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Planning a Trip to Europe: Your 10-Step Guide

5. Book your airfare.
Because airfare will probably be the most expensive part of your trip, you'll want to book it before anything else (car rental, hotel, etc.). This will allow you to be more flexible with your dates, which is a great way to save money on your flight. You can also spend less by flying on international discount airlines like Aer Lingus.

Enliven your trip with a layover in a different country. Many airlines, such as Air France, offer occasional free layover promotions. Stop by the Schiphol Airport for a day on the way to Paris and take the train into Amsterdam to see the Van Gogh Museum or the Anne Frank House.

For more information:
  • Europe Airfare Deals
  • International Discount Airlines
  • 10 Tips for Finding Cheap Airfare

    6. Book your accommodations.
    It's time to go back to that rough itinerary you jotted down and fill in some places to sleep. As is the case with pretty much everything you book for your trip, the earlier you make arrangements, the better -- especially during high season.

    adare manor irelandSure, you can just book a room at the local Hilton and be done with it. But do a bit of research and you could discover some funky lodging that's almost as exciting as the attractions you plan to visit. Keep your eyes open for historic castles, tiny bed and breakfasts, houseboats, eco-friendly hotels or organic farms. Budget travelers take note: Vacation rentals, homestays, farmstays and house-swapping are accommodation options that can be shockingly affordable ... or even free.

    For more information:
  • Europe Hotel Deals
  • Ditch the Hotel: 10 Cheaper Ways to Stay
  • The Real Old Country: Unique, Affordable Lodging in Europe

    7. Consider travel insurance.
    There are several kinds of travel insurance: trip cancellation insurance, flight cancellation insurance, medical insurance, etc. The best time to buy insurance is right after you put down the major deposits on your trip, whether that entails airfare, a package or prepaid hotels. Once you know how much money you've paid up front, you can insure your trip if you so choose. Many airlines and travel providers sell insurance that you can purchase along with your flight or tour package. Always, always read the fine print in your policy and compare it with other travel insurance policies before you make a purchase.

    Check your medical insurance coverage to see if you're covered overseas. If not, you may want to purchase supplemental medical insurance to cover situations like the cost of transportation back home for emergency care.

    For more information:
  • Travel Insurance

    8. Book local transportation.
    When in Rome, ride the Metropolitana. Find out how the locals get around the destination to which you're traveling, and act accordingly. You won't need a car rental in places like bike-friendly Amsterdam or London with its convenient underground Tube, unless you plan to go outside the city.

    A car rental is your best bet if you're traveling to locales that can't be easily reached by rail or plane (such as the Irish countryside). Be mentally prepared to drive in a foreign country, which can be a frightening experience when faced with incomprehensible traffic signs, narrow streets or sheep roadblocks.

    To get from city to city or country to country, examine your rail options in comparison to routes and prices offered by European discount airlines like easyJet or Ryanair. Travelers embarking on extensive travel within Europe may save money by purchasing a rail pass that permits unlimited train travel within a specified region.

    For more information:
  • Eurail Passes
  • European Country Rail Passes
  • International Car Rental Tips

    9. Tackle last-minute logistics.
    A few weeks before your departure date is the right time to start taking care of a number of key logistics: money, phone, house-sitter, pet-sitter.

    cell phone woman italy bridgeCall your credit card companies to let them know you'll be traveling abroad. While you're at it, find out if you're going to be charged a fee for using your card overseas. Research the locations of ATM's in your destination, especially if you'll be relying on cash.

    Does your cell phone plan or equipment allow you to make calls overseas? If not, your phone options include purchasing an international cell phone, renting a cell phone or getting an international calling plan (if you have the right kind of phone). While you may be tempted to leave the phone at home and really "get away from it all," it's smart to have an emergency phone with you if you'll be traveling by car, or hiking or biking long distances.

    For more information:
  • The Best Way to Carry Money Overseas
  • International Cell Phone Guide
  • 10 Things to Do Before You Travel

    10. Pack.
    Instead of packing the day before your trip, start thinking about what you'll need to bring at least a week before you leave. For one, if your destination of choice is suddenly experiencing abnormal weather, you may need that extra time to go shopping for something like a packable rain coat. Plus, experienced travelers know that the chance of forgetting something essential increases the longer one puts off packing. (It's only a matter of time until a scientific study confirms this.) About a week before departure day, check the weather, put together a packing list, and take a look at your suitcase to make sure its wheels work and everything's going to fit.

    For more information:
  • The Ultimate Guide to Travel Packing
  • Interactive Packing List
  • The Carry-On Challenge: How to Pack Light Every Time

    --written by Caroline Costello

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