I honestly can’t believe that this trip is finally here. Thought I would give a quick update on where I am at with everything & how I got there:
The planning stages for me usually always starts with the destination. I choose where I want to go and then start planning around it.
I like to travel to the Northern Hemisphere in November because it is a) cooler; b) generally cheaper and c) fewer people. I also love autumn so I usually try to go somewhere there is some really cool autumn colours – although in this instance I might be a bit late.
So the destinations chosen – Denmark and Germany.
I chose to visit these places specifically because I wanted to visit both countries again. November is also my birthday month so I like to do something each birthday that is a little special – this year will be spent a Kronborg Castle in Helsingør – made famous by Shakespeare in Hamlet but it also has a lot of interesting history. I have also been told the Maritime Museum at Helsingør is not to be missed!
A lot of thought does go into the destination/s I travel to and it is usually in conjunction with ticking something off my bucket list.
I try to get my airfares as soon as possible so that I can lock in my actual itinerary. If I know where I am flying in and out of then it can help a lot with the final outcome. I don’t really have a preferred airline but I prefer airlines where I only have one layover and the price is reasonably good. Flying from Australia is a very long process so I don’t really want to spend too long waiting around in various airports around the world. On a good day, it will take about 24 hours to get from Brisbane to most places in Europe.
When flying to Europe, I have flown on Emirates, Etihad and Singapore Airlines, all very good airlines with good connections from Brisbane. On this trip I am using Singapore Airlines because the times were better, I got a pretty good fare and it meant I could stop in Singapore for a few hours and go on their free City Tour – a chance to see a bit of the city.
Now days airlines are a lot more flexible in allowing you to fly into one place & out of another without it costing more than a usual return flight. I like this option because I think it gives me a lot more flexibility in what I will end up doing. Meaning that if you are travelling around, you don’t necessarily need to go back to your original point of entry.
In this case I am flying into Copenhagen and out of Munich and I will be making my way down to Munich via train and staying in a number of places on the way. I did a similar trip in 2015 when I flew into London and out of Copenhagen. I got the train from London all the way up to Copenhagen, stopping in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands on the way. This time I am only sticking to Denmark & Germany, though I do have a couple of nights in Sweden plus a day trip to Strasbourg in France as well.
LITTLE TIP: Flying out of some places can be expensive, i.e. London. It can be a lot cheaper to fly out of a different city so do your homework. In the 5 times I have flown to London, I have only flown out of the city twice. The other times have been out of Paris, Copenhagen and Manchester because they were all cheaper.
Once I have my airfares and my general itinerary I will start looking at accommodation (sometimes I will actually book my accommodation because my airfares!). I use Booking.com a lot because you can usually book and pay later. Sometimes I will book through them to start with and then actually book & pay direct once I have funds available, then cancel the Booking.com booking for free.
I also like to be flexible with my accommodation because sometimes I will change it closer to the trip. Case in point: for this trip, I had booked two nights accommodation in Helsingør, north of Copenhagen but I was looking at the Trivago website and found a place that was about $150 cheaper across the Øresund in Helsingborg. Not only was it cheaper but it also means that I get to spend a couple of nights in Sweden as well. The ferry across to Helsingør takes about 20 minutes so I can still easily spend my birthday there.
With the trains I am taking, because I knew when I was travelling I booked as many journeys as I could – this does mean that I can’t chop and change my travels but I am not really the person to wake up and decide to go to a different place.. I like structure too much. Also, booking the trains in advance meant they were cheaper than if I rocked up to the train station on the day. I also booked a couple of day trips that I knew I was definitely going to be taking on specific days.
Next up is what to do when I am there.
On this trip I actually tried not to have too much booked. I know myself very well and in the past I have planned so many things but then not done a lot of them because my knees gave me too much grief or I ran out of money (or both!). So this time I tried to ease up and just book the things I really wanted to do. I also have a few days where I have got nothing planned. In one place I am staying, I am there for about four & half days and other than a 40 minute city tour, have nothing planned at all.
I am mostly doing hop on hop off buses (HoHo Bus) in each place I am staying – as touristy as these buses are, I really do find them a great way to get around the city. And sometimes they can actually be easier than working out public transport. Copenhagen, for example, I have purchased a 24 hour HoHo Bus that not only includes a canal tour but you actually get it for 72 hours instead of 24 hours. Because I am in the city for 4 days and I am staying just down the road from one of the stops, I thought this would actually be a good way of getting around the city without having to navigate the metro.
I’ve also booked & paid for a couple of attractions like Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen; Kronborg Castle in Helsingør and Miniature Wonderland in Hamburg. There are a couple of other places that I am going to visit but will get tickets when I get there – one place in Hamburg is cheaper after 5.30pm on a Thursday and I can’t get the tickets online for that time.
Everything I do goes on to a spreadsheet where I do my workings of how much everything costs. Once I start paying for things I will highlight them in red so I know at a glance that they are paid for. On this trip, because I was going various places, I actually colour coded each place to differentiate the different destinations – plus it looks pretty 🙂
This might seem a little nerdy but honestly I have found this procedure works really well for me. I can update the spreadsheet whenever I need to and I can see at a glance what is booked and paid for.
I have also created an itinerary in Word that has a bit more detail plus maps where relevant – this part is definitely a little bit more nerdy but I like to be organised and have all the possible information. Too much information is not a bad thing and detailing things like this also helps to make sure you have all your ducks in a row.
When I get closer to the actual trip, I will print out everything – from flight itinerary to accommodation confirmation and all my tickets for everything. I put everything in chronological order with my itinerary, spreadsheet and travel insurance information at the start. As I go through the trip I will usually throw out what I no longer need. On this trip I am planning on keeping the itinerary and maybe making notes as I travel.
With any of my trips, I do a lot of research. I will try to find the best itinerary that fits my needs and how it will all work together. This type of planning does take a lot of time. I spend many hours Googling or talking to friends & family who have been to these places. It takes a lot of effort but it really is part of the travel process that I actually enjoy – well maybe not scouring the internet for hours trying to find the best accommodation!
After all the planning, decision-making, second guessing myself, this trip is happening in a week’s time and I am super excited (and slightly terrified) that I am about to see the hard work come to fruition.
Do you enjoy the travel planning part of the process or do you leave it all to someone else to worry about? (there is no right or wrong answer 😀 )
I am really hoping to bring you more regular journal type posts while I am away, as opposed to waiting until I get home for more of a overview of what I got up to. We will see how that pans out. But for now, I will most likely not be posting anything before I go, so hopefully will see you guys in Europe!