Countdown to Europe: 6 months

eiffel towerWe’ve been planning for our trip to Europe for months now, but we’re down to about 6 and a half months until the trip. Since we’ll be moving about 3 weeks before we take off, I’m getting organized now to ensure everything goes smoothly.

Here’s what we’re doing in the next month to prepare:

Make final decisions about where to travel.

We know we want to visit London and Paris, but we’re debating whether to add a few days in Amsterdam to our trip. This month we’ll really crunch the numbers and determine whether a few months in a third city is worth the time and money.

Create a budget.

We already put together a budget for our trip months ago, but if you haven’t thought about how much it’s going to cost you, do it now. It’s easier to save money if you plan around a budget.

Start reading the guidebooks.

We’ve browsed a few books on travel to London and Paris, and while we’ve learned quite a bit, we haven’t found any that we feel compelled to purchase. We plan to do some more hunting this month and see if we can find a couple companion books that will be worth taking along on the trip.

In the meantime, there’s a wealth of information on European travel online. I’m hunting for additional resources to determine where we’ll stay and what we’ll do while we’re there.

Research flights.

I’ve been watching flight prices for several months, but now I’m getting serious about deciding how we want to put our itinerary together. Flights generally seem cheaper out of Chicago than Indianapolis, and direct flights seem easier to obtain there, so we’ll likely fly out of Chicago.

Consider accommodations.

We’re also looking into hotels, deciding where we want to stay in each city, and what type of accommodations we need. It doesn’t seem that hostels will save us much in the long run, so we’re looking into budget hotels. I’ve found quite a few options on, but I’m continuing to research areas and attractions to determine the best possible location in each city for our stay.

Start thinking about attractions.

This month, we’re making a list of what we want to do and see in each city. This is the fun part of the planning, because it’s all about how we want to put the trip together. I’ll probably factor in plenty of downtime to explore so that we don’t feel pressed for time with a strict itinerary.

If you’re a seasoned traveler, help me out. What do you suggest a first timer do to prepare 6 months before the trip?

Photo by anirudhkoul

6 thoughts on “Countdown to Europe: 6 months

  1. roxie

    Hi, I’m new here but thought I would add some interesting info I read about just this past week. was mentioned in the NYT as a way to connect with some locals for accommodations. Might be worth checking out.

    I’m in the planning stages of what will hopefully be a month-long stay in Greece with a side trip to Instanbul.

  2. M

    make sure you don’t plan too much. Half the fun of a trip like the one you are planning is just being able to be spontaneous and the joy of discovery.. don’t plan every detail..

  3. jonathanwthomas

    London is ridiculously expensive. The general rule of thumb is that the exchange rate is almost 2 to 1 but monetarily, everything costs the same. So, if you paid $20 for dinner here it would run you £20 there – which is almost $40. It’s painful. If you’re concerned about the exchange rate going up further – you can buy pounds in advance through and hedge your bets.

    Six months out I would concentrate on getting a good airfare as that will be your biggest cost. Setup alerts on to send you daily reports of airfares to London and keep track of the trends – also sign up with British Airways as they will let you know about good deals. March/April/May is a good time to go as the airfares really start going up in June. Since you’ll be back in the area, it would probably be cheaper for your to fly out of O’hare rather than connect through Indy.

    Hotels in London are also very pricey and you don’t get much for the price. Let me know when you start looking and I can give you some advice so you avoid the bedbug traps. We’ve had some pretty horrific hotel experiences…
    .-= jonathanwthomas´s last blog ..The Movie is Not Called Pirate Radio – It’s The Boat That Rocked =-.

  4. Cathy

    There is some great non-British food available in London, but you can’t beat some English favourites in a pub with a beer – definitely not an experience to be missed (am thinking steak pie, roasts, sausages and mash!). You could start having a look at what exhibitions will be on during your time in London and which you want to see, there’s normally some good ones at the museums or at the o2.

  5. Shelly

    We just got back from 3 weeks in Europe. We visited both London and Paris. 6 months out I’d start seriously looking at airfare. We booked our airfare about 5 months in advance. You just have to know what a good price is and then when you find that price, jump on it. I did quite a bit of searching and then went to the airlines website and booked directly with them.

    You could also start looking at hotels. Many of the popular low cost places fill up quickly. The Rick Steves website and are 2 of the best sites to find hotel accomodations. I’m not sure how long you are going for, but if you’ll be staying at least a week or so in each location you should check into renting apartments. They are much cheaper and you’ll be able to do some cooking in your apt. and save lots of money.

    London and Paris are both very expensive. In London we ate lunches at Pret a Mangers – they are all over the place and have pre-made sandwiches and salads. The food is actually good and not too expensive. We usually took it outside and ate in the a nearby park and one day ate on the steps in Trafalgar Square.

    In Paris everything is small and costs twice as much. By going to a deli type place or grocery store you can pick up stuff for a picnic (cheese, fruit and crackers) and eat it outside (on the Champs de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower is a great setting)

    As for guidebooks – if you haven’t picked up Rick Steves Introduction to Europe 101, I would suggest reading it. You can get it at your local library. Then go to his website and ask lots of questions. There are many experts there that can help you out. I purchase his Best of Europe book as well and then cut out the cities that we visited and brought it with us. He has great ideas on walking tours you can do on your own, places to eat, etc. One really great tip he gave us was a short cut out of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican to get into St. Peter’s Basilica without having to wait in another line.

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