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Organize your sightseeing - Curt Yeomans

When you go someplace on a trip, do you ever say, "So much to do, so little time to do it," to yourself?

It's OK if you say, "Yes." We don't get much time to do everything when we visit a place on vacation. When I went to London last summer, I had a list of about three dozen places I wanted to go visit over a three-day period.

How does one get all of that done in a short period of time? It's simple: Go on tours, when it's the best option.

The premium-level tours, the ones where you have a guide and you make stops to do sightseeing, are not cheap. I won't lie about that. Sometimes, they can exceed $100 in price.

Still, if you want the optimum sightseeing experience, this can be the best way to go.

By doing a tour, you can fit lengthy stops at the Tower of London and St. Paul's Cathedral; a viewing of the changing of the guard at Windsor Castle; a drive-by tour of Westminster Abbey, New Scotland Yard, and No. 10 Downing Street; lunch at a pub near Trafalgar Square, and a ride on the London Eye, into a seven-hour window.

And you still have time afterward to get a closer look at some of the places you only drove past on the tour.

Here is how I suggest you plan your sightseeing: Take tours and plan it out before you leave home. The reason why I recommend pre-planning the tours is that many tour companies require you to print out an e-mail voucher to use as admission for the tour.

Making a list of what you want to see is the first step you should take. Go out and find as many travel resources as you can get your hands on to find out what's available. This includes books and online resources.

Travel expert, Rick Steves, has a web site and a great series of books focusing on European travel. He gives lots of details on how to get the most bang for your buck, and how to protect yourself on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

There are other places to turn for travel information, though. DK Eyewitness Travel, for example, does a great series of "Top 10" travel books, which are basically made up of lists, such as 10 sites to see, 10 places to eat, 10 places to sleep, and 10 places to shop. This series includes books on cities around the world, including towns right here in the U.S.A.

Once you have your list, you can begin looking for tours. Google is all you really need for this. Just type in the name of the place you're going, and the word "tours," and see what comes up.

There are four things you need to look for when picking a tour: itinerary, price, amenities, and reputation. The itinerary part means finding tours that go to the places you want to see. You want a tour that hits the largest amount of sites on your "to see" list.

You also want a tour that hits the largest number of sites at the best price possible. The amenities part is key, because you need to know what services -- such as hotel pick-up -- are offered on the tour. Sometimes tour services that require you to be at a certain place, at a certain time early in the day, will offer hotel pick-up to get you to your designated meeting point.

The final thing, reputation, is perhaps the most important part of all. When you find a tour company that looks like it offers what you want, you should then check around the Internet and see what other travelers have to say about the company.

You don't want to pay your money and go someplace exotic, only to find out that great tour company was really a scam, offers really bad service, or misled you on what you'd do on the tour.

Follow these steps, and you'll get to see a lot of places in a short amount of time.

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 247 or via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.