Planning Your European Vacation

Paris (1994)Salzkammergut (2005)

I’ve always loved planning our European trips. In the past 25+ years I’ve been to Europe 45 times, and I’m always busy planning our next trip. One of our trips was 14 months long, and eleven trips have been more than six weeks. We now spend about half our time in Europe. So I’ve had a lot of practice planning European travel. Thanks to the internet, it’s a much easier process than it was back in the early 90’s when I organized my first trips using guidebooks. Then it was a complicated and time-consuming process, sending letters across the ocean to book hotels!

My experience on the Slow Travel website and my relationships with other travelers have given me many additional insights on European travel. I started reading and posting on travel websites in 2003. I really appreciated the many people who reached out to offer guidance, suggestions and encouragement, especially on the Slow Travel website. This is no longer the vibrant community it once was, but over the years we’ve been fortunate to meet more than 100 Slow Travelers in person in Europe or here in the USA.  Many of my best friends are people I met through Slow Travel. We shared many similar interests beyond our passion for European travel. I was honored to be serve as a Slow Travel moderator from 2007-2010.

In addition to my role as a moderator, I wrote many articles, trip reports and reviews for Slow Travel.  Slow Travel also hosted a blog of our 14-month trip to Europe in 2004-2005 that I called Our Grand Tour of Europe. I have another blog, The Trail’s Our Thing, where I’ve posted about some of our other trips in recent years.

(If you’re looking for a helpful online community focused on European travel, we recommend the Slow Europe forums, on the Slow Europe website of our friend Pauline Kenny who founded Slow Travel. I hope to see you there!)

In February 2006, a few months after we returned from our long trip to Europe, I began teaching a non-credit class through the University of Tennessee’s Continuing Education program called “Planning Your European Vacation.” I taught this class for six years. The class was designed to provide independent travelers with the skills, resources, and confidence they need to ensure an enjoyable, stress-free and memorable vacation in Europe. In five sessions we covered itinerary planning, accommodations, transportation, meals, sightseeing, and various other practical considerations, emphasizing the use of the internet to research and plan a trip. Each session began with a slide show introducing a European country or region.

European travel appeals to so many kinds of people, and that’s a big part of what I enjoyed about this class. There are so many different ways to experience Europe! The class typically had 12 to 18 people who ranged in age from early 20’s to late 70’s. There were backpackers interested in how to find hostels, as well as luxury travelers looking for five-star accommodations. Some people were considering a European cruise, while others wanted to rent an apartment in Paris or London for a week or two or perhaps a villa in Tuscany or Provence. Some had a dream of wandering through multiple countries by car, finding accommodations as they go, while others took on the job of organizing a trip for a large multi-generational family group. Every class included experienced European travelers as well as people dreaming of their very first trip. We learned a lot from each other, and it’s been fun in the years since then to keep in touch with people and hear about their trips.

In the years since I’ve been using the internet to plan my trips, I’ve built a large directory of links to helpful websites related to European travel. As part of my class, I shared these links with the participants. I decided to put these links on our European Experiences website to make it easy for everyone (including class alumni) to access these resources on an ongoing basis. I’m also happy to share these resources with others who are pursuing their dreams of European travel.  If you’ve found your way to this site in some other way, welcome! I hope you’ll bookmark it as a “favorite” and visit again.

I’m always looking to add to these resources. If you have suggestions for other links to add or find a problem with any link, please kathy@european-experiences.com. Please note that I do not include specific hotels, vacation rentals, restaurants, classes, or tours unless I have some personal experience with a property or activity and can make a first-hand recommendation.

For me, planning is a big part of what makes travel fun. I really enjoy doing the research and putting a great trip together. I love being in Europe with my family, spending times in our favorite places and making new discoveries. And when it’s over, I have fun sorting through photos, writing about our trips, and helping other travelers.

Happy Planning!  And Happy Travels!