I have a sort of set way I go about planning my itinerary.
I borrow travel books and look at guided tours for ideas of places and trips and read blog entries and online pieces, like this one.
After booking the flights on any of our long travels, I roughly plot out the trip.
This trip to Germany MUST include a visit to my step-father’s family in Koblenz, several days in my mother’s town of birth, Bremen, and a tour around my grandmother’s birth place, Ostfriesland. We also have to visit a friend who is working in Switzerland – one, because we want to catch up with him as he is a great friend and two, we will be able to stay with him, making Switzerland affordable for us.
Places I want to visit are put in around the must dos. After calculating distances and travel times between the places, I refine the itinerary. Drop places off, add more in. More places are thrown in the mix – should we pop up to Prague, what about Berlin, Bruges? Why are we only going for 6 weeks? We need months!
I don’t want to spend more than 5 hours on a train in any one day. And we don’t want to be on the move every day or even every second day. I drop some places from an overnight stay to a day trip.
Originally, we had planned to finish in Italy, walking the Cinque Terre before my knees succumb to arthritis. But the time spent travelling between places is wasted time for me. I’d rather stay longer in a few places. We had looked at adding internal flights or flying back to Australia from Florence. But I’d rather minimise time spent in airports.
So what’s locked in?
Six nights in Koblenz.
At this stage, that’s it.
Koblenz, where the Rhein and Moselle meet
I picked a place on AirBnB. Close to the main train station, right in a busy part of town.
There will be family time, a Moselle day cruise, visit to Burg Eltz and some wineries and a day trip to Trier. Trier is a MUST do for us. All those Roman ruins.
Äachen will be our next stop. Haven’t booked any accommodation yet. I want to see Charlemagne’s cathedral and the Medieval English crown. One night? Two nights? Three? No idea. Maybe two and on the way there we could stop off in Köln for a quick walk around the Dom and the old city?
The plan was to head to Bremen as the next stop – but I want to visit the Harz mountain area and a few villages there. And Hamelin on the trail of the Pied Piper. And if I’m there, why not visit Hannover? Or Hannover Munden? But then do we really need to see dozens of old towns and half-timbered houses? Would it be better to see a couple and sit a while in fewer towns, wander around, visit parks, sit in bars and cafes?
If we could jump on a day trip with locals, that’d be great. I know they do plenty for all the Germany retirees. I once went on a day coach trip with one of my mother’s cousins. But her son was with us (at my age, so in our 20s) and it was decided it would be more fun for us to head off on our own, rather than stick with the oldies, so we jumped off the coach and struck out on our own for the day. (Gotta love how German relatives decide what’s best for you. One of my step-cousins has made contact to say he will plan my upcoming trip for me. Mmm, no thanks. This is half the fun.)
Next step: lock in Äachen. Then I will work out travel times to Bremen compared with Bremen via Harz area and Bremen to Baden Baden via Harz. Not forgetting that from Bremen, I want to visit Ostfriesland but it is so rural and will take too long without a car to visit the little villages of my mother’s childhood. Do I risk hiring a car and reliving my trauma of driving in France? So much to consider; so much to decide.
And Mr S’s role in this? To nod and confirm my plans sound great and to to tell me how clever I am to work all this out.
Any thoughts? How do you plan your travel? What should I see? Risk hiring the car?