What to Know Before You Go…Chapter 2

Chapter 2  The Internet, Web Resources, and the Travel Agency

As you start your trip planning and you are trying to determine where you want to go, use the Internet. There are a number of travel sites, but the best way, in my opinion, is to use Google and put in such things as “vacationing in Australia, or Europe, or France, or the Caribbean, etc”. Many site will come up and you can take your time and look at all of the many places that you can see and things that you can do. On our recent trip to Australia, we knew we were going to Cairns as our first step on our journey, so my wife Googled Cairns. From Cairns, which is north on Sydney, we were able to go out to the Great Barrier Reef, rode the train up to and through the Rain Forest, then rode the Skytrain back down over the Rain Forest to sea level, and back to the city of Cairns, which in itself is well worth seeing. We found all of this on the internet….then went to our agent, who had also suggested these attractions, and made the ticket arrangements.

And, you can use a site like Expedia to get an idea of flights into almost any destination in the world. They will give you prices and times, although the prices are often on bad connecting flights , or bad times, but it gives you a very good idea of when and where you can go. Trip Advisor is another good one, as this give first hand experiences from travelers.

These sites, and many others, are great for travel information, but not always good for ticketing. As I have said, and will say many more times, the local travel agent can get the same, if not better, price….they can give you the experiences of other travelers, and they can do the “hard work” for  you, such as the reservations and ticketing. That is their job. But, you can do the pre-planning by using the Internet to get your general idea of where, when, why, and what you want to do.

A word about the Travel Agency. Only the good ones have survived the Internet. And they have survived because they can offer a service that the Internet cannot. As with almost any professional services these days, you can get almost any service on the web. But, you get what you pay for. I have planned and taken trips using nothing but the internet, with sites like www.hotels.com, and  www.expedia.com, and they were good trips. But, for the most part, I was “flying by the seat of my pants”. And, when all said and done, did not save a penny. Now we use an Agency exclusively. And, a couple of other factors as to why to use an agency….(1) some are specialists, like with Cruise Lines…(2) many of the agencies are really experienced. :Been there done that”  is true for many and this experience is passed on to you…..(3) Your individual travel agent in an agency will become “your good friend”, and they will have your interest foremost in their mind as they plan for you. This is that valuable factor…and can make the difference in your travels.

Next section is entitled….”Make a List”….and this is one of my favorites, for many do not do this until they get someplace and say, “I should have made a list of these things to bring”. Stay tuned.

Munich

I woke up early and went for a walk around the area…a very nice area with many Mercedes and BMW’s parked on the street. This would be a nice residential area in any city…very expensive. We went back down to the Marriott for their breakfast, as the Renaissance served only a buffet. The Marriott was great, where we got a small breakfast for about $5.00..Audy had muesli cereal. We then headed for the BMW Museum in the area of the Olympic Stadium. We got there at 11 and it was closed….many places were closed for New Years Eve Day…so we got the Metro back down town..to the center of Munich…the area known as Marienplatz, where the famous Glockenspiel is surrounded by the big downtown churches, and we both remembered this area. Very pretty, and very, very crowded this morning, with the stores closing at 2 PM. We found that the G’spiel would go off at 5 PM…so walked down to the Galeria Kasthof…a huge 5 story department store. We went up to the 5th floor and had lunch…then Audy walked around and we found the Formula 1 Calendar. We left at 2 and found that there would be a Mass at 5…so walked down the Kaiserstrasse,to the main station to take a day tour for an hour, which was very interesting. Munich has grown into a big city, with not too many “impressive buildings” like other parts of Germany. We were impressed by the pedestrian areas and the big stores, for it is a very cosmopolitan and international area. On Kaiserstrasse, you can find every imaginable shop, from Gucci to the tourist souvenir shops. Big and small, and huge crowds to go with it.

We got back to Marienplatz by 5…and for the first time, ever, we imagined…the glock did not go off. Bummer. We waited for a few minutes and then went over to the Mass…a full church, but a good service with massive organ and trumpet. The overall effect of these big churches when the organ and congregation are singing is almost overwhelming. You can almost feel the music and vibrations in the foundation of the building. Really meaningful, especially for musicians. We tried to find another service that we had read about…but no luck…so headed back to the hotel area for dinner. We stopped at a neighborhood restaurant and as we entered they asked if we had a reservation, which we didn’t. As it turns out, New Year Eve, known as Sylvester, is a big night…and the thing to do is to go out for dinner…then stay up and shoot off fireworks at midnight. After going to bed at 10…we were awakened at midnight with a huge fireworks show right outside the hotel. What happens is that people come out from the apartments to shoot …and it is a big deal. I got up and looked out, and there were probably 200 people right outside our window…all shooting off fireworks, and these are not just sparklers. This is a big night! The next morning I went out and the streets were littered with fireworks debris…almost a mess, as you had to watch where you worked. Overall evaluation of Munich is that it is a big well off city….good to visit…but we had been there before, and probably would not go back until we see everything else there is to see.