Be prepared

Taking the direct route from Marseille to Carcassonne

It’s been a long time since either Bill or I were actively involved with anything to do with the Boy Scouts but their motto has stuck with both of us and it follows us, especially on our travels. On our most recent train trip coming home from Marseille, an online mapping program showed our route as going on/over/through the Mediterranean Sea rather than on the tracks that hug the shoreline going through Nimes, Montpellier, and other cities you can see on the screen shot here. Luckily we kept our heads above water by consulting the paper itinerary we had printed out earlier to confirm the stops and the times we would be at each one. I like to do the same for city maps that come to the rescue when the mapping app on the phone displays, “Can’t find a way there.”

Because we often use the trains, a lot of structure is automatically built into our travels. While some might find that confining, we think of it as an advantage that cuts down on the amount of decisions that have to be made. If a destination has a station, then we can easily get there; if it doesn’t then we investigate what other forms of public transit exist to allow us to visit. In either case there’s no concern about parking spots, traffic jams, the driver missing beautiful views, or having to drink only water with lunch. We typically pack a picnic to take onboard and that can include a bottle of wine. Our friend Teri laughed when she learned that we actually take 2 bottles, “just in case”. You never know when you might not like the first one or, more often, you make an acquaintance across the aisle with whom you want to share that extra bounty.

Ready for a picnic

Before the Internet was available we consulted printed guidebooks to find out as much as possible about a vacation spot. Now we rely on tourism office websites for maps, suggested itineraries, discount cards, calendars of events, and entrance tickets we might want to buy in advance to ensure seeing a particular exhibit. Consulting a list of a country’s national holidays can help you avoid closings and/or guide you to special celebrations. Using the street view of an online mapping site lets you “walk” an unknown neighborhood so that you can get familiar with your new surroundings in advance of your arrival. Even before any of those sites, however, the first place we go to is Rome2Rio (link below) that shows us all of the options for getting from Point A to Point B.

Once a trip is completely planned with accommodations, transportation, sites to see, restaurants, markets to visit, alternative travel schedules, etc. we print out all of the confirmations and place them in a folder. We can then go through the papers, day-by-day, to ensure that we haven’t overlooked anything. That step alone brings a lot of peace of mind.

Sorry, closed? Not on our watch

We’ve been accused of not being spontaneous by having so much planned in advance. Perhaps, but we’ve never been disappointed either by showing up when a shop was closed, aimlessly wandered the streets in search of an open restaurant, or arrived in a new city without a clue where anything was located. A 1950s ad campaign for a transatlantic cruise line said, “Getting there is half the fun!” For us, that certainly applies to train travel but we would have to add, “Planning is half the fun too!”


3 thoughts on “Be prepared

  1. Wow! Very impressive. We should be more like you two when we travel – and I’m grateful to you for letting us take a couple of pages out of your playbook for future excursions. Rome2Rio is great site I didn’t know existed – thank you!

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  2. I do the same. I use Evernote extensively sometimes months in advance where I have folders for each vacation / trip I plan. Currently I am working on La Rochelle in the coming weeks, Italy (Florence) next June, Morocco next February, Paris in February.

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