How did you travel before the internet?

Aug 17th, 2015, 03:39 AM
  #21  
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 19,737
Many years ago, we lived in Germany and traveled a lot -- no children plus a good central location from which to travel.

Looking back, I almost can't believe how little planning we did for our trips. It was, essentially, pack a bag and go, including to places like Istanbul.
vincenzo32951 is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 03:48 AM
  #22  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,995
In Paris, the major rail stations and the airport (there was just one for passenger flights, Orly) had an agency called "Hôtesses de Paris," where you could arrange a hotel room on the spot. Tell them the area, star-rating, and/or price you wanted, and they'd make the reservation for that night for you. I think that today an outfit called Hôtesses de Paris would suggest a very, very different enterprise.

The Paris subway was also a bit different then. For one thing, you had your choice of 1st or 2nd class, of all things. (1st class wasn't luxe in any way; there were just a lot fewer people in the cars so you had a better chance of getting a seat.) And the stations had a mechanism called "portillon automatique," where a gate automatically closed whenever a train approached a station, preventing people from accessing the boarding area. In theory, this sped things up by preventing people from running for a train and trying to jump onto a car as the doors were closing.
DonTopaz is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 04:46 AM
  #23  
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 1,307
My first and only pre-internet trip was in 1992. I only decided to go about a month before departure. I used a travel agent to book my flight into London and out of Munich. I may have also bought my rail pass from the agent.

I had a couple of guidebooks (Let's Go and Rick Steves) and booked only my London hotel in advance by phone. Everything else was on the fly. I used the Paris T.I. at a train station to get my room, used a guidebook recommendation for a room in Colmar and a hostel in Switzerland.* Additional lodging in Heidelberg and Munich was found via guidebooks.

Believe it or not, good travel was possible before the internet.

* Mountain Hostel in Gimmelwald. Astounding views, a bit dirty, $5 a night, and without a doubt the best time I've ever had in a 48-hour period.
Edward2005 is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 04:50 AM
  #24  
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 1,307
A few people have mentioned they did less planning pre-internet than they do today. This is interesting because with so much information available on your mobile device, if ever there was an ideal time to travel completely on the fly, it's now.
Edward2005 is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 05:01 AM
  #25  
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 386
The first trip I planned myself was to Ireland, and in addition to spending hours in the library reading travel books, I went to the Irish consulate on Park Ave to get brochures and maps (they were very kind and helpful, IIRC).

We ditched our rental car after one day (driving was far too stressful), and somehow managed to make our way from Dublin to Galway via bus and train, stopping at different towns along the way, without any real plan. We visited tourist offices to help find suitable lodging each night, and even used the phone book one day to find something. Such a fun adventure, and somehow we managed it all without the interweb.
jmct714 is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 06:06 AM
  #26  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 1,894
Yes, used to go and book a flight with travel agent. And how expensive it was to fly in Europe in the days before the cheap airlines. So would often do Eurolines or get the train and ferry..
Also asked a TA to book the first night in a hotel or wrote a letter or occasionally made a phone call if I had the language. Then just set off. No hire cars then or ever, just local buses and trains. Turn up at the bus/train station and get the next one. Pay in cash. I still do that once I am there though these days do arrange flights and hotels online!

Yes it is certainly easy to wing it these days but with such a large number of people travelling there is less chance of finding somewhere. On the other hand there is a much greater choice of places to stay and certainly better quality thanks to online reviews. Though I do wonder what happened to little local family-run places that couldn't adapt. Some probably managed OK, some didn't.

Tourism has taken off big-time since the internet, has become very quick, easy and convenient. ATMs, no exchange hassles, tourist facilities largely in English, crowds everywhere. You have to really work hard to get completely off the tourist track now.
gertie3751 is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 06:23 AM
  #27  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 1,369
I was anxious to test my 6 years of French (HS and college) so Paris and the Loire Valley were our ultimate destinations (early 80s). A travel agent got us cheap flights into Brussels and out of Paris on charters.

Made most of my travel decisions based on my romantic notions of Paris gained from movies and books (stayed in a Left Bank hotel; visited Les Deux Magots; Brasserie Lipp, Cafe de Flore; took a Bateaux Mouche). Made arrangements by mail; held on to the replies in French for years.

Arrived for a 10 day trip with two large 30 inch suitcases and oodles of traveler's checks.

Had the experience of visiting a French doctor when my husband experienced pains in his side. Appendix? Non! A strain from lugging suitcases.
mama_mia is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 06:36 AM
  #28  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 6,630
I used to buy air tickets from consolidators who advertised in tiny ads in the Travel section of the New York Times. Once a consolidator failed twice to have my tickets delivered in time, and then he promised to meet me at Newark airport with tickets in hand just before my flight. When I got to the appointed meeting place, there were various consolidators set up there, but not the one I had used. (There were other customers of his also waiting for him.) Another consolidator assured me, "He'll show up!" And he did, after the flight had already started boarding.

I totally winged it with regard to hotels, relying on train station tourist offices and "Pension" hawkers at train stations. Once we (two small children and I) got a room in Segovia where we had to go to the top floor of the building, walk across a roof and enter a door into another building. The room was in an apartment and the door to our room didn't lock from the inside, only from the outside. (Designed to punish naughty children? Keep hostages?) Someone else was staying in another bedroom. I didn't sleep a wink, and moved the next day.

I was living in the Netherlands in 1986 when President Reagan bombed Qaddaffi's private residence, without consulting any of the European allies over whose territories the bombers flew. Then the State Department warned Americans that Qaddaffi might retaliate against Europe because his missiles couldn't reach the US! Needless to say, hardly any Americans went to Europe that summer, and you could arrive in Paris or London late on a Friday afternoon and get your choice of hotel rooms.

I also slept on the decks of ferries, in six-bunk couchettes, and in those train carriages where (if there were only three people in a six-person carriage) you could pull out the seat cushions of two facing seats, and pull down the seat backs, to make a four-cushion bed. A bit short, but you could sleep in the fetal position. Once we didn't luck out with the number of passengers, so I bedded down my children on the two available seat-beds, and slept on the floor underneath them.

In 1986, universities at least already had email, but it was only suitable for short messages. I once needed some data, and my office had to mail one of those big reel computer tapes, for what must have been a few megabytes of data. It took about two weeks to arrive.

I used travelers checks, of course, as there really was no safe alternative. Sometime in the late 1980s, ATMs began to appear. Princeton (where I lived) was an early adopter; they called their sole ATM (officially) "Harvey Wall-banker". Perhaps in 1989, I was in China doing some consulting work and saw an ATM in Hong Kong that apparently accepted ATM cards on my circuit. I was astonished. I didn't need any money, but withdrew some just to assure myself that it would work, and it did!
bvlenci is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 06:41 AM
  #29  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 16,516
I was in Romania (in the middle of no where) years ago and saw an ATM. Put the card in and the screen said "welcome Mr Bilbo" blew my mind, couldn't do that in the UK.
bilboburgler is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 06:41 AM
  #30  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 6,630
Speaking of cheap airlines, I flew from New York to Brussels in 1986 on People Express: $100 one way. They went down the aisle collecting your fare after the plane boarded. No food service, but they sold sandwiches and beverages. There was no airport security to speak of at that time.
bvlenci is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 07:10 AM
  #31  
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 19,737
Pre-internet and before the airlines caught on:

Military personnel could fly standby in uniform for some ridiculously low fares in the US. Example: Newark to Boston shuttle, $15.

Of course, you had to fly standby and had no guarantee of a seat on any specific flight. So let's say a small group of us were planning to fly on flight on a Friday. We would spend that week on the phone with the airlines making multiple refundable "ghost" reservations in fictitious names for that flight, meaning there almost always would be empty seats on the flights we wanted.

At some point, the airlines figured out the scam, but it wasn't till I got shipped overseas.
vincenzo32951 is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 07:28 AM
  #32  
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 2,085
I remember my first trip abroad very well in 1969. I was 16, my sister was 15, and our parents were determined to visit Great Britain, even though our family cash reserves were certainly lacking.

For the first time in their lives, they used a travel agent, because that was what one did to book air anyway then. This would be the first flight series for my sister and for me; it would be only the second and third for my parents.

To book our other vacations, they would visit AAA and gather maps and materials, look up hotel/motel ratings, and send postcard requests for brochures. No reservations were by phone: that cost money. State tourist agencies sent maps for free, and my mother dutifully filed everything in our travel two-drawer file cabinet for future reference.

My father and she would eventually have a "summit meeting" and decide upon their bookings for the upcoming trip...however

...before they took a pre-reserved room, my mother would do a room inspection. If the room failed her inspection, we hit the road and did a sort of bidding war along the nearest stretch of highway.

Yes, one advantage of not using credit cards! There was no penalty that could be given for leaving early.

Another note: no American hotel/motel system at the time included breakfast. Ergo, my mother hauled an electric frying pan with her up and down interstates to make pancakes and eggs at each stop.


Even though they used an agent to get to GB, they did not give up control. They looked for every deal possible. The one they took was a British Air (which went by a different name then)deal for RT to London, a 3-week Ford Escort rental with unlimited mileage, and 3 weeks of B&B accommodation. Total cost for this deal for a family of four: $1200.

Cheap by today's standards; barely affordable for us on my father's teacher's salary supplemented by my mother's secretarial salary.

The downside of this deal? The B&B was in Leeds.

But my parents knew that going in. They pre-armed themselves with two really good maps and their travel bible for the trip: Frommer's (sorry Fodors!) England on $5-$10 a Day.

The real upside? The dollar was pretty darn strong.

While I think we had pre-booked our one-week stay in London near Paddington, everything else was by the cuff, including a ferry transport from Southhampton for France for a day and standing-room only tix at Stratford (saw Judy Dench as a veritable ingenue).

At each town we stopped in, my mother would hit the local tourist office with our book "contenders." We only had one really bad place near Blackpool; the rest were quite lovely. In fact, my most enchanting memory might have been opening my shared bedroom window in Berwick-on-Tweed to take in a flowering garden that stretched out to a view on the sea.

I think it helped that I lived in a house where 4-5 persons shared one bathroom. I do not think my kids would deal so well, although both do use hostels.

Our itinerary? I can't name all the stops, but I remember quite well York, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Chester, Canterbury, the trip from Southhampton to France for one day (to see D-Day beaches), Oxford and Stratford-on-Avon. I remember our week in London best for seeing "The Love Bug" with my sister near Picadilly Circus and realizing that the British audience laughed as hard as we did--just in all the opposite places.

But this was the time when London was impacting American fashion, albeit slowly, and the first thing I did upon returning home was to cut four inches off every skirt I owned with the full approval of my rather conservative parents. Who could ever say that travel does not expand one's limits, no matter what age?

For food, the substantial B&B breakfasts, although clogging our arteries, carried us through the day quite well. Other food in Britain at that time really wasn't good, even in upscale places. We ended up buying a lot of fish and chips, not because of the cheapness but more because of the relative freshness. Freezer fish were not the rule then, so quality was quite high.

My sister and I were given leftover pence daily, and we spent it on two things: pastries topped with that lovely unsweetened cream and Fruit Pastilles--black current flavor preferred. Both were equally novel to us.

Our teeth have never been the same.

_____________________________

11 years later (1980), I was traveling California with my husband. I was using half price coupons, AAA, maps and the Mobile Guide to book our places. My routing system? RESTAURANTS. Phone rates had dropped dramatically, and I reserved everywhere by phone.

________________________________

15 years later (1995), I was able to do my first booking by consulting the internet.
AlessandraZoe is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 08:01 AM
  #33  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 4,108
Fourth try to reply. Don't know whether it is my computer or Fodors, but I keep getting sent back to the main Europe page and my entry is deleted.

My first trip to Europe was a while ago. (I believe Rick Steves was still in grade school then.)

My friend and I traveled with Frommer's "Europe on $5 a Day"
as our bible. Took trains and just bought ticket on the day of travel. When we arrived in a city, we'd telephone the places recommended. no disasters, but I would not stay in a few of those places today.

We had travelers checks in $10 and $20 denominations. We would cash one or two every few days and check for our mail at the AEx office.

Still in the 60's I traveled as a high school teacher as a chaperone for kids. It did give me a way to get to Europe, but it also convinced me that independent travel was better.

By the 70's I was still using travelers checks but now carried in 20 and 50 denominations and Frommers had gone up to 25 a day. Still booking as I went and taking the train from place to place.

By the 80's I was renting a car, still using travelers checks and booking places at the TI when I arrived in town or stopping at a B&B along the road.
irishface is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 08:01 AM
  #34  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 4,108
Fourth try to reply. Don't know whether it is my computer or Fodors, but I keep getting sent back to the main Europe page and my entry is deleted.

My first trip to Europe was a while ago. (I believe Rick Steves was still in grade school then.)

My friend and I traveled with Frommer's "Europe on $5 a Day"
as our bible. Took trains and just bought ticket on the day of travel. When we arrived in a city, we'd telephone the places recommended. no disasters, but I would not stay in a few of those places today.

We had travelers checks in $10 and $20 denominations. We would cash one or two every few days and check for our mail at the AEx office.

Still in the 60's I traveled as a high school teacher as a chaperone for kids. It did give me a way to get to Europe, but it also convinced me that independent travel was better.

By the 70's I was still using travelers checks but now carried in 20 and 50 denominations and Frommers had gone up to 25 a day. Still booking as I went and taking the train from place to place.

By the 80's I was renting a car, still using travelers checks and booking places at the TI when I arrived in town or stopping at a B&B along the road.
irishface is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 08:01 AM
  #35  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 4,108
Fourth try to reply. Don't know whether it is my computer or Fodors, but I keep getting sent back to the main Europe page and my entry is deleted.

My first trip to Europe was a while ago. (I believe Rick Steves was still in grade school then.)

My friend and I traveled with Frommer's "Europe on $5 a Day"
as our bible. Took trains and just bought ticket on the day of travel. When we arrived in a city, we'd telephone the places recommended. no disasters, but I would not stay in a few of those places today.

We had travelers checks in $10 and $20 denominations. We would cash one or two every few days and check for our mail at the AEx office.

Still in the 60's I traveled as a high school teacher as a chaperone for kids. It did give me a way to get to Europe, but it also convinced me that independent travel was better.

By the 70's I was still using travelers checks but now carried in 20 and 50 denominations and Frommers had gone up to 25 a day. Still booking as I went and taking the train from place to place.

By the 80's I was renting a car, still using travelers checks and booking places at the TI when I arrived in town or stopping at a B&B along the road.
irishface is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 08:01 AM
  #36  
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Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 11,781
Harvey Wall-bankers! I love that!

Fun answers! Brings me back to making a reservation for the next hotel by way of a coin-operated phone.

My sister, a friend and I were driving from Germany to the Netherlands when we had a problem at the border--something to do with insurance. We were stuck in a no-man's-land between the two countries for a couple of hours. We arrived in Amsterdam in the middle of the night with no hotel reservations. We went to a police station and asked for help.

The policeman took us to the worst place I've ever stayed in. The landlady answered the door wearing a fur coat over her nightgown. Her toenails were dirty, and there was cat hair over everything. There were only two beds pushed together, so somebody had to sleep on the crack between the bed. Don't remember who.

The next morning she served us a delicious breakfast. We decided to stay there again the next night rather than waste out touring time looking for another hotel.

On the way back home, I'd been doing about 90 mph but my little car (a VW 1500 sedan) didn't like going that fast, so I slowed down to 70, whereupon we had a tire blowout.
I was very glad I'd slowed down!
Pegontheroad is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 08:11 AM
  #37  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 4,108
Well last reply got posted three times after my failure the first three tries. Sorry!

Peg, loved your story about the worst B&B! I also got trapped in that no man's land between Germany and Belgium for us. I was traveling with a bunch of friends and we got stopped before Belgium--something about the tires. They sent us back and then the Germans wouldn't let us in because the tires weren't good enough for their roads. After much negotiating, they finally let the driver and owner of the car go back with the stipulation that the rest of us and all of our luggage stay at the ckeckpoint. Took hours and quite a lot of money before our friend returned.

Back to the original question: by the 90's I was using ATMs but still traveling by the seat of my pants.

Lately using ATM's and credit cards. Doing half and half prebooking and just finding a place. I think that my next trip will be more prebooked.
irishface is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 09:08 AM
  #38  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 8,567
The first Europe trip I planned myself was in 1984. I used Stephen Birnbaum's book, Birnbaum Travel Guides. I somehow got us around Belgium, France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, without too much trouble, although I remember the driving distances were much longer than I expected.

maitaitom is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 09:19 AM
  #39  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 13,406
My husband was one of the managers for an airline so we had
standby ( free) tickets ...worked great most of the time .
He had contacts with offices in major cities , someone would
make a hotel reservation for the first night.
When traveling by car, we just winged it...stopped in front of the hotel and asked for a room.
One August we ended up in France/ Italy at the peak of their holiday time...
The border was so crowded, police just waived the cars through
The only hotel in Monte Carlo that had rooms available was some ritzy place -
cost a fortune .
In many big cities it was possible to call hotels from the airport / or there was a " hotels"
desk.
I hated travelers cheques and the whole business of exchanging money in every country.

Love the net, love the ATMs, love the euro, love SIM cards, love travel more than ever.
danon is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 10:20 AM
  #40  
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 1,713
I don't think we plan now more than before because of internet. I think we plan more when we age. When we were young, we'd have a book with B&B's of the region we were and would start calling at around 4 pm (in a phonebooth, mind you).

Then come the kids and you don't really want to sleep in your car in front of a hotel in Garmisch Paternkirchen in october with 2-3 children. Or when your back starts to ache.

Then comes some more money with age, which allows to find
more easily hotels, when younger we would look much more to save a few francs.

Then come also bigger trips, far away from your base, and again with children. When in Cuba or in Mexico, I want to know where I sleep at night.

We (re)start doing some trips not so well planned now that we go (a little) alone- we went to Japan and it was quite more flexible. But still we rely mostly on books or on asking locals than on connecting on the spur of the moment.
pariswat is offline  

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