers to your questions, i am a pessimist. having longer than a week means i don’t count the days we have remaining until we only have one week remaining. so europe, as long as possible. 2 weeks is doable. only twice have i done 3 weeks and those were with organized touring groups (israel with synagogue and ireland/scotland/wales/england with trafalgar tours). i am not someone who can hop on a plane for a weekend in italy, that is just not worth it for me. 10 days is also a nice amount of time. we just did 10 days in california, 3 days in san francisco and one week in napa/sonoma. one week for a relaxing vacation, like mexico, is plenty. although i did do aruba for 2 weeks, as most of the vacationers there do (or even 3).

    if you were going to do a full on european tour, it would probably be best with an organized tour, or you can look at the tour itineraries for suggestions of what not to miss and then go at it on your own. i do that because it gets overwhelming, you don’t want to be near one attraction and then trek across town and then back where you started. itineraries let you know the order to see things in, i did that with paris.

    i prefer direct flights, because i just want to get there already. some people prefer overnights, and i do for time purposes, but not for sleep. two weeks ago from CA we had a 10pm flight and i could not get comfortable and could not get to sleep. the expectation is that i would sleep, so i felt more frustrated that i could not. on a daytime flight, i don’t feel frustrated, but that’s just me.

    i would say for europe, learn a few phrases or words-they will appreciate the effort, but still recognize your need for the english menu, lol. you absolutely need a travel hair dryer/tool that is dual voltage. get lost, it’s fun and you discover amazing things. ask the hotel for suggestions. do your research online. explore.

    so exciting! this is making me eager for next year, when we will travel to europe again, but i don’t know where yet. first is mexico this fall, where packing is MUCH simpler! good luck.

    b

  11. I’m going to Ireland this year. Im going throught the same wanderlust. I want to see as much of the world before I leave the earth one day.

    We are going to use GoTours. They seems to be reasonable and cover the main sights we want to be able to see. Airlines, like Aer Lingus, offer packages where you can do the Rick Steves sort of travel, find your own way with a car, and make your own reservations at bed and breakfasts. But I don not really want to do the legwork this year to make those reservations.

  12. Hi. I have traveled outside the U.S. a few times so hear is just a few of my thoughts. I have gone through travel groups and just going. I prefer alone. Travel groups are great if you have a time issue because you do see a lot in a short time. I have taken big cameras and small. My son and a friend of mine have taken awesome photos with their phones(Australia, France, Italy, England). I prefer to travel at night because I hate flying over water so that way I don’t see it. I like flying direct to because if you have to get another flight and you happen to be short on time it becomes a problem. However layovers do bring down the cost. I like staying a long time but that’s just me. Usually eleven days is a hood length of time to be away. My son however has been going longer to almost 3 weeks. This has been an issue because of his cat. But we work it out. Skyping and e-mail is always good. I would go back to Scotland in a minute. Best trip ever with my son when he graduated 8th grade. Surprise from my dad. He is now 33 and has traveled so many places. Don’t try to do too many things in a short period of time. Doesn’t work out very well and others get cranky. Don’t overpack. Put everything out and then take away. Have comfortable shoes. Nothing worse than sore feet on a trip. And last but not least……you are in a foreign country. It is not the United States. Try the food, don’t look for burgers and fries all the time. Enjoy the customs. Nothing worse than an ugly American being loud and complaining just for the sake of being heard
    I would just like to say. “I love to travel”. If I had lots and lots of money I would do it all the time. You make new friends, see beautiful sights and have memories that last a lifetime. Have fun and keep us updated on your travels.

  13. Kathy B. says:

    Wow that’s a lot of questions. 🙂 I’ve been to Europe and other countries many times and I have loved all my trips. I always travel with friends (husband doesn’t care to travel) and we always go with EF Tours. Most all flights going to Europe leave at night traveling so you can sleep, but that’s hard to do. You arrive at your destination in the AM tired but ready to “hit the road” running. I have found that taking less is better. Take clothes that can be worn more than once as in dark colors. About 14 days is enough for me and that includes travel time. I have been to Italy twice, England twice, France twice, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands. I have never had a bad trip. Sometimes “little things” go wrong but you live with that and move on. I hope this helps and happy traveling to you.

  14. Paris is lovely but for a first trip England is a good choice because of the language. You won’t understand all the English say but it is so much easier than trying to communicate with the French though most of the French spoke a bit of English and I did learn a few phrases before I went. I think there is an app for translation. I rarely use a travel agent and I am not a tour kind of person though I love Rick Steves his tours are too fast paced for me. When I visit a city I have an outline by day what to see grouped by location but the days are interchangeable based on weather and the unexpected. I have always made the journey at night and had a light lunch then rested for the afternoon beginning the visit in earnest the next day after arrival. I just cannot sleep well on a plane. Travel as light as you can I took more clothes and shoes than necessary to Paris. I won’t do that again because you end up handling your luggage a lot no matter where you go. The worst thing that happened was leaving my backpack with our airline tickets, passports, and camera on a bus. Fortunately I got it all back within an hour but it was possibly the worst hour of my life. The best thing is the experience. I wouldn’t trade the traveling I’ve be able to do for anything. There are still so many places I want to see even in the good old USA. The Pacific Northwest is on my bucket list as is Hawaii, Italy, Ireland, and Scotland (probably via England again I would like to spend more time in Yorkshire). I always book non stop flights since my luggage didn’t make the change with me in SLC once. Regardless on when you plan to travel get your passport started now. Renewals are pretty fast but starting the process for the first time can take a lot of time and it is expensive to expedite the processing. There are company that will do it for you if you have immediate travel plans. Where ever you go I hope you have a wonderful experience.

  15. we also used Globus and had good results each time. If we had had the money to do it, we would have been gone 3 weeks. No layovers for us, we took evening flight so we could sleep. Once you get there you stay up until their evening hours so you really need that sleep. One thing I would have done differently is to have dressed a little less casually. I brought too many shoes! Most importantly, enjoy it all! Embrace and celebrate differences!

  16. Beverly Cook says:

    We’ve spent a lot of time in Europe as my husband is a British citizen and we both used to work internationally. Last spring (great time to travel, BTW) we spent one week in Cyprus, one week in Bulgaria, and one week in England. We knew people in all three countries which, of course, made it much easier. Cyprus is gorgeous, friendly, full of history, natural beauty and great restaurants. I would highly recommend it. England would be my ‘go-to’ recommendation though for a first trip. Exploring the small villages in the countryside is magical. And seeing shows (plays) in London is something one just doesn’t forget. Easier to get around due to the similarity in language–not the same, but similar! 🙂 Great for hiking and biking and just plain walking. Full of history and best of all, tea rooms! Make sure your electrics are dual voltage and have international plugs for each country you do visit. My worst experience was leaving my plugged in-curling iron on a wooden desk top and almost burning the B&B down! Bon voyage!!

  17. Hi, Susan,
    We have only been to Europe once. We booked through Globus and took one of those 9 day “If It’s Tuesday, It’s Must Be Belgium” tours. It was WONDERFUL! Our tour guide was informative and our travel group was a pleasure to be with. There was no muss, no fuss: our luggage was handled, we got into tourist attractions in front of many people standing on lines (because we were in a prearranged travel group), our hotels were 4-5 star accommodations), breakfast and some dinners were included. We both felt for first-time visitors, it was the way to go. We got a wonderful taste of Europe without the stress of heading into the unknown on our own, and a great introduction into the world of travel. Good luck with your choices: you’ve got some wonderful adventures ahead! Rosie

  18. If concerned about traveling alone, go with an organized group the first time. The guide should ensure an easy time, and hopefully your travel companions are amiable. Otherwise, the internet provides a wealth of info, like tipping practices, wardrobe hints, etc. DO notify your bank and credit card companies in advance!!! And it helps to have two credit cards in case trouble with one, and I have found AMEX and Discover are not accepted as widely as VISA. And some local currency is good to take. Dual voltage adaptor helpful, and an international SIMcard or calling card good for your phone…your phone store can help there or can get overseas. A good hotel should have concierge service, and that is worth weight in gold sometimes for info. Plus taxi drivers, etc can give great advice. And almost every pharmacist speaks English……main thing is just to go, have fun but remember common sense safety practices…again, your hotel can tell you areas to avoid at night, and dont expect everything to be like it is here at home. Hope you have a great time!

  19. Susan……GO, GO, GO…..you will NEVER regret it. I’ve travelled to 27 countries over the years and the more you travel the more you want to go! How you go depends…..do you LIKE planning your own itinerary, researching things to see, making reservations (vrbo.com or airbnb.com)….if so, you don’t need a tour group (I’ve ususally done all my own planning and arrangements). BUT, if you like having it somewhat planned and thought out for you, I would go with a travel group definitely.
    If you take a camera or small laptop…..I would either carry it with me at all times or lock it in a hotel safe (don’t leave it in your room as I know someone who had theirs stolen from their hotel room and they lost all the pictures of their trip). But with the Cloud…..maybe that is a safeguard now? I LOVE ITALY! Been there 3 times, still plan to go back. SWITZERLAND and AUSTRIA are breathtakingly beautiful and pristine…..
    People speak English almost everywhere…..I always look for a teenager to help me understand something as they most often are learning English and enjoy practicing! I have a packing list that I have compiled if you would like me to send it to you I would be happy to. It’s come from all my years of travel. Not wardrobe so much as everything else. Personally we never exchange money at our destination in the airport….great place to get scammed by someone offering to help you. I go to aTravelex near you ahead of time and carry about $50 in currency in the country I am travelling to…..and put each countries money in a different sip lock baggie.
    Regarding clothes, I once did 6 weeks in Europe with a 27″ suitcase that I kept with me. It takes planning but is so doable and if you travel in summer, the clothes take up less space. It limits toiletries to the small sizes so you might have to replenish as you go. I wouldn’t make an international trip if possible for any less than two weeks, 3 even better as you will have some jet lag to overcome and a week is just too short. For me, the longer the better. I love having time to really not rush through a culture. So if you go with a tour group, be sure you understand how much free time you will have to explore or you will just feel frustrated. One of the best pieces of advice from Rick Steeves is “get up early in the morning and walk the streets and watch a city come awake”. It was one of my most memorable days in Venice! Personally I would not want to waste time and money with a layover if you can make a direct flight….just get up periodically and walk the isles. We travel at night if possible for the potential for sleep. We always use 5 mg of Ambien on the flight over and the first few days in the first country….it helps adjust our body clocks quicker and do the same upon returning home. Just don’t use it and drink alcohol! I take along socks to wear on the plane so I can take my shoes off. I always take my own medications, i.e. cold meds, getting some sample antibiotics from my doctor, use a lot of Airborne before and in flight, neosporin in the ears and nose (kills germs who might try to enter my body). I’ve only been really sick once in all those years and it was my own fault as I forgot that ice was to be avoided like water in Malaysia. Europe you have no worries. Best advice…..embrace the culture you are travelling to…..don’t expect it to be like America and remain flexible…..even setbacks can end up providing great memories and experiences! I’ve had so many “ah-ha” moments in travel…..I couldn’t possibly list them all here! When you are open, they come is all I can say! People everywhere are fascinating and wonderful! We buy text packages for our phones rather than calling. Calling international from a foreign country can be very frustrating using their phone systems. Check the expiration date on your credit cards before going…..we once ended up in England with expired CC cards and had to have news ones over nighted to us after my husbands secretary had to jump through hoops to be able to go through our “vacation hold” mail at the post office to search for the new cards!!! Don’t announce on social media or blogs that you are going to be gone on a trip….. post pictures, etc do it after you return…..this is for the safety of your home! Go for it Susan…..there is nothing to be afraid of that couldn’t happen to you right here at home!! It will be wonderful and you will gain a whole new appreciation for this wonderful world, your home and living in the USA!

    • PS: the post below mine reminded me of this…..I prefer an isle seat when traveling because I’m one who has to use the bathroom more often and I don’t like to disturb people who might be sleeping. I also use the bathroom right after I board, before takeoff. Avoid middle seats if at all possible. I once had arm rest hogs on either side of me from Italy to the US….it was miserable!

  20. I strongly agree with the poster who said be sure to use the bathroom before you leave the plane. Public restrooms are not as ubiquitous in Europe as they are here and it’s usually a long while from the time you leave the airplane until you are ensconced in your hotel room.

    Overnight flights are a good way to beat jet lag. I don’t try to sleep and stay up until it is time for bed at my destination which helps me get a good night’s sleep the first night and reset my body’s clock.

    I would say two weeks is the minimum time I would use for a vacation in Europe. A shorter trip isn’t worth the travel time to me. A longer trip is great if you have someone who can keep an eye on your house for you. You just have to remember to prepay any bills that might come due while you are traveling.

    I like to spend a long time in each place rather than visiting multiple locations in a short amount of time, but you should set up a trip that fits your goals. I would say if you are going to travel to multiple cities, using some sort of travel agent would be very helpful. Check various travel-oriented web sites for good tips. Frommer’s, Fodor’s and TripAdvisor all have good community forums.

  21. Two airports to avoid at all costs: O’Hare (Chicago) and Charles de Gaulle (CDG) in Paris. Do NOT take an elevator at the CDG airport. I got stuck in one for over 30 minutes. BEST airport – Amsterdam. More later…

  22. Next time I anticipate a trip I am coming back to make notes from all these comments for sure!

  23. Susan, it all depends on your situation. If you are travelling alone and do not fancy driving, which can be difficult in Europe, then go with a travel agency.
    We personally have always gone on our own, hubby drives. France drives on the same side of the road as us, but England is on he left which can be confusing as they have lots of round-a-bouts.
    As for time, allow as much as you can, because there is always something you miss. We stayed centrally in Apt in France, because all the towns were reachable on a day out, so ten days there was great. We began in Marseille because Provence was reachable from there, the journey back with the GPS was quite scary, it took us down winding mountain roads with little room. All part of the fun!! 🙂 Flights from Canada nearly always stop at Amsterdam, as we took KLM. I recommend this airline because the leg room is far superior to any other airline. It does cost more, but well worth it on a long journey. We also paid for seats with extra leg room. No nickel and diming on this airline, everything is free, drink, food, hot towels, ice cream, comfy seats, movies etc. As I am older now, I cannot stand being squashed in a seat for all those hours, I do not do flying gracefully.
    We went to England after and because we are from there, stayed with family. Our whole trip was eight weeks and the weather was iffy in England but lovely in France.
    I cannot advise on packing, because my hubby always says I take too much!! 🙂
    I spoke a little French so it helped, but I brushed up on it before I left. I also checked Rick Steves site for any pertinent information.
    Check out the brocantes (flea and antique markets). I brought back a pupils school board, very old and still with some mathematics written on it in chalk. Market days are wonderful, different day with each town. The vendors have huge pieces of ham and cheese and offer a taste to you.
    Sorry this is so long, but if you decide to go, do it whilst you have your health and energy, as those hills were worrisome to me now.
    The other reason why we go ourselves, is I do not like to be organized and we prefer to rent a car and stop where and when we like.

  24. I wish I could travel more and have a little (well Vancouver BC and Victoria – and that was over 25 years ago!) . . . but I agree with the poster and her comment on Passports. My husband needed one – and never did receive it! The government offered a number to call (they charge you per minute, it wasn’t cheap either) and they can try and figure out ‘what happened’. I have no idea where his ended up – or if it even got processed. He applied in plenty of time ahead of his business trip – like a couple months – and it still was a mess. After all of this, his trip was cancelled (thank goodness!). This just can’t be the norm for most folks applying for a Passport . . . .

  25. I’ve travelled Europe both solo and with friend or husband. Better with company but wouldn’t hesitate to go again solo. Most locals in touristy areas do speak English, but are insulted if you presume. Learn yes/no; please/thank you; do you speak English etc. in the local language. Take overnight direct flight and try to sleep some. (neck pillow very helpful). Best way to reset body clock is to get outside and walk around after check-in, and eat meals on destination schedule. Make first destination in English-speaking country, like in the UK. England alone would keep you busy: London, the Cotswolds, Cornwall. Gives you a chance to adjust to time difference and fact that you’re in a foreign country without the additional challenge of a foreign language.
    Best memory: sitting on a bench by the river in Innsbruck and was joined by two local women, knitting, who spoke no english but taught me some German and somehow we talked about weather and that one had a daughter in Ohio! So spontaneous and an experience never repeated.

  26. Hi! Just came back from England and Scotland…my Grandmother was a Sinclair…the Highlands were breath taking! This trip was my life-long dream and I had to get it right the first time-I’m nearly 70, but in good health. My single daughter who’s a nurse, travels all the time around the world, so I asked her to accompany me. Boy, what a learning curve in traveling! I loved not going with a travel company…we rested, ate and slept when we wanted. We stayed at the Cavendish in London (great pricing), very close to their Metro, shopping, resturants and sites…Fortum and Mason was across the street! Something no one has mentioned…purse and credit card safety. I researched on line for a purse that had a body strap that couldn’t be cut and a front pocket that made it impossible to read my credit card and passport while in my purse. My daughter said in Italy when she was there some guys on little motor bikes would ride right up next to people and use a sharp knife to cut your purse strap and be gone befor you could react. So the purse I ordered had a 1-inch strap made to be impossible to cut. I had my daughter take my purse to work and put her badge in it and see if the Reader could pick it up. She said she had to put the purse right on the reader and it still couldn’t read it. Yea! Take two credit cards and Passport. It held all my tickets for the day and touch-up makeup. I wish I could tell you the brand name-it’s packed in a suitcase in the attic! ALSO, make copies of credit cards, passport, tickets, hotel reservations, everything. Put one copy in your carry-on and leave one copy at home with someone whom you trust. This info can then be used for any unknown situtation to be sent to you. When my daughter first started to travel she cut heavy stock paper, covered it with tin foil, then duck tape, and made a pouch to carry her passport and credit cards in. Carry snack food–no nuts, no liquids, in your purse for the flight. Which reminds me…you have to buy special TSA containers to carry shampoos, etc. in your carryon. I went to a luggage store to get what I needed. You can get this stuff at Walmart or drug stores, etc. Also in Europe, hotels do not put a top sheet on your bed! They lay a heavy duvet on the bed. I emailed ahead and asked to have a top sheet added. They were very nice about it. It was August! Another safety we added for peace of mind-in the mornings when we left for the day my daughter locked our suitcases and then applied a zip tie to the lock and handle so even with a key you couldn’t open our bags. At night she cut it off with finger nail clippers. It wasn’t a big zip tie, just enough to deter anyone with a key… Well, I think those are some of the items not already mentioned by others. Very comfortable shoes is a must! My daughter upgraded my ticket coming back to Club World. Man, I felt like the Queen for sure! I slept and ate my way back home—what a trip!!! P.S. Fly British Airways straight over to Europe and back..they are superb! Good luck. You can do this…

  27. You’ve gotten LOADS of good advice from your readers. I agree with most of it and won’t repeat what has been said, but add my thoughts. I agree that with a first trip to Europe, a tour package is the best way to go. I loved never having to carry my bags, make my own reservations, etc. After all, it’s a vacation and having all the tedious stuff handled by the pros seems the best idea to me. Also, concerning the flight, I would suggest going first class. Airline seats are getting so uncomfortable with so little leg room (even for us short people) that I think the extra expense would be worth it. Do your research to find a tour company that you like and compare packages and prices. As far as time length of your trip, I agree that at least 2 weeks is the minimum. Less than that doesn’t justify the flight, but longer than that would be a personal preference. My travel motto is this,”Travel as far as you can, stay as long as you can, and come home only when you run out of money or miss your dog too much to stay away any longer.” I never get homesick, but some people do, so think about how you are on that subject. Learn ways to avoid jet lag. I have never suffered from it and believe the reason is that I don’t have a set schedule for sleep (varied my bedtime) so my body clock is not rigid and I was able to adjust to a new time zone with ease. Look into themed tours. I once took a Flower and Garden Tour of Western Europe that was wonderful. There are all sorts of themes available. Also, don’t try to take in too much geography in one trip. You don’t want to be spending too much time in transit from one area of interest to the next. I found that the places I enjoyed the most and were the most memorable were the ones where we stayed for more than one night. Again, it’s a vacation so you want to have time to savor it. And remember, you can always go back! About clothing, pack lightweight tops and pants that you can mix and match. If you plan to go to the theater or other dressy place, take along one dressy outfit. I would plan to wear the most comfortable shoes you own and only take one extra pair and a pair for dress. But remember to wear loose fitting comfortable clothes on the flight. Take your comfy slippers. Leave your expensive jewelry at home. Just wear you wedding band and maybe some costume earrings. You don’t want to have to worry about keeping valuables safe and I think that Europeans sometimes think Americans are too showy. So just use good judgment. Do learn a few phrases of the languages of each area you visit. Even if you flub it, the effort is appreciated and helps to negate the idea that Americans are so vain that we thing THEY should speak OUR language. Most everyone you will come into contact with at hotels, cafes, even shops will speak some English and if not, it is fun to play charades with them. Just smile and be pleasant. Be willing to immerse yourself in the local customs. Eat the local foods and avoid the American chain restaurants. Even though I have food allergies, I found that European food is so real with no chemicals and preservatives that I had no problems with it. And it was delicious. Your tour guide will be able to tell you of local customs so you don’t insult anyone. For instance, in some areas it is impolite not to speak a greeting when you enter a store, and in some restaurants, it is expected to join people at a table that has unoccupied chairs. I know you will want to shop while you are there and most stores will ship items to your home so you don’t have to lug them around. It is a good idea to take along a half empty suitcase for your smaller souvenirs. Take a carry-on bag with everything you might need for a day in case your luggage takes a side trip. Take medications in your purse in the prescription bottle they came in. As for choosing the countries to visit, do the research and see which ones call to you. I have a litmus test to determine how good someone’s trip was. I ask them to tell me all about their experiences (good and not so good) and then ask them if they would do it all over again. If they say yes, then it was a good trip and one I would consider taking. Last, but probably most important is to leave any preconceived notions about people at home. Go with an open mind and experience everything in the moment. For instance, I had always heard that the French were rude, but I found them to be warm and friendly. Being the southern lady you are, this will come naturally to you. So GO and have a wonderful time! And then GO again and have another wonderful time!

  28. I just typed my comment and my screen froze and I lost it! Ugh.

    I haven’t read all your comments, but I’m guessing you’ve gotten and will continue to get great advice about specifics, so I’m going to veer off the beaten path and give you my .02 on what kind of trip I think you would most enjoy.

    It’s clear from your posts that you’re a hopeless romantic. You love beautiful gardens, quaint cottages, cozy spaces and interesting architecture. While Paris, London, Rome, etc. are worth a look see, when all is said and done they are cities. I’m thinking you would very much enjoy tours that are a bit off the beaten path. Have you read Susan Branch’s book ‘A Fine Romance’? It’s a fun read about her trip through the English countryside and if England is on your bucket list it is a must read.

    If you’re traveling alone, a tour is probably your best bet, but it depends on how adventurous you are and also how much work you are willing/able to put into the planning.

    Whatever you end up doing, I’m sure it will be fabulous and fun!

  29. Melinda says:

    Hi, Susan – I’m enjoying reading everyone’s travel tips. I’m an armchair traveller these days but I do very much enjoy listening to Rick Steves’ podcasts – Travel with Rick Steves – on my phone or iPad. Each podcast is a little less than an hour long and covers a wide range of subjects. On my phone, I can see a synopsis of topics covered in a particular podcast which helps me decide if that’s one I want to listen to. Back in January I listened to a podcast about staying in convents or monasteries in Italy as an alternative to B & Bs or hotels. It sounded wonderful! There are a couple of years worth of Rick’s podcasts available to listen to. Lots of fun for this armchair traveller!

  30. Elizabeth Roderick says:

    Ok..I’ve never really traveled out of Texas that much other than crossing the border a bunch of times and living in New Mexico 7 years, but my advice would be tell everyone you’re going for two weeks and go for ten days. That way when you get home you can lay in your bed and sigh for a while. I would go to Ireland first then the surrounding countries. Italy really interests me too. OH and Holland during tulip time! I know it will be great where ever you go.

  31. Barb R. says:

    We travel frequently and always go with Tauck and cannot recommend them highly enough. There have been single travelers on every one of our trips and they are always included without fail. It has gotten to the point that if we are traveling to a foreign country we will only go with Tauck that way my husband can enjoy the trip and not have to worry about renting a car or driving. It is a vacation for both of us.

  32. Grandmom says:

    Susan, GO. Pick a place & just do it. #1. IRELAND Local travel agency arranged Flights, Auto, & Travel Insurance. We didn’t want to go on with a tour group so we planned our own route (based on what we wanted to see – western coast of Ireland). After much research on-line, I booked our B&B’s to include at least one castle stay. Everything went like clock-work. Try to plan at least 2 nights in each place. Plan for time to relax & enjoy where you are. #2. Fuji Finepix S camera 14 Mega Pixels. This camera worked well for us but is not what I call a hand-held camera that fits in a purse. Of the options on this camera, we mainly used the Zoom & Auto Focus/Flash. #3. 10 days + 2 travel days minimum. #4. If you have good neighbors to check on your house and a have big pocketbook, go for 3 weeks. #5. US > Ireland flights all stopped over in NY or Newark. It was good to walk around, get snacks/meal, etc. #6. Going to Ireland was an overnight; coming home was a daytime flight. If possible, fly overnights. Take reading material & a device to watch movies. #7. Black pants, jean leggings, 4-5 mix & match tops, 2 pair of shoes. Especially if you’re staying in B&B’s, many will wash some clothes for you if you ask. Check TSA requirements for the carrier (ie Delta, United, etc) about carry-ons (medicines, liquids, size of bag, etc). #8. Can’t help here…only have desktop. #9. Took more accessories than needed. Almost didn’t take an all-weather jacket; glad I did because it was cold & rainy in Ireland in May. #10. We planned well; nothing we’d change. #11. Loved Ireland & would go back. Would also like to visit Italy. #12. Ireland is our only experience outside the US and I would plan future trips the same way. Maybe we lucked out but everything was great. #13. Meeting the wonderfully hospitable people of Ireland. Eating & ‘a bit o’ drinking’ in pubs is a must. #14. We used an international phone from Verizon (our regular mobile carrier) & programmed in essential numbers. Order 3-4 weeks ahead of trip. #15. GET PASSPORT EARLY (now if you’ll travel w/in the next 10 years). Get some currency before travelling; we were able to use in-country ATM’s if we needed cash but didn’t have to deal with airport ATM’s. Find out the preferred credit card for your destination. Ireland was VISA; many places didn’t accept AmEx. HAPPY TRAVELS!

  33. Beth McGale says:

    I have read all the advice and it’s good but I have one suggestion… Since this will be your first trip out of the US, have you even considered Canada? I know we are just next door to you in the states but we are a different country, very different from the US. British Columbia, is so breathtaking beautiful. Alberta with Banff and Jasper, Calgary and of course Edmonton, where I am from. If you want to get the feel of Europe, then Quebec is the place for you. Then there is the Maritime Provinces, so wonderful. Canada is a good staring point, to get you into travel. Oh and we are nice. LOL!
    I am at the same point as you are, so my husband and I are traveling to your country this year, twice as a matter of fact. It’s a good start.

  34. Come to Scotland Susan, I’ll meet you 🙂
    We have travelled over the years when our girls were little to USA many times. We have been to Australia a few times (hubby’s sister lives there)
    But now after all these long haul flights we are content to go shorter flights. We are just back from Tenerife in the Canary Isles which for us, from Scotland is about a 4 1/2 hour flight.
    I take my iPad with me.
    We try to learn some of the language of the country we are visiting, even if it is only to order coffee 😉 at least it shows we made an effort.
    You could always try to book emergency exit rows on the plane as it usually means extra leg room.
    Or chance and ask for an upgrade, what have you got to loose 🙂
    On our flight to/from Australia 4 years ago, we flew Business Class which was fantastic, we flew that way as it was a special wedding anniversary for us.
    As we checked into Melbourne to fly to Singapore on our way home, they upgraded us to First Class!!!!!! We were so so surprised at that I am sure my jaw dropped to my feet. We never asked if we could be upgraded. It was absolutely fantastic. We had a few nights in Singapore, then home Business Class.
    On long haul flight especially if flying east, try to keep to your usual sleeping pattern.
    Don’t drink too much alcohol on the flight, it dehydrates too much.
    Drink plenty of water.
    When you arrive at your destinations plan out your days.
    At busy attractions etc keep all bags/purses out of sight.
    I used my Iphone for some photographs on holiday along with my small digital camera.
    My iPad carry bag also acted as my carry on bag, it has plenty of pockets etc for passport, ticket money purse.
    If you are going to Europe you will be over water most of the way so no stop offs lol
    And one last thing………come to Scotland. 🙂

  35. Globus is a wonderful company to work with. The tours are fabulous and vary in length. We always add a day or two to the beginning of the trip so we can explore a little more in the arrival city. Been to Europe quite a few times, Egypt and South America. Italy is by far my favorite country and I will never tire of going there. We watched the “red flag” on Egypt and when it was lifted we booked our trip immediately. I wouldn’t go there now and for a first timer there are other countries you can visit without worrying too much.
    Globus meets you, arranges all travel tours, hotels, etc. and after using them many times we have NEVER been disappointed. Go to the Globus website and request a catalog, they’re wonderful and outline everything associated with your tour in detail.
    The first time in Italy we went to the Vatican and our bus passed people in lines 4-5 hours long. We went right in.
    My parents shared this with us, and I think they are wise words….”Travel overseas while you have your health and you can. The sidewalks, buildings, etc are hundreds and in some cases a couple of thousand years old, they’re not going to dig them up to conform to today. Save your stateside travel till later, we have disability laws that will accommodate.”

  36. I am always amazed when I read your posts. As soon as one thought enters my head, you answer it in the next paragraph.

    My 2¢ is make sure your credit card(s) and bank card are compatible. My credit card just renewed and it states I can use it out of country – I would notify them where I plan to travel. This was a fun/informative post.

    p.s. Dave Lebovitz says no one has change in Paris. Maybe someone can elaborate on that.

  37. Katherine G says:

    Hi Susan – I haven’t read everyone’s posts, so I hope I’m not repeating. Favorite cities – Paris, Nice (or anything along coast of France), Stockholm, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Barcelona, and anywhere in Italy.
    Take the most comfortable leather shoes you can find (not running shoes though – they scream “American tourist” and take too much space) and build your wardrobe around them. A low wedge could be used for day and evening. Don’t worry about packing too little – the clothing (in Europe) will be beautiful and in season, whatever that is and you can just buy what you need.

    Take only a carry-on and ship home anything that you buy. Take socks, underwear and books that you can throw away after using. And if you have to buy French lingerie, that’s not a bad souvenir!
    Contact anyone you know who lives in your destination cities; meet even if for coffee, and grill them on customs, and non-touristy places to go. Travel with a buddy – taking breaks from each other often – so you have someone to go out to dinner with (and you can sample each others’ food, whereby trying twice the meals!)
    Get a special rate for your cell calls and texts but it’s still expensive – use email with wifi.
    Do not let salespeople to calculate the dollars. Make a tiny paper cheat sheet like this (and keep it in your wallet or in the Notes of your phone) :
    Euros $
    1.00 1.08
    20.00 21.54
    50.00
    100.00
    250.00 etc
    Not so important for Euros since they are so close to dollars now but for other currencies it’s really helpful.

    Not good if you are doing connecting flights, but if a direct flight, I stay up the whole night before, paying bills, cancelling the newspaper, cleaning up, watering plants (put them all together, water well and cover tightly with dry cleaning bags – good for a few weeks), and then take an early flight, and sleep the whole way. Alcohol doesn’t work – you fall asleep but wake up after a few hours and cannot get back to sleep…then you lose the first day.
    Have fun!

  38. Hi Susan, Hubby and I have done a lot of travelling to Europe. I’m going to answer only the questions I think I’m an “expert” on. :0)

    (1) Hubby and I do not like group tours, so we do not use a travel agency. Fortunately my husband has put together fantastic vacations for us, every detail meticulously covered, and we didn’t have to pay the travel agency mark-ups on costs. Hubby religiously uses The Fodor and Rick Steves books for background research. We also faithfully watch the Rick Steves and Rudy Maxa travel shows on PBS. Hubby also does a lot of research on Trip Advisor and Venere.
    (3) 2 weeks is good, 3 weeks can be even better, one week is definitely not enough
    (5) I prefer direct flights with minimum layovers, othewise the cross-continent travel days are just too exhausting and long
    (6) Load up your Ipad with movies and books and get a prescription for sleep medication. If you have a really long cross-ocean flight, you will feel more rested if you’re knocked out sleeping for a few hours. Unless you can afford the beds in first class airline service, it’s really hard to sleep sitting up–so I recommend prescription strength sleeping pills.
    (9) Too many pairs of shoes, extra purses., formal dressy clothing–never used any of these. I pretty much lived in my walking shoes, jeans/capris and nice tee shirts.
    (10) I always wish I would have taken more photos. The more photos you take, the law of averages ensures that you’ll end up with more good photos. Also–if there is some dish or tablecloth (LOL!), handbag, piece of native art that happens to steal your heart, JUST BUY THEM. You won’t regret the purchases, really. :0)
    (11) Florence, Venice, Rome, Asissi!! I would go to these cities every year if I had enough time and money.
    (12) On our very first trip to Italy, our luggage was lost for the first four days of our two week trip. This taught us to ALWAYS pack a spare tee shirt, pair of undies, prescriptions etc in our carry-ons. Second bad thing that happened: one year we forgot to call our bank and credit card companies ahead of time to let them know we’d be travelling out of country during certain dates. When we first got to Salerno, Italy and tried to use our cards, we couldn’t do ANYTHING; our bank and credit card companies blocked all the transactions as an attempt to prevent fraud. It took us several hours over two days to get all our accounts unblocked so we could actually access our own money.
    (13) When we went to Scotland several years ago, we just happened to be in Edinburgh the day the Pope came to visit the city–it was the first time in 400 years that a Pope had been on Scottish soil! Our hotel was one block from the parade route. Being Roman Catholic, we were absolutely thrilled. (14) I think email is best. You don’t have to worry about long distance phone charges and time zone differences.
    (15) Always have a pocket-sized tourist language translation book with you. If you can even attempt to speak just 100 words of the country’s native language, the natives will be much more appreciative, helpful and friendly. Also, before you travel, check with your local health department for recommended immunizations. You might be surprised which countries are at risk for certain diseases.

  39. I forgot one more thing to mention: pack your one checked bag well ahead of time, and BE SURE TO WEIGH IT carefully. If you are even one pound ove the maximum allowable (each airline has their own maximum) you will be charged $100 or more for having an overweight bag. A couple of years ago I got in a hurry, packed hastily, didn’t weigh my bag…………….and my bag ended up being FIFTEEN POUNDS overweight. I thought Hubby was going to have a heart attack and a stroke, LOL. Fortunately, Hubby’s bag was exactly 15 pounds below the maximum weight, so I just transferred fifteen pounds of my stuff into his suitcase (which of course took several minutes to do). You can imagine how happy Hubby was with me—-especially because I was holding up a line of about 100 passengers also waiting to check in. Everyone waiting in line hated me, I could feel their death ray stares on the back of my head LOL.

  40. I’ve got “the lust,” too… We have done a quite a bit of traveling and…once I’m there…I luv it!! Two weeks is long enough, or, it’s Tues it’s Belgium syndrome. We’ve done both, tours and individual…our tours have been fantastic-saw things we would never have thought about…individual…got lost in Amsterdam and ended up staying with a couple that “found us” and we stayed extra days hearing stories of WWII and “how ‘our’ boys” were saviours, etc. Sent Christmas cards for years. *sigh* My fav…Amalfi coast..next on bucket list…Ireland! Go for it, Susan!!! franki

  41. Angelina says:

    I have been to Europe quite a few times and here are my travel tips… Always take a nonstop flight, if possible. There is a big risk that if you are connecting your flight may be delayed and then your little leg stretch turns into an 8 hour layover in Dallas and what was supposed to be approx 11 hours of flight time turned into 19 with a layover. I don’t use any travel service, just myself. I also recommend never checking any luggage… A friend of mine went to France and the bag handlers went on strike…it didn’t end well. Imagine, no suitcase with you for your trip? I bring lots of mix and match separates with ones that can be washed and air dryed in hotel. I recommend a minimum of 8 day stay as well. Make copies of your passport and credit cards and store them seperately from your wallet in case you get pickpocketed you can still get back home. With the adapters for electronics, you only need a power converter if your plug can’t do dual voltage (it will say on your plug if it does 110-220). Each country has a different plug, so be aware of that too. And yes, I have been to Paris several times before and I’m headed there in 2 weeks! Good luck!

  42. I have had several trips to Europe as well as Ireland and England. The most recent trip was to Germany, Austria and France on a guided tour to see the Christmas Markets, this was booked through Collette Travel. It was one of the best trips I’ve had. It was a nine day tour and everything was handled for us. One suggestion is, if you are a AAA member be sure to have your passport photos taken there, the Post Office charges more and also AAA should be able to order foreign currency for you, most offices don’t charge you any shipping fees, most foreign exchange companies do.

    Since this trip was at the end of November I had to pack for cold weather, the one thing I brought that I could have left home was a pair of heavy winter boots. I had a pair of fleece lined boots that I wore the whole time. Be sure to bring items for intestinal problems as some of the foods, which were delicious, might not agree with you

    We visited, Oberammagau, Munich, Rothenberg and Nuremberg Germany as well as Innsbruck, Austria and Strassburg France.

    The person that wrote about having an aisle seat is the best, you won’t distrub your seat partner and it is nice to be able to stretch at least one leg!! In your carry on it is wise to pack at least a couple days worth of clothes as well as the limit of personal items such as shampoo, etc. my luggage got lost on one trip to Germany to visit some relatives and showed up three days later, glad my cousin and I wore the same size.

    All in all you’ll love most parts of Europe and I suggest that you book a tour as doing it on your own can be a little intimidating. Go and have a great time wherever you want to venture to!
    Happy travels!
    Arlene

  43. Margaret Robinson says:

    Hi –

    A lot of good and valuable advice so far and I was hesitant to add some things, but there are a “few” you might want to take into consideration –

    1. Decide where first. Then decide if you want to go with a friend (or friends). This will be your first trip abroad and neither Harry nor I would suggest going entirely on your own. If not with friends, pick a tour group that allows you leeway and not too structured. The advantage of a good tour company is that they can make all the arrangements for you that are necessary (flights, hotels, et al.) and you will know ahead of time the cost for these things. There are a lot of good ones out there, but hadn’t noticed that anyone suggested National Geographic Travel Expeditions – they go to very interesting places and are doing tours to Cuba, if that interests you).

    2. Check in with the State Department. The site gives you the ability of leaving basic info about your trip – when you’re leaving/coming back, where you’re going and the name of the tour company where applicable. Additionally, it gives you a list of American embassies and satellite embassies in case of emergency. Somewhere on the site it also gives you current updates on what countries are safe, which are not, plus health advisories (even countries like Scotland post about getting meds when there are outbreaks of diseases in their country and one should really pay attention to that information).

    3. Having a rather long history of travel, we suggest a minimum of 14 days. It’s amazing how quickly times passes and you don’t want to feel rushed. I usually start getting homesick around day 17 or 18, but it depends where we are traveling. A maximum would probably be 28 days. This gives you plenty of time, but doesn’t allow you to worry too much about things piling up at home.

    4. Delta flies out of Atlanta directly to many major European cities; take advantage of that especially if you decide to fly with a friend(s). If going with a tour company, they will give you details on how they fly to certain places, unless they allow you to catch up with the tour group at a certain stage of the tour (this isn’t allowed by all companies). Avoid Newark – it is one of the worst airports in this country and is subject to many delays. Chicago International also has terrible wind conditions during certain times of the year and if you are not a good flyer, be advised of wind shears and rough flights coming and going. NY – both Kennedy and LaGuardia are others that can experience long delays. These days just about any major airport has problems with schedules, but in our experience these are places that should be on your radar.

    An added personal note here: If you’re planning on going to Scotland as many recommended, fly to London and take the train Edinburgh or any of the other larger cities in Scotland they service. It is a fantastic way to travel and can be done in a day if you choose. The staffs are friendly, efficient and a lovely trolley brings you coffee/tea and treats at least twice during the trip (plus a newspaper and choice of magazines if they’re available).

    5. Whether or not you want to fly at night is a personal issue. I’m not a particularly good flyer, so have to take Dramamine (though it doesn’t make me sleepy, just less nauseated) no matter what time I fly. “Cramped” in a little airplane seat isn’t an issue when you’re 5’4″, but on particularly long flights even I get up and walk around.

    6. Review articles on what to take on some of the sites like “The Vivienne Files” and Rick Steves. You do not need to take half of what you think you do and it’s not like you’re going to outer Siberia (or maybe you will) and can’t buy something to wear, if necessary. Your new weekender might be perfect as your carry-on; I do not put one in the overheads because I don’t want the hassle. Having it underneath the seat in front of me is perfect (and you can rest your feet on it). Pack a pair of soft ballet slippers or something similar because you do feel better when changing into something soft on a long flight and I’ve never experienced “swollen feet”.

    7. Don’t take a laptop. If a Chromebook works, fine but for sheer pleasure travel we only take our phones and Kindles. By-the-by, I’m sure that someone’s given you info on traveling with your phone, so won’t go into that aspect, or about what money/how much to take (just be sure to have some US cash for your return trip home).

    8. When in Italy last year and at the suggestion of a friend who’s a travel agent, we hired a tour guide for our time in Florence (4 hours, 2 days and less than $120). I wanted to bring him home, but Harry said “NO”. He was absolutely wonderful – got us in places like museums and galleries w/o having to wait in long lines and focused on what we were interested in specifically (art and history). It was like taking an interesting college 101 class! Livor was also great about telling and taking us to places where locals ate/drank. Much more entertaining. It is an aspect of traveling w/o others that we highly recommend.

    9. We’ve had no truly bad experiences and tons of wonderful ones (including the trip to Scotland when I broke my leg on the first day, walking with Harry on a golf course in Boat of Garten – we stayed in the country for another 3 weeks). If you go with a great (but realistic) attitude you’ll be fine. People around the world are generally kind and helpful. There will always be some cranky ones, but if you remain courteous you’ll eventually win them over.

    10. We don’t often call home, we just email/text. Also, I’ve had the great experience in most countries of being able to mail items home that might weigh down my suitcase. Have found that most countries nowadays have a UPS/Mailboxes or similar place. It may be a little costly, but it’s one of those perks that you should take advantage of and if traveling with others who live close by in the US it works really well to share the shipping charges. Did this in Italy when I travelled with 5 other women (a super awesome trip) and that expense was only about $20 or less for the rather large boxes we shipped from a village in the Tuscany region.

    11. If you have a particular interest (e.g. cooking, flower arranging, antiques), you might be wise to enquire with people/companies that offer those – think Sharon Santoni of “My French Country Home” blog does tours of regions in France and Diane Di Filipi’s “Let’s Go Cook Italian” website offers cooking classes in villas and she goes to France as well. Two great places to as least check out).

    All the best and know you’ll be way ahead with all the “help” you’ve received from all your loyal fans! MMR

  44. Theresa says:

    Take food with you. My sister and I went to Hawaii last summer. We had an hour between flights. I took almost the whole time to get to our next gate. We went into a shop that sold sandwiches and everything was outdated. We were glad we had trail mix and a few pieces of fruit. Take lots of pictures and take me along I love to travel. All the above comments make me want to go to Ireland

  45. Years ago we took a trip to France, England, Scotland and a tip into Wales. In France I highly recommend a tour of the chateaus in the Loire Valley! You would love them!
    England has a beautiful castle called Leeds castle. There are many wonderful castles and abbeys to see.
    Stonehenge was wonderful and eerie.
    But my most favorite country was Scotland! Once you go there it stays with you–its history, its magic, it whispering from the old. You would love it!!!

  46. Hi Susan, I see you got tons of comments and advice. I read a few of them and hopefully won’t repeat too much of what has already been said. I travel on business about 20 weeks a year. I mostly go to Central and South America so my travel time in the air is 3 – 5 hours. That’s pretty much my limit!! I don’t sleep on flights no matter what time it is. I did see a reference to Ambiance, and although I have never tried it, maybe for a long trip in the future I would. A couple of questions and suggestions. Not sure if you are traveling alone or with a friend. I have heard good and bad about tours. For my self I know i wouldn’t want to have to be somewhere every morning at a certain time. I tend to see many tours and breakfast at seven is not my idea of vacation! So again, Europe has many beautiful places to visit, but the United States does as well. Maybe you could try a trip first within the US first. See how long you like being away from home. If you are going alone, it does get to be a bit lonely after a week or so. Three weeks for me is definitely too long. A carry on bag for a long trip would be impossible for me! Try some tours first. All big cities have many different day tours. Stay in a major brand large hotel. Wherever you go remember safety first! I never take taxis alone after dark. Although traveling overseas is exciting, I believe there is so much in the US that doesn’t require a 9 or 10 hour flight. And would be just as enjoyable!

  47. Charlitte says:

    Can’t wait for you to take a trip, because you will share it with us. I’m glad people said to go to England & Ireland first, because I’d like to go there through your trip. I’ve seen pics of Germany & it ‘s beautiful, plus the food is out of this world a well-seasoned traveller told me. France is on hugh terrorist alert, so PERSONALLY, I’d skip it, unfortunately. Italy has always been a popular it looks like…two American Italian friends have said it’s GREAT. I’ve only been to Hawaii, but if I had my druthers (choice) , I’d head across the Atlantic. The converters for charging techno stuff are a must. My granddaughter set me up with KIK msgng when she went to Costa Rica…it’s was a great way to Msg & you can send pics too. Doesn’t cost anything.

    You sure got a lot of good replies here. Bon Voyage!

  48. Susan, AS always, I love your posts. I have lots of hints that may be helpful to you. I started my travel experience in 1970 and I LOVE it!! My first trip was to Hawaii. The regulations today make travel far less attractive to me but I DO recommend you should go. I could give specific help if I knew what locations you are considering so please post where you are considering.Consider what you MOST what to see: gardens, architecture, history, great food , hiking, etc. That decision will go a long way in determining HOW to go. I like direct flights. The most risks are intake off and landing so I prefer to minimize those plus I like to get to my main destination and begin my exploring. I always take a good book and/or magazines to read since I can rarely sleep on a plane. I try to plan my flights at times when shuttle service, customs etc. are not as busy. Aisle seats make it easier to get up and move around the cabin, but I just love looking out the windows when flying. It can be really beautiful. Mot long flights have movies and also headsets that have a wide variety of music available to listen to. That helps you carry less. I also bring gum, mints etc. in my purse. There are lists available that explain seat exercises that can prohibit swelling feet and jet lag problems also. Also, you can arrange to have you baggage checked before your actual flight to avoid those long lines. I do lots of research about my destinations and I prefer to book my own itinerary. Many tour companies have poor modes of transportation and you lose the ability to take time at certain places for pictures. You also run the risk of having some very annoying people on tour that can ruin you day. Conversely, meeting new people can be the best part of a trip. I’ve had some terrific experiences. I too take many many pictures when I travel so I carry a journal with me. On a long trip it’s easy to lose track of what you saw and the little details. I scrapbook my trips and they end up being mini travel journals which are really fun to look back on. I collect brochures from special places which have historical fact that help with my journal also. You may want a Intl Simcard for phone. Some credit cards are more readily accepted than others too. I try to plan a couple days as downtime without touring. A site with a nice pool, lake or ocean location is nice. If every day is spent rushing from place to place to cram everything in, you will end up exhausted and in need of a vacation FROM your vacation. Travel is one of my favorite topic and I have lots more specific information so I will watch for you to post where you interest is. I will write again so each post is not sooooo long. I look forward to seeing to photos and wonderful stories I’m sure you will have. By all means, go girl!! You will love it.

  49. Over 25 years ago my husband and I decided to travel to Europe but only after exploring our wonderful country U.S.A.

    We decided England would be a good start since the language barrier would not be a serious problem.

    Read, Read, Read about the country you are planning to visit. We booked our trip with a group that offered reasonable airfare and hotel in London. we were basically on our own to do what we wanted. We toured the city using their under ground for transportation (wonderful!), visited museums, did lots of theatre, pubs, etc. On our “to do” list was a visit to Stone Hedge which is out of the city. We found there were day trips available for “short” money which took us into the countryside that included Stone Hedge. This trip gave us the freedom to explore and really enjoy England.

    We learned early in our travels to concentrate on one country at a time. The tours that offered 3 countries in a 12 day period really didn’t give us the chance to really explore and enjoy the country we were visiting, plus very exhausting.

    Our favorite country is Italy, we have been very fortunate in returning 4 times to really experience and enjoy the people, food, art, architecture.

    I can not stress how important it is to read, read, read beforehand about your destination.

    Also, try to learn basic language of the country you are visiting. While in Budapest, I walked to the post Office to get postage stamps for post cards. I had learned how to say “Good morning, how are you today” in Hungarian. It was one of my most rewarding experiences, heads turned and I was greeted by smiles and nodding heads.

    Learn the currency of the country you are visiting.

    And lastly, ENJOY!!!!!!!

  50. Susan,

    Great questions!

    1. Buy a Lonely Planet book; this will help you assess the places the sights you want to hit! It also depends on the country(ies) you’re going to as well. Europe is fairly easy to plan and get around (we always rent a car and drive ourselves), however, I’m currently planning a trip to India right now it’s so difficult! I have decided to book through an Indian travel agent and have drivers cart us around from point A to B.
    2. Not sure on a camera – I’m trying to figure that out myself
    3. Depends on where you want to go and how fast you want to go! Europe is HUGE but easy to get around via driving or train. Narrow it down by your must see countries and the sights you want to see in those countries.
    4. We did a 3 week honeymoon in Venice, Turkey and France (we spent most of our time in Turkey, two weeks to be exact) at around the 2 week mark I just got the feeling I wanted to be home. I missed my own bed, food I normally ate, the gym, and knowing where the bathroom was at all time! I eventually shook the feeling but I was ready to go home after 3 weeks.
    5. Direct flights are my favorite but if you can squeeze in a layover that allows you to go out and see another city a bit (for free) that is a really neat thing. En route to Venice we had a 3 hour layover in Schiphol and we took the train out… Dragging out bags along with us, but I got to see a city I’d never seen before…
    6. Either way, you’re not going to sleep well on the plane but whenever you get into a new country any sort of tiredness disappears because it’s so exciting just to be there (on the way home it’s a different story though 😉
    7. I ALWAYS carry on, even for a 3 week trip. I feel like I’m messing with fate trying to check a bag on an international fight. Pack the basics, for Europe all black, you’ll fit in and just re-wear outfits and switch out a few pieces. We always check a large bag that we don’t care much about with a few things (t-shirts, socks, blankets) so I can fill it up with goodies from the trip. If it gets delayed on the way home it’s no big deal but not to have your suitcase when you land in a foreign country and an itinerary that can’t wait for your delayed bag is a major bummer!
    8. I took my Lenovo with me but it’s a personal preference on computer
    9. More protein bars! Lol, pack your favorite snack. I’m particular about food and I just wanted more protein bars after 2 weeks of traveling
    10. In hindsight, I always wish I had more time to see more things. I said in 4 that 3 weeks was enough, however, when you’re over there take full advantage of the trip and the fact you’re overseas. Traveling is expensive, time consuming, but so worth it… If you’re already over there and invested in the ticket, stay as long as possible and SEE as much as possible.
    11. Turkey – hands down the most amazing country I’ve ever been too. With all of the rich Christian, Islamic and Roman history it was incredible to see – plus it’s a really cheap country to visit!
    12. As I mentioned in 5 we had a layover in Schiphol, the way our flights went it was weird and took us in and out of Schiphol twice in the same day. I figured that we’d just drop one leg of the flight and stay in Amsterdam all day, however, you can’t do that (I found out after I booked non-refundable tickets to the Anne Frank Museum and Van Goh Museum). Airlines will not let you miss a leg of your flight, even if they route you through a country twice… So lame.
    13. On a trip to Europe in high school, my best friend and I had an Italian guy buy us shoes on Champs-Elysees.
    14. Skype!
    15. Use a Capital one card for all purchases you can, however, it doesn’t work in some places in France because of the chip they have in their cards. But Capital One does not charge conversion fees on any purchases. Always pull currency out at an ATM, it’s cheaper than exchanging at the airport! Be sure to learn some of the language OR at least try to approach someone and use their language. Most often they will know some English but it’s respectful to at least attempt to speak their language.

    I hope this helps and have so much fun!

  51. It looks like you have plenty of good advice so I’ll not offer more except to say JUST DO IT. There’s nothing like exploring, experiencing new countries/cultures. In a few weeks I’m living one of my travel fantasies in Florence where I’ve rented an apartment for a month and hope to become immersed in place. Dream your dreams and them make them come true.

  52. Hello Susan,

    I don’t know where and what country in EU you want to visit. But it is advisable to travel with a good friend if you are not use to travel. It’s more fun. However, you will meet people on your way.

    I am a truly a Globtrotter. I travel 4-5 times a year and travelled 5 continents. At the moment I am in Harare, Zimbabwe for 9 days and Cape Town for 9 more days.

    The most important before travelling is your insurance. Insure that everything covers. Take every medication you have.
    – read some information of the country

    No need to buy currency. If you have your credit or cash cards, withdraw the local currency in the airport when arrive. It is more cheaper (an advice from a banker. I am working at the Swedish largest international bank SEB).

    I never carry a gigantus camera for a perfect pix. Bring your Iphone6 or a cam that is comfortable rather dismantling on and off the most complicated cam. Remember, you never know.

    If you happen to visit nearby Stockholm, or if you want to visit Stockholm, Sweden just let me know. You are welcome to stay at DaBoX. No problem at all. Make Stockholm your base. In that way you can book your ticket to Paris for 4 days, then you can take train to Italy maybe 4 or 5 days and back to Sweden. Then you can explore Scandinavia and the Baltics either cruise or plane.

    If you wish to visit Greece, London, Ireland and Scotland, it’s just a 2hrs flight from Arlanda.

    LoL* did I complicate your “Wanderlust”? No worries… everything will be alright.

    Just revert if you need more assistance.

    Good Luck.
    /CC

  53. It has been several years since I traveled to Europe or Asia, but I do make frequent trips from where I live (Hawai’i) to the mainland US East Coast (Miami & NC, mainly) . Those trips take forever as there are usually 3 air segments with plane changes and one of the segments is 8-9 hours long (depending on whether you’re coming or going!) and another is 5 hours long. So between the airport waiting periods waiting for flights and flight times, the trips are way too long.
    I’m older and don’t like to carry a suitcase as a carry-on anymore since it is hard for me to lift it to the overhead bins (even though there is usually a kind soul who will help me)…but I now just check them through to destination.
    Since I am allowed a carry-on and a ‘personal item’ (handbag, computer case, brief case, etc) and since airline food is so dismal and so expensive for what you get (they don’t feed you as part of your trip expense any more), I take a backpack as my carry-on and a soft-sided small cooler as my ‘personal item’.
    In my backpack I put my handbag, camera and everything else (jewelry in a small cloth bag, a book or reading tablet, crossword puzzle magazines, prescriptions), including my little travel pillow.
    Backpack on my shoulder and little cooler in my hand. I put some cash, my ID, boarding passes and travel itinerary in the front pocket of my backpack for easy access. I also carry a travel thermos water bottle, strapped to the outside of my backpack (empty thermos when I go through ATS and I buy a water bottle to fill it at a concession after getting into the concourse).
    I have placed frozen packs inside my little soft-sided cooler and TSA has never questioned them, but some people will carry a couple of empty freezer Zip-lock bags and have them filled at a concession stand)
    In my little soft-sided cooler I carry peeled hard boiled eggs in a
    baggy, those small little laughing cow cheeses or cheese sticks, yogurt,
    pimento cheese or other kind of easy to eat sandwiches in plastic baggies, etc. Crackers, granola bars, cookies, trail mix, nuts, etc – napkins and spoon (for yogurt). I use the empty baggies to put the wrappers, napkins and the wax covers from the cheeses to throw away.

  54. Hi Susan….well, first – agree with all the others in that you should GO! I had a dear aunt who loved to travel and in her later years when she could no longer get around she would love to hear about our adventures and tell us “go while you CAN go”!
    OK…Globus – we have traveled with them to England, France, Italy, Eastern Europe, Germany. They are fabulous, not as pricey as Tauck. After touring with them ( and getting to see the important stuff, a fast track into attractions as others mentioned, and still have free time to get lost on our own) we then started going BACK to some places on our own. PARIS…my favorite. People are friendly and helpful – don’t believe the stories about rudeness. They are a formal people and very kind. I could go to Paris every year….more that that. It is magic. But then, England….the gardens, the houses, tea….when we went back on our own we took the train from Heathrow to our hotel in Kensington…right across the street from the tube. Perfect for then hopping all over London. Did the same in Amsterdam – train from airport to bed and breakfast on the canal. In these cases we packed very light, did carry on. GO longer if you can….long flight so make it at least 8 days away. But….last year we took a river cruise from Paris to Normandy ( my husband’s father landed on D-Day and we wanted to visit on the 70th anniversary). Took Uniworld and it was amazing…SO relaxing, wonderful food, drink, tours, you unpack ONCE and it is like your hotel goes with you. Made good friends that we will travel with again. Loved it SO much we are going on a Viking cruise this year….
    Pack…Chicos Travelers, comfy shoes, don’t pack too much…you never wear it all and really, who is going to know if you repeat outfits. We are going for 15 days this time…start to think WAY before you go what you need, shop accordingly. Everyone gave wonderful tips…the copies of passport, a Travelon purse that can’t be cut, we have those wallets around our neck, too. Most of all – even though you want to take lots of photos – just enjoy BEING THERE ! Bon Voyage !

  55. Definately start traveling now. My husband works with a woman who used to work as a travel agent. She has a company sanctioned annual travel group. They start planning all trips a year in advance. Everyone who want to go pays in monthly for a year. They also put in for vacation days at the same time. This lady plans a different European trip every year.All are under a week.
    Several years ago we went to Rome for Thanksgiving weekend. Left fron JFK on a Wednesday, returned on Sunday. Flew on Air Alitalia. Best airline food I have ever had. We all had a wonderful trip. The only thing we missed was mid week Mass with the Pope. Next time we will go earlier in the week.
    Also would like to spend a week in Venice. Friends did that when they retired. Loved it.

  56. As a graduation gift to our daughter we took her to Rome and Florence Italy. The travel bug hit her bad…she has been back 3 times. She has also been to Switzerland, Israel, England, France, Ireland, Scottland, Canada and this yr planning on Belguim. She loved Ireland best of all, then second was Greers Switzerland.
    I don’t think I saw anyone mention “Go ahead Tours”. My daughter went through them on one of her trips and loved them. They were very nice and the tour guide was awesome. Her and friends usually travel on their own, but she would definitely use them again. You could also youtube “passport to Europe” with Samantha Brown” videos on some ideas where to go.
    I agree with Beth above…You could consider Canada for your first trip. I have been to Prince Edward Canada 5 times. I love it, it is so beautiful.

    Here’s a few suggestions:
    ~If you can afford it..take first class..so much more comfortable.
    ~Take direct and overnight flights
    Taking an extra set of clothes in a carry on is a great idea… my luggage got lost
    They say to only drink ” bottled water” in other countries
    Do not drive in Rome Italy. It would be next to suicide
    Take a small trash bag with you on the fight incase you get sick,( this happened to me). There is suppose to be bags on the back of the seat, but the times I’ve flown I have yet to see one

  57. When we went to Rome we brought small carry on luggage only. I just washed out clothes in the bathroom sink every night. I also mailed home any purchases we made. Much easier than going through customs.
    The only part of our trip we did not care for was our meals were pre planned. When we ate at restaurants we were served an American style Italian meal. We started comparing our dinners to what the locals ate. Theirs looked better. If you love a big coffee (Starbucks style) it will be hard to find. My husband likes a glass of milk (not wine) with his meals. He came home assuming that they don’t have cows in Italy.
    Best first trip suggestion would be Ireland or Great Britain.

  58. Betty Marie says:

    Well, you have a lot of wonderful information,now the real question is where do you really want to go?I will never fly again. I have been to Europe many times. It is unsafe to leave this country the way the world is today. I will never get to see all I wanted to because I don’t want the experience of being hurt for no reason then I am an American. I have been treated poorly because I was an American. Plus I would never go to a country that doesn’t have English as their first language. There was nothing that I saw that I would risk my life for.

  59. Dear Susan – One of the great parts of a trip is planning it. To me 10- 12 days are optimal. If you are touring , don’t take one that does a different city or country every day. The trip will turn into a big blur. My brain can only absorb so much information at once. If you have enough time in a city to both sightsee and to sit and have a glass of wine or a coffee you can people watch. To me that is so enjoyable. You have so many travel tips and I did not read them all so I’m sorry if I am repeating. I carry money in several places ( crossover purse, front pant pocket and even my bra) so if I lose some I have some hidden away. I am always afraid I will lose money when I am paying for something but that is my own personal fear. I was mugged once but not hurt . It was hit and grab. Please don’t let that scare you. I did what you are not supposed to do. I went a little off the beaten path and was not paying attention. The nicest thing happened when my husband and I were running late to catch a train. There were not a lot of taxis picking up in the area and you have to line up. There were a few people in front of us. A young couple at the front of the line picked up on our unease and asked in halting English if we were lost. When we explained the problem they told other people and the next taxi was ours. I guess nice people provide the best experiences even if the churches and museums and sights are fantastic. I’m hoping to take a river cruise in Europe. I’ve never done it but I’ve heard they are great. You travel leisurely, don’t have to unpack, they carry a small number of passengers and provide local guides and tours. Some of them feature cuisine local to the area. I am sure you will have a great experience however you choose to travel. I’m so sorry, I can’t seem to stop but one more tip – remember if things go wrong they will provide some of your best stories. Iris

    • Hi Iris…just want to say, I agree – and I think studies have shown – you get so much pleasure from planning a trip. Love the anticipation. And yes, bad things happen, but that is no excuse to stay home. Terrible things can happen in your own back yard. And…TAKE a river cruise. Took one last year, loved it…going back ! Food was amazing, people friendly, you relax as the countryside goes by, going through locks is so interesting…guides are ready to show you the sites and help. Hope to see you on one sometime !

  60. I wish I could afford to travel more and further. I suggest you plan a trip very soon for a short stay say a 5-7 days. This will tell you a lot of what you need to know because every person is different. If you have the time, funds, and health, don’t put it off anymore.

  61. Wow! You have a lot of comments and probably won’t get to this one. But in case you do, I have been to over 70 countries (my goal is 100) and can’t imagine life without travel. We have recently done some blog posts about packing and great items to take. (We just got back from Colombia, Ecuador, and the Galapagos Islands on Saturday.) Travel light and use just a carry-on. Wash your clothes while you’re away. (I buy travel clothes from Eddie Bauer and add scarves for variety.) That my best tip, and you won’t regret it.

  62. Hi Susan, I agree with all who say go while you can. I love to travel and if I could afford it I would travel most of the time. My husband and I have taken a cruise out of Barcelona, spent 7 days on the ship and another couple in Barcelona when we returned. We flew direct, less likely to lose luggage, plus I have a lot of issues with my ears when landing. Less landings the better. On our cruise we had 3 ports in Italy, one in France and one in Malta. Fabulous trip. Favorite of all cruises out of 12 we have taken. We used Roman Limos in the 3 ports in Italy to see the sights while there. It does;t give you the opportunity to really immerse yourself in the culture but really helped us see a lot in the short time we had in each port. Price is so good for the amount of time and all food included and not moving hotels. This year we are taking a Baltics cruise with stops in Russia, Germany, Sweden,Finland and Estonia departing out of Copenhagen. This time we are going to spend 3 days in Copenhagen and then go to Amsterdam for 5 days after our 9 day cruise. We will be gone 17 days, the longest ever out of US. It’s hard for my husband to be away too long from his business. We have some arranged tours and will spend some of the time exploring on our own. I recommend doing a little of both. Take a good adapter, arrive with some foreign currency, set your watch to the time in your arrival port when you get on plane. If you get there in the am try to not go to bed, try to make it through as much time as possible and go to bed at night as you would at home. Much easier to get over jet lag. There are so many places I want to visit, I wonder if I will get them all done. I hope you get that passport going and go explore the world!

  63. You are so funny! Your description of flying brought to mind a hilarious email that went around some years back about an airline that used humor like that in their welcoming speech to passengers.
    Travel has a purpose: relaxing getaway(Beach, porch, floppy hat, antiques shopping, film festival) or a trip (walking shoes, railpass, camera, backpack, list of what you want to see) So whatcha want? Hawaii is a different culture, yet a state, but kind to tourists as that is about 70% their income. I lived there for about 18months 🙂 Each island unique. You surely know folks that have been and can give you sugg. Read all about it, the history is fascinating. Longing to hear Italian, French? Putting eyes on a different culture is life changing. Watching everyone stand at all the little coffee bars while they drink their small cups of coffee(Italy), you think, seriously? Then you have a small cup of coffee and your mouth tells your brain that THIS is coffee and why haven’t I had it before now? The same with pizza from the tiny little shops where you buy it out the front window and realize that from now on, pizza at home will never be as good. Sigh. Based on traveling outside the continental USA, I would add a couple of things to the above suggestions: 1. If you choose Europe, don’t go in August, it’s their vacation month, & many wonderful family-owned shops close for the entire month. Also as important for our age group is that it is hot and humid. In Italy, the govmt. controls when residents can use their AC, and then it’s on low. August is not ideal, tho you might find some great trip prices for that time of year. 2. We have always traveled on our own, seeking B&Bs rec by Frommer’s, RickSteves guide, or word of mouth. In Italy,My husband would have chosen a hotel that is exempt from the AC rules(yes it’s true)but he loves me and my desire for an adventure. Also B&B owners make great suggestions, such as: when to get to the vatican so your day isn’t spent standing in line, which restaurant on the square is good, nearest ATM, etc. On our last trip to Italy, after a really hot day, our host suggested a day at the beach, which was a lovely train ride from Florence, a taxi to the beach and oh, the surprise of beauty and how we all needed that day off from museums…it changed the tone of our trip and for all of us, we remember that day with great fondness…it was like we were part of a beautiful painting of umbrellas and water. That day ended up being the highlight of our trip. Best ever people watching. Never would have thought of the beach with the endless list of things to see. Go to a private beach, where you rent your spot, they provide towels, chair, etc.
    3. If you choose far away places and plan to fly: save your dollars and fly first or business class. Return trip in coach is ok, you are going home to your own bed. I never would have given myself permssion to spend that money, but hubby did. Such a difference. 4. We traveled by train alot and at the stations there are ATMs, with good $$ exchange rates. Just be aware of what’s going on around you before you open your purse. We experienced darling young boys coming up to “help”us with our bags. (I’d been told ahead they will pick them up and run away) He even had his hand on one of ours and I said NO in a loud voice and he took off. Which leads to the point: pack lighly, you will have to carry it. If you seem overwhelmed, you might be a target for petty theft; Also, when walking on the street wear your purse across your body with bag store side, not street side. Sounds a little scarey, really isn’t, just good safety: you are a tourist. 5.Backwoods store and probably others, sells these amazing underwear/panties that wick away sweat and dry so quickly, you can wash them out at night and wear the next day. I bought them ahead and “practiced”. They work and comfy! I bought 4 of them and didn’t have to pack the 15 cotton Hanes which I planned to wear and toss to create space in my bag. 6. Italian gold is very nice. They will bargain. 7. On your phone, have all your 800 numbers to call your credit card comps. Call them ahead of trip and ask them how to connect with them from Italy, Spain, wherever. 8. In your suitcase on top of your packed clothes, place a page of copy paper with your immediate destination, hotel and your name on it, ie, Please send this bag to M. Smith, Hotel Le Beau, street adress, Paris, France. Do not put your whole itinerary just your next immediate destination. 9. Phone: check w your provider. We payed for 1 month of international service, so much cheaper than 1 phone call back to states. Get the rate that includes texts. When my girl attended summer schl in England, they were advised to buy cheap local cellphones for their duration at school. 10. Hand sanitizer 11. England is a great starter spot and fun to explore with someone or alone w benefit of the language. They are jolly nice. When I saw and touched Charles Dickens marker in Wmin., I had tears. High tea; lovely window boxes and planters; Fortnum&Mason; I would like to go today! 12. If you travel alone never share a taxi with a stranger. We were told that in the 1960s, when the dollar ruled the world and Europe was still grateful for being liberated from the darkness of Hitler. Be generally safe. 13. Dress: the more local you look, the less you will be noticed. When you wear your Atlanta braves Tshirt, it may scream tourist with money. Also be willing to lose anything you take, so when you practice pack, don’t put in your perfect pink silk scarf, go get a pink scarf at a discount store; Leave your nice jewelry at home; 14. When you get to your destination: ask concierge what are the local events happening? We saw an amazing concert of Italian opera “stars”, that was part of a summer park series that we would have otherwise missed, full orchestra, amazing food. Fun to be around the locals. 15. Travel with a purpose! In France, Patricia Wells does cooking school retreats. She’s been a guest on Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa show. I had a friend who took her daughter and they had the best time. Then visited a lace maker, and other fun things. This would be fun to do with a girlfriend, yes?
    Don’t wait too long to have an adventure. Sometimes the things we own and our habits, keep us like hamsters on the wheel. Many sweet adventures even here in the states and Canada. I’d love to “do” Williamsburg, at Christmas. It’s on my bucket list. As I/my fair skin can no longer do a lot of time in the sun, I’m looking now at all the other fun 🙂
    *Should you wish to go to Italy(our most recent trip), I have the name of a lovely American young woman who married an Italian boy-now has dual citizenship, fluent in Italian, she has built a private tour guide business. We heard of her thru a family member and she was wonderful. We loved her as did our 20something daughter. If you choose Italy, let me know if you are interested in contacting her.

  64. Kathy Braithwaite says:

    Loved reading all the comments here and as seasoned travelers agree with most of them. For a first time trip I recommend going on an organized tour or a cruise. We loved Perillo Tours for Italy and we always use Go Ahead for others (Scandinavia, Peru, S. Africa.) For cruising we love Holland America and Oceania (Baltic, Mediterranean, Alaska, Australia, New Zealand, New England, Mexico, Caribbean.) Trying a Viking River Cruise this fall and doing a Panama Canal cruise next year. We did 10 days in an apartment in Paris on our own also.
    Cruises and tours offer so much in the way of excursions, dining experiences, and ease of traveling. And they often include airfare in their prices. One thing not mentioned is the use of hand sanitizer in a small bottle for use throughout the trip. Also, I take hand sanitizer wipes in a zip lock for wiping those dirty seat back trays on planes. And lastly, we just applied for and received our Global Entry cards that will allow us to bypass many of the airport TSA lines. Let us know where you plan to go. Planning and flexibility are essential. Knock on wood, we have never had any problems! Enjoy

  65. I want to encourage you to go to Europe. Flights from the east coast of the US are 7 to 8 hours to most destinations. I would recommend 10 days. I have never used a travel agent or tour group but I would if I were traveling alone. When I planned our trips to Europe, I simply looked at itineraries offered by tour companies and picked out what we wanted to do. Train travel within Europe is easy to do and quite pleasant when you get there. We have never been to a place in Europe people weren’t speaking English even though we had to put forth a little effort to find an English speaker at a train station in Rome. ( I think it was anti-American sentiment rather than inability to speak English!) I prefer the smaller towns over Paris. I would encourage you to take a nice size suitcase so that you will have room to bring home souvenirs and carry on a back pack with medicines, snacks, and a change of clothes. Do not take more than you can carry without assistance. Americans are frowned upon for having so much luggage! Take the most comfortable pair of shoes you own and a few changes of clothes. You can wash out your clothes in the sink at the hotel and hang them to dry overnight. When I went last year I was not able to use my credit card in most places because all European cards have chip and pin technology (which is supposed to be used in the US by October of 2015). American Express is not widely accepted. I used my ATM card to get cash at bank ATMs in safe areas and used caution when doing so. Do not use a money changer at an airport or train station. The rates are ridiculous. I only took my “big camera” along with an extra memory card. I didn’t take time to work on photos until I got home. I used all of my time trying to take in as much as I could. I have never purchased international service for my cell phone. If you have an Iphone, you can facetime to facetime free with wifi or you can Imessage free with wifi. Free wifi was very easy to find in Europe, probably more widespread than in US. If you need to make a call, you can purchase an international calling card at a convenience store for much less than the price quoted to me by my cell phone provider. While flying, we always pay extra for “economy comfort” with Delta for a little extra room. If you can fly first class you will be able to rest during the flight and will have less jet lag.

  66. Some very useful tips here, Susan. One thing I think many did not mention is prior to a long flight ensure you are NOT dehydrated. In other words for at least four days prior to departure, drink as much as eight full glass of water per day. Secondly, ensure you pack any prescription drugs plus incidental ones like Tylenol or similar as not all off the shelf drugs are equal. Also, if planning to do a lot of sightseeing take a few pairs of comfortable shoes and interchange them for relief of back ache etc. (I usually travel with a knapsack with an extra pair and switch while on the run as get more mileage that way …. ☺. Also a knapsack is much easier to carry than any type of handbag, are amazing what you can put into them plus you have freedom of your hands.) -Brenda-
    P.S: I once worked for an Airline and when younger did even more travelling then I do now plus as my daughter once modeled internationally; there are a few tips that I have picked up along the way.

  67. Oh, Susan, TRAVEL! ….what a wonderful habit to start…..My suggestions are:
    First time in Europe, travel to what I call easy countries to get your feet wet. England, Ireland, Scotland where English is spoken. The only problem I had was driving on the opposite side. I use a recommended travel agent for airfare, hotels, car rentals, etc. I don’t like pre-arranged group sight-seeing. I make my own itinerary, so if I decide to go off the beaten track I’m not missing out on anything. I would do as much reading up on where your visiting as possible. There is an app, I heard of that you speak into your phone in English and it will repeat in any language you want. I also carry a medical card with any ailments and/or medicines you take regularly and my doctors phone number. Also carry the name of your hotel and if it has a concierge, carry his card. And use the concierge! They are a wonderful source for all things local! if none at the hotel, ask the locals….
    When I was in Ireland, I purchased several pieces of crystal, I shipped it home rather than taking it with me. In the long run its safer and cheaper!
    But most of all, enjoy yourself! as for the plan ride, headphones, Kindle, music or someone to talk to will get you through! Have a blast!!!

  68. Phyllis Gigandet says:

    Wow! Had a few minutes to check BNOP and wound up taking 3 pages of notes! Have traveled to several places, but it has been a while. Great resource to jog my memory as well as update information. Thanks!

    • Phyllis, the readers of BNOTP are the BEST! I love all the information they shared and it’s going to be so helpful when I plan a trip. Glad you found it helpful, too!

  69. Lori R. says:

    Sounds like the high lights were touched upon. I would recommend you get travel health insurance. It’s very inexpensive and will save a ton if something unfortunate happens. I know one person who was on a cruise ship and her daughter needed an immediate appendectomy. The cost to transport her off the ship to a hospital for an appendectomy was in the hundreds of thousands. I know of another situation where the medical services for another emergency were not covered. Travel health insurance will cover any emergency and is extrememly reasonable. Your insurance agent should be able to help you with this.

  70. Donna Bridges says:

    Hi Susan from Australia it’s 19 hours to Paris and in 2012 myself and my daughter went for 5 weeks to France and Germany. My tip is book as much as you can before you go. I would ,if I had my time again do more small tours , they are organised for you so they get good deals for great rooms and meals ect. We toured the Romantic Road and the Castles of Bavaria so so lovely. We went to the Museum D’orsee (much much shorter line than the Louvre) saw Monets works then the next day travelled to Giverny on a tour to see the work then where it was painted plus oh that garden . I am planning to go to Europe with my bestie for our 50th in 4 years and will do the grand tour then England ,Ireland and back to Paris for sure.

  71. hi! i’m travelling a lot (last year 15 trips)
    so we have few “house rules”
    1.direct flight when possible!(think about connection as more chances for delay& lose next connection, lost luggage, more TSA/custom controls& screening, also airports are huge so be prepare to march a serious distance)
    best from states to europe – Munchen (Germany) and London (UK)
    2. airports to avoid ( i’ll cancel or move the dates of needed) Frankfurt (Germany) and Paris “Charle de Gaulle” (France)
    3.”carry-on”- one must be able to carry own “carry on” (did i mention long distance from air craft seat to “outside” through labyrinth of corridors, through customs, passport controls, luggage collection..)
    in carry on- passports, all print out info of interinery/reservations,contact information, chargers for all your devices, snack ( do not count on “fine dining” on flight ) ,meds, noise&sound cancelling headphones (best are Bose and they worse every $, you will not hear crying kids, cabin noise will be minimum), Ipad, phone
    4. communication with family very important! and we have family all over the world so ..
    on phone free app Viber – free messages, phone calls. must be uploaded on “both ends” on your phone and on recipient (a lot of european business have a viber account too)
    Skype- free app- video calls , messg. upload on both ends (we trained even parents of my husband (they are 95 and 87)
    for both apps you will need wi-fi , but all hotels do have decent internet connection,some coffee shops, airports. internet much slower in Europe 🙂 and in some places (italy and france) well , very bad..do not waste time trying upload your photos to blog – you will do it in one evening from home- why waste time and nerves when you can be drinking prosecco or coffee on lovely square watching people..
    camera – mine is canon eos, but is soo heavy, and in a lot of museums , manor houses , churches etc, restrictions on photo. phone camera my solution
    i use “dropbox” for all pictures, documents
    5 packing for trip – preferred for ” check in” luggage -rolling duffels(samsonite – you can find it for a 100$ in Costco)
    – 2 pairs of walking shoes (cobble stone downtowns will ruin any shoe with hill), for evening 1 nice mocs/ballet flats. unless hiking, kayaking , fishing or any “speciality trip- one do not need rain (aka hunters) boots in city . well unless you american teenager 🙂 or 5 y.o. , flip flops for hotel spa/swimming pool/sauna.
    trench or other light coat . 1 jeans, 1 pair of trousers, skirt and tops to go with , scarf. europe is more casual than generally imagined , unless scheduled opera evening no need in “evening outfit”. and leave space for all gifts and souvenirs to bring back
    6. now i travel only with ipad – this is my library (ibooks and kindle), music (prepare playlists for flight ), entertainment (download couple movies), communication (e-mail, skype), maps
    7. 10 days is my preferred travel time .( we tried once 3 weeks – we drove around northern europe , but on the way back was to tired to enjoy some gorgeous places)
    8. worst time to travel in Europe is August!! some countries closed for vacation, literally!- yes , Italy for example. nothing “local” is open !lovely little boutiques – closed , small restaurants-closed.. only herds of tourists.
    9. best time to travel – may , second part of september, october – days are long and warm with occasional rain , in winter at 16:00 already dark so..
    and in this 3 month considered not a “high season “-significant price drop for hotels,tickets . high season starts from “thanksgiving” in europe(yes, because all USA tourists) till mid january. than spring break, easter time , summer .
    10. train connection is good in europe , train station located very central too. it’s a good possibility to see more and avoid airports,whilst travelling from Munich to Prague or Vienna .
    11.we always (unless is work related) booking and planning by our selves, “trip advisor”on-line and books of “lonely planet guides” ,conde nast traveller magazine
    12. hidden gem – Tallinn, Estonia
    San Sebastian (basque country in Spain)
    must see -venice,Urbino (urbino hard to reach -only by car or bus), rome, prague,barcelona
    13. small cruise to check :river cruise for danube – castles of germany and austria
    river cruise in wine country in portugal
    o.k. i will stop now – but if you have any question please , e-m

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