Subject: Re: Trip planning strategies?
Ziners, Frances has raised an interesting topic. Planning is the next best thing to travelling. We have been travelling for 30 years and have gone from not planning when we were students on a mission to see everything (we have an air ticket, let's go), to responsible adults who believed we had to plan our holidays to get the most out of them, back to the student approach of let's fly somewhere and enjoy the country we're visiting. We have often had a haphazard approach to our travels and they have turned out well. However, we do buy a good map of the area we are visiting, a few travel books (we especially like the Cadogan series) and do some internet research before we go.

Sometimes, especially for a short urban trip (e.g. New York City, Boston, Paris, London) we decide whether we want museums, restaraunts, historical sites and so on as our theme. We take one or two travel books with us along with the maps and sometimes print out web found material. I also do a websearch to find out what's on in the museums of the areas we are planning to visit.

Then what happens? We go with the flow, turn down a street, take a wrong turn on the road, miss a flight, or get on a train because it's going "somewhere". The beauty of planning is that when you are at a loss, you remember there was something specific you wanted to see or a particular place you wanted to visit. When you return home you find that you visited a lot of the places that you had planned to go to and yet left out some places. A reason to return.

Some of our best times have been when we took a wrong turn. We spent a day travelling the back roads in Italy looking for the village of San Pellegrino (we didn't find it). We once found ourselves on the road late in the afternoon in Switerland not knowing where we were and stopped in Martingy for the night, only to discover the next day that this small town has one of the finest art museums in Europe with an amazing collection of Braque and Picasso pieces.

Lately, one of the preparatory tasks we have assigned ourselves is to read fiction or non about the places we visit. A fond memory is reading "The Old Man and the Sea" while sitting on the deck of our ship as we passed by Cuba. I recently read "To Paris and the Moon" by Adam Gopnik to get me in the mood for our August visit to Paris.

After so many years of travel, we rarely use our camera and when we return we realize that it doesn't matter to us. We have our memories and we buy postcards (photos by the professionals) to remind us of the places we visit. But I always take a blank notebook with me to record the food we eat and the people we meet.

If someone could pack for me, this would be a perfect world.

Lucy, soon bound for France, map at the ready and someone else can take a camera