So, what, you might be asking, is the point of doing all of the research? As an experienced traveler (although admittedly an amateur on every scale), I have found that if I have a familiarity of the location I visit whether from previously having been there or from a basis of “virtual” familiarity, I am more relaxed and confident about the experience of being there. In other words, if my brain has been there even though my body has not, the place seems familiar enough to be relaxing rather than disorienting. Not quite like being ‘at home’ but close. But if you are thinking about whether something is lost in the experience of being in a new place, that has never happened. There isn’t really any substitute for being there in person.
Where to start…
The planning process began with determining a window of time that worked for everyone in our group. With a smaller group, that wasn’t too difficult. In larger groups, I have found it just shy of hair pulling. This obviously different from signing up for a group tour (such as a Rick Steves tour or a tour organized by a travel agency where the dates are preset) but when organizing a trip with our friends we make every attempt to find a date range that works for everyone. So, once everyone is onboard with the date range for the trips, the next challenge is usually finding a flight schedule within the budget everyone is comfortable with. Yes, it can be frustrating to book a flight even with the tools available via the internet, but with everyone in the group searching the various travel sites, it can go fairly smoothly. And, yes, there will always be a “better deal” somewhere…or at least that’s the fear…but finding a flight that meets everyone’s preferences for airports–leaving out of and flying through–time of traveling and airline ‘frequent flyer’ program options are some of the key factors over price.
From this point, the fun really begins.
Daube Provencal, Boeuf Bourguignon, Coq au Vin, French Onion Soup, Braised Leeks–on and on. Group dinners under the guise of “planning research” are a good way to get into the spirit of the destination at hand. Sharing ideas on what to see and do on the journey around food and wine is a way to bring balance to the trip for everyone’s mutual satisfaction and fun. As the itinerary develops for each day of the trip it becomes defined with major and minor experiences to be enjoyed by everyone in the group. So, we’re off!