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Europe is humungous with gazillions of things to keep you amused until the cows come home, at least. In fact, if you were to stick the kettle on now and had a quick cuppa before you began and then did something different every five minutes until you were 153, you still wouldn’t even have scratched the surface. If you ask most people what they’d do if they won The Lottery tomorrow, “Travel & Holidays” are right up at the top of the list. But a vague idea to “travel” or “go somewhere on holiday” won’t get you far. There is too much out there to do it all, so you have to think of a way to narrow it down.
Here are a few ideas to help you “*Get INSPIRED!
Stick a pin in a map – for those of you with a sense of adventure! an old idea with a new twist. Head over to Google Earth, start with the spinning globe out in space, get a friend to close their eyes and give you directions as you zoom in on Europe from a great height. Stick your “virtual pin” in the “virtual map” and there you go! ” weekend break destination decided! If you’ve never experienced “Google Earth” try it, mind boggling is the only way to describe it. Zoom in from outer space to see the Eiffel Tower (you can even see the shadow it casts).
Dates – The pace of modern life can be hectic, finding time to relax and have a break isn’t always easy. You may have limited time available or you have to stick to school holidays. Look on the bright side, this means you can book well in advance. If on the other hand, your schedule varies day to day, fine, you can grab great last minute deals. Use this as your starting point. If you can only go away the last weekend in April then find out what’s on then. We love the web site What’s on when. Insert your dates and find out what’s on and when! Lot’s of great stuff to get you in the mood for a weekend away.
Your friends and family – The ages and interests of your group can be a good starting point. A group of kids would have fun at Disneyland Paris, a group of teens into sport would love a snowboarding festival in the alps whereas a young couple might prefer a romantic weekend in Rome in a five star hotel. Think of your group and their interests, this will make it easier to decide where to go and what to do.
Cost – Is the sky the limit or are you working on a shoestring (or less). If you like a bargain! Check out “Europe for free” it’s full of great ideas that won’t cost you a penny! Remember to put the ideas in your online diary (go to *Get ORGANISED to find out how to set one up.) If your pockets are deep (or you’ve just won the Lottery!) then let your imagination run wild, stay in The Dorchester, hire a porche boxster or hop on the Orient Express, take in the Cannes film festival or go shopping in Milan. Imagine experiencing the raw emotion that is centre court at Wimbledonon Mens final day or front row seats to see Robbie, U2, Coldplay, Depeche Mode playing live in a top European Venue.
The Weather – The birds head south for the winter and that might be your priority too! Are you a sun worshipper or a snow bum. Check out the weather conditions for Europe and use this as way to plan your weekend break. To avoid the crowds, why not do the opposite to everyone else. Glacier ski in mid summer, swim outdoors in hot thermal springs in mid winter.
Hobbies/Interests – Train spotting, hang gliding, stamp collecting, lacrosse, treasure hunting, building sand castles, hot air ballooning, mountain climbing, caving, rafting, basket weaving, yoga. Maybe you are already an expert or you just fancy trying something new to rev you up or calm you down.
Sport – Playing or watching, top pros’ or just for fun. Sport can form the basis of your weekend plans. Do it yourself or go on a course to learn from the experts. Indoor and outdoor. Head for the hills or dive to the bottom of the sea. Cheer your team on or work up a sweat yourself.
Music – Rock, pop, jazz, folk, classical. Europe has something to suit all tastes, from top international bands on tour to obscure folk festivals. Combine the music with a visit to a city or country you’ve never been to before. It doesn’t have to cost a lot. Check out our advice on budget travel, budget accommodation and great deals on car hire. For hard to find tickets try our “*Get TICKETS” page.
Occasions & Festivals – Birthday bash in Barcelona, anniversary in Amsterdam. The occasion could be this personal or open the idea out a bit. Burns night in Scotland, St. Patricks day in Dublin. Chinese New Year in Soho. Think about Easter Sunday parades, Carnival in Venice, mid Summer/mid Winter concerts. Fire festivals, water festivals, snow festivals the list is endless.
Food & Drink – Eat Parma ham in Parma, drink Champagne in Champagne. Go visit the area where your favourite food or drink is actually produced. Guinness, haggis, sherry, paella, bratwurst, chocolate. Every European country has specialities and many producers are proud to show you their products. Winery tours, brewery tours, chocolate factories, all over Europe great nosh is just waiting to be tasted. The Slow Food group was set up in Italy as a reaction against “fast food” to promote good quality food and drink. They run various food and drink festivals throughout Europe. Follow your nose, fill your tum!
History - The story of Europe can be traced back thousands of years. Although Europe has sometimes been witness to turbulent, struggles between warring tribes and nations, these days the history of Europe can be a rich source of inspiration when searching for interesting places to visit. Stone age monuments, medieval castles, royal palaces, museums, even battlefields can all be fascinating, sometimes thought provoking destinations. The Guinness book of records has a full list.
Magazines – Travel magazines can be a great source of inspiration. They cater for all tastes from back packers to luxury breaks. National Geographic is another wonderful source of ideas for places to visit and the photography is stunning. Time Out produce a wide range of great guides to European cities and also themed guides on various topics (eating &drinking, skiing & snowboarding etc). The Sunday Newspaper travel supplements are packed full of short articles on holiday destinations and ideas for things to do and places to visit. We like the online versions too – The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Independent on Sunday, The Sunday Telegraph, The Sunday Herald. The writing can be sharp and witty, in fact, it might even inspire you to start your own Travel Blog or Travel Photo Blog!
Books –Fact or fiction, both have a useful part to play when searching for inspiration. Guide books such as the Rough Guide series can give you lots of useful, practical information and just flicking through a city guide can give you an idea if it’s your sort of town. Rough Guide’s are also available as e-books and they also have digital maps for your palmtop. Some writers just have the knack of making their travels sound like great, non stop adventures. We love Bill Bryson’s “Neither here Nor there – travels in Europe” which charts his journey from Hammerfest in the North to Istanbul on the edge of Asia. He brings his unique brand of humour to bear on Europe. Even his disasters make you want to visit each place.
TV programmes - Travel programmes can spark your curiosity for a destination. They are usually themed (young, student, family, adventure, luxury, long haul, short break) and aimed towards a particular market, but just seeing what’s on offer can be enough to whet your appetite for more, also worth checking out are the travel sections of the tv companies websites (BBC, Channel 4, Discovery channel etc). Michael Palin’s trips have inspired thousands to get out and explore the world and whilst not many of us will try going round the world in 80 days, his enthusiasm is infectious.
Travel Blogs – An idea as old as travel itself. A travel journal. However, the internet has changed the face of travel writing for ever. Online Travel Blogs are free to set up and they can be updated from anywhere (either from your laptop, palmtop or nearest Internet café). Read about other peoples’ trips, the good and the bad, the joys and the mishaps. Although in its infancy there are some great writers using the medium although most people who write travel blogs are not professional writers, they are just ordinary people with a passion for travel. Reading about someone else’s adventures might just get you thinking “I want to go there too!” and who knows, your “Travel Blog” could do the same for others.
Photos – A photo is worth a thousand words, (or was it a flower that’s worth a thousand words? Can’t quite remember) a breathtaking sunset, a stunning city scape, having a look at photos of beautiful, exciting places is sure to put you in the mood for a chance to snap some of your own, you may not be up to National Geographic standards but don’t worry, they tell your own personal story and that makes them unique. These days digital technology has made photo taking much simpler, even mobile phones can take good quality shots. And no need to wait til’ you get home to let others see your favourites. You can upload them to you very own “Photo Blog” from anywhere (if you take a photo using your mobile phone it can be online in a matter of seconds).
Themes – been to all the well known European hot spots already? Ready for something different. What about visiting the highest, lowest, furthest North, south, east, west points in Europe. How about the sunniest, wettest, windiest places? Trace a river from its source. Use a different form of transport – horse, cycle, gypsy caravan, canoe, dog sled, snow shoes! Ever thought about visiting film & TV locations – Harry Potter, Dracula, Hannibal, Balamory
Feel free to choose a totally different starting point, you may have found a bargain flight you couldn’t resist, alternatively, your No. 1 priority may be to wallow in luxury in a 5* hotel, that’s fine. Get the first part decided, then we’ll give you lots of information on the rest.