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Planning 2012 France/Belgium/Germ/Luxemb vacation HELP!

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Planning 2012 France/Belgium/Germ/Luxemb vacation HELP!

My wife and I are planning a summer 2012 vacation to Eastern France, Luxembourg, Belgium and potentially other nations in the area.

We are totally lost as to how to begin this planning process. We are considering talking with travel agencies locally where we live but we want to explore our options without this vacation requiring massive amount of time and effort on our part to get it right.

We love cooking/food, photography, history and art. A wonderful trip for us would cater around these activities.

FYI: an important aspect of this trip is for me to visit my great uncle's grave at the WWII American cemetery in Luxembourg on behalf of my dad.

We are looking at a total budget of 8,000 to 10,000 USD.

Europe
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1. Re: Planning 2012 France/Belgium/Germ/Luxemb vacation HELP!

I will start with seeing where your point of entry is (which I presume could either be Paris or Brussels) and take it from there. When it comes to eating well then you will not be disappointed with Brussels (or Belgium for that matter) which has a fair share of local Michelin stared restaurants.

For cooking classes with atmosphere then I would head down to Provence where there tends to be plenty of cooking courses on offer in charming B&Bs.

From my research, the American cemetery is not so far from Luxembourg town itself but it could be worth while to spend a night in the area which is known for it's scenic natural beauty (the Eifel-Ardennes).

The itinerary and budget greatly depends on how long your trip will be and if you'll be using public transportation or a self drive rental car.

Belgium
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2. Re: Planning 2012 France/Belgium/Germ/Luxemb vacation HELP!

There are lots of possibilities to make this a memorable trip, but first things first:: how long can your trip take? In general, if you're willing to put some effort into it, it would advise against following your local travel agent. You'll be better of (in all senses) creating your own experience. Belgium, France and Luxemburg are 'easy' countries to get around by yourself.

Long Beach, NY
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3. Re: Planning 2012 France/Belgium/Germ/Luxemb vacation HELP!

Before you talk to a travel agent….

Go to the library. Check-out the guidebooks of the countries you want to visit. Look for guidebooks that promote independent travel. Guidebooks that have maps and information on how to travel from city to city.

Consider flying to Europe “open jaw.” Fly into one city, return home from a different city. It can save time, as there is no back tracking.

When you arrive in Europe, how do you plan to travel? Car, bus, train, fly?

After you decide which cities you’ll visit, research hotels. Read the hotel reviews on Tripadvisor. Read the “Things to do” and “Top questions about….” on these forums.

Ask questions.

Fredericksburg, VA
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4. Re: Planning 2012 France/Belgium/Germ/Luxemb vacation HELP!

I have not traveled to this area (which is why I'm here looking around), but after planning a trip to London, Paris, and various other parts of France I would highly recommend planning it yourself.

Yes, you can get a travel agent to plan everything, but a travel agent doesn't know that you would be thrilled to find the Alexander Fleming museum in London (I was). By utilizing some good guidebooks, and the wonderful people of TripAdviser, not to mention all the other resources on the web, you can plan a fantastic trip.

One thing I'll point out is that public transportation in the well-populated areas of Europe and between cities is vastly different from what we laughably call public transport in the US. Trains are a great way to travel if you're going long distances. However, there are some locations where you really need a rental car (for us that was Normandy). But you can find out a lot about that sort of thing here on TA.

Planning the trip can certainly take over your life - or not. I found that I really enjoyed the planning and that the anticipation of the trip was almost as enjoyable as the trip itself!

You can also start out by reading some of the trip reports here on TA from the areas where you're thinking of visiting. You can just plug in the specific forum, followed by "trip report" at the top or bottom of this page, where it says "search in ___".

brussels
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5. Re: Planning 2012 France/Belgium/Germ/Luxemb vacation HELP!

it should be pretty simple to sorty out. probably best if you prioritize your must sees, like the american cemetery then go on from there.

brussels is fun for two or three days and in antwerp/ghent etc there are some decent art things to go to, all of which will be clearly detailed in any guidebook.

I would consider a combination of train and car hire for a week or so to give you flexibiity to see for example the war cemeteries in flanders. in cities and for travel between them you could get a rail pass, look at the sncb site.

any specific questions i am sure the forum can help

Brussels, Belgium
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6. Re: Planning 2012 France/Belgium/Germ/Luxemb vacation HELP!

You don't want this trip to require "massive amount of time and effort on our part to get it right", but simply telling this forum which countries you want to visit and that you like "cooking/food, photography, history and art" (ALL of this is available everywhere!), plus how much you want to spend (but not where you are flying into and out of, how you want to travel, what sort of places you want to see, apart from one cemetery...), is now enough to enable someone to do the planning for you! If you don't want to plan it yourself, even with regard to WHERE you want to go in these countries, then I would definitely say you should speak to a few travel agents - but before you do, you still need to take some basic decisions.

First, you need to decide how you are getting to and from Europe - I'm not sure where you can fly to from Kansas City, if this is where you are starting from, but likely arrival points are Paris, Amsterdam or Frankfurt (possibly even London but bear in mind that if not flying to your next destination, that would mean onward travel to Paris or Brussels by Eurostar). A local travel agent could be really useful here to avoid slogging through e.g. Skyscanner looking for prices of different options. In particular you need to know whether you'll be flying into and out of the same place or not.

If you are, then you will need to plan a circular trip e.g. arriving in Paris CDG and travelling by train: Paris - Strasbourg - Luxembourg - [Cologne, maybe elsewhere in Germany] - Brussels - Amsterdam - Antwerp - Brugge - Brussels - Paris. If you aren't, you need to know what your start and end point will be before anyone can advise you what you could do in between.

After that, you need to read a few guidebooks/websites and/or look at a few ready-made itineraries to see what cities you want to include in your trip - which also depends on how much time you have (which you don't mention!), how you want to travel (ditto) and whether you want to base yourself in a few places and visit others from there or, on the contrary, move on all the time. To help you decide here, you might like to note, for example, that Luxembourg (city) is 3 hrs by train from Brussels, as is Amsterdam by InterCity train (2 hrs by Thalys); the high-speed Thalys - or TGV between here and Paris-CDG - are the only possibilities between Brussels and Paris. Between Brussels and Cologne, on the other hand, you have a range of trains from the fastest (Thalys/ICE) to a series of regional trains that could take up to 4 hrs.

Apart from the flight and deciding whether you would be travelling by train or renting a car, all this planning can be done without needing to know much about your budget. Where THAT is needed is when you start breaking down the itinerary into x nights here, y nights there, because it will determine what level of hotel you are looking for. On TA, in the forum for each destination (e.g. Brussels, Brugge) you will find on the left of the page "Brussels hotels" etc., which you can select in order of price or TA members' ratings.

As regards your interest in history: what type/period? If you have a particular interest in WWI, for interest, you should include Ieper (Ypres) in your itinerary, if WWII then more likely Bastogne, in which case I think you would be better off travelling by car rather than train; there is plenty of history here, you'll have to be selective! As regards art, Brussels offers, for example, Flemish old masters, art nouveau architecture and the Magritte Museum (also comic strips, if you consider those to be art); Antwerp also has art nouveau architecture and it's a centre for contemporary art. Brugge is picturesque and so might be of particular interest for photography (but it depends on what you like to photograph).

I hope that gives you some idea of what you need to think about, to get you started: really a forum like this is more useful when you have specific queries after working out some basics.

Bergen County, New...
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7. Re: Planning 2012 France/Belgium/Germ/Luxemb vacation HELP!

Because of your first message, it sounds like this may be your first trip to Europe. I wonder if you should consider not doing so many countries on one trip. Without delving into your personal finances or age, is there a reasonable chance you can visit Europe again?

I don't want it to sound like I'm bragging, but after my wife and I had been working and saving together for a few years, we were able to go to Europe for two weeks every couple of years. (Amazingly, a good coach RT airfare in 1988 was $699, and it often still is today!) Anyway, we did Paris and London first (a week each), then four cities in Italy, Spain and Portugal, and so on.

I want you to have the nicest possible time on your first visit, so you have to evaluate your personal sentiments about speed, changing hotel rooms frequently, being told what to do by a bus tour guide, fear of foreign languages at the train station, and so on. I want to suggest that you look at Rick Steve's travel website www.ricksteves.com too, which has a lot of (free) general guidelines about European travel.

Just to give you one concrete idea, when we went to Portugal, we didn't want to do a lot of driving - although we did rent a car for a few days. When in Lisbon, we walked from our hotel to the bus-tour company twice. On each of those two days, they took us (and 47 other people, of course) to four or five major destinations, and back to Lisbon (at 7PM!!) But we didn't have to be checked out, without suitcase on the bus at 8AM that morning. We came back to the same hotel we started from. But this is a very personal preference. Rick Steves book readers often change hotels every night. That 's not for us.

San Diego...
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8. Re: Planning 2012 France/Belgium/Germ/Luxemb vacation HELP!

Here is your best bet I think. www.GlobusandCosmos.com

We have used them several times including Avalon River Cruises.

Globus is high end travel very history oriented. Cosmos is for the budget traveler and Avalon is 5* All are mostly adults only

We are using Globus for an upcoming Ams. Lux. Brus. tour. They have this with a Paris extention Avalon also has a Ams start or end tour. if you have the time will take you to Budapest

San Diego...
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9. Re: Planning 2012 France/Belgium/Germ/Luxemb vacation HELP!

I woulds like to add that this is a "mostly" inclusive tour we always add an extra day or 2 on the front and the back they will include transportation for extra$$ or you can make your own arrangements. If you take only the tour they provide transportation to and from the airport. But this gives you time to get in things they may not cover which usually is pretty comprensive.

The first day on the tour is "on your own" with a tour greeting at 6pm At this time they will ask you to book any side trips most of which are lots of fun(dinner and wine). A day early gives you time for jet lag.

If you want to up grade flight seats book through the airlines not Globus. No problems.

We have travelled for 40 years mostly on our own but with Globus you don't have to slup your bags. and it is worry free. I have NO personal interest in Globus. Check my profile.

Long Beach, NY
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10. Re: Planning 2012 France/Belgium/Germ/Luxemb vacation HELP!

ccumminskc,

Did a travel agent tell you to avoid Tripadvisor?