Please sign in to post.

Rigid travel plans or go with the flow?

We are planning a trip to Germany in early September, before Octoberfest. Our trip will be 12 days. I want to make some reservations for hotels but at other times I would like to just see where our trip takes us and not be too rigid on our plans. My husband wants to have a rigid schedule and know exactly where we will be staying and what we will be seeing each day. I know there is security in making a schedule but I want us to have a little bit of freedom to explore. My husband says that there is no way we can just walk into a bed and breakfast or hotel in Germany and get a room without a prior reservation. I disagree. I am almost ready to just cancel our trip. Anyone have any suggestions? We will be traveling by car.

Posted by
419 posts

In many places in Germany one can just walk into a hotel or B and B and get a very nice room. We've even done that traveling with three children. For the B and B look for the sign Zimmer Frei--room(s) available.
How about a compromise--choose one or two places as base, reserve room and plan sight-seeing. Then take a few days of just driving around and stop where you find something you like.
I have traveled extensively in Germany, even lived there for a time, and I am sure you will have no trouble finding places to stay. If you are still nervous, stop at the nearest Tourist Information spot and they will help you.

Posted by
23579 posts

You are both right and you are both wrong.

I'm not getting in the middle of a domestic.

You are traveling at a busy time, and German and many European kids will still be out of school.

Hotels do not keep rooms unreserved on the chance that people will show up. Some will be full. You won't know until you show up and look inside. Some places will likely have rooms, and you can look around until you find one. Or you might be lucky and it might be the first one you look at. If there are many rooms available at one place and none next door there might be a reason. If a place has one or two rooms left they may or may not be the best ones there, and you may very well pay rack rate

So, on any given day, you may be right or he may be.

It sounds like you guys have much deeper problems than hotel rooms. I hope you can clear them up.

Posted by
12040 posts

September is still a busy travel time in some of the more touristed areas. You'll surely find a room somewhere, but it likely won't be your first or even third choice. If the locale is a well-established tourist destination, the local TI can probably help you find lodging.

"and what we will be seeing each day." Something called "the weather" can interfere with the most carefully laid plans, although September tends to be on the sunnier and drier side. But other things, like rail delays or Staus can also bring down the house of cards that is an inflexible itinerary as well.

Posted by
17659 posts

Some years ago, I decided to see what would happen if I did not have reservations. In both cases I went to the TI office so as not to waste a lot of time looking around (it's not like every house has a room to rent). It was in March, so not very busy.

At the first town, I got a room in a small, inexpensive (I think) hotel right off the town square. I was the only one in the hotel that night.

At the second town, I actually had a reservation for the following night, but I arrived a day early, so I decided to try the TI again. The hotel they gave me was farther from the TI office and more expensive than the one for the next night, but not bad. All in all, it was not a bad deal, but the next night's place had a room available, and the TI office did not offer it to me. I'm sure the TI offices have a list of places with rooms available, and they just rotate through them. Their objective is not necessarily to find you the ideal place, just to satisfy their customers, who are, of course, the hotel owners.

Virtually every town in Germany has a town website with a list of accommodations. Many people in Germany know how to use these sites and they can optimize what they get. If you wait, unless the time is so slow that no one is booking, you will get what the early bookers didn't want. You'll get something; it just won't be as good as if you had booked in advance.

Posted by
7647 posts

Yep, you have a lot of states with school vacation going on up to the middle of Sept. this year. Take a look.

http://www.holidays-info.com/School-Holidays-Germany/2014/school-holidays_2014.html

Just go ahead and make reservations, and leave the freedom part for something else, like the plans for the day, which church, museum, or restaurant. It isn't worth cancelling a trip over something so minor. The time you would spend hunting for a room, could be spent on something else. Look at some websites like www.hrs.com to find a place that is going to suit you, that has amenities that you want, that is romantic, something with a view. This is your trip, make it special.

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks for the great suggestions. After 30 years of marriage and raising 4 kids, my husband and I have, in the last 5 years been able to do a lot of traveling. This is our first time to Europe though. I understand he is a bit fearful of being stuck without a place to stay, where I usually know things will work out. I like adventure. We will as always, find a compromise.

Posted by
2663 posts

Hi Sylvia,

Do not cancel a trip over this! There's a compromise here. I'd book rooms in advance and have a few options for each days sightseeing, depending on weather, how you feel, etc. You can have freedom to explore on your day trips but always know you have the room in the place you really want to return to. Getting lost, not knowing the best area, checking places, etc. all take up precious vacation time.

Out of some 90+ nights in Austria and Bavaria since 2001 (8 trips), we have had reservations except for 2 nights. One was an absolute disaster, the other worked out fine. The one that worked out was in Zell am See. We went to the TI board and chose one of the Pension's with availability, worked out very good. Really liked the place. The other, well, we looked around the Innsbruck area for a few hours in the late afternoon and found NOTHING. We finally went to the TI in Innsbruck. They sent us to a place in Igls. Sounded good until we arrived. Typical residential neighborhood, no view, no balcony and no charm at all. Upon checking in, the owner/host was very... unwelcoming, bordering on rude. We politely bailed and continued our search. This pretty much ruined our entire evening.

Just our experiences.

Paul

Posted by
3696 posts

Well, there is definitely a way you can walk into lots of hotels and b&bs and get a room at the last minute. I do it all the time and have for many trips, but if I were traveling with someone who is sure it will be a disaster that is way too much stress. It can be an adventure and it can be a bit stressful at times, but if you want to travel without an itinerary and go with the flow an exact schedule will not work. I have also traveled with reservations some of the time and while it can be security, it can also be disappointing when you see someplace else you would rather be staying. Maybe after a first trip he might feel more comfortable with a less stringent schedule. There are different travel styles and it sounds like this might be the case. I would never travel with a minute to minute itinerary...it would take all the fun out of it... but a lot of people love it. Germany is beautiful ... you should have a wonderful trip regardless... so for sure, do not cancel the trip.

Posted by
6543 posts

If you have a notebook or laptop, you can easily make room reservations on the fly at many websites.
You never know what you're going to run into while on a great trip, and having flexibility is often very enjoyable It's especially nice if you're going by rental car.
I would suggest you have reservations for your first and last nights of the trip, however.

Posted by
2081 posts

Sylvia,

It appears the world has forgot the word of COMPROMISE.

So, do the itinerary as you hubby wants.

Then when you get there, go with the flow. If you want to dump something go for it, if you want to be whimsical, go for it.

where does it say that you cant have the "freedom to explore" with an itinerary? just plan it in.

have your hubby do some work on this to add what he wants to do/see so you can make sure its in your itinerary.

good luck and happy trails.

Posted by
4125 posts

A car makes this easy IF.
.
If you are flexible about where you sleep. If you can roll with the punches. If spending an extra 10 euros a night once or twice is a reasonable price for freedom. If there is not one special hotel with a particularly nice room you or yours will be disappointed if you can't sleep in.
.
It's really about your flexibility and comfort zone. But if you have a car and realistic expectations you will never be without a bed.

Posted by
17659 posts

I really think the time to "go with the flow" is during the planning phase. The probability that, without definite plans, you will just stumble on something worth seeing is unlikely. If you haven't found it in your planning, you probably won't find it when you are there.

Posted by
12040 posts

"the probability that, without definite plans, you will just stumble on something worth seeing is unlikely." Then how did I stumble upon Heppenheim, Weinheim, Lorsch, Lindenfels, Bensheim, Wetzlar, Fritzlar, Rosenheim, Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Braunfels, Scloss Auerbach, Neckarsteinach, Bad Wimpfen, Schwäbish Hall, Speyer, Bad Dürkheim, all of the Odenwald, Hessenpark, Stolburg, Kloster Eberbach, Königstein im Taunus, Kronburg, Idstein, Limburg, Montbauer, Felsburg, Bad Hersfeld, Burg Frankenstein, Landshut, Marburg, Michelstadt, Erbach, Lindau, Dilsberg, Modautal, Jülich (I could go on and on, and this only includes Germany but you get the point)? I didn't read about any of these locations in a book or online before either driving by or seeing the brown tourist placcards along the road. All of these are worth visiting, and I would have completely missed them if I always followed "definite plans"... well, a few of them are very close to where I live, so it would be impossible to completely miss them.

Posted by
11613 posts

I agree with David. Just check a booking site like booking. com the day before or the day of your departure, then you can either make the reservation online or at least you'll have a few potential places you can check out when you arrive.

I would definitely have a reservation for the first and last nights.

Posted by
3809 posts

I am one of those people who almost always has to have everything planned, but now I am a little more open to
not having every night
booked for two reasons...and here they are.
1. In 2012, we had planned to only stay one night with my sister in Portsmouth and 2 nights in Bath, UK. For some reason, I had everything booked before leaving but Bath. When we got to my sister's (the ferry arrived very late in Portsmouth from France) I realized that we would only have about 10 hours the next day to visit before we'd have to head for Bath, so, since I didn't have anything pre-booked, we decided to spend an extra night with her (I only see her every 2 yrs - gotta fit in the face time) and I just popped onto airbnb and found a place for the night we weren't booked.

2. When we did California last year, we had a few nights where we were going to be doing to PCH and I had no idea where we would end up, so I really couldn't book anything ahead. The night before our unbooked stays, we looked at a map, said let's stop here and I got on my trusty ipad (and free hotel wifi - that is a must) and looked thru expedia and booked a hotel. So, as long as I have my technology with me (and make sure we have wifi at wherever we are staying) I am now a little more open to kinda winging it. I still wouldn't want to show up somewhere and waste time looking for somewhere to stay that met my (albeit, not very high) standards, but if I can book the night before, it's all good. I wouldn't let that kind of disagreement cancel my trip!

Posted by
3809 posts

As an addendum to my above comment, another thing that happened while we were in California was the shutdown of the National Parks because of the sequester (yes - our luck, but at least we saw Yosemite!). We had booked 2 nights at a B&B and were going to visit Sequoias National Park. There really wasn't much else in the area. We had hoped they'd re-open the parks (the debate was on), but no such luck. But because I had the room booked, we ended up staying the 2 nights and not doing much of anything. It would have been the perfect time to head for the coast a day early and explore longer, but the room was non-refundable, and even tho we spent like $6000 on our trip, the thought of losing out on $100 bothered us too much (while silly in retrospect - we should have just eaten the money and moved on). If we had of just been winging it, we could have gone on our merry way...

Posted by
1878 posts

I understand the appeal of leaving things open. We used to do that in our early days as travelers fifteen years ago. These days, if you don't book ahead, you may face tradeoffs that you would prefer not to. For example, stay in a good location for twice as much as a bad location at a price that you might deem more reasonable. For us, Europe has gotten so expensive that we always book ahead. If you don't you will end up with the rooms that no one else wanted due to cost, quality, location, etc. In many locations it can also take a lot of time just to figure out parking, if you have to add finding a room onto that, you will really sink a lot of time into it. Many towns are hard enough to drive into even when you know pretty much where you are going. Depends upon the country, and the town. One thing to ask yourself, is that if you don't want to figure out these things now, why would it be any different when you are on the road? Spontaneity is an admirable quality, but I would apply it to another aspect of your trip than where you will sleep each night. It's normal for couples to view these things differently. We are seasoned travelers and struggle with compromise too. In our family, it's on me to make sure we don't end up sleeping in a train station or rental car - so I booked ahead every time. As to you day-to-day schedule of sights to see - that's an area where more flexibility is called for. I would not plan that down to the minute, you should factor in spontaneity and fluctuating energy levels there.

Posted by
2819 posts

Early September is the winding down of summer travel, so things will be relatively busy.

If you want "freedom to explore", book hotels that can be cancelled until the day before, so you will still have some wiggling room to adjust plans on short notice without losing money. That is easier to do if you consolidate your bookings on an online engine like Booking.com or Venere.

Another important factor other commentators pointed is that there is a difference between finding a room and finding a room that doesn't cost much more or is much worse (or both) than the average traveler is paying on that city/town that night. But, then, if money is no issue for you, then you should still book a basic itinerary and bit the bullet of any missed reservation for last-minute change of plans.

Take into consideration, also, that you would lose an awful amount of time searching for a roof at a good price/quality ratio as well, time which could be spent on sightseeing or dining out instead of walking through places to check a room.

Finally, beware of outdated practices like going to some Tourist Information center and asking for rooms. They have some egregious practices like "rotating" their leads so that no specific business gets favored in some places, which means you risking a worse choice if you are out of luck in your turn.

Posted by
574 posts

A pox on both your houses! Ok, a bit dramatic, but then I think both of you talk about the other's suggestion in exaggerated straw-man argument terms.

Your husband seriously thinks that by following your plan there will not be rooms available in any hotel, at any price? BTW since you say you've never been to Europe, what experience is he basing this on? We have traveled (in Italy) without reservations and it worked out fine. Sometimes we get a place on the 1st try. Sometimes it takes an hour or two. That is not the best use of our time, but also has been the exception. And since we don't change locations daily it hasn't really been that big a deal. Of course if you pull into a small town and there's a festival going on, plan on staying in another town because rooms ARE going to be scarce. In a sense I can understand what your H might be worried about, nobody wants to be careening around a country where they don't speak the language and may not fully understand the culture/customs, trying to find a place. But that's uncomfortable, not the "can't be done" he uses to voice his objection.

The flip side is calling his approach "rigid". Really? Just because you have reservations that means you are locked into a preplanned schedule of what you will see and do 24x7? Completely lacking in "freedom to explore"? This seems just as polarized a view.

One compromise, should either of you deign to want one, would be to use a "base" approach. You stay in a region, say for example the Black Forest, for a few days. With a car. You then have a lot of options depending on your mood, energy, weather, etc. In that area, for example, you could go on plenty of hikes. Visit small towns. Spend the day in a spa town. Go to nearby France and visit some wineries in the Alsace region, or towns like Colmar. Wander around towns like Freiburg. (Can you tell I like this area?) And after a few days you move on to another base.

Or maybe you do it his way some of the time, yours some of the time. For sure I'd want to have fixed reservations at the start and end of a trip, but a few unplanned days in the middle is unlikely to leave you sleeping on park benches or jailed for vagrancy.

I agree with an earlier poster that it is important to do research in advance. In contrast to what they seem to say, though, I do it more as a way of uncovering ideas of things I might want to do as well as a list of things I intend to do for sure. And some of our favorite experiences have been driving along and pulling into an interesting-looking town that caught our eye.

Posted by
1261 posts

One problem with booking and then canceling at the last minute is that this practice is inducing hotels to require a credit card or even a prepayment to reserve. Some folks on travel boards have suggested booking multiple rooms and then just picking the best looking once your arrive. We are killing our future flexibility as travelers. Sometimes, we have to alter our plans but I hope that we do not all learn to game the system and then ruin it for ourselves.

Posted by
11613 posts

@Gary, I agree. I use booking.com frequently and a few years ago very few properties had a non-refundable pay-now option for less money, now almost every listing has it. This is following the transportation industry trends/practices of super- saver tickets. Remember when you could book multiple airline tickets and at the last minute just cancel the ones you decided not to use? Planes used to fly with empty seats, lost money. Hotels are now doing the same thing. Can't blame them.

Posted by
14 posts

My wife and vacationed in Germany for 18 days in May, 2010. We pre-booked rooms for our first two nights and our last four nights. The rest of the rooms we found along the way with little problem. We looked for the "Zimmer Frei" signs or went to the local TI's to get information on lodging choices in the city we were in. The smaller cities only have family-owned lodgings and they would close around 6:00 p.m., so if you show up after that no one will be there so plan your day accordingly to not be searching for a place to stay after that time. Have a great time on your trip!

Posted by
2353 posts

My husband was the same way on our first trip to Europe - he was certain everything bad he'd ever heard of would happen to us! So I made reservations for everything for a three week trip - halfway through it he said - "Gee, I would love to stay here (our town at the time) a day longer"! UGH! Needless to say that is the last time I made reservations in advance for other than our arrival day & departure day. The internet makes it so easy to find something the night or two before you arrive at your next destination. We have done this in May, August, September & October and always managed to find a three star hotel at a reasonable price.

Posted by
3696 posts

Have a plan and you'll see what you planned....
travel spontaneously and what you find might far exceed any expectations...
I have stumbled upon my most memorable experiences and locations...