I don’t wanna!

a couple argues over a map pointing in opposite directionsThe best decision Trisha and I ever made concerning travel decisions was to do whatever the other person wanted: I’ll see whatever you want, and you’ll see whatever I want. Done. I can only assume this saved multiple arguments.

When we went to Europe in 1999, we visited 5 cities in 12 days. It was aggressive. Our game plan was to see the ‘must see’ sites of each, checking off as many boxes as possible.

Agreeing to see what Trisha wanted was easy. The only time I honestly thought about not going was the botanical garden in Barcelona. I had no interest in that — I’m not a gardener. Not even a little. But I had made a deal, and I went. It was one of the most memorable parts of the trip. Perhaps due to my low expectations, or sheer lack of knowledge before hand, but that is something I never would have experienced under my own planning.

When you’re planning your trip, don’t limit your itinerary to only things everyone will like. Take the opportunity to explore the interests of your companions. You may just be surprised how much you enjoy it too.

Only pay once

paying eurosThe best advice I can give for minding your budget while on vacation is to only pay for things once. I know that sounds like ridiculous advice, but it happens.

Here’s how I know this can be a problem: I paid twice to take the train through Europe in 1999. It was clear Trisha and I had two strikes against us: we were very excited; we had no idea what we were doing.

We had established a strategy early on, which we thought would save us both time and money. In the end, I still believe it did. I’m also aware that we probably through away something in the neighborhood of $250.

Our plan was to spend every-other night at a hotel, and to spend the alternate nights on the train relocating us to a new destination. These were our general guidelines, but we didn’t want to waste the day sitting on the train. Though not the most comfortable for sleeping, we were able to save both time and money by being a little put out. It was a sacrifice we were willing to make.

Key to this plan was the Eurorail Student Pass. I believe in 1999 we paid $250 or $275 USD for each student pass. Eurorail, the amazing train system of Europe, define a student as anyone under 26.

Here’s where we went wrong.

I think the pass is meant to allow you to just get on any train you want. Present your pass as method of payment when reserving your ticket. Our first train ride was Lisbon, Portugal to Barcelona, Spain. It turned out to be the perfect storm of ignorance and confusion. The ticket agent in Lisbon told us we would have to pay for our tickets despite having the student passes. I’m not sure if we did something wrong, or if there was a language problem, if she was new or if we were just stupid enough to pay it… but we paid for that, and every other ticket on our trip. It didn’t feel like a hardship, but after the fact it certainly felt like the whole situation didn’t go as planned.

This lesson isn’t just about trains; it’s about asking questions and really understanding what is included in your package. Whether you’re taking a cruise or a road trip, don’t be afraid to ask questions (and ask again, if necessary). What is included, and more importantly, what is not. What do they mean when they say “all-inclusive” or “transportation optional”? If you aren’t sure, kindly ask someone from the hotel/resort/train/airline/etc. It is their job, after all, to assist.

A visit to my good friend, Dewey

The first lesson to getting an A vacation on a B (or C!) budget, is that you have to consider every expense as part of the vacation. Wasteful spending isn’t necessary. Ever.

I like to make my vacations last as long as possible, as I don’t get to travel nearly as much as I would like. So for me, planning the trip can be a juicy precursor to the actual trip. Beware: you can easily go over budget on travel research. I have two sections of my bookcase devoted to destination guides and local history, many for places I have never actually been. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Dreaming is free, and planning can be just as cost-effective.

The planning for the Great Italian Getaway (GIG) 2015 began at my local library.

Here’s the thing. There are hundreds – HUNDREDS! – of travel books for every country, region or city you could ever hope to visit. What are you going to do? Buy them all?! (If your answer to this is yes, I should kindly tell you that we are very different people and, regrettably, this blog is probably not for you.) I also don’t typically have a preference between the large guide publishers. Each will do, and inevitably about 85% of the content will be basically identical. I can’t settle the arguement, however, as to which really captures what I want with that remaining 15%.

And because I was at the library, and they are FREE, I got two. Frommers 2013 and Fodors 2012 Italy have found their way to my home.

Over Thanksgiving 1999, Trisha and I took our first European vacation. London, Lisbon, Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, London. In twelve days. (And no, I have still not seen “If it’s Tuesday, if must be Belgium.”) While that trip contained many stops, it did not actually require much research. The GIG. This one is going to require research.

Trisha will be making many of the choices on locations, but I can soundly say I know very little about Italy. Generally speaking, I would say there are three types of places I would like to see: cities, beaches, and wine country. Three places, three weeks. Seems straight forward. Maybe… Maybe not. That’s why we research.

Later. Much later. When we have locations more narrowed down, I will buy some books. (Since this post was originally published, I have purchased two newer editions.) Maybe I’ll buy some apps. If my technology will work in Italy, that is. For now, I’ll be working my way through the free books at the library.

Less go!

The first lesson to getting an A vacation on a B (or C!) budget, is that you have to consider every expense as part of the vacation. Wasteful spending isn’t necessary. Ever.

I like to make my vacations last as long as possible, as I don’t get to travel nearly as much as I would like. So for me, planning the trip can be a juicy precursor to the actual trip. Beware: you can easily go over budget on travel research. I have two sections of my bookcase devoted to destination guides and local history, many for places I have never actually been. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Dreaming is free, and planning can be just as cost-effective.

The planning for the Great Italian Getaway (GIG) 2015 began at my local library.

See, here’s the thing. There are hundreds – HUNDREDS! – of travel books for every country…

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How’d we get here?

I do believe its time for another adventureI have been on four really great vacations in my adult life . (It is what it is…)  My first whirlwind, 12-day tour of Europe (London, Lisbon, Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, London). Twelve days lounging on the beaches of Grand Caymen.  A week in Lodz, Poland. (Lodz means ‘boat’ in Polish. It is no where near water. There you go.) Five days in Kona, Hawaii.

While it may sound counter-intuitive, if you live on the east coast and someone asks you to go to Hawaii for five days, seriously consider not going. Five days is just enough time to get your time-zones completely screwed up for a month.

It’s painful.

Each of these vacations began with a question. What do you think about Thanksgiving in London? How would you feel about someplace hot for Christmas? Have you considered Hawaii? Why not come for a visit?

Be open to the adventure, and ask questions of your friends. Be open to having others join you. They bring new ideas, other skills, and options. Splitting a room may mean sacrificing a bit of privacy, but it might also mean a great dinner at a fancy restaurant or getting to stay an extra couple of days.

It begins with an idea

Just a note – the trip to Italy mentioned in this post has been postponed until 2016.

When you close your eyes and think about a great vacation, what do you think of? Does that picture change when you think about your reality? Maybe, but it doesn’t have to. In this blog, I’ll share some of my tricks and tips to getting the vacation of your dreams while I begin the process of planning the best, longest, most expensive trip I’ve taken. In 2015, I will be spending three glorious weeks in Italy. Where? Don’t know. Doing what? You’ll know as soon as I do!

Or, as soon as we do. This will be my fourth more-than-I-should-expect vacay with one of my best friends, Trisha. We’ve been friends since 7th grade. For those keeping score, that’s 24 years. (27 now!) Mind blowing. You’ll learn more about the lessons we’ve learned and watch our Italian celebration take shape in later posts.

First things first. Every vacation boils down to a few simple decisions, but the list doesn’t have to be big or scary. Everything is an option, and those options are what make a vacation attainable or out of reach.

Who’s going?
Some vacations are made for two, some for groups. Some are girl trips and sometimes you bring all the kids and grandparents. The exact answer to the question doesn’t matter, but you need an answer to determine other details. If you have to house 16 people, you might have to consider changing the timing of your vacation.

Where are you going?
Sometimes, this really matters. Sometimes, it doesn’t. Both are fine, and make the process easier and harder. If you want to go to Italy, the destination matters. If you want to go someplace hot, or a rain forest or a glacier, you’ll be able to shop around for deals.

What are you doing?
Trisha and I have have trips scheduled down to the day, and we’ve laid on the beach for a week. It’s good to have ideas and its good to be flexible.

When do you want to go?
You can go in vacation whenever you want: spring, summer, fall, or winter. Holiday or regular weekend. And you can get good deals any of those times… If you plan way in advance or get lucky at the last minute. It’s all possible.

How long are you going?
Long weekend? A month? Don’t care? It’s all ok.

What’s your budget?
Every. Person. Has. A. Budget. $600? $6,000? Whatever it is, just be honest with yourself. This is no time to freak out or throw in the towel. Be realistic, for better or worse. There are ways to go for less, calm down.

Six questions. I’ll help you answer them in the way which gives you the best vacation possible.

Less go!

When you close your eyes and think about a great vacation, what do you think of? Does that picture change when you think about your reality? Maybe, but it doesn’t have to. In this blog, I’ll share some of my tricks and tips to getting the vacation of your dreams while I begin the process of planning the best, longest, most expensive trip I’ve taken. In 2015, I will be spending three glorious weeks in Italy. Where? Don’t know. Doing what? You’ll know as soon as I do!

Or, as soon as we do. This will be my fourth more-than-I-should-expect vacay with one of my best friends, Trisha. We’ve been friends since 7th grade. For those keeping score, that’s 24 years. Mind blowing. You’ll learn more about the lessons we’ve learned and watch our Italian celebration take shape in later posts.

First things first. Every vacation boils down to a…

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