How did you travel before the internet?

Aug 16th, 2015, 02:12 PM
  #1  
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How did you travel before the internet?

I used to go downtown to the United Airlines office to buy my ticket. I'm not quite sure how I reserved hotels, though I think I figured out a way to reserve the first night and the last night of my stay, probably by calling long distance for a reservation at least for the first night. That would be my guess, anyway.

I have a Rick Steves for Germany, Austria, and Switzerland 1998 and another for Belgium, France and the Netherlands for 1999. In the back they both have a sample letter (in English) that one could send. I did that at least once.

Once I arrived at my destination, I pretty much winged it. Once, probably in Munich, I had just arrived was looking at a board in the train station on which was listed names of hotels and pensions when a woman came up to me and offered to take me to her B&B. The room did not have an ensuite bathroom, so I stayed there only one night. She was disappointed that I was leaving, so I paid for the next night or two, which made her happy. It was a cheap place, so it wasn't a big deal to pay for night(s) that I didn't use.

My sister and I drove to Rome in the late 60's. She hated not having a reservation when we came into a town. To me it wasn't a big deal. I'd just drive until I saw a sign "Pension," and then I'd park the car and ask if they had a room free. They usually did.

In Rome, a similar thing happened as in Munich. A guy on a motorcycle was shilling for a hotel. He told us to follow him, and we did. The hotel he led us to was very nice, even with embroidered sheets. The only problem was that the room was right by the elevators. We stayed there, though, and liked it, though it was noisy.

The big change came when the guides started listing email addresses and then the REALLY big change when website addresses were listed, so that one could make a reservation over the internet. You could also buy your plane ticket on the internet, which really made me nervous at first.

Nowadays, of course, I check out the hotel website to see what I think of the rooms. Then I check Trip Advisor to see what others have to say about the place. I don't reserve restaurants--but I do get train and bus tickets when available online--also tickets to busy venues, like the Alhambra. I wish I'd thought of doing something like that in St. Petersburg.
Pegontheroad is offline  
Aug 16th, 2015, 02:42 PM
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Yes everyone's trip is scripted before they leave - good and bad - my first trip a few centuries ago I used the International Youth Hostellers Ahandbook for Europe as my sole resource for accommodations and tracking down the hostel was often a lot of fun and adventure - each hostel different - some more youth hostiles than hostals (Spain where Fascists hacks ran them and turned away long hairs and ran the place like martinent dictators).

Then Let's Go Europe cam along and it was and still is a wealth of info on budget accommodations - the proliferation on alternative hostels to rule-filled HI-hostels - then later I just bopped into the tourist office in train stations upon arrivals and always seemed to do OK but it took time and there was always a doubt - what if nothing remains in my price range - a few times I went back on the train to another city or a night train (took nights trains a month straight once! - when there were many many more night trains and one could with a railpass sleep free in ordinary coaches - no longer possible on most night trains).

So yes internet was a huge game changer and now I book online to assure a good price for me and good location and peace of mind - just get off the train and head to hotel - low-budget hotels still. Now airbnb is more my style as were B&Bs in Britain for a long time.

But though having every big tourist mecca sight time-slotted and every train booked and all hotels somehow takes a bit of the travel out of travel, which before could well be a bit of travail atd times. But it's like are kids these days - every minute some have scheduled out and serendipity loses out. Good and bad.

But yes HUGE changes in how people plan a trip - nailing every little tack down to a precise time and place.

Air fares - yes you had to go to a travel agent to book - Icelandair my first flight - stopped in Reykyavik for two nights - Luxembourg was my first touchdown in continenatl Europe - ah those were the days my friend - I thought they'd never end but as one ages things changed and now I prefer having all my accommodations lined up like ducks in a row - I used to change itinerary plans on a whim or due to weather but no now I am stuck - good and bad.

Nice topic Pegstillontheroad!
PalenQ is online now  
Aug 16th, 2015, 02:49 PM
  #3  
 
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I sort of missed the InterRail generation by a few years.
When in college, I'd mostly spend my vacations in the US.
So the Student Travel Association (STA, they still exist!) would be my usual starting point. You would get a cheap flight, usually via London on BA, a voucher for a rental car, and the reservation for the first night at an airport hotel.

I would usually pre-plan a rough itinerary with guide books but not pre-book any hotels.
The motel discount brochures at gas stations or McDonalds (coupon clipping!) were my best friend for finding accomodation.

As that was pre-Trip Advisor age, I had no clue if my motel had danish and donuts for breakfast or just donuts - or similar important bits of information that clutter the reco sites these days.
I had no idea that the scenic drive in Colorado I was touring had been rated #3 statewide and got a thumbs up from Ethel and Fred from Ottawa - it just was gorgeous as it was.

Don't get me wrong - I love to use all kinds of online reservation, price comparison and meta search engines.
But sometimes I think that I spent more time experiencing in my twens and not so many hours of over-engineering the uber perfect holiday.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Aug 16th, 2015, 03:06 PM
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What a fun topic Pegontheroad. My first trip abroad was with my mother in 1982 and we booked a TWA tour and flights through a travel agent. That was easy. I loved my first trip to Europe so much that I went back the next year with 2 girlfriends for 4 weeks mostly on our own. We went back to the same agent who booked our flights, a few train trips, a car in Germany and hotels for some nights in key places. In Schaffhausen we drove up to one hotel my friend knew of and found it booked. They directed us to the newly opened Gasthaus Bahnhof which turned out to be lovely. Unfortunately one of my friends became quite ill(probably food poisoning)the first night. She wanted to be alone in the room the next day so her sister and I spent a rainy day in town and didn't get to see the Rheinfall.

Later in that trip we called the Hotel Petrisberg in Trier from a pay phone to book a room. I spoke in about 1/3 German and 2/3 English and the owner in 2/3 German, etc. The call ended when he said "You come, we have". We had a very good stay there as well.

Our luck did not hold out in London however. We booked Bailey's Hotel based on my Swedish friends' recommendation. The room was big but the bathroom was in serious need of a remodel. The top half of the window was clear glass and there was an office building across the street--interesting. The shower let water all over the bathroom floor. Hotel and restaurant management was odd to make the story short. I understand it has different ownership and is much improved over 30 years.

On another trip in December 1986, to Germany, I wrote letters to some hotels and was acquainted with a German born woman who proof read them for me. On that one we booked London theater tickets through the Edwards and Edwards agency.

I do sometimes use a travel agent these days do a lot of research and make a lot of reservations online.
Scootoir is online now  
Aug 16th, 2015, 03:12 PM
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I can remember writing to hotels for a reservation and buying a foreign bank draft to pay the deposit. I always made my own flight reservations (and still do) back then, by calling the airline, now generally online. I was never one to map out all of my days. I just make a list of places I'd like to visit, and see what I have time for/what interests me once I get there.
Kathie is offline  
Aug 16th, 2015, 04:15 PM
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I had a fantastic travel agent at American Express you had lived in europe for a while, really knew her way around and made some great recos/deals for us in terms of hotels. She was also really good in terms of helping to refine our itinerary based on having already been there.

And in those days there were no fees - since the airlines, hotels and car rentals all paid commission.

But we did a lot of prework with a variety of guide books and I used to steal into the corporate travel office - which had books (giant books) with a listing of many of the hotels all over europe - so we had a clue when we went to the TA.
nytraveler is offline  
Aug 16th, 2015, 04:36 PM
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Sorry - at that time I as doing a lot of travel for business (50 to 60 trips a year) so had a huge number of FF miles. I used TWA as much as possible since they had the best deal: for only 50K miles I got a free first class ticket to anyplace in europe and my companion paid the lowest coach rate - then $400 to $500 and got a first class ticket. They flew only 747s - a great plane - and we had essentially living room lounge chairs with full foot rests - you could lie almost flat. And they served 7 course dinners - with matching wines - that were actually good. Never had a pigeons egg before that - nor several of the cheeses in that course.
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Aug 16th, 2015, 05:10 PM
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We first went to Europe in the early 70's. We had Fodors and that was about it. I had read a lot of history and art books.

As to places to stay, a few times we had a travel agent in Germany book for us in other countries, but we often just showed up and went to whatever little tourist bureau we found in town and got a place to stay. When hotels were booked or there were none, the person at the tourist bureau called around to people in town and we stayed with families. Sometimes we went into a restaurant and asked about places to stay. DH was in the military, so once in awhile we stayed on some base for a night or two.

It wasn't like now where you can buy water everywhere, and sometimes water wasn't potable. We ended up lugging around a small keg shaped cooler (no ice) with a spigot for water and jars of peanut butter and crackers.

Can't imagine winging it like that anymore, especially with two little kids. It was fun though, never knowing what you would get, and people were lovely to children.

Things were safe in the car and no problems parking or driving.
Sassafrass is offline  
Aug 16th, 2015, 06:15 PM
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Fun topic.
We did as you all...
For big trips that should be planned, we went with a travel agent (who had to have been there before...) we did that for our trip in west US in 2000. We did taht too when we went to Cuba.
Before that when traveling alone, I remember sleeping once or twice in airports or under a bridge when I coulnd't find a room.
What hasn't changed for us is that we still rely on books.
I do crosschecks hotels with TA or others but we never look at internet recs for sightseeing or planning the trip.
We never ask where we can find donuts, we figure that out once arived
pariswat is offline  
Aug 16th, 2015, 07:12 PM
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When my wife and I got married we had $3,000 between us. We asked ourselves do we want a big wedding or to spend 6 months in Europe. That decision took about 3 seconds. We flew Loftleiðir to Iceland and then after a couple days to Luxembourg, Paris and five months in Spain. We would ask someone at the hotel if they would call a hotel in the next town to make a reservation. He had Frommer's Europe on $5 a day. He lived $15 a day including a room, meals, entrance fees, American cigarettes and the International Herald Tribune when I could get it.

Back in Brooklyn, we had the this kind and wise Holocaust survivor as our travel agent. I would give her a rough itinerary and then we worked out the details. I think the last time we used her services was about 20 years ago.
IMDonehere is offline  
Aug 16th, 2015, 09:10 PM
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great topic! ah, the memories. first trip,
8 weeks alone with traveler's checks. no bank card.

two stops at american express paris to pick up letters from parents and boyfriend. sent postcards

booked first hotel (henri IV, rue dauphine) by phone and mailed a check.

eurrail pass.

3 tiny translation books.

pay phones a couple of times (they took money then)

1 frommer's guide read cover-to-cover...(no rick steves until my 2nd trip in 1981)

had plans to meet my boyfriend at a paris bistro week 7...had no idea whether he'd be there until i saw him standing with a flower in his hand.

blissful simplicity and naivete.
however... love today's conveniences!!
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Aug 16th, 2015, 09:19 PM
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I read guidebooks (Fodor's and Frommer's for all, more for later trips) and came up with a plan. I talked to people who I knew who had been to any of the places I thought I might visit. I spent LOTS of time on the phone with airline reservation people.

For my first two trips, I just showed up at TI offices to find rooms. First trip (1989): that worked worked well -- or at least, well enough. Second trip (1991), it sometimes worked, but some rooms were so disgustingly grungy that I spent HOURS trying to change, and in another city, lodgings were so fully occupied that my ONLY option was to pay about 3 times what I could afford.

For my next trip, I "had" to use a travel agent -- it was, in part, a business trip, and working with a travel agent was a requirement (an odd one) of funding any part of the trip (including air fare, which was covered, but not rooms, which were not covered). So I worked with a travel agent that a well-traveled friend recommended. He initially booked me into the best known Western-style hotels used by many, but which were completely out of my price range, to which I said (once I recovered my ability to breathe) -- not possible! We then worked with my travel books to identify reasonable lodging and found some very nice low-cost lodgings -- clean, affordable, and well-located -- which he reserved by fax.

And oooh, how I loved arriving in a city with pre-booked lodging! SO much simpler!!! I became a convert, and so I've booked almost all my rooms in advance since. The primary exception was China, where, for various reasons (see my TR!), I stepped well outside of my comfort zone to book only my first hotel in advance. Instead, I just showed up at hotels and bargained for rates. It worked, but I've been glad book in advance again since.

I, for one, love being able to plan trips with the wealth of information that we can now access on the web! But I'm not about to give up my guidebooks!
kja is offline  
Aug 16th, 2015, 09:26 PM
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In the 1960s when we lived in Saudi Arabia, my dad would use guide books, most natably Hallwag's Europa Touring. Then he'd use the Aramco-provided travel agent to book specific hotels and flights.

In those days, we had 3 months to travel every other year, and we would go around the world -- Dhahran - Beirut or Cairo - Europe - USA - Far East (Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo) - Dhahran. We normally had 3 or 4 air tickets stapled together, and they looked like accordion tickets!

Love those days.

s
swandav2000 is offline  
Aug 16th, 2015, 09:39 PM
  #14  
kja
 
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Oh yes, kawh (we were posting at the same time!) has reminded me! -- no ATMs, so travelers checks ruled the day, although a few places accepted a credit card. To save money on conversion, I made routine trips to American Express offices. Every few days, I went to a post office, with its stand-in-line-to-get-a-number system to gain access to a phone so I could let my mother know I was OK. (And later, once the internet came into being, I remember having to go to internet cafes and wait for a computer to contact home.) Plane and train tickets / passes were hard copy, as were faxed confirmations of lodging reservations, so I had a LARGE passport pouch to keep them safe, along with my travelers checks and other key documents. Talk about added bulk! ;-)
kja is offline  
Aug 16th, 2015, 09:41 PM
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Leaving out my travels during my year abroad, my first trip was ten weeks of driving through Germany (pick up car in Wolfsburg), Austria, Yugoslavia, Italy, a bit of Switzerland, France, and shipping the car from Antwerp.

Arrived in London where I met my travel companion and immediately took train-ferry-train overnight to Wolfsburg and then drove to Berlin to stay with relatives. After that we winged it, often using the local tourist office to find a room. Met in Florence my future mother-in-law who was traveling around the world. Met my parents in the Dordogne and we stayed with friends in Paris. No arrangements ahead of time were made, just a knowledge of the parents' schedule. The American Express poste restante was very useful, as were their traveler's checks.

We still tend to travel like that except for accommodations in large cities which we usually arrange ahead of time. Obviously, we also arrange air flights, long distance train trips, and car rentals ahead of time.
Michael is online now  
Aug 17th, 2015, 12:43 AM
  #16  
 
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I used to look out for odd holiday ideas in the back pages of the DT over a weekend and book them the nest weekend. SO I ended up staying in the Vosges and the Jura with hoteliers who spoke only French, learning to cross country ski.

Anything to get away from travel agents and the hours spent sat in those terrible offices as they sold you boring trips to places where there was nothing to do. Aaargh.
bilboburgler is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 02:53 AM
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Great topic! For my very first trip gal friend & I joined a singles club where you had to be a member for 6 mos. before one could book a trip. We opted for one that went to Rome.
Thru the club we rented a car, I drove north w/stops in Bologna,Venice & Milan. Flew to Greece, came back to Rome to fly home.

Thereafter heavily perused travel books & booked thru my
business travel agent. At the time our local PBS station had
fundraisers so bid on & won trips to Cyprus, etc. Hubby
always wondered where we were going. Answer: whatever bids I won....great fun!
Rhea58 is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 03:17 AM
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Much the same as we do now, except we'd go to a travel agent and to book the flight and first night hotel - back in the day you could get some good prices by combining the two. We'd usually book the hire car at the same time.
Thereafter we relied on guide books, maps and spotting a nice looking place to spend the night. A hotel is normally a place to sleep, not a destination for us.

In fact even after the arrival of internet in our lives we would still check with our local agents as they could sometimes find us brilliant deals which we couldn't, but that was before internet was so ubiquitous and finding stuff was harder.
hetismij2 is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 03:23 AM
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First trip in early 80's, not necessarily the best trip. Driving a Opel Kadet in the fast lane, using only a map, having lights flashed at us from behind to get the he-- out of the way. Michelin Red Guide, phone calls for a room reservation from the US and traveller checks cashed at Italian banks with doors allowing only one person to enter at a time. Used a travel agent once and they screwed up the flights. Never used one again!

I have the most memories from the first days.

Peg, much better topic than maid tipping in Paris.

H
Huggy is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 03:27 AM
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We always used a travel agent to book flights and hotels or work/military had someone that did it for you. The Navy always treated us well. If it was a road trip we would wing it. I do remember my first trip when we were just starting to use the internet. I booked the flight myself but hotels/guest houses and B&B's were just starting websites. We had two travel books and used them. We were able to book Dublin hotels but nothing else so winged it the rest of the trip. I think we even had to wait to book the car after getting to the airport. It was really better in a way because we drove till we were tired or found somewhere we liked to spend the night.
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