Adam and I had first visited Budapest for Hungary’s number one music festival ‘Sziget’ in 2012 and ever since then had been contemplating a return visit by car. The whole thing came to fruition in 2015, which means it had a three year build up!
Over this time, it went from a couples trip- just me and my husband, to six of us going, to four of us booking and ultimately just the three of us going on the trip.
I learnt a good lesson from this. Plan for yourself: that way you won’t end up having to change things last minute or be disappointed. In the earlier stages, I’d added in Switzerland on the request of someone who didn’t even make it to the booking stages and then we’d also planned in a detour to visit the friend of one of the people coming on our trip (nor had we sorted any accommodation, on the basis that we’d be able to crash at her house) and then they pulled out literally 7 days before we were due to depart (Despite having booked flights, festival tickets, paid for car rental and accommodation for about 3 weeks).
As cynical as it may sound, you just can’t rely on people. Apparently even when they’ve already spent the best part of a grand towards a trip! Plan for yourself, but be flexible enough to be able to work in things that others want to do, should they be bothered enough to sort it out (and make it to the final stages). One example of this was our rest stop in Wolfenbuttle. We knew we’d need to stop at some point between Berlin and Amsterdam, and Will wanted to visit the Jägermeister factory which was on route. So, naturally it made sense to add this in. Turns out we completely missed the tour, but that’s a story for later!
With a fairly tight schedule to keep (as a teacher, I had an extra two weeks leeway, but Adam was already nudging the boundaries of his holiday allowance and Will, working in retail, was massively pushing things) we needed to know where we were going to be and when. Additionally, as I’ve mentioned before, suffering with anxiety makes me a bit of a control freak (that’s perhaps a bit of a cop out- it’s probably just me!) and the one thing I love almost as much as travelling, is planning trips. I know… I know… it’s not really in the spirit of adventure, and over time I’ll learn to come to terms with this fact and embrace the casual, laid-back lifestyle of the long-standing nomad, but for now, for my own enjoyment and my mental health I’ll enjoy my research and my 150 page; 30,000 Word documents for the time being ;).
For this particular trip, Lonely Planet’s ‘Europe of a Shoestring’ served to be a great tool both for the planning and pre-booking elements, as well as on the trip itself. Again, when you’re only spending 1-2 nights in a place, you don’t want to spend ages wandering around looking for a “hidden gem”. You want to know where’s going to be good. Where’s going to give you an authentic taste of the country you’re in? We used the trip advisor app every now and again too, as you’re able to download it before you leave home and access it without an internet connection.
Of course, on several occasions, we saw a nice looking place en-route to the recommended location and went there instead, which led us to a phenomenal Italian in Venice that we shared with the- clearly local- gondoliers (either that or they had a penchant for stripy shirts). On the flip side, there were two occasions where we just settled for something convenient, and we managed to eat at a French restaurant in Italy (having just been in France) and had an ‘authentic’ Italian pizza… with french-fries as a topping and German beer, again in Italy, this time at Lake Garda. Finally, in Strasbourg, we had an amazing French meal, but we did wander around for about three hours before finally settling on the place we’d initially opted for when we finally circled back around!
It’s like with the initial planning stages (and life in general I guess too): have a direction to go in, but be flexible to change that plan if something else comes up too!