Part 1: How I Plan a Trip-Vienna October 2019
The most important question I ask myself during trip planning is “why am I going?” Followed closely by “given my intent, how and where will I spend my time?”
After the initial two weeks through Germany and the Netherlands, (with a somewhat organized group) I will strike out alone to Vienna. There, I will revisit the history of Inge’s life through photos. She was our family’s high school exchange student, living with us for the academic year . I’ll focuse on her life during that school year as well as my “gap” year two years later when I worked and traveled in Europe.
In addition to visiting with Erich (Inge’s widower) I want to sample the vegan scene. I requested Erich’s help in defining neighborhoods that were both convenient to his location (on the U2 line) and near the many vegan restaurants. He responded with the map pictured here,including his hand printed additions. Vegan options are in red.
Map matching is key for trip planning as maps come in all sizes and scales. I’ve learned:
- To pattern match the arch of rivers,
- The location of bridges and transit tracks.
- The distinct patterns of roadways and parks.
As will be true with Erich’s map, I will hand note the locations of other desired attractions on his map, giving me a consolidated version of my “trip plan” on one large page. While there are likely apps which will do all of this, I never learn as much context about location unless there is a paper version involved, it’s something about being “hands-on!”
Once the above steps are complete, the next step is accommodations:
I spent a few hours researching AirBNB locations. After years of use, an obvious choice did not emerge for two reasons.
- There is always a cost: Regardless of and in addition to the severity of the cancellation policy an AirBNB owner requires, the customer will always pay the “service fee” on cancellations after 48 hours from booking. This can range from $25 to nearly $100. Hotels don’t charge a fee if you cancel prior to 48 hours of check in (occasionally longer).
- You often don’t know what you are getting: It often takes work to determine the genuine perceptions of past customers. Perhaps due to the early e-commerce precedent established by Ebay, it’s customary to give hosts ratings of 5 almost across the board. Then, if you are lucky, an honest guest will give you the real story in their comments about excess street noise, a noxious odor, a seemingly unsafe neighborhood, a location that is not as described. You have to read all the comments. All of my target places had disqualifying traits and a service fee penalty should I cancel.
I switched my strategy to include apartment hotels which are plentiful and with a more realistic set of reviews. I found one that seems appropriate: its on Erich’s map, a short walk from the airport train terminal and has all the features I need (kitchenette and laundry facilities). Since my Vienna trip duration is still fluid, I can adjust my dates without penalty up until 2 days prior to visit.
This choice also enabled me to check the walking distances to transit stations, restaurants and attractions. You can’t do that with AirBNB until you have made the purchase, often finding that your location is not really within walking distance as described by your hosts.
Part 2: How will I spend my time? My next stop is usually Trip Advisor, Expedia or the “36 hours” feature of the New York Times to determine which attractions might offer the right mix of history, art and culture. What historic events put Vienna “on the map” of world history? Certainly the numerous wars with the Turks, as well as the Nazi occupation and their ransacking of museums for art and antiques.
Since both Trip Advisor and Expedia are in the business of selling tours, it’s likely their rank ordering of venues is partly cued to potential sales. What I prefer (and have done this time) is to purchase slightly older tour books off of Ebay, Paperbackswap or at local thrift or library book sales. I’ll review them and then cut them up to provide concise take along content with its own set of maps. Easy to toss or pass along to other tourists once heading to my next stop.
I scored an Eyewitness guide to Vienna for about $5 from Thrift books.com Since I also found books on Switzerland and Lyon (all totaling about $11) I was able to avoid a shipping charge.
While I await delivery, I have determined that the only Vienna history museum of interest, for a short review of historical significance, is the War museum. Lurking in the fine print of museum reviews are many “only go here if you…” admonitions. Given these hints, It appears that the only art museum of interest is the Belvedere Palace which houses several of the Gustav Klimt masterpieces as well as contemporary art.
Using Klimt as a cue, I searched for historical novels that reflect his era and found 2 including the book basis for the Helen Mirren film “Woman in Gold.” The other is a fictitious account of the painting of that piece and the possible romance involved. I intend to have that paperback in hand while visiting Belvedere Palace. I anticipate finding reading nooks where I can take a breather, while taking in the majesty of those priceless paintings and reading key passages that make paintings come alive. Both are part of an additional Thriftbooks order en route.
The final element are live music venues and events as well as parks and forests. I’ve found that these are best sourced on site. As Vienna has live music most days, I will be able to find some appropriate Mozart or Beethoven to help complete the cultural context.
City Tour Cards: Once you start to search venues in any city you will immediately start seeing ads for “Target City Tour Cards”. These cite the “savings” you will experience by purchasing a multi-day pass which usually includes local transit. I almost never spring for these “deals”. The numbers only work if you plan to spend all of your time moving from museum to museum (the route of the less experienced) and their cost never accounts for senior pricing for museums or transit. These are rarely worth it if you are north of 60.
Part 3: Putting It All Together
Once I have completed the above, I like to place everything of interest along with their opening hours (and closed days) on one of the giveaway maps available at tourist offices and hotels. It’s my final hands on perspective building exercise and is quickly completed the first evening in a new city. At that point, the weather for several days is known and I can determine which will be walking tours, or rainy museum days.
My final plan for Vienna has me staying there for 4 nights, leaving me with one less day than originally anticipated. All of a sudden my expansive two and a half weeks “on the lam” is filled up. Oh yes, and all but three of those days will include access to a kitchen so my minimalist food kit will earn its place in my one bag.
Next up: the Chateau where I worked for two months when just 20 years old.