what goes into trip planning?

Jan 12th, 2008, 05:01 AM
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what goes into trip planning?

i am in the process of booking a tour for myself alone to france for early april. since it's pretty much an escorted tour, i don't have to do a great deal of planning. however, never having been overseas, i'm wondering what others do when preparing for a trip. is 3 months long enough lead time? what should i be doing in the interim to get ready? i know this sounds anal but i like to be prepared!
bobbye7 is offline  
Jan 12th, 2008, 05:24 AM
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My advice would be to read as much as possible about France, especially the areas you will be visiting. Not just tourist guides but fiction and non-fiction. I know there are some threads with suggestions about good books if you do a search

Watching films set in France is also a fun way to "prepare."
Vttraveler is offline  
Jan 12th, 2008, 05:45 AM
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Preparation includes researching for information about the places and sights you'll be seeing, and determining if there is anything in a location but not covered in the tour that you might want to see. Just because you're on a tour doesn't mean you shouldn't look at a guidebook and maybe pick up a few maps, in case you want to walk around some on your own or with a fellow tourmate (and you should!).

Then there is preparation for booking the trip and taking care of things at home before you leave. Many of us use a checklist, so I'll put the part that doesn't involve what I pack here: (some of it won't apply because you're using a tour company)

Make airline reservations
Make hotel reservations
Purchase travel / med evacuation insurance
Complete trip planning / itinerary details
Purchase train tickets or passes
Arrange for pet care; leave important numbers, itinerary, key, etc
Prepare "Important Information" before traveling:
- Passport documents (birth cert., pssprt applic.)
- Copy passport pages
- Extra passport photos, leave uncut
- Itinerary - Hotel names, ph#, dates
- Copy of airline tickets, train tickets, car rental
- Consular Info Sheet (ph. #s)
- List of credit cards & hotline #
- Phone number list (family, emergency, etc)
International calling tips
HOLD mail and newspaper delivery
Notify credit/debit card customer service of upcoming foreign use
Reconfirm flight and hotel reservations
Extra batteries for cell phone, camera, etcard(s)
Send email to a trusted person about your itinerary, where to find important papers, etc
Secure bills/financial info, purse/wallet, other valuables (we have a house-sitter so we lock up these things)
Travelnut is offline  
Jan 12th, 2008, 07:25 AM
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Forgot to say I also recommend doing anything you can do to learn some French or brush up on your French before the trip
Vttraveler is offline  
Jan 12th, 2008, 08:42 AM
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thanks for the checklist, travelnut. i'd never have thought of some of those things.
i remember quite a it of french from my college days, so long ago, but plan to get a tape to bone up on it.
bobbye7 is offline  
Jan 12th, 2008, 09:02 AM
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The cost to travel to Europe from the US is at an all-time high and booking way in advance is one of the ways to mitigate the sticker shock. If you read this forum regularly you will soon notice that it is not uncommon for people planning trips 9-12 months in advance. Honestly, good thing you are taking an escorted tour, because you would be sort of late starting to plan travel in early April. There are some very smart travelers out there who already booked awesome lodging at great rates, etc...

Definitely start by evaluating your itinerary very carefully; what is covered? where are you going? what would you like to see that's not included? can you communicate with fellow travelers in advance in case you want to join/be joined in an excursion? Research weather history at the destination and plan your wardrobe carefully and wisely. Select guidebooks to take to supplement the company's guide. Read on the sights you will be visiting, specifically, get a good feel for the layout in advance. Make a handy little conversion cheat-sheet for easy reference. Gosh, there is so much work to do, let's get going!!
Viajero2 is offline  
Jan 12th, 2008, 09:13 AM
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If your tour allows you free time, and most of them do at some point, or they offer optional excursions that you may or may not want to participate in, then have a couple of options for places that your would be interested in seeing, or perhaps any area of the city you would just like a few hours to explore a bit. It's nice to have some "down time" when your are touring and allow for perhaps a bit of serendipity.

Pack and then get rid of about half of what you thought you'd need to take. It took me three trips to get it "right".
crefloors is online now  
Jan 12th, 2008, 09:16 AM
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That is a good list.

Why a canned tour for France? It's easy on your own.

I've started planning for my independent trip to eastern Europe in May with a rail map and a timetable (both from Thomas Cook), a calendar, and guidebook Europe on a Shoestring (Lonely Planet).

hopscotch is offline  
Jan 12th, 2008, 09:31 AM
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Even if going an a guided tour you should

Learn basic tourist French (greetings, please, thank you, times, days of the week, number etc)

Have a look at a map of each of the cities you will stay in with free time and locate your hotel - so you can get around

Read several guide books and decide what are YOUR must see/dos. Many guided tours are least common denominator - and often have lots of stops for shopping and morning coffee and afternoon tea - with a 5 minute photo op at a major site - versus the hour long tour you might expect

Also - many tours have optional extra tours. You are NOT required to go if there is something else you would rather see/do. but , some tour guides make you think this isn't possible - it is.

(My second trip to europe was a package (air, hotel, transit between cities and 1/2 day city tour in each. After the first 1/2 day city tour we bagged them - they were way too basic. And the hostess tried to sell all sorts of extra tours for our 5 free days in London. One of those days was the English Darby - which we wanted to see. The hostess told us this was not possible - and that we should take the Windsor tour that day - since that was the only day it was offered. Completely wrong. We did the Darby with no trouble. And took a train to Windsor another day - and saw more than the people on the hosted tour - who wasted a lot of time shopping - and had missed the changing of the guard.)

Be ready to break off from the tour for the day to see things that really interest you

Read the tour brochure carefully to see what meals are not included - and get info on some restaurants you might want to visit in those cities where meals are not provided

The more research you do up front the more you will be able to make the tour what you want it to be - and the more you'll enjoy the trip.
nytraveler is offline  
Jan 12th, 2008, 09:57 AM
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You probably realize that you're on a forum filled with compulsive planners and those, like me, who think and talk about travel while they wait and save for the next trip so-no, we don't think you're anal at all. Sometimes I think I enjoy the planning as much as the trip. Go to your local library and check out every book you can find on France. Watch travel shows and movies set in the areas you're visiting-check this forum and others for suggestions. Buy a guidebook or two or three-a $20 investment helps you make the most of your expensive, limited time in France.

Make sure your passport doesn't expire in the next 6 months, then make copies-you take at least one of these and leave one with your emergency contact at home. Do not forget to let your credit card company know, just before you go, that you'll be overseas. If your bank has foreign transaction fees, you have time to apply for a Capitol One card, which doesn't. Take two credit cards and an ATM card-make sure it has a four digit numerical pin.

There's nothing wrong with an escorted tour, especially if you're alone, but don't be a slave to their itinerary. When we went to Florence, for example, the tour didn't include the Uffizi. That just wasn't acceptable to me, so my daughter and I stayed "home" from a bus tour and did a day by ourselves. Another family had their hearts set on Pisa, so they left the group for a day to do that. Knowing what your priorities are before arriving helps you decide when to follow the leader and when to strike out on your own.
You will really treasure your own "discoveries" and the times, maybe later in your trip, that you are face to face with local culture and people without the insulation of the group and guide.
Bon voyage!
SusanSDG is offline  
Jan 12th, 2008, 10:00 AM
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Lots of good advice here for you already.

Print off a foreign currency cheatsheet from www.oanda.com - choose the Euro and US$ (I'm guessing you're American, choose your own currency if you're not).

Clothes - don't take anything that needs ironing. Take things that dry quickly so you can wash stuff in the basin overnight and drip over the shower. Finish off during the day in the wardrobe. Avoid denim jeans as they take forever to dry when washed.

Here is a good audio website for foreign language that will let you hear how a word should sound www.travlang.com

KayF is offline  
Jan 12th, 2008, 04:33 PM
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ok, some people are scaring me. is 3 months enough lead time to get ready, even for an escorted tour? should i put this off till the fall?
bobbye7 is offline  
Jan 12th, 2008, 04:47 PM
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Do you have your passport? If not that is the very highest priority.
AisleSeat is offline  
Jan 12th, 2008, 05:24 PM
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Three months is plenty of time.

You can learn the French you need in one day.

You can read several tour guides - making notes or marking places you want to see/eat - in a couple of weeks.

After that take a couple of weeks to read something about French culture and history.

3 months is plenty of time.
nytraveler is offline  
Jan 12th, 2008, 05:29 PM
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Bobbye don't be scared off - 3 months is tonnes of time. Just make sure you get your passport ASAP - that is the only time consuming part really. Some people like to plan more than others - some people barely plan at all. Just subject to personal preference.

Have Fun!

MollyBrown is offline  
Jan 12th, 2008, 06:06 PM
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I think it is important to refresh tmy knowledge of the history of the places I am going to visit.
I think we all forget things we have learnt in school or read time ago ,at least I do. Before a trip I look into my books, in bookstores etc and try to learn as much as possible. I have notice for instance that the tours in Versailles often are very different in English than in French. The English version is like a simplification of the French one.

Graziella5b is offline  
Jan 12th, 2008, 06:20 PM
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Here is a good tip for reducing the last-minute stress - pack the week before you leave, not the day before! We once had a Wednesday departure, and I had to work Mon/Tues, and we had a concert to go to Mon pm... so, I packed on Sunday. It felt so good to know I had everything put in its place, only my handbag needed the last-minute adjustment.
Travelnut is offline  
Jan 12th, 2008, 09:08 PM
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You do not have to go overboard if it's not your style. Especially since you're going on an organized tour. Some people just love the planning part.

I'm the opposite, even traveling solo, I never plan anything ahead beyond a hotel room reservation and a guidebook or map for the city. And I consider myself an organized person.

Whether on a tour or on your own, you truly need only a few things bottomline:

plane ticket
and a packed suitcase

suze is offline  
Jan 13th, 2008, 05:05 AM
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thanks for the encouragement and good advice to one and all. as you can tell i'm somewhat of a nervous nellie. i've been pondering this trip forever!
one of my biggest concerns is my wardrobe. what do you ladies take for a tour of nearly 10 days -- 3 days in paris, plus a visit to provence and the riveria.
bobbye7 is offline  
Jan 13th, 2008, 05:11 AM
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Also, start checking the weather for your destination about two weeks out. They give a ten day forecast on most sites. I start checking about three weeks out to kinda get a better feel for fluctuations in temps. Then, I can pack with this info in mind.....there is always that trip where the weather completely ignores the projected forecast and does what it wants to though! Always remember to layer!
artlvr is offline  

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