Posts Tagged ‘planning’

The Plan

A... slug?

A... slug?

I did some consulting work today and helped another person get onto Facebook.

It seems to me that a good resource for many people (mostly mid-forties to mid-seventies) would be a Facebook Primer. Something that gives them information on how to sign up, what it is used for, how to use it and basic privacy information. At least if I wrote one I could print it out and give it to people to help them transition into the new world of social networking.

So far I found that people who are motivated and want to get on Facebook (self-employed professionals) are interested in how to use it and what it is good for.

Meanwhile other demographics (my grandmother say) see it as an this new fangled thing they have to get on because one of their social groups is posting the photos to it (or a group members relative at least) so now that have to be on it dammit.

Maybe a basic introduction to The Facebooks would help many out, or at least give me a reference for setting people up.

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Money Matters




Tied with Time as the most important factor to consider when traveling is money. While planning the trip I recommend to carefully consider how much everything will cost and find the best deals for getting around and housing. Once out in the world and traveling just stick loosely to a budget initially set out and don’t worry about it. Otherwise the entire trip will be spent looking up the best exchange rate and counting foreign coins (unless you collect coins in which case it is fun to do).

After a time and duration of a trip is set then buy transportation over as soon as possible. If you are in the U.S. then getting over to Europe can be the most expensive part. This may put you off to airfare within Europe but inter-country flights can be cheaper and faster then other means (more on this tomorrow). 

Make a budget based on how much you will spend each day, averaging out large transportation costs and accommodation. Let us say that the trip is fourteen days in Germany with a side trip to Switzerland. Given a total budget of $3000 the first things to do is subtract off airfare to make it, lets say, $2000. You now have $142 dollars a day to spend on food, attractions, transportation and a place to sleep. Once you have this number I would recommend converting it to the local currency (euros) and working with it from there. So $142 would become €90.

With a daily amount I would suggest you make pessimistic estimations of daily expenses. For food I would say €20 for dinner and €20 for the rest of the day. If hotels/hostels are picked correctly you could have breakfast included which would result in roughly €30 a day for food instead of €40. Since my experience is exclusively hostels I would say €25 – €30 a night, some places could be as low as €8 a night (like East Berlin). This leaves €20 a day for day trips, museums, or whatever looks interesting as you walk around that morning.

Try to keep at least a rough count of how much you spent in a day, that way at the end you can look and think: “I only spent €70 today, that lets me spend €110 tomorrow”. Creating a rough guide of daily expenditures helps manage a budget, if there are large expenses you can plan for those separate of the daily expenses.

Traveling in hostels at the age of twenty I found myself spending roughly $100 a day. Since I was based out of Edinburgh and not the U.S. I did not have to factor in the transatlantic airfare. 

Another money issue; how to get it there. I used a mixture of ATM card, Credit Card and Travelers’ Checks. In retrospect I did not need the travelers check (I got them from my Dad). There are plenty of ATMs everywhere and every one I used had an option at the beginning to switch to english. For a credit card I was a Capital One card since there were no transaction fees for exchange rates so I get a good rate. If you are planning to use a card a lot I would only use it at large stores or hostel/hotels, small stores have to pay for the card or may pass their fee onto you. Besides every small business owner loves to be paid in cash anyway.

For converting prices on the go I find two methods work best. The first is write down some benchmark numbers, say €5, €10, €20, €50, €100 and use those to gauge prices. The second was pioneered by my grandmother (an avid traveler) she priced everything in the local cost for beer. So a €15 train ride would be about four to five beers. Choose an commonly bought item figure out the cost of it in the new currency and then use that to gauge prices while working through cities.

The dollar may be at a low point right now but if you start waiting for it to recover you may pass up your chance to travel and it is hard to pay back regrets.

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There is no one "travel season".

There is no one "travel season".

With destinations in mind it is now important to figure out how long the trip will be and what time of year to travel. The length of the trip could be determined by how much vacation time is available (be it from a job or from a school) or by how much money is available. When I traveled I was limited by time, I left after classes finished and had to return when final exams started. Others who I met (mainly Australians and New Zealanders) were traveling around until they ran out of money. I am writing mostly to those constrained by a time limit more so then a monetary limit but I will write about it towards the end of this series.

When you place your trip could already be determined or slightly flexible. If it is already determined then the direction of the trip becomes important. My trip through Europe started on Easter and ended in April. I could have started in the north and worked my way down to Italy except that I had two seasonal events determine the flow of my trip. The first was that I wanted to be in Italy (Florence in particular) for Easter and the second was that I wanted to be in The Netherlands when the tulips were blooming (mid April). So these seasonally dependent events determined the flow of my trip. So when picking out destinations look for festivals or holidays in those locations and plan the trip to follow those events.

Some events to consider:

Those are the ones I can recommend from going myself of being there near those dates. Since I was not in Europe during the summer I don’t know good events around then.

If you are able to pick when your trip will take place then seasons and weather patterns might guide when you go. Since I did not have much choice of when to go I could have had bad luck but I almost always had good weather. Any weather can be good weather if you are prepared for it. I visited Copenhagen in December, it was 1 degree Celsius (34 degree Fahrenheit) the entire time. It rained the entire time I was in Italy and Florence in March. I was rained on at St. Andrews. But I was prepared for bad weather in each case and still had a great time. I have never really had the opportunity to travel “in season”, I have mostly gone out in the shoulder or off seasons. With the right clothes and maybe an umbrella or two traveling to Europe can be done any time (though some places do close in winter due to snow). 

In some countries, such as Scotland, the possibility of rain does not really change at any point during the year. Weather also changes faster then normally expected (for me at least). So if the day starts of clear and sunny rain may still be on its way. Every day for nine months I carried a small umbrella with me just in case, I never regretted it.

The best tip I received was to have militant optimism while traveling. Everything is an experience.

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Start Planning


Need Directions?

Need Directions?

Last spring I took a three week backpacking trip starting on Good Friday and ending in April. It took me a while to plan my trip and figure out all the details. I want to share the steps I took to plan and have an excellent trip through Europe without spending precious travel time worrying about the big picture. After however many segments I write in this I hope the end result is a good solid itinerary for a trip lacking in regrets.

I feel a good place to start is in planning the trip.

The first and most important questions to ask is: where do you want to go? This answer could be specific with a small german town where the family came from as the destination or even a general “Italy sounds lovely”. But in either case it is an important question to ask.

In my case I wanted to travel through Europe for three weeks. That was my answer to the question. So I bought a guidebook for Europe. I tried using online travel resources such as wikitravel, though I prefer to have a real paper book in front of me. A side bonus is the book (or the main book) used for planning the trip can go with you in case plans need to be changed. Plans will likely need to be changed.

For books I have found that those by Rick Steves to be excellent. At least for destinations. I only used the books for city guides and to find destinations; not all my destinations though.

After finding some cities or countries that are interesting write down an itinerary. It can be rough. My first one only listed countries and approximate days. This gives definition to a trip and allows it to be shaped instead of remaining as floating ideas and “I always wanted to go to…” phrases. 

Remember that an itinerary is always flexible, even during a trip. I had initially planned to go to Haarlem in The Netherlands, after talking to fellow travelers a week into my trip I changed it around and decided to stay in Brugge, Belgium for the last few days of my journey.

For an example here was trip itinerary after working on it for a month (not full time of course) and changing it on the fly (destination based on where I spent that night):

  • March 20: East Midlands Airport 
  • March 21 (Good Friday): Rome
  • March 22-24 (Saturday through Easter onto Monday): Florence
  • March 25-26: Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy
  • March 27: Night train to Munich
  • March 28-29: Munich
  • March 30-31: Rothenburg ob de Tauber
  • April 1-3: Bacharach (Rhine River Valley)
  • April 4-7: Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
  • April 8-10: Amsterdam
  • April 11-12: Brugge, Belgium

A quick note, I started and ended my trip in Edinburgh, Scotland because I spent last year studying abroad at Edinburgh University. Also some days were day trips out of the areas or spent traveling by train if need be

Tomorrow I hope to cover budgeting for the trip, both time and money.

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