planning my trip for early august

Service dog handlers: I’m planning a trip to Disneyland and I want my service dog to come with me. She’s finishing up her task training this summer, and we would be going next summer (August or early September). I know SDiT are protected in CA and we wouldn’t be flying (I live in NorCal) so there’s no issue with transportation. Any tips for when we are there? Penny (my SD) has been to the county fair a few times so public access with swarming crowds isn’t a problem. She loves riding the ferry and the subway, so I’m not super worried about her going on the rides that are SD accessible. Is there anything I can do to prepare her for the drops in Pirates of the Caribbean or the cannon noises? I would really hate for her to be nervous on the ride. Thank you!!!

On traveling, and planning

So I’ve got travel planning on my mind of late, because I have just swung into Planning Mode for my August trip to Norway.  I like to get my planning done early in the year and then I have the rest of the year to relax and get excited and squirrel money away with the big stuff paid for.  I’m not a lifelong globetrotter but I’ve now been on enough trips, stateside and otherwise, that I’m starting to feel like a moderately experienced traveler - and since I often travel alone, it’s sort of highly concentrated travel experience because I have to arrange everything myself.  It’s enough that I’ve developed some strategies.  Which I feel like sharing today so sit yer ass down.

First of all, I am NOT the relaxing-vacation kind of girl.  A week on a beach sounds like hell to me.  If I’m on vacation, I want to go somewhere interesting and SEE ALL THE THINGS.  I am a go-go-go vacation kind of girl.  Some relaxing is fine, but I want to do stuff.  I can sit and read a book at home.  I want to cram in as much awesome into my trips as I possibly can without becoming sleep-deprived.

When to plan?  How to plan?  What to plan?

A plan is your friend.  A plan will free your mind to enjoy yourself.  

Things I plan:

  1. Where I am staying each night
  2. How I am getting to each place
  3. What, roughly, I plan to do each day

I make a spreadsheet for my trips.  By date, I put in where I am staying, what I plan to do, and if anything requires pre-booking or pre-payment (like train tickets or show tickets or whatever).  I put in the cost.  I have a column where I place an X when I have booked or paid for the thing.  I insert booking confirmation numbers when I’ve made my reservation.  I put in website URLs for that kayak company I want to check out, or that train timetable I want to remember, or that tourist-info website with all the great lists I want to look at.  I keep it all on that spreadsheet.

I do NOT plan specific things, unless there’s something that can only happen on This Specific Day.  I do plan what I’d like to see, but generally leave it open about when and on what day I do that thing.

“But Lori, I like to be spontaneous!”

Great, be spontaneous.  You don’t have to plan WHAT you’re doing if you don’t want to.  But plan two things:  when you’re doing things, and how you’re getting places.

Some kinds of trips require more details.  I am taking a 4 day road trip to the fjords while I am in Norway, and I am staying in a different hotel each night.  I am literally making an hour by hour itinerary for this part of the trip, because there is a lot I want to do, I have to factor in travel times, and many things take place at a specific time so I need to make sure I am in a certain place at a certain hour, so a more detailed schedule insures that I can get the most out of my trip.

When making itineraries, Google Maps is your best friend.  I have created a map for my road trip which has points of interest added to it for all the things I could possibly see, and it has the driving routes marked out between my hotels, so I can see where I can add in things.  It tells me drive times - but when I make my itinerary, I add an hour to each driving leg.  I am going to have to pee and eat at some point and you never know when something will catch your eye and you want to pull off and take photos.  And sometimes I add more than an hour if there’s a ferry involved (this happens a lot in the fjords) because you’ll have to wait for it and that could be a few minutes or much longer.  I can see my entire trip on that map.

Plotting this itinerary lets you know what you can do.  Until I started planning, I didn’t realize that I’d have time to take a famous train excursion, but now I can add that in.  It lets me know when I will need to get up early to depart, and when I can take my time.   Looking at the map in detail made me discover an amazing scenic road I can take at one point that I would not have otherwise found.

But in contrast, when my road trip is over, I will have 3 days in Oslo.  I am booking a hotel and that is it.  I am not planning anything more detailed than that.  I will decide each day what I feel like doing or seeing, because I don’t have anywhere to be at any particular time.

Details, Details

When traveling it kinda works out that the smallest details are the ones you need to plan in the most specific way possible, because they have the most power to make you feel lost and confused.  So I’m arriving at the Oslo airport.  My hotel is in the city, next to the train station (from where I will depart the next day to Bergen).  How do I get there?  Sure, I can take the train.  But I will literally look up and write down the details.  Which train?  What’s the number?  Where in the airport is the train departure located?  Where do I buy the tickets?  Where will it let me off?  When I leave the train station, can I walk to my hotel?  If I need a bus, which bus?  What’s the schedule of the buses?  Where do they leave?  Do I have to have a fare card?

These kinds of details might seem picky to plan ahead but THIS is the stuff that will fuck you up and put you off your game.  You should know what street you walk down and which direction you turn to get to your bus stop or hotel or whatever.  When I went to London people kept asking me for directions because I looked like I knew what I was doing - I didn’t, but I had looked everything up ahead of time and figured everything out.

And I had literally walked the route.

This is my biggest travel hack.  Google Street View.  And it lets you PRACTICE.

You’re in a strange place.  You don’t know where you’re going.  You’re turned around.  You don’t know what anything looks like.  It’s disorienting.  Unless, of course, you have already walked or driven around.  You can use Google Street View to literally walk around your destination.  You can see ahead of time what the train station looks like.  In doing this I realized that my first Oslo hotel is within SIGHT of the train station.  I walked the route from my hotel in Bergen to the Hurtigruten terminal to see if it was practical to walk it (it’s not far, but sometimes streets aren’t pedestrian-friendly) or if I should just get a cab.

And I have been driving around the fjords on street view.  It is so helpful I cannot even tell you.  It lets me see what the roads are like, what the signage looks like, what the ferry terminal looks like, what the towns look like.  I have walked all around my first-night hotel and found where I need to drive, park, and what I can easily access.  While driving around, I discovered a little cafe lodge perched on an overlook that is not on the map, so now I know that’d be a good place to stop and take some photos and have a beer on the patio.

Plus it’s getting me even more excited because IT IS ALL SO STUPID BEAUTIFUL. 

I can imagine that this would be even more helpful for people who are anxious in new situations (I am not, I just like being prepared).  You wouldn’t have to be nervous about looking lost or not knowing where anything is if you’ve scoped it all out ahead of time.  

Anyway.  Just some random thoughts on travel planning as I get my ducks in a row.