Thursday, March 7, 2013

Trip Planning

So sorry I've been away too long. I have been trying to plan our Summer vacation. We are going to Great Britain and a few other spots and I am so excited!! I live for travel. I'm addicted and it's my favorite thing in the whole world. I'm always thinking of where I want to go next. It takes a bit of effort though to make it happen especially when you are on limited budget. (The start-up budget I'll call it, but my husband won't like the tone of that ;).



So, where I've been is down the black hole of trip planning- the internet. If anyone has done this and is a Trip Advisor junkie like me, you know it's quicksand. It's all encompassing. I'll get myself bogged down with details like what did people think was the best room location, etc and it's all over. I've wasted another perfectly good afternoon debating the pros and cons of a place that doesn't even have availability for me! Arrgh!! After that, I decided not to let myself see the hotel photos or customer comments and went straight for the available dates. Duh. That was also after clicking on about 100 other places that, my friend Trip Advisor said, "I might like," which kept flashing on the sidebar! God help ADD types like me. Of course I ended up booking something a friend recommended, and none of the others after all that time. (Thank you Stefanie by the way!)



The trip is for  10 days or so this Summer to England, and meandering to Northern Germany. All I know is that we have flights coming in to London and leaving from Frankfurt. We used our frequent flyer miles to start and end at those places. We will take the chunnel or Eurostar as we have before from the U.K. to France.  I'm hoping to plan out a trip that includes Belgium and Holland on the way to Germany. The rest is up to me and my internet sleuthing. That's usually how I figure these trips out. And also through the kind recommendations from others, like Stef. I would never consider using a travel agent because planning and researching is one of the best parts of travel to me. Also I would never want to let anyone else choose my hotel for me, (and that includes my husband!) Accomodations are an afterthought to him, That's where we are polar opposites.. He's Travel Lodge while I'm Four Seasons and so we meet somewhere in the middle.



We have been to London twice and I never can get enough time there. All I can think is tea time, scones, Liberty, Pimm's Cups, royal palaces, Jane Austen, Wimbledon, the list is endless and I love it all. Planning that part was pretty easy. I just had to find either an apartment or a hotel there and that took some time. Thing is, once your kids get to 12+ age people don't want the 4 of you crowding into 2 big beds, even if it would work. So they either add a huge fee daily (don't forget the lovely VAT charge) or they make you check in to a,"family" room which is usually about 5 inches larger and $100 more expensive.

the curious bumblebee


On trips past, we have done apartments and that has been very positive and so much more affordable since there are no VAT or extra fees. Everyone gets a bed or even a room, and you have a kitchen if you need it, couches, and more space. The best part is you get to know a neighborhood and I love that.
You find the bakeries, little shops and cafe's that would otherwise never be discovered staying in a big hotel in the touristy areas. Many are even serviced like a hotel. We have always been greeted by someone who gave us the lay of the land and sometimes even a cell phone to use. Occasionally, we would have to take the tube for 10 or so minutes to the center of town, but that was never hard. One site in London I stumbled on was One Fine Stay, which has stunning as well as charming flats in London. Check the site out and you will be dreaming of some of these places.

One Fine Stay

This time in London we are going hotel. I'm a bit late planning this trip. Since most of the apartments I liked are booked for the days we are going, I thought I'd try something different. My boys are older and can stay out late. I figured a hotel in the center of it all would be a little pit stop for us to pop in and go back out between museums, sightseeing and dinner. I also like the idea of going downstairs and having a drink or fancy dinner with my husband while the boys stay in the room with a movie and pizza from room service. Having a high schooler, I felt like they were old enough to be alone if we were nearby. Last trip we did this, they thought that was the best night! My younger one Griffin still asks, "Mom can we have the guy come with the rolling cart and the flowers and silver covers on the food?" Clearly, the kid could get used to this. Sorry, I tell my husband, my genes!



Speaking of traveling abroad with kids, I think it's a lot of fun. Maybe I'm crazy, but it has been a positive and enlightening experience for all of us. I highly recommend it. Later this week, I'll share my experiences traveling to Europe with kids in a post about family travel..



So tell me, do you enjoy trip planning? Do you have any secrets? And has anyone done the trip I described or have any special places they love in Holland, Belgium or Northern Germany? You readers always amaze me with your knowledge and anything you want to share I really appreciate. What about travel in London? On my list is either a day trip to Windsor or Stratford-Upon-Avon, and also we are hoping to queue for grounds admission to Wimbledon, as we will be there during the first days of the championships.





So tell me about what adventures you have planned...I'd love to hear about your plans. Summer is around the corner. I'm usually a wait and see person, but I'm trying to get a jump on things a bit earlier this year!


Kim


Piccsy




25 comments :

  1. Sounds like a great trip. We did do "a day in WINDSOR"and unfortunately it was a Sunday. Everything was closed! We walked around the grounds but I'm sure we would have had a better experience on a different day. We were able to be shooed out of a kilt store because they wanted to close and lose a sale of a kilt but we found a pub and drank away our sorrows. My vote for you is not to miss the Victoria and Albert Mueseum but I'm sure you have all of that covered. I always enjoy England even if I'm passing through for a day heading somewhere else.

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    1. Joan,
      Good to know about the Sunday thing! Sounds like you guys still had a fun memory of the kilt store and the pub! That's what I love about travel..You never forget, even the screw ups turn into an adventure. Just as I got your comment I had the V&A site up and was checking it out! How funny is that? I heard they have a David Bowie exhibit now and I would love to catch it. Thanks for your note Joan. :)

      xx

      xo

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    2. OH and be sure to go to Claridges for a cocktail....that hotel is amazing.

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    3. Okay! Have heard that is super cool! You would know of course! Thanks Joan. :)

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  2. Hi, Kim ! I travelled quite a bit when I was young(er) and it seems that I don't need it so much nowadays, although I used to be addicted. Week-ends at the beach this Spring and then later a trip to London are as far as I've decided for the moment ! I admire you for taking all the responsibilities for the arrangements, you are so brave ! Just one recommendation : when you're in London, don't miss Hampton Court, it's a bit out of the way but worth a visit. Your kids look adorable !xxx

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    1. I always enjoy your beach getaways! Guess those are weekend when you live in Paris, but they seem so exotic and fun to me. Thanks for mentioning Hampton Court. We had it on our list last time and we never got there. I'm going to for sure this time. I know I would love it.

      xx

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  3. Oh you are so lucky Kim! That sounds like an awesome trip and I love the fact you are taking the kids. My parents took me on their Europe trip when I was 15 and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. (Actually, that has been my only Europe trip ... Hubs and I would love to go back to Europe together one day). Funny note about the rooms -- I hear you about having to get a "family" room or suite. Because there were 3 of us, our rooms always had an extra cot or a fold-out bed attached to the wall - it was something different every time. I think the best one was in London, our hotel had three single beds lined up in a row! ha ha

    I agree, planning trips is the best. I love all the research and I love finding out little gems and ideas that not everyone else is doing or even knows about.

    Can't wait to hear what all you will be doing. I remember when we were in Germany, we took a cruise along the Rhine River, that was lovely. Not sure if you will be that far south though.

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    1. LR, How nice that you feel that it was one of the greatest things you ever did. You were so fortunate to do that. I do hope that my boys will feel the same. I do think they might as they really talk a lot about all the trip memories...The Rhine Cruise sounds lovely..I will check that out!
      Thanks so much for the note!

      xx

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  4. We could be twins, I love planning trips! And there's nothing better than going to Europe with kids, we've had our best family holidays there. Our daughters have been to Prague and twice to France. I love to experience the thrill of travel through them as well, it's an excellent bonding experience.
    Your trip is going to be amazing. And I agree about the hotel allowing you and your husband a bit of freedom, that's what we do as well, it's fun to pop out for a glass of champagne and the kids like the grown-up feeling of having their own room service.
    We're not going to Europe this year, we're spending 2 weeks in Algonquin Park (canada) instead. London is next on our list so I look forward to reading all about your trip!

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    1. Dani, I would love to get to Prague too. I love that you have taken your daughters and I totally agree it is a bonding thing. It's always nice to hear that others feel the same. Well, I hope I'll have some good ideas for your trip. I would love to read more about Canada and get up there. It looks amazingly beautiful and I don't know nearly enough about it. I am going to pop over to your blog and catch up! Thanks so much for the note!

      xo

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  5. I love this post, and you know it's up my alley. I can't wait to check out the apartment. You will have to drop me a note and let me know where you are staying. Perhaps you should do a guest post on my blog once you get back.

    I could get sucked into TripAdvisor all day.

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    1. Leigh, I will let you know where I go. Isn't Trip Advisor the best? Can you imagine planning a trip before the internet? It really was a crapshoot wan't it? I think it's the best thing out there. I would love to share more about the trip with you after too.

      xo

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  6. I research things to death as well Kim. I have never used a travel agent and probably never will. We did a trip to Italy last March for a wedding (budget style). The best trip we have ever had!!

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    1. Cindy, Love to hear you are like me! Italy is amazingly affordable I thought. That was the least expensive place we have visited in Europe and I had the best time! I'd love to know more about what you did! That sounds fun to go for a wedding.

      xo

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  7. Lucky Kim! I loved England when I went. I especially enjoyed the Covent Garden area as well as the Notting Hill market. I have been to Belgium and one of our favorite places was a village called Bruges as it was like stepping back in time hundreds of years! We enjoyed Antwerp as well. Holland is still one of my favorite places as everyone was very friendly there and most people speak English, especially in the big cities. Have fun...bigtime jealous over here!

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    1. Hi Bcat! I will check out Bruges in my research..Heard that and Antwerp are great! I am excited to get to Holland and see that, Thanks so much!

      xo

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    2. Bruges also had the BEST chocolate covered caramels. My mouth is watering just thinking about it lol!

      Kelley

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  8. This sounds wonderful Kim! How exciting for you and your lovely family:) I have not yet been to London but it's on my bucket list. My girlfriend just got back (the whole family went) and they had a blast. Get to Belgium if you can .. it's so pretty. We were there in July and would go back in a heart beat. Bruges is the spot most folks go but we really liked Ghent.. it was smaller, not as touristy.

    xxleslie

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    1. Leslie, Did you go to Belgium after your France trip? I missed that. I will check out Ghent and Bruges! I just loved your Paris pictures. Thanks so much! I love hearing other families are going and having fun. :)

      xx

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  9. Kim - you have me hooked. Now I'm going to fall down the internet rabbit hole checking out One Fine Stay! Did not know they make you have a larger room as kids get older. We have to get two rooms anyway. Hotels in London are tiny and old and creaky with dodgy electrics so think an apartment is a great idea! We lived in Notting Hill for nearly 10 years and I love being in that area - you can walk to everywhere through the parks.

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  10. I usually plan the trips for my family including hotels, itineraries and also do some research on restaurants on the cities we visit. Don't forget to visit the Harry Potter studios in London. Your kids will enjoy it. I heard it is really good. The Natural History Museum and the London Eye are fun too. There's an express pass at the London Eye to avoid the super long line up during the Summer season. Windsor Castle is worth the visit. Overall, have fun.

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  11. Hi Kim! What a wonderful summer trip you have to look forward to with your family. I think it's so great that you travel with the kids. It will instill a love of travel for life. I totally agree-trip planning, though a major timesucker at times, is part of the fun. I love it! As you know, we were in London for the holidays and loved it. You must do 'The Eye' the views were incredible! Can't wait to see your posts! We have a couple of beachy vacays coming up. Secrets Marquis in Cabo in April and Punta Cana for summer. Feeling the need for some tropical R and R!
    We just booked Portugal for summer 2014 so I'm in the research mode for that one.
    As they say in London-Cheerio Kim!
    xx

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  12. I would recommend a B&B in East Molesely or right across the bridge at Hampton Court There are also french markets to buy great food. Not to be missed is a sunny terrace at 5 Bridge Road with affordable fresh breakfast. Do not let the prices fool you! You can then take the train into London (30minutes) or a boat up the river. It is such a lovely area with green belts along the river …not to forget the fun neighborly pubs where families with strollers and pups meet:) Hampton Court castle is lovely and filled with history….I could go on and on. A great neighborhood, close to everything. Anyway, as you can tell it is one of my favorite parts around London. I used to work quite extensively all over the UK.

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  13. Hi Kim been meaning to comment but am away at the moment..I will net some places quickly but if you let me know what really interests you then I can pinpoint better. But bath, bristol, the villages in Gloucestershire like burton on the water are so English and quaint. You could even fit in Wales... That could be a two nighter trip as it is the west of the UK...anyway am back in London around Easter so if you want let me knw x

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  14. "Everywhere" is a lovely goal. I'm so excited for you and can't wait to read about your adventures and see pics - you are the best travel guide and adviser! xo Jen

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