Knowing how to travel Europe is as important to the success of your trip as deciding where on the Continent to go.
Every traveler, whether seasoned and savvy, or newbie making a first trip abroad, finds her own level of comfort when traveling in Europe or anywhere overseas.
It’s called your personal travel style.
Knowing what that style is: how you dress, how you work and play, even how you live your life, allows you to tailor your trip to your own personality to find the best way to travel Europe.
Are you a planner? An organizer? Do you manage the situations of your life, always checking options for a controlled outcome?
If so, you probably prefer to travel on your own self-guided, independent tours and self-built travel packages.
You tend to research and design overseas trips to include the sights, locations, events, and attractions that you decide are most important.
Independent travel is the option you choose when considering how to travel Europe, and the only way to insure you have a top-shelf, memorable overseas adventure.
Or...maybe you're a big picture person, satisfied with an overview of things you see and do.
Do finer points and details make you run and hide - or skip things altogether?
Does making your own travel plans seem an impossible task, too full of decisions and options to bother your brain? You'd rather someone else construct the nuts and bolts, leaving you to enjoy the results.
If this is you, you’re probably happiest with hosted or escorted tours to Europe: travel packages that are organized, planned, and guided by tour operators.
Neither way is right or wrong, and the majority of travelers fall somewhere in between.
But whether you choose independent travel or join an escorted tour, you must still be involved in the travel planning process to be sure you pick the best way for you to travel Europe.
This is the only way to know your time and money are well spent and your choice for how to travel Europe is the best it can be.
Gone are the days when your European itinerary has you fly into a gateway city, pile onto a bus with 30 or 40 of your newest friends, and set off across the Continent.
If you’re of a certain age, you might remember the phrase [and the movie of the same name]: If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium.
This is not how to travel Europe today!
Current day travelers have untold options for Europe vacation packages - anything from tightly scheduled, multi-country guided tours, to flexible free-wheeling 'travel on your own' excursions, where the only 'package' may be a hotel room and rental car.
Group tours to Europe are often sold by storefront, independent agents, as well as online agents, who tout them as a more inclusive, less expensive way to travel: by pre-purchasing your trip at a pre-paid, pre-set price.
This can include a structured European itinerary, hotel arrangements, planned sightseeing, transportation [local and/or overwater], some meals, and the service of a tour escort, guide, or driver.
Hosted group tours do provide value, as tour companies who operate them may have preferential rates, buy in bulk, or receive industry discounts based on their volume of business.
But, consider this...all travel packages to Europe [group tours or otherwise] are sold and promoted via marketing.
From the glossy full-color brochures, to the travel agent who sells them, a Euro-pean vacation package is a perishable product that needs to be sold.
The value of a group tour is determined by the inclusions of the tour, as well as the research and planning that go into putting the trip together.
The cost of the tour includes that, plus whatever expense goes into marketing the tour.
In exchange for cost containment and having most of your travel arrangements pre-decided and pre-scheduled by the tour company, you give up any options for personal choice and flexibility to act on a whim. There's little time on a group tour to take advantage of spur-of-the-moment events and opportunities.
Your trip functions with fairly inflexible times for personal sightseeing, choosing meals, shopping, or even 'free time'.
Hotels are often chosen for expediency, rather than ambience, location, charm, or local flavor.
You and your traveling companions will primarily see only the 'high spots' of your destination, visiting sights and locations that are by definition, tourist attractions, and appeal to the majority of travelers.
But, in times of fluctuating currency values, a pre-paid tour can protect you from volatile exchange rates for the parts of your trip you prepaid before traveling.
And, if the brochure you chose your trip from is accurate, if the tour operator is competent and reliable, you're trip will be a success.
You have little to do but show up and do what you're told.
But you still have an obligation to participate in the planning.
From researching your destination, to learning a bit of the language, you must invest in your own travel experience.
As a purchaser of travel, it's up to you to be sure the tour company, as well as the tour, meets your expectations.
You must decide if the pace and speed of your tour meets your physical and emotional capabilities.
You must decide if you will enjoy the companionship of touring comrades and be willing to give on some of your expectations for the good of the group.
In short, you must be sure this is the best way for you to travel.
You accomplish this by doing your own research and deciding for yourself how to travel Europe.
When you take full-charge of your travel planning, you'll have a more personal and rewarding travel experience.
Like anything you do yourself, when you personally decide how to travel Europe, you have a vested interest in the way you use your time and money. This is directly related to the success of your trip.
By developing your own plan for where to go and what to do, you can include not only the 'high spots' most tourists see, but also be open to the unique travel moments and opportunities that only occur when traveling on your own - away from the crowds and major tourist attractions:
Independent travelers know this is how to travel Europe. And once you travel on your own, you realize this is the only way to go.
This is when you capture the moments that become the highlights of your trip.
This is when you create your own travel 'highs' and discover the freedom of traveling Europe at your own pace, in your own style.
But, traveling independently requires a plan.
If it makes you more comfortable, you can pre-arrange, pre-book, and pre-pay enough of your trip to provide a safety net, yet still allow yourself the freedom to attend a special event, visit a local festival, or catch a train to a different town.
Cities and towns all over Europe have local tours and city packages you can combine to see a more genuine slice of European life.
Local tourist information offices have suggestions and ideas for things to do that you won't find in stateside travel brochures.
You can research hotels, attractions, and restaurants on a local level.
You can check local websites for 'What's Happening' in areas you plan to visit. Just type in the name of any city or town:attractions/sights/hotels/things to do.
You'll be rewarded with results and links to sites that will direct you to everything worth your time.
Always check group tour companies for 'travel on your own' options. These allow you to choose from a variety of city tours, hotel or car only packages, daytrips, or local side trips - all without the 'group'.
You can 'add on' or combine the options you choose to create your personal Europe vacation package.
Deciding how to travel Europe requires your own travel research. It requires an honest assessment of your comfort level and style of travel.
The time you invest to decide these things before you travel will insure your trip will be the best it can be.
For more information on how to travel Europe, see these articles:
Your Travel Style is a reflection of your lifestyle - how you live, what you like, what makes you tick. The kind of traveler you are determines how to travel Europe and beyond.
Independent Travel lets you travel on your own – but not alone. Use Europe package vacations to take the scary out of traveling Europe without a group.
Escorted Vacations to Europe are offered by international tour operators throughout the world. Learn how to choose the best escorted tours to Europe.
Europe Travel Packages are made for independent travelers. Learn how to travel on your own, but with a safety net.
The right Europe Guided Tour will determine the outcome of your trip. Will it be successful and memorable, or tiresome and tedious?