How did you travel before the internet?

Aug 17th, 2015, 12:07 PM
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I never traveled on the Internet. Usually used a car, train, plane or, on rarest occasion, boat/ship.
BigRuss is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 12:14 PM
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But Big Russ, you have sent other people to a variety of places on the Internet. Some where they wanted to go.
IMDonehere is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 06:42 PM
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My first trip to Europe was to Spain in 1973 on one of those high school student trips — 8 nights over Easter vacation. While everything was arranged and escorted, it still taught me a lot about how to travel because our accommodations were varied: pensions with bathrooms/WCs down the hall; college dorms; hotels with ensuite bathrooms. It also taught me how much time might be wasted on a tour bus.

My first trip on my own was following college graduation in 1979. At the time, most budget travelers were flying Laker Airlines from JFK to London to reach Europe. It was about $100 each way. Regular airfares were closer to $900 roundtrip. My Mom bought me a roundtrip ticket to Europe as a graduation gift. She didn't trust Laker but appreciated economy, so she bought me a roundtrip standby ticket on Pan Am for $300. I would have to go to the airport on my hoped-for departure day and hope for an empty seat.

This was all well and good until two weeks after graduation when an American Airlines DC-10 crashed, prompting questions about the safety of this type of plane. Laker's entire fleet were DC-10s, so they were all grounded. Now every budget traveler was trying to score a standby seat since Laker was no longer an option.

A college friend and I had decided to travel to London together. He was checking with airlines and called me one night at about 7PM to say he had heard that Delta was going to have 50 seats available on their London flight the next evening. The tickets would be available at 5AM at JFK Airport and they would honor tickets from other airlines.

Thus, one June night in 1979 I found myself sitting on the floor in the empty, darkened Delta terminal with 50 other people of about the same age. We arrived about 1:30AM and were still 25 and 26 in line, and worried that we might not get a ticket. Everyone was very orderly--someone even started a list so we would not have to stay on the line but could move around a bit--orderly, but excited about the prospect of an adventure in the morning. At 5AM we did indeed score our tickets for a flight at 8PM that evening. We lived close enough to the airport that we could go home and return for the flight.

I was going to London in particular because we had a free place to stay with my college roommate who was studying there for a year. I had $400 in travelers checks as my entire budget and could stay abroad as long as my money lasted.

We spent two weeks in London, and then took the overnight ferry to Paris. My traveling companion had become a member of SERVAS (an organization of hosts offering free places to stay across the world) since he planned to travel across Europe for a number of months. We arrived in Paris with no place to stay, and then used a pay phone to start calling possible hosts from his list. We called anyone on the list who spoke English and did not require advance warning. The third host we called agreed that we could come to stay that night, as long as we arrived after 9PM. When we arrived, she apologized that she had been out with friends and was a little drunk. We blurted out, "So are we!" since we'd shared a bottle of wine over dinner. We all laughed and the ice was broken.

We stayed for free with this lovely woman for four nights (she had another reservation after that) and she included us in one dinner party and spent a Sunday afternoon showing around Paris.

We left her and took a train to Mont St Michel with no clue what we would do when we got there. We ended up staying three nights I think at a campground just before the causeway in the tiniest cabin that we called the dog house. There we met travelers from across Europe. Most people we met could not believe we were staying in one of those teeny cabins, but we had both gone to summer camps so it was not a problem. Plus the campground had a great wash house with strong hot showers (not a hose) and a restaurant nearby. Upon returning to Paris, we found another host to put us up for a night, and then I returned to London and my friend moved on to Switzerland.

I stayed in London a few days more and then decided to return home, since I had just $100 remaining, and it was actually all the money I had in the world—and no job.

The trips that followed, I did many of the things already mentioned--consolidators/bucket shops for flights; TI upon arrival in a town to find hotels. After a few years, I became less concerned about budget and more concerned about comfort--no more bathrooms down the hall; calling ahead to the next town to find a room before the day before; no more consolidators. Then I began booking arrival hotels and departure hotels using faxes to make the booking, leaving the rest open. Now I just book everything ahead for ease and comfort.

Recently I told my 20-something niece about the night on the floor of the airport. She thought it was a bit crazy.
ellenem is offline  
Aug 18th, 2015, 06:03 AM
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I think US military personnel can still fly standby on military planes, can't they? At least someone told me so.
bvlenci is online now  
Aug 18th, 2015, 06:17 AM
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My first trip abroad in high school was entirely arranged by a foreign travel outfit for student groups. I must say they did a spectacular job and other than having to adjust our trip to the airport in Rome for a strike there were no hitches. I can'[t imagine the phone calls it must have taken.

My second trip was to the UK where I was an au pair the year after I left college. I flew Freddie Laker from NYC for $99. I don't remember how I got back, but I still remember the nearly empty plane on the way over! Those were the days, a whole row to myself.

It was over ten years before I could afford to go again. I must have used a travel agent to book flights, and in the UK I used the TICs to "book-a-bed-ahead." Do they still do that? I did that also in Netherlands and Belgium about 5 years after...and then...the WWW came along and changed everything. But I still love good guidebooks.

Indeed, a fun topic, to remember back that far.
CharlotteK is offline  
Aug 18th, 2015, 07:19 AM
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Fun thread!
starrs is offline  
Aug 18th, 2015, 07:46 AM
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My first trip was just after college graduation in 1971. Arranged to buy a new VW camper in Germany and toured for almost three months camping and staying in the occasional hotel to 'clean up'. We had a good map, bought some camping equipment (stove, blankets and utensils) and in spite of a February arrival managed to visit and explore Austria, Rome, Florence, southern France, Spain, and back north to Copenhagen and Norway. Shipped the van back to NY and drove across the country to start grad school.

My only contact with home was via the American Express offices in major cities and we had no schedule, phone or reservation anywhere. Met some amazing fellow travelers along the way and consider it to this day as a successful adventure. Amsterdam was quite the scene in 1971!
macanimals is offline  
Aug 18th, 2015, 08:22 AM
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"I think US military personnel can still fly standby on military planes, can't they? At least someone told me so."

Yes, it happens all the time. Also military family members and retirees. A friend has flown back from Paris twice in the last few years.

But, yes, only on military flights. You need to have orders to fly commercial.

It's even possible now to sign up with the military terminal at Facebook to get onto the flight.

swandav2000 is online now  
Aug 18th, 2015, 11:28 AM
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I was born and raised in the US, but my parents were Irish. When I was a child, and even in the years I was at university, in the early 1960s, most of our relatives on both sides of the Atlantic traveled back and forth by steamship, and we often drove to New York to drop them off or pick them up.

One of my aunts was the only one who flew across the Atlantic in those relatively early days of transatlantic commercial flight. I remember that the planes had to make a refueling stop in Goose Bay, Labrador, or Gander, or somewhere in the vicinity. Sometimes they ran into awful storms, and they couldn't fly as high as they do now. We all considered her very brave.
bvlenci is online now  
Aug 18th, 2015, 12:31 PM
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In the early 60s, Icelandic Airlines turboprops from NYC to Luxembourg with a stop in Reykjavik.
Michael is offline  
Aug 19th, 2015, 09:24 AM
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Just like everyone else, used guidebooks and travel agencies for the most part, trusted friends' recommendations and pretty much winged it, driving/walking into houses with rooms to let/hotels right from the street.
Unboundly is offline  
Aug 19th, 2015, 09:25 AM
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By the time I was traveling internationally (not until my 40's) the internet had been born.

Earlier trips into the Caribbean, Mexico, within the US, pretty much I just went. Bought tickets over the phone from the airline and received them by mail. Maybe confirmed a hotel room via fax.
suze is offline  
May 14th, 2016, 10:59 AM
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Marking, for nostalgia.

Many things have changed since I made my first overseas trip 40 years ago, but many have remained fairly constant. In Amsterdam I walk down the Damrak and look for number 66, the old American Express office. But my favorite brown bar in Amsterdam is going strong after 400 years.
spaarne is offline  
May 15th, 2016, 07:58 AM
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Great topic Peg!!!

I know this is the Europe forum but my first trip out of the US was to the Caribbean.

We couldn't afford plane tickets the entire way so we drove (from VT) to Miami, slept in the airport, flew Air Jamaica to MoBay the next morning, then took the $1 chicken bus out to Negril (looking back I have NO idea how we knew to do this!).

We had no passport (not required at the time), no charge card (didn't have one), and I remember something about $100 (which I think was our travel budget) -haha. Good times!!
suze is offline  
May 15th, 2016, 08:22 AM
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apologies if this has already been mentioned but we did what lots of Brits did - we bought a package tour. This was just what it said - a package of flight, transfer, hotel and usually food too. It had its roots in the currency restrictions imposed on us in the 1950s & 60s - you were only allowed to take a very small amount of money out of the UK so whatever we could pre-pay was a bonus.

once the restrictions lifted we just booked a ferry, went to France and drive round, finding small hotels as we went. I'm not sure now even how we booked the ferry - by phone perhaps, or possibly a travel agent. we certainly used one to book our flights to Italy in the early 80s, and I phoned the hotel to book a room in Venice for our first few nights. After that we did the same as we did in France - just drove round and found somewhere we liked, even in Flonece, where I remember we rejected the first place and went next door, which we booked. And we could park outside on the street with no problem. Try doing that now in central Florence. [it was the Hotel Alba, just round the corner from Santa Maria Novella, though it wasn't as posh as it is now!]
annhig is offline  
May 15th, 2016, 10:22 AM
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We used a travel-agent friend for plane and rail tickets, and I wrote to many, many hotels for their brochures. I planned the actual trips myself. We nearly always had our days and hotels blocked out well before we left.
Underhill is offline  
May 15th, 2016, 11:16 AM
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My best friend and I spent the summer of '69 in Europe. Frommer's Europe on $5 a day was our Bible plus word of mouth from older friends and my grandparents who were very well-traveled. A very generous check from them meant I spent more like $15 a day.

We booked a cheap charter in to London and out of Brussels. After many, many subsequent trips, I still remember that one as if it were yesterday. We picked up our mail at American Express offices, sent airgrammes (remember those?) and postcards. My mom saved all mine, I read them a few years ago before throwing them away. Never phoned. Watched the moon landing in Vienna on a black and white set in the B&B where we were staying.

Over the years I used a travel agent for flights, occasionally for hotels. We had an agent in Cambridge MA who was in tune with our budget limitations. The more experience, the more independent we became. As our budget grew, we used Karen Brown's books, Fodor's and ? Caro.
Cathinjoetown is offline  

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