Planning (way) ahead for our trip to Europe

photo by Zigar

The first step to taking on any overwhelming endeavor is learning and reading as much as possible on the topic. Before I really started planning my wedding, I read book after book on wedding planning, flipped through magazines, and searched for ideas for saving money.

I’m taking the same approach to planning our frugal trip abroad. Even though I won’t start booking plane tickets or making reservations until next fall, I’m learning as much about it as I can right now. By the time I actually start making plans, I want to be as close to an expert as I can be without having been there.

I want to share my planning process with all of you, so I’ve decided to start a sporadic series on how we’re planning and preparing. I’ve already come up with a rough budget for the trip, and now I’m looking for ways to slash it without sacrificing our comfort and fun.

We’re still 18 months away from our desired departure, so these plans are subject to change (and most likely will). But I want to keep all of you in the loop in the step-by-step process (and get your ideas and feedback as we plan), so I’m going to be writing about everything. I hope you’ll continue to give me your awesome feedback and ideas. I could certainly use them!

My first step is finding as many resources as I can. Yesterday Tony and I went to the bookstore and pulled about 10 books about European travel from the shelves. Eventually we’ll buy one for each city that can serve as a reference guide, but we’ll probably wait until next year so it will have the most up-to-date information.

I really like the Frommer’s and Fodor’s series for information on attractions, but I was really looking for a guide with a focus on first time travelers and budget travel.

I started flipping through the “Let’s Go” series (Let’s Go Paris and Let’s Go London). These books are mostly geared toward young travelers, particularly students, so they’re not really good for family travel. But they offer a ton of information for first time travelers and ways to save money. So far these are my favorites.

Do you have any other suggestions for planning resources?

5 thoughts on “Planning (way) ahead for our trip to Europe

  1. Melanie

    One of my favorite budget travel guides is the Lonely Planet Guides. I have used them since I was a backpacker. I still use them today as they have great tips on saving money-and finding free or budget type activites and restaurants that are great!

  2. Margot

    I recommend Lonely Planet’s books and online resources (which has a “thorntree” where people can post and answer questions). If you want to save money, I recommend just buying 1 book for Europe or 1 book for each country at the most (instead of 1 book per city). Or, given that you’ll only be gone for two weeks, you could bring library books on your trip! I know that a Lonely Planet book covering all of Europe or all of France won’t be as detailed as city-specific books, but you’ll have plenty of information and you can supplement it with free resources from the sites you visit and tourist offices.

    Also, the best luck I’ve had at saving money in expensive cities (including Paris) has been just finding hotel rooms when I arrive. You seem like a big planner, so this might cause excessive stress. But if you can tolerate less structure, I recommend this approach. Here’s what I did in Paris: I started with my Lonely Planet, which lists one star super budget hotels. Unfortunately, once a hotel is listed in the Lonely Planet, it is sometimes more likely to be full or to be a little more expensive. So, I went to the area where I wanted to stay that also contained hotels recommended by the Lonely Planet. Within 15 minutes, I was able to visit several hotels and choose one. My partner and I ended up getting a very nice hotel room for about 30 Euros, because the hotel was brand new and nearly empty. While planning can save money, not planning can also save money sometimes!

  3. Marcy

    Hi Karen,
    I stumbled across a site called They specialize in international flights. I don’t know if you’ll be able to find a better deal or not, but it can’t hurt to check them out. You might find some options you didn’t know about before. I’m with you… I almost always book directly through the airline!

    Best of luck!

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