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How do you book everything in advance in high season and still "roll with the punches" when problems occur? What does far in advance mean - days, weeks, months? Any thoughts?

How do you book everything in advance in high season and still "roll with the punches" when problems occur? What does far in advance mean - days, weeks, months? Any thoughts?

Old Dec 13th, 2005, 01:29 PM
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How do you book everything in advance in high season and still "roll with the punches" when problems occur? What does far in advance mean - days, weeks, months? Any thoughts?

Hello,

I am going to France and Greece for 2 1/2 months this July and August. Thanks to you Fodorites I have my itinerary all pounded out - each hotel/hostel etc. (I think). I want to be ontop of booking accomodation because I know its going to be packed and in many places I'm going budget accomodation is very scarce. However,if I pre-book each and every night and then there is an unavoidable detour in plans - what then? Do you just run to catch up with you plans to ensure you don't lose too much money? I am concerned about a domino effect. In addition, how far in advance do you usually book (days, weeks - months)? As for car rentals is it worth pre-booking at all? Any suggestions?

Thanks - you guys have been indispensible!

Murphy
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Old Dec 13th, 2005, 01:41 PM
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I can see you unforeseen problems might cause itinerary changes when you are planning such a long trip. I've never done that, so my experiences aren't as relevant. I generally do have an itinerary and reservations in advance, and even train tickets for major journies that are important and I think might be sold out. I like having an itinerary and reservations.

I think you are smart to have reservations if those places can get heavily booked and are popular in those months. I know I learned my lesson once on that winging it thing (many years ago) when I showed up in Paris in early October with no hotel reservation. I was a neophyte traveler at that time and was clueless that this was one of the most-booked hotel periods in Paris.

Anyway, to be honest, I've never had any unforeseen problem that caused an itinerary change. The only ones I've had were my own choice because I changed my mind or didn't like a place. But I guess my big solution to your problem is that I don't lose money because I don't prepay things. What kind of hotel or hostel reservations are you making that require prepayment? I just don't do that, there isn't any reason for it.

I guess you are asking about cancellation fees if you are late one day? I suppose that is possible to happen at the last minute, but I think you are getting anxious over remote possibilities. If you had some major problem that would cause a schedule change, you often would know it far enough ahead that you wouldn't have cancellation penalties, wouldn't you? Most are 24-48 hours. I guess if you encountered a rail strike at the very last minute you could, but these things aren't real common. It also wouldn't cause a domino effect as you then could change other plans in advance, if you had to.

I book hotels a couple months ahead, but up to 4-5 months ahead in really popular areas in peak season. My experience is car rentals are one of the best things to prebook as on-site prices are often a lot higher.

Christina is offline  
Old Dec 13th, 2005, 01:41 PM
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You can book with hostels that have a 24 or 72 hour no-penalty cancellation period.

I also think Hostelworld.com allows you to buy a gold card for $10/year and avoid cancellation fees with their web site, but you'd have to look into their plan.

You could also find out if certain areas are more crammed than others, and consider taking a risk for the less-crowded areas. Book the highest-demand places, and do the rest on the fly.
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Old Dec 13th, 2005, 01:46 PM
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Usually if you have a change in plans, you will have at least some days notice. That's enough time to alter many reservations, assuming the cancellation policies of the hotels involved are not very strict. Ideally book places/things that you can reach by fax or email, because if you do cancel, you want to do so in writing and have a record of your cancellation, so that you have recourse if they should try to charge your credit card. You can generally find an Internet cafe or other office services place to do this, once you are on the road.

Of course, very cheap places don't even accept credit card guarantees, which also means that you can't be sure you have a room until you arrive. You pays your money and you takes....

You are right to be concerned about a domino effect. This can happen if you don't leave any slack in your itinerary. If for some reason you arrive 24 hours later to your next destination than expected, this should not mean you miss the train to the NEXT destination, or worse yet, miss your plane home. And yes, delays happen. Think: train strike: traffic jams on highways: etc., etc. So, yes, you need a cushion in your budget to allow for the possibility that you might have to pay for two rooms in one night - the one you booked but didn't have time to cancel, and the one you wound up having to take at the last minute. Fortunately it's not likely this will happen very often, if at all.

Many car rental brokers have fairly generous cancellation/change policies, but only prior to the day you're scheduled to pick up the car. If you want to change, say, the place to which you return the car, AFTER you've picked it up, you might be socked with a surcharge.

Bottom line: each thing you book will have different policies. Know ye them, and plan accordingly. Enjoy your trip.

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Old Dec 13th, 2005, 01:48 PM
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I don't recall seeing your final itinerary. You might post it for comments about any pitfalls.

One guard against a domino effect is to allow plenty of time in each region. Also good to know what the hotel cancellation policies are for those you reserve. French tourist offices are helpful in finding accomodations if you arrive somewhere without any.

Cars can be booked from Autoeurope before you leave.
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Old Dec 13th, 2005, 02:21 PM
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Sounds like you are going to have a great time for 2 1/2 months! I am very jealous!!!

Posting the itinerary would be a great idea as Ron suggested. You will get some tips on things that you may not have even anticipated.

I have not taken a trip as long as yours but our first trip to Europe in 2002 we went for 18 days and visited Paris, Alsace, Switzerland, Loire Valley and back out of Paris again. We got a 6 day rail pass with a 3 day car rental. I think we had to have the care rental days picked, so that was not flexible but the train was. We had the 1st 2 night’s accommodations and then for every town we went to we would have 2-5 choices of accommodations. This gave us a chance to investigate these particular ones before we left, but there were always plenty to pick from at the TI center in each town as well. We would call a day ahead or even one time day of, to see what they had available.

Once we did not call at all and we just showed up. There were no rooms available. It was run by a very kind elderly couple. She spoke no English but used a translation book better than me! Her husband spoke English perfectly. She was so sweet that she told us (via the help of her translator) to wait a minute and she ran off and called 2 other places for rooms for us!! We chatted with her very sweet husband in the mean time. She came back and told us that she found a room for us and the woman who ran the B&B was coming to escort us to her place. It wound up being a whole finished attic all to ourselves. It was a great experience of the kindness of others!

Sorry I rambled….. a bit of reminiscing!! Just be reassured that you can have flexibility in your plans and still have the trip somewhat planned. Even with our 18 day trip we changed our plans, but this allowed us to stay longer in one of the towns. It is nice to not have to stick to a certain schedule.

Good luck on your planning, you will get a lot of great info here!
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Old Dec 13th, 2005, 03:52 PM
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Great comments guys thanks! Ok I've posted my itinerary below - any and all comments are appreciated. I think I’ll post this separately as well to get some extra feedback.

France:

*I will be staying in hostels throughout my France leg of the trip.

July 12-Fly to Paris
July 13-Arrive in Paris in am and take train to St. Malo straight away.
July 14-St. Malo
July 15-Mont St. Michelle Day-trip.
July 16-Dinan
July 17-Dinan
July 18-Rennes
July 19-Rennes Day-trip to Fougeres.
July 20-Rennes
July 21-Travel Day Rennes to Bordeaux
July 22-Pick up rental car and head to Sarlat. (Sarlat is my base – staying at the hostel).
July 23-Beynac/Castlenaud Day-trip.
July 24-Romcamadour Day-trip.
July 25-Domme and La Roque Day-trip.
July 26-Return Car-Travel Day: Bordeaux to Paris.
July 27-Paris The Louvre
July 28-Paris The catacombs
July 29-Provins: overnight trip from Paris. (hotel undecided).
July 30-Paris The Pantheon.
July 31-Paris The Conciergerie

Greece:

*(There are no hostels in Greece beyond Athens and Santorini so it is budget hotels for most of the trip. 25-40E range - 40 being on the high end).

Aug 1-Fly to Athens on through to Lesvos.
Aug 2-Lesvos: Mytilini
Aug 3-Lesvos: Mytilini
Aug 4-Lesvos: Mithymna (Molyvos)
Aug 5-Lesvos: Mithymna (Molyvos)
Aug 6-Lesvos: Petra
Aug 7-Return to Mytilini
Aug 8-Ferry to Chios (Chios Town)
Aug 9-Chios: Rent a Car. Day-trip to Nea Moni and Anavatos.
Aug 10-Chios: Pyrgi and Emboreios
Aug 11-Chios: Mesta
Aug 12-Chios: Mesta
Aug 13-Return to Chios Town and Return the Car
Aug 14-Ferry to Samos (4hr) hydo to Naxos (3hr) then hydro on to Santorini (1.50hr)
**This is the most worrisome day on the trip – all those connections! Do you think I should stay a night in Samos to break it up? I am willing to add a day to the whole trip.
Aug 15-Santorini (Major Holiday).
Aug 16-Santorini
Aug 17-Santorini
(Stay in Oia hostel all 3 nights).
Aug 18-Ferry to Pireaus on Mainland and head directly to Nafplio.
Aug 19-Nafplio: Mycenae
Aug 20-Nafplio: Palamidi Fortress
Aug 21-Nafplio: Bourtzi and Tiryns
Aug 22-Travel to Monemvasia by way of Leonidio.
Aug 23-Monemvasia
Aug 24-Monemvasia
Aug 25-Gythio
Aug 26-Gythio: Mystras Day-trip
Aug 27-Gythio
Aug 28-Rent a Car-Vathia
Aug 29-Vathia and Lakonian Mani coast
Aug 30-Return Car to Gythio in am, bus to Aeropolis.
Aug 31-Kardamyli
Sept 1-Kardamyli: Exohorio village
Sept 2-Pylos
Sept 3-Pylos
Sept 4-Pylos: Giolova Lagoon
Sept 5-Pylos: Methoni Day-Trip
Sept 6-Koroni
Sept 7-Koroni
Sept 8-Kalamata
Sept 9-Kalamata
Sept 10-Return to Athens by Train
Sept 11-Athens: Acropolis
Sept 12-Athens: Flea Market etc.
Sept 13-Athens: Temple of Posideon
Sept 14-Fly Home

Sorry – that’s a lot to go through. Well this is the plan!

Very concerned about Aug 14th, but I’ll have to wait for the 2006 ferry schedule to come out to really review my options on that day.

Any suggestions or thoughts?

Thanks again,

Murphy.

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Old Dec 13th, 2005, 04:18 PM
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Wow! You've put a ton of work into this, obviously.

I agree, not much you can do re the 14 Aug until you get the ferry schedule. But I'd trust your hunch - 8.5 hours is a long time to spend in a single day on just one continuous ferry, let alone trying to coordinate 3 vessels. If it were me (which it isn't, of course) I'd overnight in Samos - but the major holiday next day might make for a change in schedule.

Not to worry, anyone who's done this much homework will likely know what to do when the time comes.
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Old Dec 13th, 2005, 04:57 PM
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You're right to worry about the ferries. In August, their schedules are sometimes erratic (especially the hydrofoils) because of the strong winds. They won't go out if it's too windy (and you wouldn't want to either!) They have a special name for those August winds-- can't remember it!!! Not sure what advice to give you, but thought you should know that if you didn't already. Perhaps when the ferry schedule comes out, try to find a bigger boat (slower) that can take you straight to Santorini.
BTW, we took an overnight ferry from Piraeus to Santorini and it was a breeze.
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Old Dec 14th, 2005, 02:35 AM
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The wind that often rises in August is called the "Meltemi"

Personally I often book a YEAR in advance using e-mail and if necessary telephone. If you are booking anything through a website and the website won't allow it because it is "too far out" then e-mail the establishment and ask WHEN you can book.

Have a great trip.
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Old Dec 14th, 2005, 03:20 AM
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Hi Murphy,

>if I pre-book each and every night and then there is an unavoidable detour in plans - what then?<

You won't get to xxx. It's not the end of the world.

I suggest that you have a cell phone that will allow you to contact your various hotels in case you are delayed or decide to go somewhere else.

May I kindly suggest that you are overplanned?

Instead of:

Aug 1-Fly to Athens on through to Lesvos.
Aug 2-Lesvos: Mytilini
Aug 3-Lesvos: Mytilini
Aug 4-Lesvos: Mithymna (Molyvos)
Aug 5-Lesvos: Mithymna (Molyvos)
Aug 6-Lesvos: Petra
Aug 7-Return to Mytilini
Aug 8-Ferry to Chios (Chios Town)
Aug 9-Chios: Rent a Car. Day-trip to Nea Moni and Anavatos.
Aug 10-Chios: Pyrgi and Emboreios
Aug 11-Chios: Mesta
Aug 12-Chios: Mesta
Aug 13-Return to Chios Town and Return the Car

I would plan
Aug 1-Fly to Athens on through to Lesvos.
Aug 2-7 Lesvos
Aug 8- 13 Chios

Have a great visit.

ira is offline  
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