In just over a month (!) Eric and I are taking a trip to Europe. The last time I was there was in January 2012, coming off of four months in Florence and a month backpacking across the country with one of my best friends. I’ve been trying to get back ever since! Our trip in April is a two-week adventure through Krakow, Wroclaw, Dresden, and Prague.
So, for the very first Travel Talk, a series about my insatiable travel habit, I wanted to give some background on the trip I’ll be taking in April, and about how I plan my trips. And I’ll sprinkle in photos from various adventures to keep you interested!
I begin with some general research about the places I might want to go. I’m an extremely visual person, so Pinterest is usually key for this. I work with Eric to decide what’s appealing to us at that time – food is always key for both of us, architecture for me, the possibility to relax for Eric. I select a bunch of cities in the same region, and look among them to choose. Then I begin to create some sort of rough timeline for the trip based on how many days per city, plus travel considerations. This gets rearranged dozens of times as the cities change and as we decide where we really want to go this time.
Then I’ll start looking at flights, hostels/apartments, and transit between cities. This is very meshed in with choosing the cities, but it helps me make important decisions. For long trips I try to take an open-jaw approach, arriving in and leaving from different cities. It’s usually just as cheap and it extends the amount of time we spend in each place.
When booking, I always buy flights first. In my opinion they’re the most important thing to have locked down. I’ve read various things about the best time to purchase, but I have a few requirements: 1) I have the money in my bank account. 2) My time off has been approved. 3) The price has held steady for a couple of weeks but is not getting any cheaper. For me I think this tends to be about 6 months out from the trip.
After flights we get into the details of how many days/nights to spend in each place, and booking accommodation. This is mostly dependent on what you want to do in each city and how long it takes to travel between them. We’re staying in hostels and an Airbnb apartment, which I’ll cover more in another post. I do book them all in advance. It gives me peace of mind and allows me to plan other things more thoroughly.
After accommodation I plan transit between cities. I love, love, love trains in Europe but have found that for this particular trip they are not the cheapest option, so we’re often taking buses instead. Some can be booked in advance, but other times it’s better to wait until you’re in the city. In any case it’s most important to know where the stations are and how long it takes to get from place to place.
Sistine Chapel Ceiling, January 2012.
Finally, we get to plan our daily activities. I’m trying to take a more relaxed approach to this trip, meaning that I’m still planning several attractions for us to see, but also leaving us more free time to eat and wander. But I still find it crucial to plan some specifics, as certain days of the week or times of day are better for viewing different places. There will be a post on this as well.
I hope you’ll find these posts enjoyable and inspirational. Let me know in the comments where you’d most like to travel.