I've observed that when people start to plan a trip they will post questions about itinerary and how long they should stay in certain cities before really doing much research. I don't mean to criticize and I love to provide comments on my experiences, but everyone is different. Some people like art, some cafes, some small villages and outdoor scenery, some history, some wineries, etc. . . I think a good first step would be to watch some of the RS shows and see what is interesting and then post questions. One caveat would be that sometimes airline tickets need to be purchased immediately or a trip comes up rather spontaneously, so then the forum is a great first stop. It also could be that I just love to plan trips more than others and I'm pretty independent with my travel. By all means, post questions. Before I started using the forum I would spend days trying to figure out logistics like train routes. Now I can get an answer from someone's actual experience. I also can travel much more efficiently thru train stations, airports and by car when I get tips from fellow travelers.
I couldn't agree more on the advantage you get by doing some research before you start posting questions on here.
Some folks on this forum are more than happy to provide advice even if you haven't done any homework first, and that's great, but I think you will get better, more useful guidance if you have already learned about your destination and can ask specific questions.
Jules, you are 100% correct in observing that everyone is different, so what was a perfect amount of time for me might be too much or too little for you. And our travel styles also differ, so we all prefer to go at a pace that makes sense for us and plan things out to the degree that makes us most confident that our trip will be successful.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
What drives me crazy are the endless posts that go like this...
Hey, I'm headed for Italy. Where should I go? Can you suggest some good hotels and restaurants? Thanks!!!
To me, this comes across as (to be blunt) incredibly lazy and entitled. If you have no idea where to go, should you really be going? Why? Because you saw someone post a photo on social media and it looked like fun?
And the one that just makes me roll my eyes: "We're going to (famous destination in famous city). Any recs for a place to stay?"
Yeah - there are recs - that's in your guidebook. Researched in exhaustive detail and well documented by experts so it's easy for you to find exactly what's right for you. Buy the $#@! book, and read it, you cheap, lazy fool!
Sorry, had to get that off my chest. Back to gently informing people they can't and shouldn't try to visit London, Paris, Rome, Capri, CT and Prague in their five day trip (which they call "about a week").
@David, :) and laughing!
A trip to Europe is pretty expensive, even for savvy planners. Make sure you know where you are going and what YOU want to do! Maybe you hate art, and the person advising you loves art and would spend 3 days at the Prada!
Another post that I get a kick out of is "has anyone ever been to Paris? (Or other famous city). I would love to reply, "no, no one has ever been there, it's completely empty!"
Well said and I so agree. People are so rushed to make plans that they make mistakes by not researching: too much time in one place, not enough in another, with long transits between them.
When we decide on a new-to-us location, I read the relevant section of a guidebook (or two, or three) to make an educated guess on how many days we might enjoy there. Are three days enough? Is a week too long? Then I look for lodging (cancelable reservations for now) and do a preliminary survey of train connections to see if my routing is sensible of insane. Only then do I go back and start to fill in day-by-day with what we might do, what are rainy day options, etc., so I can assure myself that the time allocated is long enough but not too long. Often this results in adding a night somewhere and subtracting one in another.
THEN I might start to ask questions where I drill down to tap into the expertise here. After doing a search on the Forum first, of course!
We tend to do ONE major sight or activity each day, for the most part. Occasionally we do a 10-12 hour day trip but we cannot do that every day. I don't think most people can do that every day for two weeks, but they think they can.
It's true some people ask very basic questions that could easily be answered by the most cursory look at a guidebook. Probably mostly those who are not that experienced at this. I don't tend to respond to those kinds of questions. It is sometimes good to get diverse opinions on things though, rather than rely on one author's opinion (no matter who). One thing that is really subjective is the worthiness of specific sights, so a range of opinions can help. I tend to ask questions on advanced topics that are not in guidebooks, like some issues I had last spring pre-booking tickets for travel within Poland. This forum is great for those types of questions because often others who have traveled to a specific place recently, or locals, can provide current insight.
Since this is a pet peeve of mine, I'll respond as well. I presume that people want to visit Europe for certain defined reasons. Maybe they have always wanted to see great art, or they love Italian food, so want to eat it in its birthplace. There should be some kind of attraction to a certain place. "I want to see France." Okay, WHY do you want to see France? "Well, I like French Food." And what kind of French food to you prefer? "I like cheese." Great, France has lots of great cheeses for you to try.
We could go back and forth for weeks, and maybe at the end of that time I could try and decide what would make THEIR experience better, but my own patience would have expired, and the traveler still would not necessarily like what I am proposing because it is his/her vacation we are talking about.
Contrast that with the would be traveler who asks, "All my life I have wanted to go to France. I have seen movies about Paris, about the vineyards of Burgundy, and the Chateaux of the Loire seem to be breathtaking. I only have about two weeks, and I am wondering if someone can point me in the direction of some information about how to take my first trip to France."
Armed with that information, I would (and do) recommend a good guide to help them get started on their trip research. The RS guides are great nuts and bolts resources for newbies (and oldies, as well) but there are other detailed sources of information that most of use that ISN'T produced by our host on this Forum. Then, I would invite them to check back with questions once they have done their own independent research.
I overplan my own trips, as I am sure many of the folks who post on this Forum do as well, but most of my research is independent, designed to fashion my vacation to my individual wants and desires. Tickets to the Vatican? Hmm, is there a way to purchase tickets online? Best pizza in Naples? Well, I have read about da Michele, but am also reading great reviews of a place called 50 Kalo which seems to be an up and coming place that has won a number of awards recently. Where to stay in Paris? I know that it might be popular to stay in the 5th or 7th Arrondissement, but I wonder if I can rent an apartment in a more Bohemian part of town, a place relatively free of tourists and "must do" attractions, but comprised of hip eateries and small parks and areas of interest. I can still see the Eiffel Tower from my window, but I also enjoy the convenience and relative peace of my own, less famous, less crowded, pied a terre.
Travel can be intimidating, I know, but armed with reliable information (guidebooks, Google Maps, online websites and reviews, there really is no reason to approach your first (or tenth) European adventure with trepidation. I don't often quote Don Rumsfeld, but he talked about known and unknown things: "There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know." Research (your own research) tends to minimize the unknown unknowns.
I'm a novice compared to most posters on this site, but I really try to do a lot of research before I ask questions - view videos, read some guidebooks, etc. And I try to be specific on questions, and also usually use the search box at the top to see if there might already be some answers, often there are. I so appreciate all the time that people give to answer questions, it has made me so much more comfortable to do the research and traveling on our own vs using a travel agent or taking a tour! But I have to do my part, and know what 'we' are interested in before asking for opinions.
To me, part of the fun of a trip is in the planning. I read lots of guidebooks to determine what I want to see and can spend a lot of time trying to figure the most efficient way to get it all in. (I like art, architecture & historical things, not shopping!) It would drive me crazy not to have a plan before I got there.
The forum is incredibly helpful, especially with logistics. I have traveled independently and have also taken tours. Sometimes tours are fine for me, if they go where I want to go, and if getting around seems too complicated. I don't want to drive! But I still plan.
Yes there are many inane comments from novice posters, but i view our efforts as being the foundation to help construct a memorable journey. For the opportunity to help these folks I am willing to endure the duhblivious questions.
There are a lot of people who arrive here at the RS forum, that are completely unfamiliar with Rick Steves, his guidebooks, or his TV shows. It just happens to be a place they come across when starting their research or from word of mouth. Modern-day research consists of asking wide-open questions on the internet.
It is hard to figure out a trip for someone you don’t know. I have a friend who if very much a foodie. He also has a pretty high standard for hotels.
I am On the other end of of both of these, I couldn’t care less if I eat at McDonalds and as long as my hotel is safe and clean I am happy. I don’t go to Europe to eat food and see hotels. I eat food to stay alive so I can see Europe and my hotel is a place I sleep. Most of the time I am in it I am not awake.
Now don’t get me wrong. Some places just scream for a nice restaurant and or a hotel with a good view or what have you.
For instance this last trip I at a fast food places a couple times as I was driving from point A to point B and did not want to spend time looking for a place to eat. So a quick stop and back on the road saved me time I could use when I got to my destination, At the other end of this I found a couple nice cafes in Paris, I had a great meal in Munich and my hotels in London and in Hohenschwangau both had great views. The view of NueSchwanstien was perticularly amazing and I could have spent a week on my balcony looking up at the castle. On the other hand my hotel in Paris was dinky and old (but clean) and I could barely fit our luggage in the room and we use carry on sized pieces. But it had a view of the top of the Tower and it was within walking distance and relatively inexpensive (for Paris)
These are all choices that worked great for me but would suck for my friend.
This is the problem of folks asking before they have done any research for themselves
Go ahead and ask...no problems, if I can assist in getting you the answers on how to get to a place by train, tailoring different routes, depending on your travel style relative to my travel style. You tap into my experience in traveling...no problem; the main thing is if that will work for you, in part or totally.
If you're interested in certain cities/towns in Germany, say Berlin, Potsdam, Munich, Marburg, Weimar, Leipzig, Hamburg, Lübeck, Hannover, Kiel, Lüneburg, etc just ask if I can get off an answer to you, even more so if the sights you want to see pertain to history or culture. The same applies to France and Austria, although more limited.
My impression is that a lot of first-timers (and even quite a few savvy travelers and repeat posters on travel forums) just don't know how or what to ask. A few give lots of unnecessary information, most just don't have a clue what details will get them the information they need and maybe are trying not to overload their questions with what they think may be unnecessary info. This forum has taught me many tools to help me plan but I didn't have any of them - except for a lot of computer/internet work experience - 10 years ago.
A lot of my destinations have been decided almost by chance. I don't read travel books for pleasure, I don't watch travel shows. I asked friends who love cruises what European country they'd recommend and the said "we liked Italy a lot." So I went to Italy. I went to Georgia and Armenia not from any desire to see them but because I knew the tour guide and would go anywhere with her. The main reason I went to Spain was because I'd seen an exhibit of the Alhambra at the Met in NYC a couple of decades ago. So I don't think ill of anyone who decides to go to France or Germany just because somewhere, sometime a seed was planted in their mind that it would be a great place to see.
On my first trip to Italy, I decided that 12 nights was the best length of travel time for me and I booked the flights. Then I struggled mightily to create an itinerary that fit my dates. Happily for me, I learned my lesson very quickly and Italy is close (been back 5 times since).
Now I'm trying to plan a week-plus on the French riviera and after reading the RS France chapters and lots of forum posts, and checking out some places in the net, I'm more undecided that ever.
I can understand not knowing how to put a trip together because I have a very talented, professionally-successful friend who panics at the idea of making a plane reservation without help, but I've seen her rehab a house and a barn from the foundation up into beautiful homes, while I can't even pick a paint color for a closet. So everyone has their strengths and weaknesses.
But what does get my goat is the posters who ask a question about an ill-conceived plan, receive long, helpful, comprehensive answers from several respondents who have taken a lot of time to explain the logistics and procedures, but then come back and say they are sticking with their original looney-tunes plan. So why ask in the first place!
My intention was not to criticize so much as suggest that people have their own preferences. I honestly don't mind making suggestions. For me, I stay in properties that are less expensive with local charm, others are more comfortable with chains that can provide consistency and services. I tend to enjoy countryside and small towns. I don't love lines and crowds so I weigh that carefully when I choose destination, time of year and number of days in places. Everyone has their own lists of "must sees". I have been to Paris four times and have not been on a Seine cruise or up the Eiffel tower. I like art more than most, but pretty specific time periods and artists. So for me, a couple days in Madrid was plenty, because I wasn't interested in the Prada. Others would and have suggested four days, minimum. Well, that totally depends on what you like to do and the length of a vacation. Vacations are a big chunk of a budget, there are ways to make it less expensive if that's a goal, but in terms of picking locations and number of days, that's so personal. I don't mind questions like, I loved Prague but it was so crowded, what destinations might be similar? (Krakow and Budapest come to mind) I've enjoyed the comments/thread, but please don't think I was taking a shot at some travelers.
Thank you David. Spit out my coffee.
Whole heartedly agree about uninformed and lazy posters. Over my numerous years on the Forum I’ve learned to ignore them.
Otherwise always happy to share travel insights accrued in 40 plus years of travel.
“To travel is to live.”
Hans Christian Andersen
Modern-day research consists of asking wide-open questions on the internet.
I’d suggest Google as a first step.
In the pre-internet days it was hard to find good and current information. Now days it’s a click away. The overhead is minimal, which is why open questions on a forum are inappropriate.
Do some basic research first. Then use people’s time to get more specific. It’s a matter of respect for others time and effort.
I’d suggest Google as a first step.
The problem with just going the google route is that stuff stays on the net forever so there's a LOT of outdated info out there. There's also a lot of 'stretch the truth' crap put out by 3rd-party agencies to sell you stuff, and a lot of, well, just plain hooey.
And just like travel forums, you have to enter the right info; in the case of google, the search words that will get you what you're looking for, not to mention a legit source. So, there's a certain amount of savvy involved, and a combination of resources is a good idea for the novice.
The simplest and most basic approach -- but clearly not obvious enough -- is to consult the appropriate area of the Explore Europe menu on this very page before asking for help. Aside from sharpening up the questions, it will give perspective for understanding the subsequent replies. DIY Travel means actually "doing it yourself."
“I would like to see England, France, Italy in 10 days. Oh, and a friend recently went to Austria and Switzerland, so now I want to go there, too!” Oh, yeah.
Sometimes I do suggest an itinerary for a vague new traveler, just to give them a starting point to begin something on paper. That first step can sometimes be what they need to then start researching and deciding what they really want.
There’s so many research options now on general web info, YouTube, etc. I usually begin a trip with one (or two) countries in mind. Then diagram numerous towns with distance by train between them. I look up festivals for the countries to see what occurs the month we’ve planned. I’ll go back & forth between the map and town images or YouTube to either add options or drop them. Purposely, there’s a mix of city & smaller towns, water or mountain & Music, architecture, Art, etc. And, ideally one non-tourist location. Finally, I look overall at the diagram I’ve created, considering a trip is usually three weeks and define a final plan with transportation no more than 3 hours between locations.
I participate in a couple of on-line travel related forums and they are all the same. The ones that get me is "I just booked a flight to Denver for a week, now can you tell me what to do there?" Or, even worse -- "is it worth it to go to xxxxx (usually a gorgeous, popular place to see)." I really do grit my teeth -- what do you mean is it "worth it" to go to Rocky Mountain National Park? -- and sometimes I lose it and say something similar to David's rant without the &^%$.
I guess I'm just old fashioned. Grew up without benefit of the internet and free advice from lots of anonymous people. I spend hours pouring over maps and guidebooks, and then ask if I have a specific question, like how to buy train tickets in England.
And I always remember to say please and thank you.
Here's a question that came up on Nomadic Network yesterday:
WARM destination ideas outside the U.S. for February??? Love hiking,
scenery, culture, food, music, beaches!
It has so far gotten 51 replies!