Just out of college and newly married, we spent the summer doing “Europe on $5 a Day” (yes, you could really do that). Our total advance planning took about 2 hours -get plane reservations (student cheapo fares, cattle car style), buy Frommerʼs book, pack a duffel bag, think about cities we might like to visit. Go!
Fast forward (well, maybe it wasnʼt so fast) and more than 40 years later, weʼre planning a much shorter trip… this time to visit German friends and do a little gallivanting (couple of Belgian cities, Brussels and Bruges), total of about three weeks. This isnʼt our first international trip since those glory-days post college, but somehow pre-trip planning has become a daunting task, fraught with minefields. Is it the availability of oceans of information on the Internet which I somehow feel compelled to digest? Or have I just become an obsessive compulsive? Donʼt answer that.
First up, itʼs the pressure to get a good (read, “better than anybody else ever obtained before or since”) airfare. Lost that battle. We set up the requisite Fare Alerts, watched vigilantly to see where fares seemed to be headed…. But, our friends insisted on knowing definite travel dates seven months in advance (Theyʼre German, remember?), so we pulled the trigger and paid way more than we could have with a little waiting. Hope the folks in the seats next to us donʼt brag about how little they paid.
Next, train travel within Europe… To Eurail Pass or Not to Eurail Pass? Have you any idea how complex that decision is? The passes are only available while still outside Europe, so that decision has to be made now. Thereʼs the Global Pass, the Select Pass, the Multi-country regional pass, the Single Country Pass (with or without extensions). Need I go on? Yes: you have to make sure the trains you will be using arenʼt among the few that donʼt honor the pass, check fare calculators to guesstimate whether you will actually save enough to justify all of this headache, decide First Class vs Second Class… Oh, and once you have the Pass? You need to figure out whether to reserve seats in advance or not. Easy, you say… just reserve, why not! Because each reservation can cost up to $35 – on top of the fare you already paid! And you might not need it, chump.
And once weʼre actually there… Shall we putter around on our own in each city? Do a group day tour? Hire a guide? Open an “app” that gives us self-guided tours around town?
My Masters Thesis involved less research. Iʼm exhausted and havenʼt even braved the overnight trans-Atlantic flight. And overwhelmed. In an earlier part of my career, I had a boss whose catchphrase was “Analysis Paralysis”… I think Iʼve caught that disease.