About a year ago this month, my husband and I were in the process of planning for our first trip to Europe. Independent spirits, we balked at group tour packages.
We decided to set our own itinerary, but we knew we’d have our work cut out for us – essentially the job of a travel agent.
I’m not suggesting everyone should forgo a travel agent. But when it came to planning for our trip, using a librarian as a pseudo-travel agent and checking out the library’s travel books gave us more “fun money” in Paris and Barcelona. And, it could for you too. Whether going to Europe or Denver, who couldn’t use a few extra bucks on vacation?
As we packed our luggage, we made sure to save room for foreign language dictionaries AND the library’s travel books (be aware of your due dates and call 580-4424 to find out if you can renew – a little tip I learned from Kim Sain, travel librarian).
Particularly helpful were books containing common French and Spanish phrases and guide books including the list below (hint: the good guide books will have an index of common foreign language phrases):
- Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door (Good one to read before you go and leave at home.)
-Frommer’s Paris from $95 a Day (Practical. We used this one a lot before and while we were in Paris.)
-Fodor’s French for Travelers CDs (I recommend learning at least the basic French phrases when preparing for a trip to France. If learning via a CD is not for you, I suggest checking out this free foreign language learning website: livemocha.com.)
-Frommer’s Barcelona Day by Day (Practical. We used this one a lot. Good map inside.)
I would suggest to anyone planning a vacation – especially to somewhere new – to schedule a one-on-one appointment with Kim Sain. Aside from book recommendations, she offers suggestions on helpful websites, magazines and books on cultural etiquette and customs.
So, what did I see as far as attractions listed in the guidebooks?
- The Eiffel Tower
- Notre Dame Cathedral
- Sacre Coeur
- The Louvre
- Museé Rodin
- Parc Güell
- Sagrada Família
As an aside, timing your trip with world events may mean the difference between a memorable experience and a transformational one. My husband and I have been fortunate to travel twice now during the World Cup soccer tournament. I used to not care about soccer; now, I like it a lot – this I credit to having the experience of watching star-studded soccer matches while surrounded by the passion and national pride of soccer fans in their native lands.