Plan ahead for your 2014 vacation

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Europeans know the value of vacations and downtime far better than Americans.  Earning a month or more of vacation time is more the rule than the exception over there and in some places time off runs into a month and a half or more.

They can afford to wait until the last minute to make arrangements because if one thing doesn’t work out, there is usually sufficient time to make an alternate plan.  Not so for Americans. We are stuck with what we plan.

Far and away the best thing to do is check out potential vacation destinations as far in advance as possible.  That usually has two benefits: 1) You can get the best price; 2) Less chance of not getting availability.

A while back we wrote about the benefits of making plans for a cruise as far ahead as possible and we pointed to Uniworld Boutique Cruises as an example.  Their river cruises in Europe and Asia fill quickly with an international cast of vacationers.  If you’ve never done a river cruise, it is an entirely new experience.  The waters are calm, the food is excellent and the entertainment (while not of the caliber of huge cruise ships) showcases some of the better local indigenous talent.

Cruises, such as those offered by Uniworld, bring you almost to city center in most ports and have a fantastic array of tour options, many of which are included at no extra cost.  Go online or speak to a travel professional to find out what is available and what suits you best.  Do you want to see Europe along the Danube from Vienna to Bucharest?  How about Vietnam and Cambodia, including the fabulous and exotic ancient jungle city of Angkor Wat?  The choices are limitless, but you still have to make a determination and then move ahead with reservations.  Just remember, those crafty Europeans are both a step closer in distance and availability. For information check out the website: www.uniworldcruiseline.com.

If you prefer something more landlocked, there are a host of tour operators with itineraries designed to suit every whim and wish you might have.

As an example, Insight Vacations offers a variety of hosted trips ranging from $2,350 to $5,985 through Europe and the Middle East.  Now there’s a thought…why not try Europe while all those hard-vacationing Europeans have gone elsewhere?

There’s a trip to Spain and Portugal for 10 days that takes in the ancient city of Toledo.  This walled gem sits on a hill and holds some absolutely breathtaking sites such as a synagogue that has been used by Jews, Catholics as a church and the military as a store room.

Walk the cobblestone streets and watch artisans in small shops hammering thin wire gold inlays into Damascene jewelry.  If your luggage is big enough, bring back a famed Toledo Blade sword or knife.

You might prefer a 13-day tour to Britain covering England, Southern Scotland and Wales and enjoying the vast differences of culture found in one country.  This, be aware, is a tour with a rather brisk pace in order to cover so much territory, but the upside is the variety of things to see and do.

For the more exotic, check out a 10-day jaunt to Egypt that will take you from Cairo to Aswan by train, an experience in itself.

There are other tours to Ireland and Scotland, Italy and Morocco.  For more information, visit www.insightvacations.com.

Remember, these are only a few suggestions of what is available for 2014 and the key is to get on the computer and check out what you would like to do and book early to avoid disappointment.