By Mark Horning

Nothing beats traveling abroad. It’s educational, invigorating and just plain fun. With the Pound and Euro inching closer to the value of the U.S. Dollar there has never been a better time to explore new lands. In order to get the very best experience out of your trip it is essential that you put a lot of thought and planning in your preparation. The more pre-planning that you do, the less hassles during your travels. Here are some basic tips to get you started on your next “Trip of a Lifetime!”

Start Your Planning Early

While there are some that can grab and go at a moment’s notice, the savvy traveler begins putting together their plans 6 to 10 months in advance. Begin with your Passport which at best is a two month procedure. Once you have that in hand apply for the TSA Pre-Check. This allows you to breeze through security at the airports. Depending on the fees you can choose between domestic only (United States) or an International Pre-Check good in most countries. This is also a good time to locate a reputable travel agent to handle all the details concerning your trip. They have current information on tours and flights that will save you money and time.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Decide On Your Trip

This may seem like a no-brainer but it is not. There are literally hundreds of tours that criss-cross Europe and the United Kingdom. The trick is to pick the tour that takes you to the places you really want to see with enough time to see them. Avoid the tours that try to pack a half dozen or more stops in a day. You want a leisurely stroll, not a track meet. Two or three stops a day is plenty. Talk to friends who travel and ask for their recommendations. Read the comments on the tour web pages and most important, listen to and trust your travel agent.

When To Go

In travel, there are three seasons: Peak Season, Off Season and Intermediate Season. Peak Season in the summer months means higher prices, bigger crowds and more crowded hotels but you are assured of better weather. Off Season in the winter months is the best value with the advantage of little crowd congestion but the weather may be problematic. If most of your tours consist of visits to indoor sites such as churches and museums then there is no greater bargain. Realize that you will probably have to pack heavier clothing adding extra weight to your baggage. Intermediate Season hits around March to April and again from late September to mid-October. There are some savings to be had and you can usually get away with a light jacket or fleece plus some rain gear.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Research Your Destinations

There are travel books available for just about every major city in Europe and the UK with some concentrating on the major attractions while others bring to light the little known out of the way sights of interest. Spend some time at the library or on the computer researching all the points of interest at the various stops of your trip whether you are with a tour group or on your own. Spend time learning interesting facts about the various cities so you have something to share with your family and others in your group.

Get In Shape

This cannot be emphasized enough. Over the course of your trip you will be physically challenged in a number of ways. To begin with you will most probably be dragging and or carrying your luggage long distances as well as up escalators, flights of stairs and in and out of airplane storage compartments. Begin an exercise program of walking, cardio-vascular and strength training. You do not have to train as for a marathon or iron man competition but the better shape you are in will insure a more enjoyable trip without hitting a wall at mid-point.

If you observe a strict sleeping regimen you need to break that habit. Start going to bed an hour or two earlier or later. Purchase a travel alarm for your trip and use that to wake up by. Learn how to power nap during the day (especially if you take public transportation). Consult with your doctor concerning over the counter sleeping pills as well as herbal and natural sleep aids such as Melatonin and Valerian Root. This will help you adjust faster to the time change.


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