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Rex please tell us about the Fodorites trip

Rex please tell us about the Fodorites trip

Old Nov 30th, 2005, 03:34 PM
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Rex please tell us about the Fodorites trip

In another thread, Rex posted: "One alternative to either end of the sprctrum you mention is a "build-it-yourself" small group trip, aka a "Fodorites trip". They have rarely existed. I formed one of the first, and to date, the largest, I think (at seven participants) in 2001.. to Italy (Florence, Lake Garda region, Venice, Rome)."

Would you please tell us more about how the Fodorites trip went? I came to this board in 2002 and missed hearing about it.

Keith
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Old Nov 30th, 2005, 03:52 PM
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I am not sure but I think sfowler has photos of that GTG..
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Old Dec 1st, 2005, 01:44 AM
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It was more than a "GTG".

This trip was conceived and planned, entirely through correspondence between me and three other participants on this message board. "Person A" (I'll respect her privacy) and I laid much of the skeleton of the trip, and then for personal reasons, she had to cancel. "B" and "C" were quite new to this board, and threw their hats into the ring - - quite honestly on darn near a lark, looking back at it. I have lost communication with "C" (though I did meet her in person before the trip - - the only person I met before we got there).

"B", a single 40-ish guy from Georgia played a crucial role in recruiting other friends (a best friend and her mother, and a widowed friend of the mother). That made six - - and quite honestly, I've forgotten how the seventh person hooked up with us, though she too was from Georgia, but never met the others before the trip. Thus, two of us had met (me and "C&quot and "B" knew three of the others.

We corresponded through literally hundreds of e-mail messages, and minimally by phone. Each person made their own air travel arrangements, though we coordinated them. I took on the financial responsibility to secure a villa rental (on Lake Garda) for a week (we could have accommodated up to 11 people max in this particular villa), and together with "B" and "C", we made a verbal pledge to each other to pay the entire cost of the villa rental, even if we never got enough people to make the trip make sense. It was NOT terribly expensive (under $2000 for a week, if I recall).

I also made hotel reservations (nights one and two) in Florence plus nights 10-13, in Rome (I actually departed after night 10; the balance of the group fended for themselves for nights 11, 12 13), since we had already gotten settled in Rome (also "B" had been to Rome before).

I rented a nine-passenger van for the week at the villa, and for this and various other costs (groceries, for example - - as well as some meals out), I played "banker", and allocated costs and collected cash. We handled wine purchases at meals separately in a voluntary "kitty", since some people barely drank any wine. Each person paid his/her own hotel bills for the hotel stay nights - - including a one-overnight side trip to Venice, in the middle of our Lake Garda week stay (I drove them there and went off on my own for about 24 hours; this provided some "escape" time for them, and I had some other things I wanted to do, and have been to Venice many times).

We "day tripped" almost every day in the Garda area - - to Sirmione, to Verona, to Trento, around the lake (and of course the Venice getaway for them).

We traveled by train from our arrival airport (Milan Linate, by way of Frankfurt) to Florence, and at the end of the villa week, from Verona to Rome.

There was considerable anxiety about going... just eight days after Sep 11, 2001 - - for one thing, we weren't sure about the flights being on schedule until roughly Sep 15, I think - - but in the end, everyone said "Hell, yeah, let's do it".

I would do it again in a heartbeat. I have now been to Europe a total of 24 times, and 11 of those have been (in one capacity or another) as organizer/leader of a &quot;small group trip&quot;. This was my first and only experience so far with (all) &quot;total strangers&quot;, though some other trips with family anf friends of family have involved <i>some</i> travelers that I knew only superficially.

Are there some little squabbles? Sure, but nothing worth mentioning. Are we lifelong friends afterwards? no - - hardly. I still do Christmas cards with four of the seven (counting myself in that four). &quot;B&quot; has returned here to Fodors occasionally, and he and his daughter/mother friend have loosely talked about &quot;why don't we do it again some day?&quot; - - but he has favored some non-Europe destinations (three weeks in China, for example). As it is, I can't get to Europe as often as I would like - - kids in college, daughter(s) wedding(s), but I am committed to try to make one of these happen again. I would love to fit somthing in for 2006. All kinds of destinations are high on my list. I suspect that two of my siblings-in-law have trips on their &quot;far agenda&quot; with me in 2007 and/or 2008 (maybe one to Israel).

I know of only a few other sparing examples - - and most of the other examples have been two's or three's, I think. I personalyl believe that a good number os 6-10, but I have traveled with as few as 3 or 4, and still called it a &quot;small group&quot;, or as many as 16. I strongly prefer a week in a villa or apartment, though that may or may not fit some itineraries.

I invite you to correspond with me privately for more details, if you prefer - - or we can keep the Q&amp;A going here on this thread (actually preferable, unless you want to get into nuts and bolts of how we start a 2006 trip into the planning stage).

Best wishes,

Rex Bickers, M.D.
Floyds Knobs, Indiana

p.s. - - don't count on me always replying at this uncivilized hour in the morning!
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Old Dec 1st, 2005, 02:36 AM
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Rex, do you have an idea of if/ when/where you would like to attempt this again? I will definitely go to Europe sometime in the summer of 2006 so I could interested...
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Old Dec 1st, 2005, 04:19 AM
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April? September? I have such a long list of destinations that would appeal to me... Croatia, Sicily (first time), but also &quot;less exotic&quot; - - back to France (tenth time), or Spain (fifth time or Portugal or Poland (second time each) or further east (first time)...

...so destination is less important to me than &quot;micro-destinations&quot;... I am willing to &quot;lead&quot; where others want to &quot;follow&quot;...
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Old Dec 1st, 2005, 04:56 AM
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Rex,thank you so much for the prompt response.

As someone who usually travels solo, and has only occasionaly aranged a room share with a stranger (at conventions with expensive hotels), I found it facinating.

Keith
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Old Dec 1st, 2005, 05:07 AM
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Rex - this is a fascinating tale. Thanks for sharing. I always appreciate and have learned to rely on your travel suggestions to others so I'm confident you &amp; the others had a well-planned, wonderful adventure. If you're able to go into further detail, how did the group (or you) work out important aspects of the trip such as: where would you stay, what country, what side trips, dates, etc. Did everyone throw in their ideas? Did a few make the plans with others following along? Did you come up with the basic itinerary and others jumped on board? Thanks, in advance, for the info...
Lisa
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Old Dec 1st, 2005, 05:08 AM
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I do think that a house rental is an element that contributes to the success, though not critical. The &quot;personal&quot; space afforded by your own room, common areas, and &quot;bonding&quot; opportunities at impromptu times (meals, coffee, late night wine, etc) allows people to move in and out of their comfort zone to get to know others.

Of course, I guess that such circumstances occur even on &quot;tour-bus&quot; trips... if you want to have them happen...
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Old Dec 1st, 2005, 05:12 AM
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There is a picture of the happy group on the &quot;fodorite&quot; page under get together.

http://fodorite.fisherfowler.net/
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Old Dec 1st, 2005, 05:14 AM
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Since Scarlett mentioned it, and since this thread - - http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...p;tid=34476640 - -was just recently &quot;topped&quot;...

...referencing http://fodorite.fisherfowler.net

..I'll acknowledge that there is this photo on the sfowler Fodorites' picture page : http://fodorite.fisherfowler.net/RBGroup.jpg

&quot;B&quot; is Claye, and &quot;C&quot; is Stacy; Jean is Lynn's mother and De is/was Jean's friend. AnneMarie was the seventh traveler.
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Old Dec 1st, 2005, 05:14 AM
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I see that we were posting at the same time!
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Old Dec 1st, 2005, 10:29 AM
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I am also curious as to the details. For example, when you had meals out, who chose the restaurants? Were they chosen in advance of the trip? How did you handle some people wanting to do shopping while traveling in the van? Who did the cooking at the villa? What kind of meals?
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Old Dec 1st, 2005, 10:53 AM
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We often picked a dinner restaurant during the course of the day. We cooked dinner in... twice, more or less a group effort - - relatively simple... for example, buying some roasted chickens at the market, and this'n'that to go with it. I prepared quite a few really nice breakfasts. And our only &quot;splurge&quot; meal was my choice, I guess... presented well before the trip in e-mail... on the terrace at Villa San Michele (Fiesole). I don't recall what &quot;they&quot; say they did their one overnight in Venice (I think one person opted out of the group of six, but sure don't recall any details), and likewise never heard much about their choices in Rome after I left.

I don't recall the single vehicle being an issue, but I do remember that some walked into (the town of) Garda at least once (about 2 miles?), and I think I went to pick them up at a designated time.

It really was very cordial and amicable... nd there was a good deal of &quot;family&quot; sense about the seven of us. I suspect that many, if not all of &quot;them&quot; would say I was a bit of a &quot;mother hen&quot; to the group. Suited me to a T.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2005, 01:21 PM
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marigross - - i fear that I have deleted or misplaced an earlier e-mail from you, and do not have your e-mail address now - - write to me?
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Old Dec 2nd, 2005, 04:07 PM
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So, what's the first step for those of us who are interested? Get a head count, or hash out possible dates or destinations?

The idea sounds good to me...
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Old Dec 2nd, 2005, 04:21 PM
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Sounds fun, but unfortunately not in the near future for us....

But thank you Keith for posting. I too found the references and Rex's website that detailed the plans for the trip and wondered how it played out.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2005, 05:18 PM
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&lt;&lt; So, what's the first step for those of us who are interested? &gt;&gt;

I don't think there is one answer. If I am going to help be the &quot;ringleader&quot; for such a thing - - whether mostly, entirely, or only partially... I think that it begins with an exchange of some info on what &quot;you&quot; (whoever you are) have in mind. It can be here on this message board, or by e-mail, but before long, it means a substantial telephone conversation, and then start an &quot;e-mail ring&quot;.

Because I am prepared to react to ideas thrown my way - - and let me reiterate, I do not have to be at the center of this - - I want to, but if it were not to uit me, for example, I still might enjoy providing some guidance or advice, even if I were not going - - the key elements are:

1. (list of) destination(s) - - it might be one country, or more than one (especially if it is more than ten days) - - but within a country... cities? regions? partly rural? specific heat-throbs you feel like you have to include?

2. season - - ideally, you have a fairly specific month (and even early middle or late in that month)

3. duration - - give or take a few days. I would personally have no interest in fewer than 6-8 days... and I would need more lead time if it were to be more than 12 days.

4. how many are &quot;you&quot;? and ages, and relationships to each other... to which I would let you know how many am &quot;I&quot;? (could be two, could be one, could be more than two) - - and do you have a min/max group size in mind? Four is a group in my mind, but 6-10 opens up more possibilities in self-catering accommodations. I have traveled with more than 10 only three times.

5. budget - - this is the least important element to me. I have traveled (in the current decade, 1995-2005), on $80/day per person and on $500/day per person and pretty much everywhere in between. And a group CAN travel &quot;together&quot; and still make some different choices as to how much they spend per day - - to a certain extent.

Thus, the &quot;first person&quot; to communicate with me - - in dead earnest... (assuming that what you want and what I can help put together can jive)... lights the fuse and sets the process in motion. And establishes how much gets divulged here in public, the nature of communications amongst us, and much more. Not everyone is equally comfortable with giving (even as much as) their (whole real) name here - - let alone city, state, e-mail, dates you will be gone from home, etc.

You might take a further look at http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...p;tid=34644251
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Old Dec 3rd, 2005, 10:51 PM
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Well, the prospect of a &quot;Fodorites trip&quot; does sound extremely interesting--unfortunately, it's not in the cards for me right now.

I do hope that some you folks get to have a group trip, and that it's a very good one!
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Old Dec 4th, 2005, 08:51 AM
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I neglected to clarify earlier--the main reasons the idea of a trip like this is quite appealing are:

1) A high level of social interaction while traveling--with a small group of like-minded people. Travel can be a rather isolating experience, if one has only superficial contact with local people, and many would say that conventional tour travel offers a rather superficial level of interaction as well. How much more worthwhile to look in wonder at a splendid Gothic cathedral, knowing that the people with you are just as interested and will still be talking about what you've all seen when you sit down for dinner together!

2) The high level of expertise in planning the trip. Having an experienced, interested, and detail-oriented planner would naturally make a travel experience much more gratifying. Here I think everyone will be involved in planning the itinerary, but many of the logistics will be handled by Rex, who has demonstrated his expertise.

All in all, I think a &quot;Fodorites trip&quot; could be an extremely successful and memorable one! It's a tad bitter to me that I won't get to go on one, at least in 2006.
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Old Dec 4th, 2005, 12:16 PM
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Thanks for the kind remarks. As I have said elsewhere, six years of experience have proven to me that 99% of the people who come here to this forum are clearly not looking to &quot;find&quot; a trip to join up with... and only some fraction of the other 1% would choose any particular trip that I (or anyone else) would want to plan (right dates, destinations, etc). The best I might hope for, is no antagonism.
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