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Trip Report Planning -incubating our big trip

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I figure that an elephant takes a year to have a baby so it seems anything worthwhile takes time! So I begin planning our trips a year in advance. I am writing this as I realised I never include my planning in my trip records especially as our trip is Fodor designed. Planning has brought me such joy I want to get it down.

I have a wonderful other half who likes to know where he is going every minute while I like to allow for some spontaneity (okay a lot). We are in the process of asking heaps of questions on this site to plan our big Europe trip.

I begin the planning by asking him to list his next five bucket list places and I list mine. Then we each have the right to veto two places. After 35 years of marriage I have worked out a strategy in that I choose my top 3 countries that I long to revisit or visit for the first time and then I deliberately put 2 random places that I do not have a particular interest in and that I know he is most certain to veto! After the big veto, which is done over dinner and copious amounts of wine to dull the pain, we found we had 2 countries that were on both our lists - Switzerland (a favourite destination) and Germany where we have not been before. So after much discussion about the 'rules' of our planning (he fears anarchy if the rules change) we agreed on Switzerland, Germany and France (to visit our friends).

I do make it up to him by making sure I factor in all the foods he likes particularly sausages and creme brulee. Hence in among my questions about recommended places are weird questions about sausages. He is keeping a list of the world's best brulees and street food sausages. Mysteriously in his opinion Basel currently rates as the best for both - sausage from the market and creme brulee we had in a restaurant that was in a converted prison.

The next stage of planning is to look at possible routes and research countries remaining on the non-veto list. Hence Austria was added as the final country for this trip.
Here's where I turn to Fodors and Tripadvisor. It is not something to be taken lightly. I have been in education a long, long time so one would think I would know how to pose good questions. Yet it takes careful thought and lots of reviewing before posting the question. Putting out a question really tests one's self-esteem. I find myself anxiously scanning for days after in the hope my question will not go rejected. Now and then after excitedly seeing there is an answer I open the thread only to find it is an expert telling me my question is not clear, or I am on the wrong thread, or Lord it has happened to me - I am in the wrong country! So it is back to the drawing board. I have had to make notes to myself, e.g. never, ever post a question shortly after having general anaesthetic as even you won't understand your own question. For that matter don't ask it just before you go under either as by the time you come round and are allowed near a computer your question will have become lost in the literally thousands of people who have been happily posting their questions while you are sound asleep. The nurses have been heard to say "thank heavens for Fodors" as at least she has stopped complaining that Oprah is no longer on!!

Finally after many attempts the question is right and the cyber knights and ladies with magnificent names come to my rescue and a whole new world of possibilities opens. Our trip went from 3 weeks to six weeks because I could not bear to miss one of the recommended places and it seems the best advice is not to rush things. Before the wonderful experts shared their knowledge with me I did not even know the Engadine Valley existed or that there was an amazing list of fantastic mountains to see or that there are little towns hidden all through Switzerland, France, Austria and Germany (the Rhine won the last week).

I found that once I had my questions sorted the locals and frequent travelers were patient and helpful. Each time a name or a place comes up I google it right away and look up images just in case it is another gorgeous setting I must not miss. I am so grateful to them for taking time to share their wisdom and for their enduring patience. I must say it is quite exciting when sometimes they do not agree with each other and wonderful debate goes on. Receiving advice from experts who helped the last time we went to Europe is a pretty amazing experience. Rather like a reunion.

Once we settled on the countries we are visiting we chose one to fly into and a different one to leave for home.

This is a stressful part of the planning for me as I have a terrible fear of flying. It does not stop me from travelling but no amount of enduring fear of flying courses has given me confidence that all pilots have had a decent education and know how to problem solve and I might feel better if I could fly the plane myself. I worry that I will not be able to get a last loving text to my family in the event of a fall from the sky so I pre-programme it before we take off (awful I know but it gives me comfort). I usually try to fly at night so I can have a couple of drinks but must confess even if it is mid morning I accept the offers of bubbles (I reckon that somewhere in the world it is midnight).

Once we had to fly on a non alcohol flight - apart from feeling slightly annoyed at being told what I can and cannot do, I worried that I would panic and lose all control. So I am ashamed to admit that I injected a little vodka into some chocolates much to my dear other half's horror and happily munched on them while being served tea on the 13 hour flight!

The stop-over countries on the way and on our return become our bonus countries. This time our stop-over will be Hong Kong (a revisit) and Dubai (hmmm never been and not so sure about this one - time will tell).

We have our route sorted (except for trying to decide where to spend an extra day - Germany or Austria hmmmm) and so now it is on to finding interesting places to lay our heads and monitoring the safety records of Cathay Pacific and Emirates. All the above has taken nearly 3 months so I better get on with it before the remaining 9 months slips away!!!

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