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Old 08-17-2014, 05:50 PM   #21
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I've used TripAdvisor a lot. I've done reviews on my last 2 overseas trips, and a few US trips as well, though I tend not to bother with the chains unless they are exceptional (good or bad). For the first time, I just got a review pulled for a pub/restaurant in Dublin. They said:
Quote:
Thank you for writing reviews on TripAdvisor. We've temporarily removed your review of Bad Bobs because we think it may have been published to the wrong listing, based on one of the following reasons:

• You may have described aspects of the business that may not exist
• There may be multiple listings on TripAdvisor with a similar name
• The review may be about a different kind of business (e.g., a restaurant review posted to a hotel page)
There was no reason to believe my review was for the wrong place. I emailed back with details they asked and said the pictures on both TripAdvisor and the pub's website itself were exactly as I recalled.

So why did it get flagged? I gave it a pretty bad review, because it was bad. I gave specific reasons why I thought it was bad. The only reason I can come up with is the owner/manager is flagging bad reviews trying to get them pulled, hoping that some won't bother to respond to the notice. There are very few bad reviews for this place, which makes me more suspicious. It's been 2 weeks since I've replied, so maybe they haven't had time to restore it. In my reply to TripAdvisor I told them if they didn't restore it, I would probably pull all my reviews and stop using it since they were allowing businesses to quash bad reviews.

So now I'm just a bit more leery about Trip Advisor reviews. Not sure what I'll do differently though.

I also second Rick Steeves books and shows, though you would want to be his type of traveler. I think many of us would be, since his requirements are basically that the place be clean, safe, and convenient, and don't pay extra for luxuries.
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Old 08-17-2014, 07:04 PM   #22
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
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Speaking of Bavarian beer, I highly recommend a visit to Weltenburg Abbey.

Klosterschenke Weltenburg

The most scenic approach is by boat from Kelheim up the Danube Gorge. There is a spectacular high baroque church, a museum, the brewery (established 1050!), a guesthouse (I peeked inside, looks very nice) and a Biergarten with wonderful dark beer. I actually recognize one of the barmaids from the website, Gabi!
Now that looks like my kind of pilgrimage!
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Old 08-17-2014, 07:15 PM   #23
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I second the recommendations for TripAdvisor and getting travel guides out of the library. (I have over 100 reviews on TripAdvisor and I know there have been some complaints about them, but we've been very happy with selections we've made based on a thorough reading of multiple reviews.) I also like FlyerTalk- a VERY well-traveled group of people but make sure you do a Search on something before bringing up a topic that's already got a dozen discussions (how do I get a Russian visa?). There are discussion boards for various locations. I also recommend Cruisecritic if you're taking a cruise.

I do the planning for the 2 of us. We pick a destination for a major (usually Europe) a year out and the first thing I do is book flights because many times we're using miles and I want to get the best choice. Same with chain hotels if I'm using points. Maybe 6 months out I book local flights or trains (if train reservations are needed) and local hotels. We typically include only a few destinations and stay there for a few days- otherwise, DH wears out easily. On a given day, depending on the weather, our interests, or even a brochure we see in the hotel, we decide what we'll do. We have a list of possibilities and anything that MUST be booked in advance we do, but when we're on the ground at our destination we like some flexibility.
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Old 08-17-2014, 08:37 PM   #24
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We are retired and can travel any time. We use the internet extensively. We prefer to travel in the shoulder season, and often on short notice. We find the prices can be significantly lower and there are fewer tourists.

We also take currency into account. We try to go where our currency is stronger. We match these items to our bucket list and 'knock them off as good offers come along.
We arrange most of our travel on the internet. The only time we use a TA is for cruises because our internet TA gives us a rebate on her commissions.

Over the past few years we spent time in the UK and Europe. UK is off our list for now because their currency is more expensive for us. We delayed an extended trip to South Africa for a year. Their currency was weakening. The delay saved us about 20 percent because the value of their Rand decreased significantly.

We use lots of sites and read the travel books prior to going. Works for us.
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Old 08-17-2014, 09:14 PM   #25
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I use tripadvisor, google, and google maps a lot. Tripadvisor for restaurant, hotel, and activity ideas, then drill down by googling specific places and activities. Google maps to get driving times. I don't plan to the nth degree - I leave a lot of free time available so that we don't feel rushed to get activities in, and to take in unexpected interesting things that we encounter during the trip.


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Old 08-18-2014, 07:42 AM   #26
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I don't plan to the nth degree - I leave a lot of free time available so that we don't feel rushed to get activities in, and to take in unexpected interesting things that we encounter during the trip.
That's my tactic. It's very important to me to know we have plane reservations and hotel reservations, and to know what we might want to do at our destinations, but the rest we decide day-to-day.
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Old 08-18-2014, 08:27 AM   #27
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I do find lonely Planet books to be a good resource for places to see, stay , eat and how to get around. The information on getting around includes public transportation and what to pay for that or taxis. Last few years i do use ebay to get a phone sim/data card so my smart phone works in a destination allowing for internet searches on the go.
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Old 08-18-2014, 12:16 PM   #28
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There is some great info in these posts. Thanks to everyone who has posted. My DW and I and my sister and BIL are going to Europe for 3 weeks next month. Our challenge has been to work with everyones different style of traveling. My sister is a planner. She wants to have everything pre arranged including accomodations, travel (trains, rental cars) plus an itinerary of when we need to be places. My DW on the other hand is good with getting off the plane in Europe and figuring out where to go once we get there. So everyone has had to compromise a little. We have some things pre arranged and others we will figure out once we get there.

My sister and BIL leave after two weeks so the 3rd week my DW and I will be on our own and will figure out what we are going to do and where to stay on the fly.


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Old 08-18-2014, 01:17 PM   #29
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My number one favorite is Flyertalk..because it covers anything and everything.
You can get tips about discount or sale airfares, tips about which airports are difficult to connect thru, tips about passports, customs and visas for different countries.

You can find all the discount codes for hotels, car rentals and travels sites sales.
I don't think there is one travel topic that isn't covered someplace on the flyertalk site. As an aggregate travel site it can't be beaten, even by Tripadvisor
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Old 08-18-2014, 02:28 PM   #30
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Another vote to start at the tripadvisor.com forums. People post their planned interaries and people comment on them, so if you need to plan a trip, you can start by "stealing" someone else's itinerary and then adapting it to your needs. Please ask all kinds of specific questions about best ways to get from place to place, what hotels to stay at based on their needs etc. And then just Google for more specific details as needed.

If you need complicated help with flights, flyertalk.com is great too.
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Old 08-18-2014, 03:15 PM   #31
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Thanks for all of the ideas in this thread! So many sites I'd not tried and so many ideas and techniques I hadn't thought about.

Plenty of kindling...next time there's a spark I'll be prepared to generate a blaze!
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Old 08-18-2014, 05:39 PM   #32
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I'm a planner, so I do a lot of research, and like to plan things out ahead of time. One of my biggest tips though, is to have a penciled in plan, but be flexible and ready to change it. Got plans for a day in the park and it's raining when you wake up? Change your mind and hit a museum instead (have all the hours of museums that you're interested listed, so you don't get there and it's closed).

Also useful when we went with another couple is to all have things on our A, B and C list. Things we really want to do (A list), things we'd like to do (B list), things we wouldn't mind doing (C list). We made sure everyone got to do stuff on their A list.

When I start doing research for a trip, I actually start with tour brochures and companies. They're a great start because they highlight the most popular things in a city, they have a reasonable amount of time spent for travel time, and sometimes we've found ones that match our needs so well that we just take a the guided tours. It'll also give you a starting point for costs.
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Old 08-18-2014, 06:26 PM   #33
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There's so much wonderful information in this thread

For me, this research and planning is as enjoyable as the trip. My plans change quite a bit as I learn more about the places I am visiting.

But - you have to start someplace! Or you could be paralyzed by the amount of information on the web.

I try to book lodging and transportation before we leave (as much as possible) because I don't want to be researching hotels/transportation while I'm on my trip. You can also research restaurants & keep a list handy so you're not disappointed by walking into some random restaurant. On the other hand, these spontaneous discoveries sometimes make the trip.

One more tip. When you find a place you want to visit, go to google images or flickr & look for it. You'll find tons of pictures that will give you a better idea of the place than the few you would find in an article or book.
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Old 08-21-2014, 01:39 AM   #34
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Yet another Tripadvisor fan. You can find out just about anything about anywhere. You can see the highest rated attractions in any area of the world. You can get the best rated hotels for any city. You can ask questions in the forums if you have specific needs ("How do I get from the Venice airport to St. Mark's square?...") and you'll have answers within a day.
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Old 08-21-2014, 11:00 AM   #35
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Just did a trip of Ireland, Italy and Spain. Almost imperative that you have a smart phone with data plan (buy it locally). I used tripadvisor to research hotels and things to do. Then Expedia to book the hotels. Expedia (and I'm sure other travel sites) has a neat smart phone app that pops up in the morning to tell you what time u need to check out of your hotel,and when to check into your next one. Also has the google map directions and phone numbers of the hotels that you can click on. Of course that's all easily available but it's nice to have it right there in one very simple app. Google maps was terrific for places like Venice for getting around and back to the hotel as it's very easy to get lost there. Even the little compass there let's u know if ur going in the right direction at least.

Yelp was also very helpful for finding good restaurants. They have a nice feature "restaurants near here" which worked well once or twice. Google search can do the same.

The smartphone is also invaluable for getting/displaying your boarding passes and not having to print them out, as printers are hard to find when traveling, or a pain to get working in hotels if they have them.

One issue with rental cars that I encountered is that some rental companies insist that you take the CDW which might be covered by your credit card. Either that or they want a written letter from ur card company specifically stating that they cover the damage. Hard to get. That CDW was $20/day for me. I was using SIXT rental company.
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Old 08-21-2014, 12:55 PM   #36
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MotionX is a GPS app that lets you download an area on your iPhone/iPad and then navigate without needing a live data connection. You can download what you need at the hotel before heading out. That's really handy and worked well for us when we traveled with an iPhone with not cell connection.
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Old 08-21-2014, 08:15 PM   #37
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Wow, I just discovered Google travel. Shows lowest airfares on a map, and you can add different airports. So I can instantly compare fares leaving from San Antonio, Austin, Houston, to all, for example, Caribbean islands, or European destinations. I usually spend at least 20 to 40 hours planning vacations and this is a huge timesaver, and shows me locations I may not have researched!
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Old 08-22-2014, 11:01 PM   #38
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Wow, I just discovered Google travel. Shows lowest airfares on a map, and you can add different airports. So I can instantly compare fares leaving from San Antonio, Austin, Houston, to all, for example, Caribbean islands, or European destinations. I usually spend at least 20 to 40 hours planning vacations and this is a huge timesaver, and shows me locations I may not have researched!
Great tip!
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Old 08-22-2014, 11:21 PM   #39
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We planned a five week summer trip to Canada. It started out with a five week window of time, and we narrowed down the key cities we wanted to visit in Canada. One constraint was being in NYC for the 4th of July fireworks, so that established when we needed to leave Raleigh and which route to Canada we would take.

After that, we started looking for free hotels using our Starwood points and planned a few nights in each of the cities. Then we found good apartment rentals for the week long stays we were planning in a few Canadian cities, and booked those.

We pretty much winged the rest of it, and did the "what do we want to see tomorrow?" research and planning each night or morning on our trip. Other than a vague spreadsheet with maybe 5-10 things or places we wanted to visit in each city, we didn't have a detailed itinerary at all.

We kept some flexibility built in to our five week summer trip since we were traveling with 3 young kids. After a few weeks we decided we had seen enough, cancelled the last couple of reservations and headed back home for a few week's staycation (DW is still working and had to go back to work at the end of five weeks off).
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Old 08-23-2014, 12:05 AM   #40
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Lots of great info. DW and I would like to do a tour of the US when we hit retirement.

I am curious as to find out which cities or specifically which areas of cities to avoid? How do you know which areas are dangerous, high crime, wouldn't want to stay at a hotel there, don't go out after dark, etc.?

For example I heard on a tv show that Compton, CA is high crime and you could get shot in the street (not sure if there was exaggeration or what) but how do you know?
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