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Here’s how to plan a European trip when you’re OCONUS
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My family and I have the amazing opportunity of being stationed in Europe. After the initial shock and adjustment, we were quickly bitten by the travel bug. Planning trips though Europe can be very different from planning a trip back in that States. There are many things to consider and while there are some ways it’s much easier here, in others it’s more challenging.

Think about safety first

Anyone who watches the news, no matter how infrequently, has heard about terrorist attacks across Europe. As a military member over here, our base does a phenomenal job at keeping everyone informed about what’s going on where. Because Anti-Terrorism Force Protection publishes information and Key Spouse groups forward these announcements on to each shop, page, and group, we’ve been able to stay informed and make the best informed travel decisions we can. If you don’t have that luxury, study where you intend to travel.

I’m not saying don’t go anywhere that’s been attacked. I’d go to Paris this weekend and feel safe. European military members and police officers are doing an incredible job. I’ve have been so impressed with their quick and efficient responses. Still, study the area you’re going to. . .  and I don’t mean just pay attention to if they’ve had an attack or not; study how they dress, study how they act. The safest thing you can do for you and your family when you’re traveling is to blend in. Not wearing the American Flag or things that say “USA” are typically a good place to start.

Planning travel

Check the ITT/MWR office as you can find some great deals (I have for my family many times). Another great resource, if you’re a military family, is abctravel.de, It’s truly a fantastic website that Germany offers to military members to help find deals for flying home and bringing your family over to Germany.

Europe offers so many resources for traveling. This is a continent that encourages you to get your adventure on. Europeans strongly believe in traveling and experiencing other cultures. During summer, the entire continent comes alive with explorers, and cars pulling campers and small trailers. Trains and buses start to fill up because it’s travel time!

Piecing your dreams and destinations together is the next step. If you want to drive so that you don’t have to follow a strict itinerary then, as long as you have an international drivers license, you can rent a car. One resource my family and I love to use is Ryanair. This airline offers super cheap rates to fly all over Europe. (We just booked tickets to and from Greece for about eighty five dollars a person!) The website also offers car rental options and hotel recommendations. Ryanair’s car rental services are some of the cheapest I’ve seen here and their motto is if you can find it cheaper, then it’s free! If you prefer not to drive Europe’s train system is basically the greatest in the world. You can train just about anywhere, and if you wish to get somewhere quickly, you have the option of the ICE (a train which runs at around 300 kilometers an hour). Buses are also a great resource. My family and I bused around the English country side for our England trip and that turned out to be our favorite part of the trip.

Lodging

Where are you going to lay your head at night? During summer, hotel prices skyrocket, but remember: There are other options available other than hotels. Bed and breakfasts typically cost less and you’re going to get a better taste of the culture when you’re in a homier environment. Airbnb is another great resource for travelers. We have friends who have found places to stay in Spain for 20 euros a night.

Reminders

Check to see what currencies you’ll need as well as the current exchangerate. Most places will except euros, but you can’t use US dollars. Don’t rely on plastic; there are a lot of places that don’t accept debit or credit cards.

Try to learn a few words from the places you’re going. It shows respect and effort. Phrases like “excuse me,” “thank you,” “please,” “you’re welcome,” “hello, and “goodbye” will help you blend in and is respectful to those around you. You’re visiting someone else’s home, remember to show them that you’re grateful for that opportunity and that you appreciate being in their country. So get out and go– adventure is out there!

By Courtney Hall

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