Trip Planning

Protected: Final? Post on Trip Planning and Itineraries

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Categories: France, Maps and Miscellany, Provence, Trip Planning | Enter your password to view comments.

More Trip Planning and Itineraries. Dammit.

So, one of the planning tools that we didn’t feature in this post on how WolfeStreetTravel plans trips is customizable Google Maps. We bring this up because only because we’re now working on our our third freakin’ map to plan travel over the same Labor Day period, thanks to COVID-19.

We didn’t feature the map on the previous planning post because we hadn’t really used them for planning before – only for tracking completed WolfeStreetTravel destinations on the customized Google Map that’s embedded on the blog’s home (“Map”) page. Customizing Google Maps is useful primarily for road trips in a targeted, but still broad, region, where there is a universe of destination and lodging options that needs to be winnowed down. Visualization of these options in map format with pins applied based on planning research helps to formulate an itinerary.

Unlike the Google map we use to document WolfeStreetTravel destinations on the blog home page, where virtually all destinations are designated by pins that are homogeneous in shape and color, the Google maps we’re using for our now-constantly retreating Labor Day road trip uses uses multiple colors and icons to code the map to designate sources of destination ideas, hotel collections, confirmed stays, and candidate next stops.

We use three monitors for travel planning:

  1. A split screen on one monitor, which enables us to view the customized Google planning map in one half and run a separate instance of Google maps or Rome2rio to calculate drive times and routes on the other (we used Rome2rio to plan the Micronations road trip, as well)
  2. The main monitor for research – Conde Nast Traveler, TripAdvisor, Relais Chateau, Design Hotels, SLH, VRBO, AirBnB, region-specific sites, and other travel blogs
  3. A third monitor to drive the spreadsheet with our evolving itinerary and point-to-point travel tables, as well as additional notes and links

Our plan for the Labor Day period originally was a slow-rolling road trip through the Languedoc region in the South of France, rolling inexorably west, through Cathar country, and ending in San Sebastian, Spain (dropping the rental car back off in Biaritz, France, to avoid ridiculous drop fees that we’d incur if we returned the car in Spain):

Most of the pins designate “The Most Beautiful Villages in France” or similar designations or members of our preferred hotel collections. The primary source of beautiful villages is an officially sanctioned list produced by the French government. “There are 161 villages in France rated as a Plus Beaux Village (as of 2013). The ratings are awarded by the Plus Beaux Villages de France association. The basic requirements to be considered by the association are: population under 2000, at least two village sites or buildings classified as “protected”, and the municipality requests that the village be considered. Others originate from regional tourism boards or reasonably referenceable travel blogs that we’ve vetted (there are innumerable shit travel blogs out there). Purple bed pins represent lodging that we had reserved, question marks potential next stops, etc. This trip was 50% done in February when COVID hit; we held out until May, then threw in the towel. Since then, of course, France, as well as the rest of Europe other than Ireland, has declared American travelers persona non grata – understandably so, since the country’s a shitshow with no national strategy.

So, we retrenched. To New England. We’ve wanted to spend time there – and in Maine and Prince Edward Island, in particular. Unfortunately (but reasonably), both Canada and Maine restricted travel from dipshit areas of the US that were out of control, so the northernmost destination targets were now off limits. Based on the laxer travel requirements in other areas in New England, we’d now head north through New York, Rhode Island (we’ve never been), Massachusetts, New Hampshire (we’ve never been), then over to Vermont, down through Pennsylvania, and home. This Google map shows the progress we had made on the backup plan:

But now, New York (our first stop) is (again, understandably) conducting checks on out-of-state travelers on key “key entry points,” to help enforce quarantine requirements. For Rhode Island and New Hampshire, we’d need to quarantine the entire time (which pretty much eliminates the benefit of staying in Newport or Portsmouth, which is where our lodging is located) or produce a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of entry. Regardless of the challenge with the 72-hour timing (we’d be leaving Virginia more than a week before we hit New Hampshire, for example), there’s no way of knowing when the test results would be available. For Rhode Island, where we’d arrive maybe 68 hours after leaving Virginia, we still may not get a result until after we left for Massachusetts, resulting in quarantining in a cottage the entire time. Not bad digs, since it’s Castle Hill Inn, but not leaving your cottage would get pretty old after the first few hours.

So, starting last Thursday, we’ve had to cancel the four lodging reservations we had in New England, plus a round-trip ferry to Martha’s Vineyard, which does not appear to be (cancellable, after all), and start to plan what we’re optimistically calling the Mid-Atlantic Road Trip:

Based on what’s going on in the country, it’s probably going to wind up simply as the Alexandria circumnavigation-by-bike trip. . .

Categories: Maps and Miscellany, Trip Planning | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Trip Planning and Itineraries

We’re about to head out to countries 60 – 64: Qatar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Considering the number of countries and locations on this trip, we’ve been asked multiple times whether we used an adventure travel firm to plan this.

Hell no.

One of the great joys in life is navigating the variables associated with international travel, and bringing order – and a fulfilling itinerary – out of the chaos of infinite options and decision paralysis. For one of us, life exists in an X and Y axis. All information and variables can be accommodated, analyzed, sorted, filtered, and ultimately presented on such a grid.

Specifically, in a spreadsheet.

WolfeStreetTravel runs on Excel.

Logistically, our Christmas Southeast Asia trip (because who doesn’t think of Christmas when one thinks of Cambodia?), has been a complex planning process. But because we’re getting from one place to another by plane, this hasn’t been nearly as much as a challenge as when we’re dealing with trains, planes, automobiles, AND ferries that don’t run every day, as was the case (with the exception of trains) for our foray into Slovenia, Croatia, and Montenegro more than a dozen years ago.

So, for our Southeast Asia trip, the itinerary has (mostly) been refined and looks like this, in the world of X and Y axes:

Red is travel time, green free time, and blue represents engagements. The yellow layover is a yet to be addressed long – but not really long – layover in Bangkok on the way back.

There’s another tab (two actually – one for planning and one for packing) that contains matrices of hotel choices, activities options, URLs to travel articles, and screenshots of (mostly) flight options and maps. One table, though, really exemplifies our planning for this trip – which locations were served by nonstop flights, versus connections, which dictated where we’d go and the sequence in which we would travel:

Greens are acceptable options, yellow are candidates (but not great), and red are unacceptable. Blue is a critical path item (the only real option if we were to include Ho Chi MInh city with the other locations we had prioritized). NS is nonstop, 1S is one stop, and the numbers are the total flight duration. We determined candidate locations to visit based on travel articles and blogs, but based our final trip on the data in this table.

Previous examples include the only travel agent-planned trip last year in Southern Africa (much simpler, as a result):

And our legendary MicroNations road trip in 2017, where travel time was everything:

Hopefully, our upcoming trip will work out as planned, but now you know how it looks before we leave!

Categories: Maps and Miscellany, Trip Planning | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Blog at