In our myriad of travels, the #AdventurePartnerForLife and I have yet to do a fully escorted trip. We tend to move at a pretty intense traveling pace and, well, we basically hate regimented schedules that aren’t ours. Because of this, and some of the unusual destinations on our résumés, we’re often asked how we manage our planning. In this month’s “Freestyle,” Global Debauchery spills its trusted go-to travel planning resources, as well as another niche newbie others might be interested in.
Getting from Point A to Point B…
I don’t even know what I’d do without Rome2Rio, one of my most trusted travel planning resources. This site shows you how to get to anywhere from anywhere in any number of ways—train, bus, ferry, plane, car. You choose. It’s super user friendly, it generates total transportation time for each option, cost for each option, and provides some schedules. It also tells you which companies are running which schedules so you can check additional departure times and/or book in advance.
This site has been particularly helpful the further we travel into eastern Europe. Train schedules change often and the bus companies are highly privatized. Travel books and forum information are quickly outdated. Did I mention English becomes less and less common and they sometimes use the Cyrillic alphabet? (Yeah, try deciphering that bus schedule on the fly.) Rome2Rio always provides me a solid starting point for transportation between countries, and gives me a general idea of departure times to better plan my journey.
A disclaimer before we begin that Bahn is Europe-specific. I, myself, love travelling by train and Bahn is my number one train scheduling agent. We learned when booking Eurail passes once that it’s actually what Eurail was using for our entire pre-booked journey. (Not to say it’s all they use, it’s just what they used for us.) If Eurail passes aren’t appropriate for your journey—and they may not be for a variety of reasons—go directly to the source. It’s comprehensive, accurate, and has an English site option.
Once You’re There…
Jeff and I tend to spend a couple of days in City X and then branch out to specific areas of whichever country we’re visiting, some of which are more remote than others. A lot of times, we’ll find that renting a vehicle for a day isn’t a good option because of insurance restrictions or cost, or there aren’t regular train or bus schedules to the area we want to visit. This is when we book day trips through Viator. (Our periodic Viator day trips might be the only scripted schedules we’ll follow outside of our own.)
A database of trusted tour excursion companies, we’ve never had a bad experience booking through them. The companies pick you up right at your hotel or at a centralized location and you can spend a few hours, a full day, or even several days on a tour of your choice. They usually have a few options of the same tour with different companies, so you can compare pricing or itinerary nuances. They sometimes run discounts where, if you like them on Facebook, you’ll get 15% off or, if you refer a friend, you’ll get $10 off. Just keep an eye out on your next trip and see what they’ve got running.
City Sightseeing is a hop-on/hop-off bus company and is a great way to land a flat rate to get around a city for a couple of days. You can ride the entire tour, or jump off, walk around and catch a pick-up at another site entirely (my personal preference). They operate in a number of international locations and their passes are valid for up to 48 hours, depending on the city. They also tend to offer multiple routes so you can cruise through different areas.
We’ve used them in both Rome and Berlin and will probably be booking passes on our upcoming trip to Copenhagen. They, too, run periodic discounts, but the passes are generally only $20-30 per person (cheaper for kids and students!). We purchased a couple London passes as a gift for a friend and they received a free Thames River boat ride in the mix. All in all, it might be a little cheaper to get around by metro, but if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of figuring out another ticketing system in another country, this is a really convenient option.
Not a Planner?
I’ve yet to test this one out myself, but my possible Yellowstone trip this spring might be the perfect opportunity; it sounds pretty cool. Just Ahead is a GPS-based audio app that guides you as you travel through national parks and makes suggestions for additional sights as you go. It’s currently available for a number of the major national parks and the directory is growing. It also operates without a cell signal on download and tells you all about upcoming landmarks (wildlife, geology, history). You can pretty much go wherever you want to and this app will tell you what’s right in front of you and multiple routes for where to go next. I’m down.
Let me know your own reliable travel planning resources via the Comments section or through my Contact form. I’d love to hear them and test them out.
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