Monday, January 10, 2011

Travel logistics

While living in the US, A. and I did several road trips. In general we'd have an idea of where the highlights of the trip would be and then would divide up the days according to how much we liked a place and how much we felt like driving. This meant that we usually did not have any hotels booked (except sometimes for a special date like New Year's Eve when I got an amazing deal on Priceline). As we were getting tired of traveling we'd check the road map for the next town and call up orbitz or hotwire to book the cheapest deal (we don't have fancy phones... they only make calls and write text messages). This means we usually got a road side USD$29.99 deal which was perfect for an overnight stop. Sometimes we also went camping, and then we'd stop at State Parks and ask for vacancies (this only failed once, in the Florida Keys between Xmas and New Years, when we ended up setting up our tent in a KOA packed with RVs... A. vowed never to spend another night at a KOA ;).
Yeah right... Planning? Validating?? Booking???

Now in Europe travel is quite different. First of all, no car: we don't even have driver's licenses! (US driver licenses expire on the same date as your US visa... and we never bothered to get them again here since we don't even have a car). Trains and buses abound, but you need to check ahead of time to make sure you have enough time for connections, etc. Plus, ironically, flights are usually cheaper, especially when booked 2+ weeks ahead of time. This means more travel planning is needed... Plus, hotels are not chains (good!) but they come in all sorts of qualities (good and bad). So some more online research is needed before booking.

In our Spain trip I had planned the transport and accommodation for the whole first week (a personal feat!) and even printed them all out (just to forget them at home...)! After the first week we were meeting a couple of friends that were traveling in Morocco and would cross to Spain to travel with us for a week. All of us agreed that we'd decide where to go where we met and no plans were made. Overall it worked quite well, internet research at hostels about next destinations helped a lot and we even "found" a place like this:
Ronda: a little Roman, then Moor, then Spanish town right on the edge of a cliff.

  The only issue was where to stay. While we liked the option of having a kitchen at hostels it usually does not pay to stay there as a couple. Hostels are usually 50% of the price of a cheap hotel per person, meaning that if you travel by yourself it cuts costs by half, but if you are 2 people it comes to about the same cost as a hotel. Some hostels are worth it when traveling with more people because you also have a social area and other amenities but the ones we encountered were VERY bare-bones. The other thing is that by deciding where to go on a whim we also ended up spending more money than otherwise in trains and buses. Oh well... the pros and cons of flexibility...

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