We just got home from 3 weeks in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and had a wonderful vacation.
a little over 10 years ago on a trip to Epcot Center, I mentioned to my wife that We could travel to Europe and see the real things for less money. We loved the RS shows. I started buying some guidebooks and planning our first trips. I had been to Europe many times in the 1980's traveling with athletics, so arrangements were made for us. But I had no fear of trying this independently.
Well this made our 22 trip to Europe, and I'd like to share some things we've learned along the way. We have never take a RS Tour, but can see great value in them. While we can do our independent trips much cheaper. RS tours arrange everything and are well thought out and include guides the whole way. Try to do that on your own will be very expensive! We recommend these to anyone who is wary of traveling 1st times or just don't want to plan (planning correctly takes a lot of time, I just happen to dig it!)
I have never had a RS tip or recommendation that wasn't helpful or superb!
2 rules of packing:
1: Pack light, you'll never regret it
2: When going on a long trip and thinking of packing more, refer to rule 1
Museum and Travel/ transit passes: Almost always a great value, and when not the convenience and flexibility and time saved is well worth the extra!
Don't try to do to see or do it all. Slow down and smell the flowers. Take time to talk to people that live there. Always more memorable than stretching your plans to climb to the top of that tower and look around!
Try not to plan to jump from hotel to hotel too much. spending 2 or more days at a place and make day trips from them, will save you the hassle of moving, re packing, waiting to check in so your not dragging your bags around all day or looking for lockers. Will also give some time for those socks and things you washed in the room to dry!
In hot weather, bring a swim suit and find a local pool. After miles of walking, your legs and body will thank you! Not to mention that you will probably meet some interesting people there.
If you're on a long trip, plan for the last few days to be in a nice place for a few days, you'll probably be tired. Here's a good place to slow down and spend a little extra time in cafe's or biergartens. Rushing around at the end can make you a little tired and miserable. Finish your trip on a good note!
Stay in town. Especially the very touristy areas. Early mornings and evenings are a treat once the tourists have left! Always great memories.
Have patience with tour groups. This can be tough, as they can be pushy. Remember that many of them are herded like cattle and only get short periods of time wherever they go and they are fighting to get to see everything. I used to think it was an ethnic thing, but have changed my mind recently on this. I just chill out and enjoy and let them rush on. Not going to take my attitude down! (photo bombing has become a fun way to deal with them!)
Public Transportation. While we sometimes rent cars as needed, when you're driving and trying to find places and navigating traffic circles you aren't seeing the beautiful sites. Study the transit systems before you go and enjoy. You can also have some drinks now!! Transit systems in most parts of Europe will make you wish you had more of it at home!
Politeness: At least learn the basic greetings and thank you's in the countries languages you are visiting. A polite try will open up the people you are talking to for a very pleasant encounter.
Picnics! Some of our best memories have come from doing this. A little shopping and find a nice place to relax and enjoy the views and people!