How to Find the Best Way to Get to the United Kingdom

July 24, 2008 by  
Filed under Travel

how to find the best way to get to the ukThe United Kingdom is one of the best Europe trips to take. The UK has a rich history and culture and is an excellent place to visit. Getting to the island nation is far easier than you might imagine. Currently there are three ways to travel to the UK.

The Eurotunnel

If you are in France, you can take the Eurotunnel to the United Kingdom. To use the Eurotunnel, you reserve a spot for your car in advance. Check in up to two hours before your scheduled departure with a full car of passengers and luggage. Then, once your passports and other documentation has been checked, you’ll drive into an air conditioned carriage that you and your vehicle ride in all the way to the UK.

The ride through the Eurotunnel takes thirty-five minutes and there is shopping, fuel and refreshments on both sides of the tunnel. Tickets to ride on the train through the tunnel are comparable to business airline tickets, but as you pay for only one fare for a carload of people and equipment, the cost is more reasonable than flying.

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Ferries

There are also ferries leaving France to travel to the UK on a regular basis. These ferries have various docks along the coast of France, but most travel from Calais, must the same as the Eurotunnel. Many of the ferries now operating can make the journey between France and England in less time than a few years ago thanks to newer, larger ships, but travel on the ferries takes approximately ninety minutes. A ferry trip is the least expensive means to travel to the UK, however.

Airlines

If you are traveling from any location but France, the only way to reach the UK, short of a very long boat ride, is by plane. When you fly to the UK, you will not have your own car, but that most likely will not be an issue. If you’re staying in a major city, or even a small town, a taxi and public transportation can provide all of the transportation you need. If you want freedom to travel the countryside, a rental car is easily available provided you know how to drive on British roadways.

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Airline tickets to the UK are available online through airline websites. There are often specials on flights to the United Kingdom, so you should spend a bit of time looking for the best flight arrangements and playing with the time and dates of your travel to see if you can land a lower fare. Tickets to the UK are not cheap, but considering your alternatives, for most tourists, flying is most likely the best way to travel to the UK.

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How to Explore Europe on a Budget

July 24, 2008 by  
Filed under Travel

how to explore europeA European vacation is a dream for many people, but it can easily become a reality if you are familiar with methods to cut your costs while traveling abroad. If you are looking to travel, but can’t afford a planned package and just aren’t sure about the idea of backpacking and youth hostels, find out how to explore Europe on a budget.

Get to Europe Cheaply

The first step in your budget vacation is to get to Europe for as little money as possible. You can start your airline search with main carriers from the United States or Canada, but if there are not amazing specials available, you should also be sure to check European budget airlines. Be creative with your flights. See if it’s cheaper to fly to a lesser known city and then drive to others. Are certain countries more expensive than others? Spend time researching and searching before buying.

When you have a found a low price ticket, buy it and start packing – you are most likely leaving soon as last minute deals are often the least expensive.

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What to See in Europe

After arriving in Europe, regardless of actual country, plan your itinerary. This might also be good to do on the plane as flights are long. European travel destinations are plentiful, and short of staying for years, there is no way to see everything on a single trip. So decide ahead of time if you want to simply skim the surface of Europe to see as much as possible, or if you want to concentrate on a few destinations and explore those choices thoroughly.

Getting Around Europe

However you decide to spend your time, make at least a rough itinerary of the most important things to be sure you see those. Then begin working out travel arrangements between destinations. Transportation options between cities and countries include airlines, buses, trains, and rental cars. Each can be expensive depending on your exact destination and requirements, so be sure to research and compare prices before booking any travel within Europe itself. Don’t forget to consider public transportation or even cabs if they are reasonably priced, safe and available.

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Spending the Night

There are plenty of tricks to inexpensive housing. Teenagers and college students take advantage of youth hostels, but these may not be a viable option for you. Explore them to see if you meet the criteria and are comfortable with the idea. Many budget hotels exist, and inns can be found off the main roads that might be willing to negotiate a lower rate. If you are renting a car, you have the option of sleeping in it if you can get comfortable and find a safe place. You might also travel long distances by train at night where you can reserve a berth.

Cut Corners

Finally, cut corners whenever you can. Skip the restaurants in favor of street vendors and small cafes. Most pubs and bars serve food which may be less expensive than restaurants. Even convenience stores sell hot food in many locations, so take advantage of that option to help save money. Look around for deals and ask friendly locals if they know of any special rates on popular destinations. Be friendly and always try to negotiate – you never know, it just might work!

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How To Increase Your Home Value

July 16, 2008 by  
Filed under Home & Garden

how do I increase the value of a homeRead a home decorating magazine or watch a cable-TV home improvement show, and you might easily conclude that any upgrade will pay off when you sell. This is simply not so because even in good times, not all projects have widespread appeal. You’ll earn back virtually your entire investment in a kitchen or deck, but less than 75 cents on the dollar if you add a home office or sunroom, according to "Remodeling" magazine’s annual cost vs. value survey.

What’s worse, some renovations can even hurt you in the eyes of home buyers, a costly problem if you hope to sell in a softening market like today’s.

The Swimming Pool:

In some areas, especially hot-weather spots like Arizona and Florida, a pool is a must-have. In the Southwest, adding one boosts your home’s value by 11 percent on average, according to a National Association of Realtors study. But elsewhere it can just as easily turn off buyers, who worry about affording the upkeep and insurance. And if the most likely buyer of your home is a family with small children, think long and hard before installing a pool.

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"People with younger children may be leery of houses with pools for safety reasons," says Barry Graziano, a real estate agent with Prudential Rand Realty in White Plains, N. Y. "I’ve had families walk away. A pool can cut down on the number of people who will want to buy your house."

The Addition:

You’ve thought about how that great room and master bedroom wing will let the family spread out. But what you probably haven’t considered is what the space will look like from the outside.

"A badly designed addition can kill your resale value," says Sal Alfano, the editorial director of Remodeling. "People focus on the floor plan and the flow, but not on how it fits into the neighborhood or even the house itself."

Watch out for boxy, poorly detailed additions and be careful of a style that will look dated when you throw your open house. Spotting the trend that’s on its way out is trickier than you think. While it is easy to assume that sleek red European kitchen cabinetry is tomorrow’s harvest gold fridge, other design staples that seem like sure bets can quickly drift into obscurity too.

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That’s what Mark Johnson, a Whirlpool design manager, says is happening to stainless-steel appliances. "For a period of time, people aspired to a commercial kitchen" he says. "What I am seeing is more interest in warmer finishes."

You want a design trend with legs. Johnson says custom panels that dress appliances in maple or mahogany finishes are likely to remain popular for several years. Also, think about the materials for hardware like hinges and light fixtures. Polished brass or anything shiny is out. Brushed nickel is a better option. Johnson is betting that oiled-bronze finishes will take off next.

The Jacuzzi:

The elaborate master bath is okay, but the big circular tub with 15 jets that can pulse or massage is risky.

According to Holly Slaughter, brand manager at RealEstate.com, you’re better off with an oversize shower that has a rain showerhead and multiple jets (think of it as a car wash for humans).

Baby boomers have little time to spend hanging out in the bathtub, and parents with small kids prefer a conventional tub. Ultimately, don’t expect a future buyer to pay up for the luxury you considered an essential.

How To Rent a Car in Europe

July 6, 2008 by  
Filed under Automotive & Mechanical

how to rent a carRenting a car is slightly different around the globe. The requirements for car rentals in the United States and Canada differ from Car Hire Spain or Car Hire France. Even the phrasing and common names for the service are different!

To rent a car in Europe, you should take the following steps.

Be sure your driver’s license is current. In Western Europe a national license from other Western nations will be accepted almost anywhere, but in Eastern Europe, you should have an international driver’s license. This is something to take care of before you leave on your trip.

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Work with a travel agent or through a respected company to reserve a rental car weeks ahead of time. Many car rental agencies in the United States and Canada have European branches, so you might be able to compare prices and availability online using the same websites you normally use. You can probably book your car online as well.

Reserve the car you want bearing in mind that most cars are standard transmissions. Automatic transmissions may be available, but don’t assume you are getting one unless it is specified. Reserve the car at a location you will be able to pick it up and ideally drop it off again. It is possible to pick up a car at one place and drop it at another, but this can result in large fees.

Make a deposit using a credit card, and be sure to bring the same card with your to the country on your travels, or bring one that is comparable. The charge will be large thanks to fees and taxes, so be sure your card is not near its limit.

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Before your trip you also should review driving rules and tips for the countries you will be driving in. European countries have a much higher fatality rate than the United States, so defensive driving is critical, especially as you may be unfamiliar with the style of transmission, car, and even the side of the road.

Also remember to pack lightly since European cars are small, and plan on paying more than you are used to for the privilege of renting. Car rentals are taxed in Europe up to 33% and insurance can be up to $20 per day. Gas is expensive as well.

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