I think planning can be part of the fun of travel. It's exciting to look through the guidebooks and internet and determine what things you'd like to see. So, the first thing I did was make a loose itinerary -- more on that later.
It's less fun picking places to stay and making travel reservations. And packing!
Reservations -- Planes, Trains and Beds!
Once we had our dates more or less in mind, we got our air reservations and we opted (somewhat courageously, I think!) to go with a budget airline called WOW. This alarmed many of my friends but the price was $700 less per person compared to major carriers and that was money that could be used to book better or more convenient hotels.
There were pluses and minuses to this. The plus was the price and it was worth it. The staff was great (the landings smooth), the seats comfortable (as comfy as seats in coach can be -- and with good leg room.) There were two minuses to bear in mind, should you decide to use them. To me, they were minor.
The first was as a budget airline, you could book tickets in a variety of categories to allow for baggage or not (and this was nice). But everything else cost. No food is provided, though you can buy a coke for $3.50 and other items. This wasn't a problem for us. We brought food for lunch/dinner and picked up beverages after security in the airport. I give that a no-problem.
The second is the flight time. The WOW planes all go to Iceland where you change planes to the final destination. That adds considerable flight time. It wasn't bad going over -- we left at 1 a.m. and promptly fell asleep on the plane. When we arrived in Paris it was 5:30 p.m. and by the time we made it to the hotel and then ate, it was bed time and we adjusted well to the jet lag. The return home was more challenging.
All in all, I give them a thumbs up, but bear that in mind. (And besides, the planes are purple, inside and out! What's not to love about that!)
I screwed up booking the Eurostar from Paris to London because I didn't realize 7:30 was 7:30 a.m. not p.m. (They use military time!). No harm done but it was an expensive change. A very expensive change.
As for hotels, more on those as we travel along. All were booked in advance and most were very good; no disappointments.
I watched Rick Steves videos on packing and was impressed that I was gone for three weeks with just a carry on suitcase (and a fold-up bag for coming home). But it was still a lot to lug. Here's what I took, after looking at the projected weather report (which is somewhat worthless).
Three long-sleeved tops (black, teal, print); two short-sleeved tops (fuchsia, aqua), a button-up cardigan in a print; a black (unbuttoned) cardigan; a dress-up jacket; a dress-up open shirt that was lightweight to wear like a dress-up jacket; three scarves; two pair of black pants and one pair of casual pants; a raincoat; a t-shirt and yoga pants; three pair of socks; 10 pairs of undies, two bras, tenny-walking shoes and dress-up shoes (I wore them and was miserable). Plus, meds, supplies, etc. (Those supplies include bubble wrap, plastic bags, band aids, scissors, etc., along with maps, power converters, cameras, chargers, pocket umbrella, trip info and a book for the plane.)
I also had a long, wide, loosely knit scarf -- more like a shawl -- and a pillowcase. I used the shawl both to wear and to stuff in the pillowcase for the plane or when the hotel pillows were too big.
Rick had five shirts, a pair of jeans and a pair of Dockers (and maybe a third pair but I don't think so) and two pairs of shoes, along with all the underwear and such. Hey, he's used to packing in two paniers for the back of his bike -- and that includes his sleeping bag, tent and stove, so I can't really make comparisons!)
Let's just say that when the October weather was hitting 70 or higher, I got REALLY sick of those two short-sleeved tops (which were washed, should you think we were slackers!) And the last few days that printed cardigan got a work out!
It wasn't bad. But next time I need to rethink a few things on the wardrobe line. (I could drop one pair of black pants, for example, and the dress shoes.) Still, for me, that was a miracle!
Of course, by the time I started buying books and things... well... luggage gets heavy. I know. I could have shipped it. I didn't want to!
- When checking airlines, consider budget airlines but be sure you know what you are getting and if you are willing to sacrifice a little time along the way.
- Make sure that if you are doing reservations you are clear about a.m. and p.m. and/or military time!
- Rick and I disagree on this but I would rather pay a little more for a hotel that is conveniently located that continually being farther afield from tube or metro or bus stations. Make sure you have figured taxes into the budget (most of the ones we used included tax in the price). Remember, most hotels (and B and Bs) include breakfast. Eating a lot in the morning can save you a bit later in the day (unless you are Rick and want lunch.)
- Remember, European hotel rooms in older hotels tend to be much smaller than what we might be used to at a Mariott or Quality Inn. Don't be surprised if your room is very cozy!
- If you need a lower-floor room, be sure to ask when you reserve. The first floor is one flight up (and so on) so if steps are a problem, keep that in mind.
- When packing, remember that weather is fickle. And watch out for the shoes, which take up a lot of space and may not be worn enough to matter.
- This is me, but I found both Paris and London to be far more casual than they were six years ago. And besides, you're not going to see most of those people again anyway. Be comfortable because if your feet aren't comfy your whole body will be off for weeks.
Next time, Paris!