Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Preparing for the Trip

I wanted to start blogging about my trip. But I feel like I should write about how I planned it first. 
It was a long process. 
All of you that have been long time readers or know me in real life know that I am a planner. I can be spontaneous in regular life and on trips as well but for the most part I like to start with a plan and stick to it as much as possible. It keeps me focused and helps me get the most out of things. 
Plus I have FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and always want to find out as much as I can about a place before I go. 
I think part of this comes from a few trips that I have taken where I found out about something afterward that I could have done that would have been amazing. 
Now, the first thing to remember though is that while I like to know as much as possible about what I can do and try to do as much as possible, I have also learned that I can never do everything and I will always leave a place wishing I could have done more. 
So, my extreme planning then makes it easier to prioritize what we do so that when we leave having missed some things, they usually aren't the most important things. 

Anyway, today I want to tell you a few of the things I did to plan this trip and answer the questions I get asked the most about it. 

First, how did this trip come about? 

Two years ago my cousin and her family were living in France. I was living vicariously through her!
You can see their experiences here. 
While she was there Doug told me that I should go visit her. He knew that I have always wanted to go to Europe. He told me that he knew we wouldn't be able to afford going there as a family or even as a couple for quite a few years and he thought I should fulfill my dream and go. Yes, he is amazing.
I told him that I felt really guilty spending so much money on something just for me. I just wasn't sure I should do it. I also told him that if I was going to go to France I would want to take advantage of the fact that I would be spending so much money on a flight to Europe to also visit the other places on the top of my bucket list: the UK and Germany. 
He told me that if we took all the money and time he has spent going on trips to video game conventions with his friends over the course of our marriage that it would add up to the same amount of money and more time. 
He suggested I see if my mom could go with me. He knew that she also wanted to travel to these places and felt better if I didn't go by myself. 
I called her and asked her what she thought. She was very excited. 
She talked to my dad about it and he was on board as well. 
At this point Doug and my mom told me to price it out. Then we could know for sure if we could do it. 
I spent a few weeks doing research of flights, hotels, trains, car rental, and activities and was able to give a rough estimate. It was a go. 
 I started planning the trip out in earnest at this point. 
I didn't make any reservations yet. I would start doing that at the year out point. 
I started saving up any leftover change in a box. 
Then when we got our tax return last year it went into my newly made trip account at the bank. 

How did I find information? 

Blogs, blogs, blogs. 
I found blogs to be the most helpful resource for information. 
They allowed me to see what other people did, where they stayed, get recommendations, etc. 
I really liked the blog The Homebased Mom.
She even emailed me her itinerary and her hotel recs. 
Pinterest was a fantastic resource for blogs and you can check out all of my trip related boards on there. 
I also used trip advisor, expedia, and booking for reviews and to book reservations. 
I also read a couple of trip reports on the Disboards that were Europe related. 

I will tell more about each reservation and what I found out about them when I blog about each place we went but for now, that is at least where I got my information. 

Prepping for the trip:
I made lists of things I wanted for the trip based on packing tips and lists I had read. 
One thing I knew I wanted was new luggage. 
Last year for Mothers Day I got my new luggage as a gift. I bought it at TJ Maxx and I love it. 
It held up so well and it was great. If only I hadn't over packed it I would have had an easier time getting around with it. 

I also bought a lot of things I wanted for the trip that were VITAL and were used every day- plug adaptors, dual voltage accessories, a travel purse, packing cubes, and some go toobs. 
I also had some generic type tubes that were similar. 
I loved these!
I used them for shampoo, conditioner, lotion, face wash, etc. 
They were perfect size to last the entire three weeks. In fact I did still have some leftover at the end. They were really easy to get product out as well. 
I had a teeny bit of leakage from one of them on the way home but on the way there I did not because I put a bit of plastic wrap under the lid. 


They fit great into my train case from Walmart. 

Throughout the year I collected anything I could think of that I might need for the trip. I took pictures so I will show you some of the things I picked up and tell you which ones I actually used. 

My favorite lotion is the 97 cent lotion from Walgreens and I used this every day. These small tubes of it are great. I used the toothbrush holder every day as well. It was from the Container store for less than a dollar. The nail polish remover pads were cheap from Ulta and I did use them a couple of times but I didn't do my nails as often as I thought I would. If I could go back I would have still taken them but I would have only taken one nail polish with me since I ended up using one color the whole time but had to carry around a little zip pouch of about 8 colors. 
I did not end up taking the soap holder or the little pink and blue cases. They were not as good as the go toobs so I didn't even bother. 

I bought the little container to put perfume in but ended up taking it back and I'm glad I did since I just took my whole perfume and it was fine. 
The main thing from this picture is the Batiste Dry shampoo. I have tried a few kinds of dry shampoo and liked them but this was the first time I used this brand and it was SO much better than anything else I have tried. Also, I used it way more than I thought I would as there were so many days when I had time to get only a quick shower but didn't want to have to blow dry my hair. 
I can not stress enough to have a really good dry shampoo with you! Even if my hair was just going into a quick ponytail or up do it made it look really clean and gave it more body. 

I got the mini umbrella at TJ Maxx and the little white pill box at the Container Store. 
I used the pill box to hold my earrings. The dangly ones went in the bigger compartment and the studs in the two smaller ones. It worked perfectly and I am actually still keeping them in there now that I am home because I like it so much. It was under a dollar. 
The umbrella worked well for what it needed to and I would say do not forget your umbrella when going to England! I used it a LOT! I didn't need it at home so I just got rid of it at the end of the trip. 

I bought the sink stopper and laundry soap sheets for the times we might need to do laundry and they worked great. 
I can't remember if I used the sink stopper but I think I did. The soap worked really well and we felt like the clothes got cleaner than they did when we washed them in a machine earlier in the trip. I bought them on Amazon. 
Everything else got used to a smaller extent. 
I recommend the wrinkle release spray. 

I know Cold Eeze works as it saved me on our last Disney trip. (And a few times since then. You just take them when you start feeling cold symptoms and it lessens the cold or keeps it from coming at all!) I also took along band aids which I did use, tums small package which was used a couple of times, and the blister stuff. But I never had to use the blister rub or band aids because of wearing Converse. My mom and I both spent the whole trip in Converse and never had a single blister.... and we did a LOT of walking. They are the best travel shoes. 

I took the mini flashlight but never used it. I used the phone charger a couple of times. It did not hold a charge long but at least I could re charge it as well. 
The adapters were priceless. 
I bought UK ones and Europe ones from Amazon. 
The only country we didn't have them for was Switzerland as they ended up having different outlets from France and Germany. Luckily our hotel had some they let us use for free.

I bought this electronics holder from Amazon and it was a major waste of money. It was ten bucks and was actually a very cool holder but I just didn't have enough to go into it and I found it to be too bulky and it took up too much space when I could have just used a smaller container. So I left it in Germany as well. 
I took the small holder of CD's with us to listen to in our rental cars but that was pretty dumb. We didn't really listen to music much. I am glad I had my Downton Abbey soundtrack with us though. 
I bought the water camera for our time in Iceland but it was very disappointing when I got my pictures back as it did not take good photos at all. 

I bought the neck pillow at Ikea and was given the eye mask. 
They were both really nice. 
But.... I didn't use them. 
I couldn't sleep on the plane. 
But I would recommend the sleep pillow for anyone that can because it was actually really nice and soft for a low price. 

I used all of these containers for different things through the trip and loved them. And I used the luggage locks as well.

 These are all my packing cubes. This was the first time I have used packing cubes and I loved them. They make it so easy to pack and they stay really nice. I used some from Ikea and some from dot to dot on Amazon. The dot to dot were more expensive and seemed nicer but in the long run the Ikea ones that were REALLY cheap worked just as well. 

That is pretty much everything. 
Let me know if you have any other prep questions. 

Next up: What I did for the kids


Donna said...

This is really helpful. I was wondering how in the heck you planned this trip. I will refer to this post again in the future, hopefully when I'm planning a fabulous European vacation of my own.
I also have FOMO and I spent a lot of time planning and researching for our DisneyWorld trip. It turned out to be totally worth it!

cheryl said...

I think so too. Most of the people I know like to fly by the seat of their pants on vacation but I just couldn't do that unless I was going to some tropical beach where the point is to just relax- but let's be real even then I would be finding out if there were any cool things to do!
I spend so much time and effort planning every trip I go on starting way back in 2000 with my first PEI trip but I have found that every single trip has been worth it.

The Kings said...

I love the planning you put into our trips. That way we can utilize our time to its' best advantage...and it eliminates many glitches!

cheryl said...

Thanks! It didn't eliminate all of them. But I agree it went so much smoother because of the planning.

Seth and Julie said...

I actually ended up on a trip to England without Seth once for the same reason. I was dying to go, and it was when we were newly married and couldn't both afford to go. I still want to go again with him, but I love that he let me go since it was way more important to me than to him. You and I seem to have all the same interests, and a totally different approach to everything. I actually stress out if I do too much research because then I feel like I can't get to everything and like I won't have any down time. I think I would rather not know. I also stink at packing. I don't think of any of the extras. I just pack clothes and toiletries, which led to a fiasco on my first day in England. I had an allergic reaction to the hotel soap and needed Benadryl. I walked miles and miles checking stores and trying to find a pharmacy. No one understood what I was looking for. I finally had to go around asking American people in my hotel until I found someone who gave me Benadryl. Miserable, right? But it is the way I roll, and me and my sister ended up laughing the whole time. We had to sit out of our touring plans until medication kicked in, so we bought an entire cake from room service and sat and ate while we waited which is still one our favorite memories of the trip. I guess I just like to see where the road takes me, but I have a feeling I am going to see a whole bunch of things I missed as I follow you on your trip.

cheryl said...

Oh man. Really, sometimes those crazy times turn out to be the best stories though.
yeah, I could go somewhere with a beach resort and not have a plan and that is about it. If I'm going to the beach to hang out on the sand and read a book, that's all I need to do!
But everywhere else I get so stressed not having a plan. I tried to wing it one night on this trip and you will see what happened....