Saturday, December 31, 2011

Travel in the Future

My wife and I are heading off to Europe this year, specifically to Italy and Germany.  It’s quite an undertaking to plan such a trip.  I’ve talked to quite a few seasoned travelers to garner their wisdom about flights, hotels, car rentals, places to see, and to borrow Frommers travel guide books, etc.  But to be honest, without access to the Internet, I’m not sure how we would plan a trip like this.  We wouldn’t be able to do it without a travel agent/expert.  Note that the castle in this picture is located in Neuschwanstein, Germany and influenced the design of Sleeping Beauty’s castle in Disneyland, cool hey.  After a short stop in Munich, we will drive to this small German town, near the Austrian border, and begin our Romantic Road journey through various medieval towns.

When my wife and I planned our honeymoon over 26 years ago (yes, I’m getting old), I recall us consulting with a BCAA travel agent.  They helped us figure out which cities to stop in and hotels to book, along the way to Disneyland.  We even received printed driving route maps (remember this was before GPS, Google/Bing maps, and smart phones).  They helped us buy tickets for various activities, etc.  It’s hard to believe we planned the trip and drove all that way with no access to technology to assist us, not even a cell phone.

Fast forward to 2011 and it’s rather different.  Our Europe itinerary looks something like this:

Italy

  • Fly to Rome (British Air, we checked many flight aggregators and individual airlines, BA came out on top – even tested a travel agent who also came up with BA but our price was better)
  • Stay in Rome 5 nights in a somewhat ancient building now serving as a B & B within walking distance of most key attractions (Venere.com, a super useful accommodation search site – thanks to Tom Grant for sharing this one with me)

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Germany

  • Rent a car in Munich (two nights), hopefully see, among other things
    • Deutshes Museum - massive, biggest technology museum in the world
    • Alte Pinakothek 14-18th century European Art including Da Vinci
  • Stay two nights in Neuschwanstein / Hohenschwangau and thus begins the Romantic Road
    • Castles, kayaking on the lake, relaxing
  • Pfaffenwinkel (churches, pristine landscapes)
  • Stay one night in Augsburg (2000 years old, legacy of Roman/wealthy traders)
    • St. Anne's church, Monumental Fountains, Town Hall, Perlach Tower
    • Augsburger Puppenkiste / Augsburg Marionette Theatre (puppets)
    • Maximilianstrabe street - pretty, window shopping
  • Dinkelsbühl (16 towers, gates, walk the ancient city wall)
  • Stay one night in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
    • Mittelalterliches Kriminalmuseum (Medieval Criminal Museum)
    • “The magic of the place is so captivating that it has been the inspiration or served as a backdrop for A Little Snow Fairy Sugar, and Disney’s fantastical tales, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Pinocchio”
  • Würzburg (market square, late-Gothic Church of St. Mary, Falkenhaus, etc.)
  • Begin the Fairy Tale Road in (stay one night) Hanau
    • Fairy Tale Festival, outdoor theatre - front of Castle Philippsruhe
    • Paper Toy Museum
    • Hessian Doll Museum
  • Steinau (13th century Schloss Steinau Castle, fairy tale well)
  • Stay one night in Marburg with some possible activities…
    • Walking through old town section - step back in time
    • Medieval churches such as Elisabethkirche (1238)
    • Rent paddle boat - go down River Lahn
    • Hiking along rivers edge
    • Scale model of solar system (walking tour)
  • Stay one night in Hann Munden (tiny cobbled stone streets, 700 half-timbered medieval houses)
  • Sababurg (Sababurg Castle - Sleeping Beauty)
  • Trendelburg (Trendelburg Castle (medieval), setting for the tale of Rapunzel)
  • Stay three nights in Hannover with my niece and family (day trips to other sites)
    • Hessisch Oldendorf (40m from Hannover)
      • 1000 year old Stift Fischbeck / Fischbeck Abbey
      • Schillat Cave (180m long)
  • Stay two nights in Berlin with possible sites
  • Fly back to Vancouver

To plan our Europe trip, we “googled” for ideas and relied on free information from other travelers in addition to online trip guides from companies like Frommers, Fodors, and Rick SteevesGoogle Translate is a very useful tool for websites that don’t have an English language option (many don’t) so that I could read them.  For accurate pricing, most sites had currency translators and there also universal currency translator apps and websites.  I purchased an Italian and German “top 100 phrases” apps for my phone to help us when we’re there. 

I created a personal Google map of the Germany leg to help with planning the driving trip. 

image
View Germany in a larger map

As I researched towns, I added them to the map.  Later I used the map to calculate driving routes with distances and travel times.  From the map you can then access pictures, points-of-interest, and lots of details for each city and route. 

Now imagine for a moment future possibilities for travel planning.  In particular I believe that 3D immersive planning environments will be commonTown Square place.  A future trip planning exercise will involve virtual travel in advance to be able to “experience” the sites and activities in advance of a visit.  We could do a walk-through of our accommodation, speak to the operators, visit key sites, hear the sounds.  Perhaps as we virtually travel, an itinerary will be produced for us, virtual agents can be instructed to book flights, accommodations, tours, and all the details will be saved and available on our personal travel website, our smartphones, and our tablets.   I can see huge potential for innovation in the travel planning industry.  It’s certainly come a long ways since my honeymoon trip to Disneyland but it could be so much more by 2020.

If anyone has any travel advice they’d like to share or specific suggestions for us related to our upcoming Europe trip, please do leave a comment.