I can now officially claim to be going on vacation “next week.” The countdown to Europe and unplugging from all things work is speeding up.
When I book vacations I do most of my planning and coordinating months in advance. I research, determine basic itineraries, hotel stays, and basic logistics. Why so far out? Well, because what usually happens is that for weeks leading up to my vacation I’m in a frenzy of work activities. And, next thing I know my vacation is here.
I also coordinate logistics months out because I want to get the best airfare, flight routes and book as much in advance at cheaper rates. Take the train for example. We already have our train tickets for roundtrip fare from Munich to Salzburg. By purchasing the ticket in advance on the easy to use Bahn website we’re saving money. Course, we now have to travel on those exact trains but that’s about the only thing we’re locked into.
It’s also been interesting that during my last several business trips I ran into other travelers who have spent time in Munich and the surrounding area. I’ve received names of their favorite beer halls, restaurants and sites worth a visit.
So, what have I used to plan this trip? Below are some of the primary sites I visited to help determine what, where and how:
- Rick Steves – www.ricksteves.com. While I’m not a fan of organized tours, I’m a huge fan of his travel books and I check out his tours to see where they go and stay.
- Using both RS, as well as Frommers and Fodors, I checked out their recommendations for Germany. This helped determine that most of what I wanted to see and do was going to be down in Munich and the surrounding areas.
- Eyewitness Travel & Rick Steves Books. The two books I take on nearly every trip are Eyewitness Travel and Rick Steves. Between these I check out recommended routes, trip ideas and places to stay. Also, make sure the main sites you want to visit will be open when you’re there.
- TripAdvisor – can’t live without it to get recommendations on hotels and read reviews. Also the comment boards are a wonderful resource.
- Booking.com and Venere.com – I usually switch between these sites and TripAdvisor for booking hotels. Yes, TA links to these and provides bookings but I usually use these sites directly.
- Direct to the hotel website. Yes, I know. I’m that kind of Type A person. After checking out the pricing and availability on the travel sites, I also check out the hotels website directly to see if their pricing is different. Frequently, upon emailing the hotel directly I get better rates and can request the exact type of room/bed situation I’m looking for.
- Bahn.com. Website for Germany’s train system. Determine connections, pricing and travel logistics between cities. Also with the books determine if I can do everything I want to do via train or if I need to get a car. This trip required a car as well as train tickets.
Ok, so that’s a lot of planning and may be overkill but I am rather particular about the kind of experience I want when I go to Europe. After all, I’m investing money and time into my vacation and I want to have the best vacation possible. And, while it may sound rather planned what I end up with is a basic itinerary knowing how I’m getting someplace and where I’m staying once I get there.
So, what’s the German itinerary look like, here you go:
- Wednesday – depart from the US
- Thursday – arrive in Munich in the afternoon. Take the train from the airport (tips using the travel books) to the main train station. 10 minute walk from the train station to the hotel. Hotel Uhland (booked for 3 nights).
- Friday – explore Munich (probably do one of the self guided walking tours from the Rick Steves’ book)
- Saturday – likely a day trip to Dachau as well as other sites from the book
- Sunday – check out of the hotel and take the morning train to Salzburg. Check into Hotel Mozart for two nights and explore the city. Perhaps do one of the self guided walks from the tour books.
- Monday – still enjoying Salzburg
- Tuesday – check out of hotel and take the late morning train back to Munich. From the Munich train station pick up the AVIS rental car and head south to Fussen. Stay at Hotel Fantasia for three nights in Fussen.
- Wednesday/Thursday – activities include visiting the castles and Garmisch & the Zugspitze. Lots of other charming villages in the area too
- Friday – check out of hotel and spend the rest of the afternoon visiting sites and villages. Return the rental car by 8pm to AVIS at the Munich Airport. Staying Friday night at the Hotel Kempinski Airport hotel.
- Saturday – early morning flight back to the US (hence the airport hotel the night before).
So, that’s it. Perhaps more planned than what some people would do, but still pretty loose by other folks standards. There’s enough time to simply relax without running from town to town and changing hotels every night. But, still enough diversity to really explore southern Germany, Bavaria and the Alps. I can’t wait!