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WHAT are the first steps in planning your holiday?

First things first. How much time do you have? It is impossible to have too much time; any sacrifices made here to get extra travel time will be worth it. Make the most of all the preparation and expense. Take two months, even three or four. Talk to people who have quit their jobs to travel in Europe for six months or a year; they will all say it was well worth it.

The duration of your stay will no doubt depend on how much you have to spend, so you should calculate your daily anticipated budget and divide that into your life savings. Minus your airfare, that's how many days you can stay. Details on planning a budget are covered in Chapter Four.

If you have a week or less, just go to Paris, Prague, or Rome, or perhaps a small country like Belgium, Slovenia, or Ireland. If you have less than a week you'll probably spend most of your time getting over jet lag and to getting adjusted to the new language and currency.

Avoid making your trip a race to see as many sights as possible. This is not a contest and there is no grade.

Don't keep the trip a secret. Tell friends, co-workers, neighbors, people in the grocery store. People who have traveled love to talk about it, and they will be your best information resource. .

As soon as you have a general idea of your own dream itinerary, and know how long you can stay, take the plunge and make flight reservations. The earlier you make them, the cheaper they will be.

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