Ever dreamed of taking a trip to Europe? I remember my first journey “across the pond.” Like it was yesterday in fact, even though it was just over 30 years ago.
It was the most amazing experience...the colorful canal houses in Amsterdam...windmills standing in the peaceful farmland of the Netherlands...magical medieval walls and towers in the village of Rothenburg, Germany...scenery to take your breath away and tasty Apple Strudel in Austria...wandering the ruins in Rome...and my very first glimpse of Paris in all its perfection.
You could say it laid the foundation for my career and lifelong passion for European travel.
My father-in-law Roelof Postmaa, Jr. took over Image Tours, the family business, from his father (who launched it in Amsterdam all the way back in 1939!) Monique, my bride and the daughter of Roelof Jr, took me on a grand tour through the heart of Europe, visiting the sights on our most popular tour, to give me a better idea of what her family heritage was all about.
Not long after that trip, I left my production management job to join my wife in the inspiring business of making travel dreams come true on tours of Europe. I learned so much from that journey and have returned many, many times since … I never stop learning or seeing different amazing aspects of Europe. And that’s what I want to share with you today—all my secret tips and time-tested advice for planning your perfect European adventure.
Because the choices you make at home before you ever step on the plane will make or break your vacation.
What do I mean? I’ll show you—
You basically have two choices for your tour of Europe:
~ You can take a DIY approach and go it alone, from booking your airfare, finding accommodations, and arranging travel between countries, or—
~ You can take a guided tour.
And here’s why I think that’s the most important decision you’ll make… Let me tell you a story.
It’s probably not surprising that when my family and I travel to Europe, we usually go with one of our company’s guided tours. But in the Spring of 2016, we decided to visit Spain on our own, just Monique, our children, and I...doing it “our way” for a change. I thought it would be a great way to enjoy some independent exploration, travel at our own pace.
But here’s the thing—
When we got to Ronda, in the Province of Malaga, I realized that I really, really missed having a guide to explain the town’s significance...point us to sites we should have visited but missed—because we just didn’t know where to go or how to prioritize our time. We missed all the interesting details that bring a city to life— Yes, we saw the Plaza de Toros but we didn’t take the time to see the marvelous artwork by Picasso and the photos by Ernest Hemingway in the Museo Taurino there—because we didn’t know. And we’re experienced European travelers!
What I guess I’m saying is that—especially for first-time visitors—having someone to guide your exploration and prioritize your time is far more important than you’d imagine. And that’s before you even consider all the other potential issues...
- Navigating Eurail or renting a car to drive between destinations. (How many times do want to listen to the GPS say . . . “Recalculating” . . .)
- Learning the finer points of public transportation in European capitals.
- Figuring out exactly what type of hotel you’re getting when you book on your own (European star ratings are so different from what we’re used to!)
- Overcoming the language barrier in places where English isn’t readily spoken.
- Knowing what to do in the event of an emergency or mishap.
For my money—and I say this as someone who’s visited Europe multiple times—there’s really no substitute for a guided tour. Of course, the next most important decision you’ll make is your itinerary...nailing down the details of your perfect trip.
At Image Tours, we approach destinations and itineraries in four ways:
- A “highlights” tour, where you get to taste a little bit of everything. Our Heart of Europe® Grand Tour is a perfect example of this: 8 countries, 25 cities, 22 days.
- A “themed” tour, where you explore a connected series of places with special significance. Our World War II Memorial Tour is a good example: A 16-day excursion to the major battle sites, war museums and memorials, and places of historical or cultural significance related to the war. (The favorite tour of my father-in-law).
- A “cosmopolitan” tour, which gives you more time to really get to know a few major international cities. That’s exactly what we do on our popular 15-day Spain & Portugal Tour.
- A “deep dive” tour, where we spend all our time really getting to know one particular country or area. Our Treasures of Italy Tour devotes 15 full days to exploring all the cultural and historical sights in every region of Italy, from fashionable Milan in the north to the Tuscan countryside and all the delights of Rome.
I want to point out that none of our tours is shorter than 11 days—and there are actually good reasons for that. First of all, you really can’t “do” Europe in much less than that, especially on your first visit—unless you’re OK with missing some of the things you really want to see, regretting the things you didn’t have time to visit— And not really having that “once in a lifetime” vacation a trip to Europe really ought to be.
Second of all, it makes good financial sense to spread the cost of your airline ticket over a longer period of time—to “leverage” your airfare, if you will, by staying an extra week or two.
So you see… your Europe vacation really comes down to three big decisions:
- Guided or DIY.
- A highlights-type tour or a deep-dive into a country that interests you.
- The length of time you plan to stay.
Once you’ve nailed down those decisions, your dream European tour is closer to becoming a reality than ever before. Want to know more about planning a tour or the best places to see? Just head to this page to request a brochure: https://www.imagetours.com/brochure/request