Tag Archives: travel tips

Europe Summer 2011? Tips to get you started

28 Mar

As this is my travel guide post, I need to insert a few disclaimers so we understand each other.

  • I’m generally not a fan of hotels
  • I gravitate to off-the-beaten path
  • I want to live like a local… even if for a day
  • I support local tourism with careful accommodation choices
  • The thought of Contiki makes me weep (although this is a perfectly sensible option if you need a quick, whirlwind tour of the world on a shoestring budget)

    Living in Europe taught me a lot about the ‘road less travelled’. It also taught me about the terrible mistakes brainwashed unseasoned travellers continue to make. Over the next new weeks you’ll see ‘city guides’ for Europe’s star line-up of ‘must sees’ according to moi.

    Here are some of my Top Tips to get you started:

    * Use your extended network – most of you reading this blog have about 5 social networking accounts with hundreds of friends of friends all over the world. You’ll be surprised what recommendations and opportunities arise.

    * Travel guides will only get you so far – talk to real travellers for advice before you go and ask locals when you get there. I use a combination of Tripadvisor , Virtual tourist and special travel blogs and magazines. Try and find one specific to your destination.

    * Book early – This is the key to getting not only the property you want, but at a good rate. Don’t have the cash at the moment? Not a problem. There are many good websites that allow you to book ahead of time without taking any sort of deposit. There is no penalty for cancellation provided you give sufficient notice. Check out Booking.com and Venere as a starting point. Always filter your search results by review score, not necessarily by the stars the property is rated. Read the reviews!

    * Devote yourself to learning at least one other language – the more limited your language, the more limited your world.

    * Timing is everything –  try and time your holiday to coincide with seasonal highlights. You will be surprised how the weather or the vibe of certain months shapes your view of a destination. There are hundreds of festivals throughout the year in Europe – there is something for everyone – such as San Fermin, Pamplona ( The Running of the Bulls), La Tomatina, Il Palio, Carnevale, Semana Santa, Oktoberfest, Ferragosto.. the list goes on. There are also seasonal highlights relating to wine, olive oil and many food festivals.

    * Don’t underestimate the value of a good host – call me paranoid, but I think of  hotel concierge staff as programmed robots with sinister intentions who only recommend the bloody obvious. Bed and breakfasts and other boutique accomodation options offer a more rewarding experience. Much like staying with relative who’s lived there their whole live but won’t make you have lunch with every cousin and aunt you haven’t met.

    *Alternatives booking websites – Try a new type of accommodation for your next holiday – a B&B, a local’s apartment or a farmhouse. Some good websites for Europe are B&B PlanetHomelidaysOwner’s Direct VRBO and probably one of my favourites Italy-accom.

    *Cheap flights – Depending on where you live in the world, you may be more familiar with cheap flight sites. Some good ones to compare flight options are; Which Budget, Skyscanner, CheapFlights and Expedia. Low cost airlines are not always the best options as they slug you with all sorts of ridiculous charges for extra luggage, name and flight changes and even forgetting to print your boarding pass (40 quid for a piece of paper.. cheers RyanAir!).

    Over the next few weeks, you’ll see city guides for many popular summer European destinations.. first stop Italy.

    Slow food. La Dolce Vita. Guaranteed sun. Bless the Mediterranean.

     

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