Seriously, everything else has taken a back seat this past week. I’ve done some major research on our upcoming vacation because we needed to start reserving hotels and apartments for our journey.
I started out by listing all the cities we wanted to see. This was fairly easy because another large family had taken the same trip last year (also by car). I was able to copy her overall itinerary and then tweak it to fit our wishes.
I started with a very basic looking list that looked like this.
Day 1: (Leave Home) _________ (Sleep at Camp Darby)
Day 2: (__________) ___________ (Sleep at Camp Darby)
Day 3: (__________) ___________ (Sleep at Camp Darby)
Day 4: (__________) ___________ (Sleep Camp Darby)
Day 5: (__________) ___________ (Sleep in Rome)
Day 6: (__________) ___________ (Sleep in Rome)
Day 7: (__________) ___________ (Sleep in Rome)
Day 8: (__________) ___________ (Sleep in Rome)
Day 9: (__________) ___________ (Sleep in Pompeii)
Day 10: (__________) ___________ (Sleep in Pompeii)
Day 11: (__________) ___________ (Sleep in Assisi)
Day 12: (__________) ___________ (Sleep in VENICE!)
Day 13: (__________) ___________ (Sleep in VENICE!)
Day 14: (__________) ___________ (Sleep in VENICE!)
Day 15: (__________) ___________ (Sleep in VENICE!)
Day 16: (__________) ___________ (Sleep in Switzerland)
This was my basic outline and it was in a Word Document.
The info in the (___) was to be filled in when I figured out what we were doing in each place, the ________ was to be filled in when I had set our dates in stone, and I needed the “Sleep in ___” to help me remember which nights we were staying where.
As I gathered information about each location I would copy/paste it into the document, eventually turning the single page skeleton itinerary into an eight page quite detailed plan. I’m still adding to and updating this as I go. Once I get everything set, I’ll break it up according to day and paper-clip those together with the hotel/apartment information. Each day along the way I’ll just pull out that day’s packet of information and will find our itinerary, hotel confirmation sheets, driving directions, places we want to eat (recommended by friends) and so on.
As soon as Matt confirmed the dates we could go, I penciled in the dates on the printed version of the itinerary. The first call I made was to Camp Darby. In all of five minutes I had a reservation made for a little cabin (with plumbing) that would sleep all six of us.
That would prove to be the easiest reservation I had to make… no language barrier. Lovely! Once I got that reservation made I moved on to our next destination, using VRBO and HomeAway as my two main sources.
I had a system: I’d open HomeAway in a new window and put in my search requirements: Location, sleeps 5+. As I scrolled through the options the search presented, I’d right click and open in a new tab anything that looked promising, starting a trail of apartments to look at once I had exhausted all those on the main screen.
As I clicked through each open tab, I’d first check the calendar. If it showed that the apartments was available, I’d check the pictures to see if the place looked worth my time and money. Next, I’d read the overview and see what the owners said about the place and finally, the reviews, if there were any.
If I wanted to see if it would work, I’d email the owner. The neat thing about this process is that I could type in a message and it would save it for me, so when I emailed the following 45+ apartment owners, I didn’t have to retype all the information.
If I felt that one was worthy of emailing, I’d write the property number down on a piece of paper. I kept a separate page for each city and the paper was messily organized.
It had the following info:
Property ID number, price per night, and the word “emailed” highlighted in blue followed by any info that might be helpful in remembering the place or things I liked/didn’t like about it.
So for example I’d have this for the property you see in the example:
383438 ……………. €120/night……………. emailed
………………………….love the location!
912861 …………… €150/night……………………emailed
etc… forty times over…
As property owners would write back with information, I’d add it. If the apartment was available I’d highlight the property ID number in green and put in the exact quote. If unavailable, I’d mark it out .
This is what I did to find the places we’re going to stay! I’m excited to say that I have found a place for us to stay in all the locations except for Switzerland. I’m not too worried about that one as it’s just for sleeping and not even a necessity. We could just keep on driving home but I figure, after 15 days away, we’ll want to break up the drive home into two, five-hour drives.
Below you’ll see the folder I keep my brain in at the moment, decorated by my artist, Hayden.
On the far left you’ll see the eight page document with my itinerary. Next the printed confirmation of the deposit from Camp Darby. Next the Rome apartment list, the Pompeii hotels, the Assisi hostel, the Venice apartment list, and finally, the Zurich list… which I haven’t really even started on. (Going to stay outside of Zurich to save money.)
I’m currently working on the itineraries for each specific location. I have our days at Camp Darby competed planned. Our Rome and Venice schedules have skeleton plans, waiting on me to finalize each thing. Once I have my Rome schedule done, I’ll contact the USO who may be able to help us with deals or tickets.
This is becoming a reality and I CAN’T WAIT! I’m equally excited about Rome and Venice, but I must admit, I have fallen in love with Venice. I have a feeling I’ll leave Europe with Venice on my “must return to” list.