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Travelling requires a lot – of planning and organizing, of items in your suitcase, of responsibility…here I’ll provide my personal answers to FAQ

1. Why do you write this travel blog?

In other words: is this just another travel blog, like thousands of others out there? Well, no…My blog does have certain features that are not so common:

  • I do combine both worlds: having a job and travelling the world – meaning: I don’t have endless time (nor, for that matter, money) to travel -> my trips can be “reproduced” by any person with an average job / income.
  • As mentioned: I don’t have unlimited time to explore destinations. In contrast – quite often I just have a few days, sometimes only hours. That’s why you’ll find the page “The perfext Day in…”. Providing a schedule from breakfast to night cap for many popular cities that offers you the “essence”, the spirit of the place.
  • I write honestly: whenever I write a recommendation, it is my true opinion. I do not take freebies (like free stays or meals or whatever). I pay everything myself. If I like something, I will let you know. If not, as well. But – fortunately – due to lots of information out there I find it increasingly easy not to end up in a crap place or restaurant.
  • I only write about places that I have visited – no “second hand information”
  • And finally: I don’t do that with any financial expectations, but just for fun. And with the mission to show you some tiny parts of this wonderful world.

 

2. How do you plan your trips?

Thanks to the fantastic invention called internet (some people like me still remember the ancient times before) it’s not extremely difficult to plan individual trips to remote places. Here’s my way of planning trips in 4 steps:

Step 1:

I decide about the destination, after having indulged in browsing travel blogs, travel guides or whatever source is available. Always a good source for inspirations is Tripadvisor, if you can already narrow down your destination to a certain Region or even city. Sometimes I really can’t decide – then I research several destinations in parallel and make the final decision later, e.g. after the first serious cost calculation (some destinations self-eliminate automatically). Usually I try to plan bigger trips as far ahead of time as possible. You can book flights one year ahead, and this would be my starting point.

Step 2:

I figure out flights (and cross-check with accommodation). Flights are usually the most expensive travel item (or at least a major cost contributor).
I try to narrow down the time frame of the trip, if possible to certain onward and return dates: This simplifies checking airfares. I am still waiting for the booking portal that displays best prices to a defined destination over a whole range of weeks or even months – as far as I know this site still awaits invention. So I use search engines like skyscanner, expedia or opodo and try to figure out if there are certain cheap days. Sometimes there are no big differences over a whole month, but sometimes there are certain days that might triple your price or cut it in half. A thorough search pays back.
For short distance flights, I will check the “usual suspects” directly, e.g. Ryanair, Eurowings and other lost cost carriers for European flights. These carriers usually provide a “best price search”, showing you prices for your destination for a whole month. Makes it easy to pick the best weekend.
For long distance flights comfort beats ecology: I prefer “non-low cost” carriers. Narrow seats are ecologically reasonable – but for ten or more hours barely tolerable.
Be aware that airlines keep track on how often you search a particular flight – and prices will go up. So I switch between different units (computer, laptop and mobile phone) for searching flights.
Once I find the cheapest flight to my desired destination(s), I cross-check with accommodation options. Would be a pity starting with a cheap flight and ending up with horrendous hotel costs, right?

Step 3:

I decide about an accommodation. Almost equally important as the flights – considering the costs. Sometimes even more.
Usually, airfares correspond with hotel Prices. Having kids and being forced to travel during summer holidays? Then you know. However, usually does not mean always. So, before booking a flight, I make sure that there are enough nice accommodations available for acceptable prices.
I usually start wird Tripadvisor (good for hotels as well as vacation homes). If you are planning to stay somewhere for more than just 2 or 3 days, holiday homes might be the better choice than hotels – same price range as hotel rooms, but a lot more space, and usually a kitchen which might save you money on meals.
There are many websites out there for searching holiday homes. I usually start out with Tripadvisor. To make sure that I don’t miss “the perfect place”, I double-check with HomeAway (identical to the German “fewo-direkt” and the US-based “vrbo” websites), which gives very similar results. Sometimes I also check AirB&B (despite my negative experiences, see below), where you will find lots of private places not listed at Tripadvisor and/or HomeAway.
However, there is a downside of holiday lettings: the cancellation policies usually very much in favor of the landlord, giving every right to cancel to the owner and no security to you. I did have bad experiences more often with Airb&b than with any other Portal. Bad experiences meaning: receiving an “unfortunate double booking…never happened before…we are so sorry…”-E-Mail eight days ahead of the trip, leaving you without accommodation. Having booked all your flights and everything else, this comes as a complete disaster, if you are going with the entire family or any other big group, as a substitute accommodation might be difficult to find in high season. There’s nothing you can do about it, just be aware it might happen. And have a list of alternatives ready, complete with E-Mail and phone number for a quick contact.
For Hotels, you may also check out – besides Tripadvisor, which is a good source for everything – Trivago, which are both meta search engines for hotels, providing you with prices from all the big booking portals like Expedia, Agoda, Booking.com etc. They will definitely find the cheapest price for any listed hotel, so it’s always a good start. There’s a direct link to the different portals; Tripadvisor and Trivago will forward you to the portal of your choice for the actual booking.
Of course, if you’re alone or just the two of you, and it’s out of season, there’s no need to worry or book a year ahead. Except for those rare, exceptional places that are fully booked years ahead. Like the “Hatari Lodge” in Tanzania.

Step 4:

I relax.
Flights and accommodation booked? Congratulation, the rest is just fun. Check out Tripadvisor and  travel blogsfor things to do. If you have not already done this before deciding about the destination.

As mentioned above, my main tool for planning and organizing is the internet, and here are my preferred websites (no Claim of completeness…):

Hotels Tripadvisor

Trivago

Expedia

booking.com

Agoda

Tripadvisor and Trivago are meta search engines, which save a lot of time when searching for the cheapest Price for any given Destination or particular Hotel. With Tripadvisor and Expedia you can book flights and Hotel rooms as “one-stop”, which might sometimes save you a little bit of money.
restaurants, hotels and activities Tripadvisor My first choice for selecting restaurants and things to do. Although I do not fully understand their ranking, I almost never failed to get decent meals based on their ratings. You can check out hotels as well, and (recently) also holiday lettings (read below about pitfalls regarding cancellations).
Holiday homes Tripadvisor

HomeAway / Fewo-direkt / VRBO (all based on the same database)

AirB&B

Quite often, apartments or houses are less expensive that hotels (in particular for families or large groups). And more convenient for longer stays, as you will have more space and goodies like a kitchen. However, the cancellation policies are sometimes problematic for the tenants – check out the individual rental contracts carefully! Based on my own woebegone experiences, I am particularly cautious with AirB&B.
my preferred Airlines Lufthansa, Air New Zealand, Emirates, Etihad Lufthansa is basically my “home airline”, but – applying very objective criteria – it is so far (based on my own experience) the most helpful and generous airline regarding damaged or lost luggage; they find lost things in airplanes and send them back to you without any cost; they go through a lot of efforts to deliver your lost luggage; they even take care if you miss their flight due to a delay of another Airline.

Air New Zealand provided the biggest legroom I ever encountered in economy class. And I had the most entertaining flight ever (they employed their all blacks Rugby Team for the info movie).

Emirates and Etihad are often the cheapest for long distance flights from Europe to Asia (but usually include stops at Dubai or Abu Dhabi in the middle of the night – exhausting!).

Based on my experiences, these are very good Airlines, but certainly there are more good ones out there.

Airlines with certain shortcomings…   Unfortunately, there are also some “black sheep” – airlines with a passion for making their customers suffer. I speak of personal experiences, like

  • malicious flight changes like change of days or airports, and every change just early enough to be outside the reimbursement range; you have booked everything around the flight dates and cannot easily change your rental car contract or your holiday homes – your fault, not their Problem! (see our trip to Tenerife 02/2018)
  • really bad customer service regarding damanged luggage (cheap airlines might be a bit more prone to this behavious that more expensive ones)
  • flight changes by the Airline that you have to confirm by a phone hotline and no web Service available.
Rental car ADAC (General German Automobile Club) The “General German Automobile Club” (ADAC)  is the biggest German Automobile Club. They offer a VERY convenient “Super Collision Damage Waiver” (SCDW) with zero (!) excess/deductible. There a Special tariffs for members, but you can also book cars as a non-member. In general, these “zero excess” tariffs are a bit more expensive, but you return the car without worrying about any potential scratches. I love it! The actual rental cars are then coming from the well-known big rental firms like Avis, Europcar, Hertz and others.

Although covering almost every Country, sometimes there are still places they do not offer. In these cases I go to the Portal “billiger-Mietwagen.de”. It’s a German web Portal (so unfortunately only in German language), and they offer an Option where you will be refunded in case of an excess payment. There are certainly similar Websites in English.

Other Options are the “usual suspects” like Europcar, Avis and Hertz.

 

3. Do you have a Packing List?

Yes – here it is – the things that I use consistently and really can recommend:

Small suitcase:

for more than 30 years I swear on Samsonite, the 55 cm/20 inch (i.e. carry-on) expandable upright trolley (like the model below). 2 days or 6 weeks – with this suitcase I manage each and every journey. Usually in black (once I tried red to recognize it easier among the thousands of black suitcases on the belt, but it gets a kind of dirty look quite soon). Big Advantage: I can use it either as carry-on for smaller trips or – extended and checked-in – for longer journeys.

  Link to the US Amazon store   Link to the German Amazon store

Large suitcase:

For some occasions (when travelling with my husband for a short stay, like 3-4 days) we use a Rimowa suitcase (model “Classic Check-In M”, height 71 cm). This suitcase requires check-in, but you can easily share it, and then you have to buy only 1 checked baggage (makes it cheaper for flights without included checked-in baggage).

  Link to the US Amazon store  or go directly to the Rimona Website: here

e-Reader / Kindle paperwhite:

I LOVE to read during my vacations. Sometimes one book per day. So, for many years a significant part of my luggage was occupied by new books. Not to speak about the weight…After a certain “natural resistance” (“Holding a book, feeling the paper, smelling it – this can’t be replaced!”) I finally admitted to myself that e-Readers are REALLY convenient. After the first pages I started liking my Kindle paperwhite. And after the first book I LOVED it. I never go without and hope for a long life.

  Link to the US Amazon store   Link to the German Amazon store

Cell phone: at the moment it’s an i-phone

Speaking about electronics…of course my cell phone is an “essential” as well. When I had to give up my much-beloved Nokia 6150 in 2012 (after 14 happy years), I finally bought a smart phone. And – OK, being able to carry a small, light and good camera in my purse is convenient. So I opted for an i-phone (as every other member of my family owned one). The first one, unfortunately, was a “Monday model” (as we say in German for aflawed specimen), but the second one, bought some years ago, is still working very well. And shot almost all of the pictures you find on this website. So overall, I do recommend it.

  Link to the US amazon store   Link to the German Amazon store

Health insurance abroad:

the General German Automobile Club (ADAC) offers an annual insurance which covers up to 45 travel days per year, which is sufficient for us (a different tariff for long-term stays is available). I’m not sure whether it’s available for non-residents (in Germany), but at least for German residents it is an “allround package” and high “value for money”.

Travel insurance:

is included in our Mastercard Gold. So, whenever we consider it important to be insured for cancellations, we pay by this credit Card.

Sunscreen:

of course, this is depending on your personal taste…I personally use “Nivea Sunscreen”, Level 20 for non-Tropical regions and 50 for tropics, available everywhere (I guess), also on Amazon. I try to use it economically – the chemicals are not extremely healthy e.g. for corals.

  Link to the US amazon store   Link to the German Amazon store

Insect repellant:

an absolute essential for me when travelling in tropic regions. I do use “Autan Tropical”, available via Amazon and in most European drug stores. The Swiss “Anti-Brumm” works fine as well, but is more difficult to purchase. You may trust local mixtures, I don’t.

  Link to the US Amazon store   Link to the German Amazon store

 

*According to a German Court decision, all links to commercial pages (e.g. the links above to Amazon or other companies) have to be identified as “commercial” (in German “Anzeige”). As my texts do contain links like that, I therefore identify each post and page containing a link as “Anzeige”.

 

4. Which places are on your wish list?

  • French Polynesia, Fiji, Tonga
  • Hawaii (Big Island, Maui)
  • Many destinations in South America, like Machu Picchu, Chile and Argentina,
  • Central America
  • Northern Australia

 

5. What are your favorite spots in the world?

Well, there are some places I love to come back to, although usually I prefer new and unknown places over known ones. So, here’s the list of destinations that I love to return to any time:

  • Maldives: Velidhoo, but probably one island is just as beautiful as the other.
  • Bonifacio/Southern Corsica: beautiful medieval town, spectacular yacht harbor, great landscape…
  • Venice: offside the “tourist speedway” it is an absolutely unique, lovely town, virtually the biggest pedestrian zone in the world
  • New York: always exciting
  • Hong Kong: fascinating mixture of Chinese and western culture

 

6. How do you align travelling with caring about your ecological footstep? Is travelling compatible with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

To be honest: the best choice regarding CO2 footstep and SDGs is staying at home. However, there are some options to do at least something about the ecologically unfavorable effects of travelling (in particular by airplane):

  • Use trains for any short distance (e.g. below 6 hours of travel time)
  • Buy “CO2 compensation fares” when going by plane. Several companies offer these fares. Usually the compensation will cost between 5 and 30% of the flight costs. Just make sure that it’s a reliable company (e.g. atmosfair https://www.atmosfair.de/en/), adhering their projects to the CDM Gold Standard (the strictest standard available for climate protection projects). What do they do? They invest your money in climate protection projects, which then compensate the effects of your plane trip.
  • When going by plane: although business class is way more comfortable, economy class is way more ecological. And those airlines that have the reputation of cramming their airplanes, are – ecologically speaking – the better ones. The more people on board, the better the CO2 footprint. And for shorter distances you may bear getting a little bit squeezed…
  • Look for accommodations that take care of ecology, e.g. when it comes to waste water treatment, waste reduction and waste treatment.

 

7. What was the biggest disaster you had to face?

Of course, there were several quite disastrous events, but the worst one was being at the right time at the wrong airport. We were to depart from Cologne Airport to Rome, departure time 8 a.m. When we (meaning the entire family) could not find the flight on the display panel, I had a really uneasy feeling…turned out to be justified. Our flight was to depart at 8 a.m. all right, but from Duesseldorf instead of Cologne. It was quite clear that we would not manage to get to Duesseldorf in time. Instead, we had to buy new tickets. That was one of these moments when you hope the earth will swallow you. But it couldn’t be helped. It was a very expensive inattentiveness. At least: I learned from that and always double-check now.

 

*According to a German Court decision, all links to commercial pages (e.g. links to Tripadvisor, Airline, hotel or restaurant websites) have to be identified as “commercial” (in German “Anzeige”). As my texts do contain links like that, I therefore identify each post and page containing a link as “Anzeige”. However (and referring to the “About Me” page) I would like to point out that I do NOT post any sponsored content in my texts; I pay for all my trips myself.