I think back to 2001, when my friend and I went to Europe. The "internets" existed, but didn't nearly have the information we do today. I remember finding a hotel online in Amsterdam and calling on a landline phone to make a reservation. There wasn't a way to book it online. There wasn't Skype to make a free or cheap call. It looks like the site "Booking" was launched in 1996, and I'm guessing it didn't have the capabilities it does now. In college, I remember hearing about this website called Priceline, where you could request a fee for an airline ticket, and you only paid that fee if the price was accepted. That seemed so crazy to me.
I think back about communication on that trip. No Smart phones. No Facebook. Most people didn't have their own laptop, so internet cafes were relied on heavily. I had a hotmail account, and I would email updates to friends whenever I could. The first time I called home on that trip was on our THIRD day in Paris. We found a pay phone and made a call using credit cards. I got a hold of my mom and talked to her. Told her we made it safely and things were going well.
And then I think to when my sister studied abroad in England in 1994. Most people didn't have email or computers at home. We didn't. If we wanted to talk to her, we called the dorm, someone would answer and have to run down the hall to find her. It was expensive to call her. And we wrote letters and sent care packages. When my brother studied abroad in Australia in 1987, all we did was write letters. Long letters, that probably took 2 weeks to get to us.
Now, I can talk to my mom anytime via Facebook messenger, at no cost, and post pictures on Facebook every minute if I want to. I can call using that service or Skype. I can let someone instantly know that everything is going fine.
How things have changed!
When we went to Europe in '01, we relied on a travel agent to book our flights, as well as our Eurail pass. We relied on guidebooks. A good guidebook can still go a long way, if anything, just to condense information. There is so much online, that shuffling through all the sites can be overwhelming. I still rent guidebooks from the library, and based on what I read, decide if I want to purchase one.
People still use travel agents to plan trips, and it's a great investment if you want someone else to do the leg work for you. I personally, love to do trip research and almost consider it a hobby. Now, you can book tickets online for popular attractions such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Anne Frank Haus in Amsterdam. (We were grateful last year that we booked online tickets for AFH which meant we could walk in at our assigned time, instead of waiting in line with the hundreds of others.)
Here is what I was able to do for this trip, solely using the "internets":
- book our round trip flights to Frankfurt
- book most of the hotels online
- book train reservations online for the entire trip and print the ticket
- find an 80-year-old tour guide in Belgium to give us a "Battle of the Bulge" tour in Luxembourg
- find and book a free city tour in Munich
- find a tour company in Munich for the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site
- map walking directions from the train stations to our hotels
- figure out how to take public transit (trams, buses) in cities to key sites
- print brochures for castles and other tourist sites
- make a dinner reservation at a popular restaurant in Nuremberg
Things have certainly come a long way since 2001. We depart on March 30th. Can't wait!
Planning a Trip in 2017
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Green Bay, Wisconsin, United States