Here's the how to, on planning an international trip. (at least 6 months in advance)
1. Get Passport. do this now. before anything else. it will take weeks to get everything processed and since you can't go anywhere without it, you might as well get it out of the way now. plus it's like a $100 investment. so paying for that now, won't hit you hard when you're buying your tickets and booking your hotel.
2. Get a map. look at what countries are close together and which cities you think you want to see most. I chose Switzerland, Italy, France and Spain.
3. Go to Expedia.com. pick a date, type in the info. do "multiple destinations." When the results show up, choose the flight that is the cheapest with the layovers in the cities you like most. you never know what delays can strike when you're traveling and you don't want to be stuck in an uncomfortable city when you're already going to be stressed. buy tickets at least 6 months out.
4. Once you have your arriving and departing flights. it's safe for you to choose a secondary form of travel. how will you be getting from A to B? I chose train. I used the eurail pass. I used the student rate, but still had to pay reservation fees while traveling. the most expensive reservation fee for the train was fifteen euros or about $25 at the time. but it was still cheaper than buying a new ticket each time. if using the eurail go to their website and choose the package that best fits you and your circumstances.
5. Hotels. now you need to figure out where you're going to sleep. if you're a free spirit maybe you want to stay in a hostel- they are much less expensive, and require little planning but you never know who you'll be sharing the hostel with and there is a lot less privacy. I'm more of a hotel girl myself, but if you like the hostel idea- make sure to look up hostels in the city BEFORE you get there, and make sure you have a back up plan if the hostel is booked while you're there. for hotels, I also use expedia.com. I looked on google to find the train station I was stopping at, then chose the hotel closest. careful, though, sometimes train stations aren't in great areas. so read about the hotel before you commit. also, be honest about how many people are staying in your room. European hotels keep passports or copies of passports for international visitors. you will be caught if you sneak extra people in and out. the fee for such can be expensive and they might make you leave.
6. once you have the above five steps complete, it's all fun. now you plan what you're going to do in each city. I'll give you some ideas on what we did while in each of my favorite places. they go in the order of our trip. I'm starting my list off in Paris and then to Switzerland, next down to Italy; to Rome and back up Italy to the south of France and then over to Barcelona. Some of the places are cliché but I can't tell you all the amazingness of each city in this one post.
France; Paris. Eiffel Tower and crêpes.
Switzerland; Lucerne. make sure to see the Lion of Lucerne. located at
Kapellbrücke bridge. it is over the clearest blue water I've ever seen. it's really old, but most of it is newer because a fire destroyed part of it.
Italy; Florence. ponte vecchio. another bridge? I know. hear me out though. this one is from medieval times and they still have all the old (EXPENSIVE) jewelry shops on the bridge. it's really amazing! Here it is at night:
Italy; Florence. Bar Ponte Vecchio. a little cafe next to the bridge that has the best gelato, espresso and cannolis.
Italy; Rome. Rome is kind of a dirty city. the way New York City is dirty. with so many people you have a lot of grunge. The Colosseum is one of the most historically interesting places I've ever been. it's a very tourist-y thing to do but worth the lines.
Italy; Rome. The Vatican. more specifically the Vatican Museum. even my husband, as anti-organized-religion as he is, found this really interesting. I mean just look at this ceiling (the Sistine Chapel)
Italy; Rome. Trevi Fountain. it's my favorite. it smells like chlorine, but makes me happy.
Italy; Venice. eat an Egg pizza. they're all over. try one. white asparagus and egg pizza; delicious!
Italy; Florence. walk around, look for street artists. These guys were drawing famous paintings in chalk.
France; Nice. go to subway? well to be fair, we were only in Nice for 10 hours, to sleep. we ate at subway since we weren't in a good area and all the French restaurants were full of gypsies. here is the street on the walk from our hotel to subway.
Spain; Barcelona. go to la Playa (the beach). don't be scared of nudity though. topless is the only way Spanish women enjoy the beach. I love the fish building/sculpture on the right- not sure what it is though, we never made it over there.
Spain; Barcelona. la sagrada familia. it's beautiful, unfinished church by my favorite architect Antoni Gaudi.
Spain; Barcelona. Park Guell by Gaudi. best views of Barcelona. beautiful mosaic balcony in the mountain. GO THERE!
Spain; Barcelona. eat Payaya. even if you're vegetarian you can find payaya. The authentic kind has sea food in it though.
Spain; Barcelona. walk La Rambla. it's a short walk full of birds for sale, flowers and street performers.
Spain; Madrid. Museo del Prado. some of the most amazing artwork in the world. like this piece: Guernica, by Picasso. (image below from here)
Spain; Barcelona. Happy Pills. best candy store, I've ever been to.
so, what are you waiting for? plan you're next trip now. I thinking Switzerland or Poland, or both. have you been somewhere awesome? please. do tell.