My daughter, Kaitlyn, and I first talked about the trip over the phone in February, while my nephew, Jonathan, and I were waiting at the drive-thru at In-and-Out Burger. Finally in early June, I bought four plane tickets for my mom, my niece Christina, Kaitlyn, and myself. It wasn’t until mid-June that I really started planning. I bought $80 worth of Rick Steves’ travel guides and read them at every opportunity. Mom recommended onebag.com, where we got tons more travel tips. Packing light and keeping valuable documents available on the web were good ones. But doing laundry in the sink and mailing things home didn’t work out very well. We didn’t have the time and energy for the ritual of a little laundry all the time, and mailing things home got rather expensive. Now with heightened security, I think a new strategy is necessary, since dealing with one large carry-on would be a regular headache, whereas losing checked baggage would be far less frequent. However, I still like the idea of travelling light.
I used iCal on my PowerBook to plan out a preliminary daily schedule, relying on bahn.de for the train schedules. After figuring out where we could go in 31/2 weeks, I got a 4-country flexi-saver-pass from ricksteves.com and then the reservations for the train routes that required it from raileurope.com (such as the overnight trains). Tip: Don’t make reservations for a train in Italy on a Friday-Sunday because the computers are down. Hotel reservations were finally made after I filled in the up-to-the-minute details of the calendar, when I was sure where we’d be on certain days. I probably could have done that sooner, since most hotels would allow you to cancel more than 3 days beforehand. I could have gotten us better accomodations in Venice and on our first stay in London had I booked earlier. The places we stayed in these two places weren’t even in the travel guides.
I wanted to order all the travel goodies from magellans.com, but I didn’t order soon enough. However, I found everything except the shaving oil in a travel store in the mall, so no worries there. The shaving oil is hard to come by in the US; no drug store carries it. I found some in Winchester. It’s nice, but plain old soap is good enough for me, actually.
About a week before the trip, I create a private yahoo group for us to have a mailing list, post blogs and pictures during the trip, and keep our important records. It worked out great, but keeping up the blog and pictures along the way was near impossible with the limited availability of high-speed Internet access. Next time, I’m keeping the blog and pictures on the machine like I’m doing now, rather than trying to connect to the Internet. Yahoo’s Flickr picture post requires you to log on to upload pictures; you can’t do it on your machine first and upload it all in one swoop, like with photosite.com. Unfortunately, PhotoSite doesn’t have an upload application for Mac OS X.
Two days before the trip and I was still planning hotels in Austria and Germany. I hadn’t planned the exact train schedules beyond Innsbruck (except for the Rhein tour day when we had to be sure when we’d arrive in Köln), and I hadn’t even begun to pack. One day before and I was shopping for clothes to wear, since I don’t want to wear jeans and hiking shoes (although in hind-sight, I really should have). The morning of I was recording songs on my iPod, which I didn’t even listen to, and started finally packing the suitcase. I did try the one bag method of packing clothes, wrapped around a core (my shaving kit). But instead of the onebag guy’s recommended suitcase with straps, my suitcase was a gym bag where the bundle slid around, and I noticed the next night that this bundle method comes up with wrinkles. I have to iron at Patrick’s house. So from here on, I simply folded them nicely, and it actually worked better than the wrap method.