I love take-offs. The excitement of acceleration and lifting above the clouds.
Whether it's a trip to Texas, Philadelphia, California, or Minnesota, every vacation is an exciting adventure. Each place has its own history. And, of course, delicious food.
It is so exciting to visit other countries, hear other languages, explore other cultures. What fun to get out the passport and see the nations!
God has opened the door for me to visit Europe three times. I took my older three daughters to London in 2011, the whole family visited the Netherlands in 2012, and we traveled to Italy this year.
In London, we stayed in a hostel, planned our own itinerary, and went everywhere on the Tube (London's subway). In the Netherlands we rented an apartment in Den Hague (cheaper than Amsterdam), bought a train pass, and made day trips to castles, Harlem (to see Corrie ten Boom's museum), Amsterdam, and Belgium. Everything was close and we had a blast. Our last trip was to Italy and we tried something new: a guided tour. We flew into Venice and traveled throughout Italy on a tour bus, flying home from Rome. The tour was a wonderful way to see everything we could possibly imagine in Italy.
A friend of mine recently travel from Florida to New York City to represent his company at a trade show. He had a few hours each afternoon for sightseeing and at the top of his wish list for the trip was a visit to the 911 Memorial and the World Trade Center.
This was an important visit for him and he didn’t want to get lost, so he ask the concierge at his Times Square hotel for directions on how to catch the subway to the memorial. He had read that this was the most cost-effective and fastest way to get there. He had very clear instructions. Get on the train at this station on the corner. Get off the train at that station and the memorial will be right there. Badda-bing, badda-boom! Nothing could be simpler. Right? Wrong!!
The problem began when the concierge didn’t say which exit to take out of the station. Our friend apparently took the wrong one. The memorial was not right there. The GPS on his phone seemed very confused and could not tell where he was. He zoomed in. He zoomed out. He thought he found himself on the map and knew which way to walk. Five blocks later he realized he was wrong. He found the Freedom Tower, took a left, walk around some construction sites, and finally found the memorial.
The Solemn Stillness
Traveling to Europe was always an unrealistic dream to me.
I dreamed of castles, cathedrals, and picturesque landscapes. All that history!
When I received a small inheritance, I put some money aside to live that dream. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to get to Europe and how many great deals are available.
Here's how we got to Europe on a shoestring budget.
First, we made a list of all the places we wanted to see on our trips. We also made a list of "nice to see, but not necessary places."
We mapped those places out using maps and travel guides. One of my favorite travel guide series is the DK Travel Guides. I have 8 of them!
Then, we started looking for deals. Not for a week or two, but over months, keeping in mind dates that we were available to go.
We also covered our trip in prayer, asking the Lord for deals, His perfect timing, and more.
My daughter Julianna and I looked at hundreds of tours before we found the tour we went on when we traveled to Italy. It was all-inclusive for one week and we were blown away at how cheap it was. When we were there, we found the accommodations were beautiful. It was definitely a good find!
The secret is to look so much that you can recognize a good deal when it comes and snatch it up..
Here are some places I like to check out for great vacation prices.
Gate 1 Travel
If you are planning a trip to Europe in the near future, here are some tips to make travel easier and more fun!
Get in Shape
Often on vacation, especially in Europe, you do a lot of walking and climbing that uses muscles that aren't used to working very hard. Take walks, climb stairs, and get those muscles working. If you only walk from your car to the office, you might need to consider walking during your lunch hour. A two mile daily walk will get you in shape quickly. And take the stairs for a month before you travel.
Break Your Shoes In at Home
Don't take a brand new pair of shoes that you've never worn. You are asking for blisters. Try out all your shoes by walking around the block in them. Are they comfortable?
Think Comfort and Layers
Forget the jeans you have to lay on the bed to zip up. Pull out the clothes that move and bend in cheery colors that look good on you. Layers work best for a place you have never visited. You can always peel off or put on a layer as needed. I brought a light weight hoodie to wear under a rain coat with a pair of gloves to the Netherlands. When the weather cooled off, I pulled on the rain coat and gloves. When it got warmer, I simply put my gloves and coat in the back pack.
I wanted to look nice for pictures so I brought pretty shirts and sweaters to wear with my comfy jeans. Wearing light make-up and no jewelry except earrings, I still managed to look nice.
Make a Detailed Itinerary
"What is that?"
"It's a shell. A little animal lives inside," my daughter started to explain to her younger brother.
We were vacationing on the beach. Life was slow and relaxing, but we were still learning.
You see, all of life is an adventure and learning is a fun part of that adventure.
We are always soaking up knowledge of some sort. It might be learning about flying or fighting from playing a video game. It might be learning about crime scenes from watching a murder mystery. We learn about animals from taking care of our pet. Sometimes we learn negative things, too. Why not be proactive learners, instead of passively soaking up information?
I am always curious. I love to imagine.