I’ve been busy earning some traveling money for the last couple of months. That’s why I haven’t posted anything on my site. I had full intentions of sharing with you the process I went through to plan my last trip to Scotland, England, and Ireland, but, because I earned more travel money I have already begun the process of planning my next adventure in the Spring of 2016!
Destination? France, The Netherlands, a little bit of Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Italy, and another jaunt over to Scotland and Northern Ireland while I am so darned close. (Can’t seem to be in that neck of the woods without going to the country I love the most!) I roughly figured out how long it might take me to visit all of those places, hence the name – “100 Day Holiday!”
In my last post, I was talking about dreaming and dreaming big. Visiting Paris has been a life-long dream. I shared my idea with my friend Maria, and she exclaimed: “I’ll go with you to Paris!” So the two of us started saving our money and our air miles for a plane ticket and began visualizing being there and what we wanted to see and do. Now we are actually going! Two other friends that I have traveled with before are also planning on joining us. Maria will only be with us during the Paris section. Still, my other friends, Jack and Debbie, are seriously planning on going even further with me throughout France and possibly beyond.
Instead of sharing with you how I planned my last trip, I am going to share with you each step, while I take it! This is how I plan a trip specially designed for me and some friends who have said they would like to come along as well. If anyone else would like to join me on any part of it – just let me know. This is going to be fun, fun, fun!
In the preliminary stage of planning, the first place I like to go is online to “Google Maps.” Google Maps are the most excellent little traveling tool that I have found. It’s beneficial. Not only is it a great visual of the route and places I intend to visit, but it can hold all the necessary details quite easily for me. I can use unique icons for different types of ‘placemarks’ and type in essential information on them to view later while I am traveling.
For instance, I can use an icon that looks like a person sleeping in a bed for hostels, hotels, or B&B’s, or a flower icon to designate a garden I’d like to visit, perhaps a castle icon, or music symbol for festivals and events I’d like to attend along the way.
Each of the icons also has a small screen that pops up when I click on it, and it has a “description” section where I can type in pertinent information about the place, website links, points of interest, contact info, etc. It’s convenient, and I don’t have to keep all those details in my head or carry around a big heavy book, just take my smartphone and iPad, and I have it made. When I arrive at a place I planned on visiting, I just click on the icons in my travel itinerary map, and I have the necessary info I need and want. I also like to “title” the icons with the date and location so I can tell at a glance where I’m headed next; when and where my next reservation is scheduled (i.e., “3/24 – 4/7 Le Village Hostel, Montmarte, Paris”).
A google map can have many layers also; about 10 total, I think. I like to build one layer with just the lodging locations, for instance. Another layer – driving directions. I also want to have a layer that lists ancestors with the birth and death dates annotated, and the placemarks are located in the town they were from. Yet another layer is unique interest sights I hope to visit; castles, gardens, museums, markets, ancient churchyards, etc. I can turn the layers ‘on’ and ‘off’ depending on what information I want to visually display on my screen and to make it easier to find the detail information I need, or I can have them all ‘on’ so I can see all the details at once. It takes some time to build it, but it’s well worth the effort to be organized so I can relax while I travel, knowing I have the information I need at my fingertips.
I’m also a big fan of Rick Steve’s ‘Europe Through the Back Door’ TV shows on PBS, his guidebooks, and his tour itineraries. (RickSteves.com)
I download the guide books from his website onto my iPad along with free audio walking tours he offers of famous historical places that I listen to while I’m touring that particular site. I haven’t been on one of his tours yet, perhaps one day. Still, for now, I like to look at the places he recommends for his tours, and I like to watch the programs because he provides such excellent informative commentary on the art, history, and culture of a given area and most importantly, he likes the kind of stuff I like. Once I get the primary route figured out and arm myself with the aid of Rick’s guidebook, I retrace my steps to each individual location I have chosen to spend a night or two at and begin the second process of deciding what I want to see and do while I’m there.
If the location I am currently planning is a relatively large place with lots of things to see and do, for instance, Paris or Amsterdam, and I will be staying there for at least a week or two, then I like to create a separate Google map just for that location. Cities and all of their sites to visit can really clog up the “main” map, and it’s easier to find the details on a separate map for that location alone.
The first ‘solo’ trip I ever took was a 3-week vacation to the Hawaiian islands. While I was there, I bought into a timeshare on the big island. That timeshare has long been paid off, and it earns me a week’s vacation every other year. I have accumulated deposited ‘weeks’ from the timeshare and thought it would be great to set up an ongoing search to see if there could be anything available to me while I am in France.
So I did that and lo and behold, I not only found one but two suitable locations on the southern coast of France; one up by Nice near the border of Italy and another further down the coastline near the border of Spain! Those were each available from April 9th until April 23rd, so I booked a week at each location, one week after the other. Afterward, I went back online to Le Village Hostel site and booked 2 weeks in Paris before the timeshare weeks! With 2 weeks on the southern coast of France and 2 weeks in Paris, I’m already set up for a whole month! That was easy!
Now back to Google Maps… Now that I have a couple of reservations, I create a new map and put a placemark on the map using a hotel bed icon for Le Village Hostel and each of the timeshare locations. I’ve begun an itinerary!
I looked at the map of France again and thought it would be nice to travel north from the southern coast toward the coastline on the northwestern side of the country, working my way eventually to Amsterdam and came up with a suitable route that I think might work. The next step will be to find lodging along the path I have chosen.
I really like staying at European hostels for several reasons: they have everything a traveler needs for starters; a clean bed, showers, a place to prepare meals, and best of all – a wide range of fellow travelers – many of whom become friends! I really like the tried-and-true variety that Hosteling International or Hostel World offers. I have learned that I can expect a certain level of professionalism, be served by well-trained helpful staff, be provided with clean and safe suitable dwellings to stay in, and all that for a very reasonable price.
I searched both sites (www.hostelinginternational.com and www.hostelworld.com) and found hostels available for the whole route I thought would be nice. Toulouse north to Bordeaux, then onto the Loire Valley, Rennes, Mt. St. Michel’s, Rouen, and on into Belgium at Bruges & Ghent, and finally through the Netherlands at Rotterdam, Delft, The Hague, and Amsterdam! By the time I got done calculating all the costs from Paris to Amsterdam for the hostels and the timeshares, it worked out at an average of only about $38 per day for lodging for a total of 41 days! That’s incredible!
I really like to have a rental car to travel from place to place. I love the freedom it affords me to stop when and where I desire and to quickly take a different route than planned if the spirit guides me. Also, when I am at the timeshare unit for a week, I can easily take day trips to and fro from the timeshare location and really explore the local area each day without having to mess with train or bus schedules. It’s an added cost, but well worth it. One doesn’t need a car in the big cities. However, public transportation will get you anywhere you want to go in Europe, but once I start touring the countryside, that is the time to rent a car.
I decided to spend a night or two at each of the locations that I placed lodging icons on my map for. Each stop is generally about 100 miles apart; close enough together that I won’t spend all day getting to the next location and will have time for sightseeing along the route.
Here is a picture of the driving route layer on my map from Point A – Paris to Point G – Amsterdam.
This next one shows it with the icons for lodging and what looks like when I click on one of the icons to view the detailed information about that particular place.
It looks like an exciting route, doesn’t it? So far, oh-so-good! In my next post, I will show you the section of the route I hope to take from Amsterdam down through the western side of Germany, Luxembourg, and Switzerland and on into northern Italy. Stay tuned! Maybe, just maybe, one of you might say, “Hey, I want to go there too and join you on this trip!”