People often ask how we go about planning our trips. Needless to say, our travel list is quite long and we are slowly chipping away at it. Firstly, we decide how long we are going to be away. That gives us an idea how many places we can visit in this time frame, and of course, do them justice. It is not an exercise of how many places we can see, must enjoy the experience….savour!
Once we narrow down where we are going, we start looking at the logistics. Can we get from point “A”to point “B”and onward to point “C” in a reasonable time period and at a reasonable cost. If the answer is no, or if it is too expensive, we revise our plans. If the answer is yes, then ….full speed ahead….
The next thing to decide is where will you fly into and where will fly out of. Sometimes these differ as you may not be doing a round trip ending in the same place you started. Alternatively, you have to consider the cost of flying into and out of different cities. Sometimes the cost for this is quite expensive and it might more sense to fly in an out of the same city and simply use a low cost airline to get you back to the original city.
Robin and I love flying with KLM. Their service is wonderful, food is great and they have a layover program in Amsterdam, their hub. To take advantage of this program, you fly into Amsterdam and prior to flying to your next destination, you can spend a few days in Amsterdam and continue to your next destination at no extra cost. Air France has a similar program in Paris, unfortunately for us, we cannot get a direct flight to Paris on Air France from Calgary. We would have to fly with a stopover in Toronto or Montreal, and our preference is to fly direct to Europe, which KLM does from Calgary.
As we age, we now travel with a few more comforts. Usually fly comfort class on overnight flights to Europe. The extra leg room is worth the cost! Depending on what transport is available from airports to cities, we sometimes opt for train, such as Paris or at times take shuttles which drop you off at your hotel/accomodation (Amsterdam a good city to take shuttles – the train from Schippol drops you off near the harbour, usually too far to schelp your suitcase to hotel!)
In the past five years, we have opted to stay in apartments whenever we are in a city for more than 3 nights. Much more comfortable than hotel rooms and gives you the option to eat in; also much more affordable. When trying to decide where to stay in a large city, I usually do research on the internet and refer to travel books from the library. I use VRBO, AirBnB, Booking.Com and local rental agencies. VRBO now charging a service fee, annoying! In large cities one can always find reputable rental agencies. Travel books will often reference these agencies.
Once you have decided your trip itinerary, you then have to decide how you are going to get around. Will you travel via local tranportation such as the subway or local buses or rent a car.
A city like Nice, France is definitely somewhere you do not need a car. You can travel to so many nearby villages and towns via local buses and trains. We have even gone into Italy on the train from Nice.
Conversely, on our last European trip we rented a car as we travelled to a few cities in the Netherlands, the Alsace Lorraine area of France then onward to Switzerland and finally Belgium and back to Amsterdam. We rented a car the day we were leaving Amsterdam. This was a short trip and I had booked all of our hotels ahead of time, so I ensured that parking was available either at the hotel or nearby. Better to know ahead of time and not be suprised with lack of parking. Parking can be an issue in a lot of European towns/cities and often there is a charge for parking.
If our first destination is a large city that we have not visited before, we will often do a Hop On – Hop Off bus to get our bearings. A good way to get a sense of a city.