This is a lame one, because most people should know this word...
I had heard of Wanderlust, a German word that has insinuated itself into usage of English speakers, but have not really suffered too often from the urge. I am happy to stay at home, but do enjoy a good trip. Lately, I have had the urge to travel somewhere interesting. Perhaps, that is because summer suggests vacation travel or because I have difficulty waiting for future travel that I have booked.
Summer school vacation—when students have no classes, schools are closed, and families tend to go somewhere (if they have money)—tends to demand travel. The problem is to find lodging that is available and not over-priced. In Europe, prices tend to sky rocket in the summer. This is understandable, since many establishments must earn their money in a few months. The highest prices tend to be in August.
German states stagger their vacations, which tend to last for six weeks, and the times rotate each year. For example, if a state has vacation from mid-June to the end of July one year, it might have vacation from early August to mid-September in another year. Early vacations tend to be more favourable, because European vacation spots are less crowded than in August, when all France and all Italy head for the beach.
The state in which I live, has a late slot this year, so we are faced with the dilemma of finding something adequate at a decent price. In the past, we would often fly to Florida, where low season prices offset the cost of flying. I do not want to travel to a state that requires everyone to carry a firearm, so I considered options. I like Asia, but monsoon rains can spoil even a low-priced hotel stay. I like the Maldives and the Seychelles, but ditto. Dubai is too hot, with daytime temperatures often hitting 50 degrees centigrade (that’s boiling point in fahrenheit, I believe). I thought about South Africa, but it is winter in the southern hemisphere and ocean currents deliver cold water from the Antarctic.
Viewing a world map, my eye fell on Mauritius. We have avoided this island in the past, because there have been more attractive alternatives closer to home. Even the Seychelles and Maldives are closer. Although winter reigns in Mauritius, temperatures are only slightly lower than in their summer and it is the “dry” season. If I read correctly, the climate is fairly mild all year, not unlike Hawaii, but with hurricanes (cyclones in the southern hemisphere, for the pedants out there) in their fall (our spring).
So, we have booked a trip to Mauritius in August. Everyone can now look forward to hearing my opinion (which is why people check this worthless blog!). Because it is off-season, prices for flights and hotels are less than half the peak season costs. And, I do not expect to find crowds, like those one must endure along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
Stay tuned…or stop by in August…
Joseph and Mary had it easier...
Finding a decent hotel at a less-than-unreasonable price in a good location without a long trip at the last minute in summer in Europe is not easy. The internet provides plenty of links, but each hotel has drawbacks, before one even makes an inquiry. Of course, anything desirable is fully booked or ridiculously expensive.
I do not want to fly, because I hate airports enough without adding summer crowds. Besides, all good beach locations are booked out. That leaves train or car. If we use the train, we need to find some place near a major rail line. The train is more relaxing, because I do not have to drive. Driving in Europe in the summer is rarely fun, due to vacation schedules and road construction. Not having a speed limit on a German Autobahn does not mean that one can drive fast.
I found a few hotels I like at Lake Annecy and then realized that our chosen dates wrap around the French national holiday on July 14, when nothing is vacant.
Tomorrow, I will work the phones to find something....
Today, I booked my vacation in Maldives. I will not admit in public what this will cost, because I will be judged harshly. I have stayed in expensive hotels around the world and we do not do cheap, but prices in the Maldives are incomparable. On the one hand, this is ludicrous. On the other, my wife wants to experience this beautiful bit of the earth before she dies. Memories can be expensive. I will be able to think of this vacation as I rot in some old folks home. I will not miss them money, because old-age care costs will eat it up.
We will spend then next months looking forward to the trip. Expectation will surely exceed reality, but something will be will good. One must take the bad with the good, so I will be positive. Deciding was difficult, because too much information is available. All hotels look spectacular, because the environment is spectacular. Reviews for each hotel range from “perfect” to “horrible”. How does one decided? In the end, we chose a chain we know and a resort that is the shortest distance from the international airport. After flying hours from Germany, we did no want to spend more hours reaching the resort.
We plan to spend a few days in Dubai on the return journey, to decompress and shop. Maldives do not offer malls, merely water, sand, and palm trees. I chose a hotel that tries to look like an Arabian palace. I prefer kitsch to high rise.
Look forward to the daily travel report with plenty of photos. If you cannot wait, then I recommend spending time on Google Earth. They offer plenty of photos at every island of the Maldives....
Planning a vacation is a pain, was a pain, and always will be a pain.
Early, one could collect brochures with carefully cropped photos and glowing text. Few maps were available and few reviews were written, except in travel magazines hoping to score advertisements. One hoped for the best and learned what had been cropped from photos only upon arrival. France was the best place to plan, because Michelin maps let you discover if a factory or oil refinery was located beside your planned hotel.
Now, there is too much information. Tripadvisor provides reviews, with every hotel being outstanding to terrible (although bruised egos usually are the cause of bad ratings). Google Earth lets you study the vicinity in detail and accompanying photos give you enough impressions to almost preclude the need to travel. Some locations offer too many hotels from which to chose.
Case in point is the Maldives. My wife wants to visit that island archipelago before global warming causes it to be submerged. One feature of this “country” is having the most highest-priced hotel rooms. Of course, location, distance, and cost of logistics play a role, but there are cheaper vacation spots with very nice beaches. But, my wife wants to go there.
We plan to travel after Christmas. Our first plan was to spend New Years’ Eve in Dubai, but reviews of that celebration drove us to reconsider. We will no spend that night at some, yet-to-be-determined resort on a tiny patch of sand in the Indian Ocean. (Look forward daily Sunset of the Day). As with all resorts in the world, we will pay a supplement of dinner/event on the last night of the year, which usually includes a rather standard buffet and bit of fireworks to justify the exorbitant supplementary fee.
Deciding on a hotel, as I mentioned, is a pain. The photos are spectacular and the reviews contradictory. One consideration is travel. After a long flight to the capital, one must transfer to a domestic flight, seaplane, and/or boat. Time and distance vary greatly. In good weather, views from the plane must be spectacular. Of course, one does not want a second of bad weather, if one has travelled all the way to the Maldives.
Stay tuned over the next months for more moaning before the fact....
Deciding on a vacation spot is always difficult. There is no perfect spot, but many nice ones.
We did Florida last year, so I do not want to return to the US, especially during a Presidential election year. Merely trying to avoid headlines and news clips in the foreign press is difficult enough. I could not endure the bombardment of campaign advertising.
We like Asia, but summer weather is either too hot or too wet. This is a great region during all other seasons.
Europe offers much choice, but one must weigh the pros and cons or, rather, the cons. Scandinavia can be nice, but weather is a crap shoot. We like France, but finding a good place to stay is difficult. Hotel prices go through the roof, because most must earn their annual income during the summer months. Good rental houses are few, far between, and usually not vacant. We also like Switzerland, but do not want to remain two weeks in the same mountain village. Austria has never been on our favorites list, for a number of reasons. Spain is too far, too hot, and suffering too many economic ills.
That leaves Italy. There are many large lakes to choose from. We have been to Lago Maggiore many times, but have not found the perfect spot to which to return. Lago di Garda is plagued by campgrounds and overrun with Germans. Lago di Caldaro is too small and clogged with algae fed by pesticides running off adjacent vineyards. I have a few prejudices agains Lago di Como, but...
Internet makes vacation planning easier, and I do not mean cheap prices. One is able to determine what one will find upon arrival.
Before the Internet, most trusted travel agents, hotel brochures, or dumb luck...all of which often led to disappointment or worse. Carefully cropped publicity photos fooled travel agents and customers alike. No one mentioned nearby construction, unsightly neighbors, or noise pollution. Some people simply jumped in the car and drove to their chosen destination, hoping to find a good place to spend their holidays. I recall searching for maps, city tourist brochures, and brochures of neighboring hotels to get a better idea of what to expect. France was the easiest to research, because Michelin maps are very detailed. Other countries required more work to. Travel agents were rarely helpful, relying of hotel publicity for their “expertise”.
Now, it is easy. Google Earth lets you study the environment of a hotel and often provided photographs of the location. Tripadvisor offers photographs, maps, and individual reviews. If one knows how to interpret euphoria or anger in these reviews, one can form a rather good impression of a hotel. Carefully cropped publicity photos on a hotel website are easily debunked by checking the satellite view. A good example is planning a trip to Dubai. Hotels show lovely beaches, but not the Palm Island build just off shore or massive high-rise blocks overshadowing their property. One quick look at a satellite photo reveals that beaches of the Jumeirah hotels enjoy an unrestricted view of the gulf and are not surrounded by high-rise towers. Their immediate neighbors are the ruling family: they do not permit high buildings, which would offer a view over the walls of their vast properties. Another example is Florida. Hotel publicity show a long, sandy, uncrowded beach, with the ocean on one side; the property adjoining the beach is cropped. A look at the satellite reveals one high-rise hotel or condominium aft the other lining the beach. The photo must have been taken before the masses flooded onto the beach. An ocean view often mean the necessity to lean over the railing of a balcony and crane one's neck to spot the water.
No one should book a hotel without checking its location and surrounding property. A review of all photographs at multiple sources will help to remove most disappointment.
Look before you leap and caveat emptor...
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.