Preventative Planning For Shit To Happen While On Vacation

When asked to accompany my friend it was all about France. Our original travel plans consisted of Nantes, Paris and that castle on an island from that one movie. Over the phone we dreamed up this plan to conquer most of Europe. I had my plans of seeing Sweden and Germany. She had her plans of seeing southern France and Costa Del Sol. We both mapped things in our own way. She had all these lists and I kept an ongoing document. When we finally sat together in NYC we re-routed everything. We sat down with maps and online reviews. We created an itinerary sending us west to Spain, then to Italy and back up through Belgium to London. She would have already been to London and Paris but would save the popular attractions for my arrival. Now we had air tight plans to have a weekend in Paris and a week in Londontown. Everything was open to change and ultimately we decided it would be better to return to Nantes skipping Belgium. Doing this would allow a slower pace back through the south of France. We would pass through Lyon and Versailles and finally see Mont Saint Michel (the castle). We would also save money going back to Nantes. Hopefully, we could stay with friends and eat-in. Besides Nantes was bitterly cold and we hadn't really seen Summer there. We would return in the first week of August refreshed from our trip and actually enjoy it this time.

Staycations, vacations and road trips are nothing in comparison to an international expedition. You have to account for so much and assess things as they come. Surely, with any extended stay you need to book hotels, plan meals, seek transit options, research attractions and everything in between. Disney World has all the same factors but it is in one big area. Places like Paris are huge extended playgrounds. No one gives you an honest map, no one reminds you to schedule your meals and there is no right way to go about everything. You can't just walk all of Paris, or walk-in any random hotel or expect that popular restaurant will automatically pull a table for you. Things have to be planned and properly executed. I already voiced having a meltdown over simple bookings for myself. Now I faced constant bookings and planning for two. All of this in the midst of summer when everyone and their mom is on vacation or holiday in Europe. Things had to be chosen quickly and booked even faster. You also had to make sure whatever you wanted to see was actually nearby, affordable and doable. There are random closures of venues, trains that don't align with landmarks and places literally devoid of edible food for miles and miles. You can dream all you want about what you want to do and conquer. Chances are you will stay somewhere bad and you may never see it all. Even in the one opportunity theres only so much time in a day and you're not KimYe. 

She wanted to be in beyond four stars and modern places. I preferred to have authenticity and nearby attractions. She didn't mind spending more because she had credit cards. I live a cash only lifestyle and didn't expect to spend more than $150 USD per night. I was spoiled by the experience of booking long stays in Nantes. When I began to search for two and three day options elsewhere I was looking at the same amount I spent on sixteen days. It was extremely frustrating to find cheaper options for her to be put off by the location, the lack of amenities or some other blip I'd overlooked. The only thing I splurged on was our first night in Paris. I purposely looked for a higher end option on sites like Gilt/Jetsetter for something special. For this I spent a ton of money and not necessarily for the best room but the best experience. She would repay me by booking the next few nights elsewhere. We just sort of took turns and she said she was keeping track of our mutual expenses. However, I had enough of booking things sight unseen in the states. I pretty much insisted on her waiting to book anything else until we were in each others company. I wanted her to pick things and I would simply pay half. At least she was willing to pay for single rooms and share the bed. This gave us a ton of options and saved us money. There were always more singles than doubles and they cost less.

When I arrived in Nantes she gifted me travel books. I was supposed to go through them and map things I wanted to see. She had post noted almost every other page in these books. I looked through them once and realized we shared most of the same interests. I didn't bother adding anymore. Besides every time we interacted online she was sending me links for places and asking my opinion. After a while of this I realized she was just going to pick things with her in mind. We shared the same tastes but she would always pick a pricier room. I wound up having to really re-think my budget. At one point, I remember sitting crying because I was so over arguing about it. Planning was all we ever talked about and meanwhile my money was running out. So I borrowed from my Grandmother and my Godmother. I also depleted my savings that were set aside for my return home. I felt like I'd come a long way to give up on the remaining leg of the trip. Sadly, most of the money I'd borrowed went to these bookings. The first major one was Barcelona, Spain and it was over $800 for five days. I'm sure this was cheap to her but there were cheaper yet better options near that very same hotel. That hotel was truly horrible for the cost but she chose it and I paid.

Everything else we did together. We went to the train station and had a horrible time negotiating our seats to Paris and then onto Spain. We went through three representatives. One left home mid-transaction, another went on his smoke break as soon as we sat down and then he refused to help us once back and the only choice left was a woman sitting right beside him who seemed to like me. All remaining bookings we did at her friends. We sat in her living room both on our computers finding travel options through Spain, onto Italy and back through France. I explained then I was going to run out of money. So we took turns booking trains, planes and rooms with her credit cards. We did most everything in one day. We probably sat there for at least five hours. We ran into issues where certain cards didn't work, some dates were no longer available and many future train seats weren't even up for sale. However, we left with all of Spain booked, a flight to Italy and some choices for hotels in Rome and Florence. In all of this, the only things I chose were trains and planes. If she showed me a hotel or Air BnB that looked relatively decent I said go. I tried to keep a log of the locations and prices. I also asked her over and over again for her spreadsheet she was using to track expenses. She never gave me anything official and all I had was some PDF confirmations of bookings on my computer. Otherwise she held all tickets/confirmations and received all emails. 

There were a million things I could have said or done about the above. I could have asked for a copy of everything. I could have used an app to track everything in real time. I could have asked her to CC me on all her e-mails. I also could have just used my money to go right back home. But we'd both been equally irresponsible. I didn't copy her on things I'd booked even those with her credit card. So even if she got the confirmation emails I still held copies of the initial invoices. Of course if she had somehow abandoned me I couldn't have checked-in at the said hotels. However, I could explain my whereabouts or at least meet up with her. The only things I was blind to was our physical ticket train trips and her Air BnB bookings. I personally avoided Air BnB and never searched the site no matter how many times she asked me to. She kept assuring me the site was safe and reputable but I didn't buy it. I was not going to pay a stranger to stay in their house without seeing it first. We stayed at two and they both had there issues. We weren't robbed or sold into sex trafficking but I would have preferred a standard hotel room. Surely we may have paid an additional $20 to $40 USD a night but we only stayed five days total in Air BnBs. I can't be sure if she chose them because she didn't see anything else or it was her attempt to appease me budget wise. She was always open to local, grass roots things and I'm not. If I had a choice I would stay in a lower end budget brand hotel or a small inn versus anyones house. I seriously get campy voyerism thoughts about Air BnB. 

I will go into more detail about hotels and such later. For now, the goal is to convey the magnitude of all the pre-planning before you book. I strongly advise a few extended sit downs with the good ole internet and whomever you plan to travel with. I also suggest a contract of some sort. Use an app or create a document that details all plans, tracks expenses and is sharable. Do the above because no matter how much you plan or expect,  your trip can and will become a logistical mess. You will always have to make some edits or sacrifices. All parties have to be willing to do so and aware of all changes. I know my travel companion was irritated with my efforts or lack thereof and felt I didn't communicate much. But I was equally frustrated with her choice to live above everyones means and attempt to control everything. We both failed at contributing to the best of our abilities and selflessly owning up to mistakes. Something would go wrong and she would rudely snatch the reins leaving me out of the solution. I would want to conquer the world in a day but couldn't read a map to save my life aimlessly wasting valuable time. We would lead each other blind and on top of everything we didn't speak the language. Looking back I really wish we would have just stopped and re-routed. Yet neither one of us were the bigger person and some days were just shot to hell before we even left the room. Contrary to popular or implied belief, money was the least of our issues. We wasted more time and the value of seeing all we wanted because we just couldn't talk. No matter how much you are willing to invest in a trip you will miss things. You can't buy back time, you can't pay your way out of being lost and nothing can redeem a shitty hotel stay. So plan away well before you  book and especially before you leave. If anyone reaches their threshold invite the other person to stop and re-route. Create a mercy word of something. 

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