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Friday, July 10, 2009

Traveling by the Seat of Your Pants

My two oldest children and I just returned from a 12 day vacation throughout Germany. We met my parents in Frankfurt, rented a car and with a rough idea of where we wanted to go and what we wanted to see, zoomed out on the Autobahn to our first and only reserved in advance hotel in Rothenburg, Germany.

My parents where the ones that suggested this “fly by the seat of your pants” mode of travel. I was a little concerned that a party of 5 would have trouble finding accommodations but my mom and dad assured me that they had done this before without any issues. I figured if my 60-something year old parents could be such free spirits in how they approached traveling, so could I (even if it went against my typical manner of vacation preparation).

I’m not really anal—but when it comes to going somewhere new I tend to do a lot of research. I can be relentless in my search to find the best place, the best value, the right location. I hate feeling like I missed out on something. But I decided that I would embrace this “loosey- goosey” style for at the very least it would save me countless hours on Trip Advisor or Rick Steve’s travel boards.

And you know what? This approach totally worked. We were able to hit all of the usual tourist hotspots and ones off the beaten and find hotels with Zimmer Frei (room free) signs—no problem. I think in part we were traveling early enough in the season that we were not competing with all of the German travelers (most German kids are still in school until the end of July) and the dollar is not that strong so there seemed to be less American travelers.

Overall, we had our pick of hotels. From inns located right on the Konigsee, to a Gasthaus out in the country (with barn attached) to modern hotels in Frankfurt, we were always able to find a bed for our weary heads. It was great being able to see hotels in person and decide if a hotel met our desire for charm standards or if the one across the street would be better (and sometimes it was).

And the best part was the flexibility our off the cuff travel style afforded us. We were able to adjust our itinerary as we went along because aside from our first night nothing was set in stone. When we found a lovely old Gasthaus near my dad’s home town of Ebenhofen, we were able to make it home base for a couple of days while we visited the nearby castles, Neuschwanstein and Linderhoff. When we visited friends who invited us to stay for two nights instead of our originally planned one, we were able to take them up on their wonderful hospitality. When we decided that we really wanted to see the Bodensee instead of heading directly to the Black Forest, we were able to change direction without worrying about cancellation fees.

All and all, it was a surprisingly stress free and dare I say relaxing way to travel. Who needs to be bound to itineraries? Who needs to know exactly what is around the next corner? Who needs to spend soooo much time on the Internet researching locals and accommodations? Not me—anymore!

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