I don't want to pretend to be this great traveler of the world. On the contrary, I am still an amateur. However, I'd like to share some recommendations based on my experiences.
Do your researchI ended up having to plan the trip to London for myself and four of my friends. I've planned weekend trips to Orlando and Tampa, but I had never planned anything of this calliber. The first thing I did was research. I checked out travel books from the library, searched random Web sites and took advice from those who traveled out of the country. It's very important to find out what is allowed on your flight. Because of past events, we are no longer allowed to bring any liquid items on board. This includes liquid make-up, eye drops, bottled water, etc. Do your research to find out the complete list of these items. Research can also help you make an itinerary, buy cheap plane tickets, know what part of the city is a safe place to stay and the customs of the country. Some helpful Web sites are Rick Steves and Frommers.
Shop aroundDon't assume that the best flight to take is the one you book with your travel agent. I shopped around for a couple of days and found a great site called Student Universe that gave discounts to college students. So, instead of paying $800 for a round-trip ticket I ended up paying half that price. Also shop around for hotels. Based on your research, choose a hotel that is near a lot of sightseeing areas. Most importantly, base this decision on how safe the neighborhood is. European hotel rooms are much smaller than what we are used to in the United States. Many don't have air conditioning either, so if you plan to travel to Europe during the summer ask if they have AC. A small, hot room can make your stay very stuffy. My friends and I stayed in a hostel which was clean, cheap and offered continental breakfast (this is a great way to save some money!). We really enjoyed the atmosphere of our hostel. We ended up meeting a lot of people our age. So, if you opt for a hostel read up on customer satisfaction ratings and comments.
Respect the cultureBefore you leave for a foreign country, pick up some of the language. You don't have to be an expert but learn some common phrases like:
- Where are the bathrooms?
- I don't speak Spanish (for example) very well.
- Thank you.