Deutschland Adventure - Building the itinerary

The Deutschland Adventure

I recently returned from my summer vacation, the Deutschland Adventure. Because one of my goals with this blog is to cover travel planning, I recently wrote about how I selected my flights to and from Europe for the trip. Today I want to cover the next step: creating the itinerary. Yes, I knew I was going to visit Germany, but after booking my airfare, I only had the boundaries of the trip defined: arrive in Paris on 21 June and leave Paris on 3 July, with New York City from 3-5 July. Within the confines of those dates, I had a blank slate! Since I was arriving and departing from Paris, spending a few days there was a given. But I did not want to sacrifice time in Germany, a country I had not visited, in order to spend too much time in Paris which I visited 13 months before.

I made extensive use of Microsoft Excel to build my itinerary

I made extensive use of Microsoft Excel to build my itinerary

So my logical first step was to roughly outline the cities/destinations I wanted to visit and for how many days. For me, this meant a spreadsheet - I work in finance and I have a simple philosophy that spreadsheets make life better! ;) - but you could use any method that works for you for taking notes. At this point I had not done extensive research on the German part of the itinerary, so I blocked out time for each city based on gut feel. Part of roughly outlining the schedule was doing some preliminary checks on the necessary transportation and hotels. I wanted to be sure that what I was putting together was not prohibitively expensive! As I settled on certain parts of the plan, I did make some initial hotel reservations but I held back on the train and plane tickets which were generally nonrefundable. I rarely book nonrefundable hotel rooms, especially in the initial stages of my planning, because I often go back and tweak an itinerary as I study more about my destination. While nonrefundable hotel reservations tend to be cheaper, I value flexibility. Besides, the AAA rates - which are refundable - generally aren't much more expensive than nonrefundable rates. (This perk is one of the main reasons I have been a AAA member for more than a decade!) Furthermore, after having taken out the Chase IHG Rewards Visa earlier this year, I had a large number of IHG Rewards points I planned to use these points to really bring down the cost of this trip! 

Berlin was not part of the early versions of the itinerary, but it turned out to be my favorite city in Germany!

After working with several destination cities, dates, and number of days in those cities, I laid out a tentative schedule:

  • Paris (2 nights) - Arrive in Paris early on the morning of 21 June and stay for two nights.
  • Berlin (2 nights) - Leave Paris on a morning flight and stay in Berlin for two nights.
  • Leipzig (1 night) - Leave Berlin on an early-evening train, arriving in Leipzig in time for a late dinner and nighttime stroll through the Old Town.
  • Rothenburg ob der Tauber (1 night) - Leave Leipzig by rental car just after noon, arriving in Rothenburg in the early evening.
  • Munich (3 nights) - After leaving Rothenburg ob der Tauber mid-morning, drive to Castle Neuschwanstein, arriving in Munich later that evening. 
  • Frankfurt (1 night) - Leave Munich on an afternoon train, arriving in Frankfurt in the early evening. The next morning travel to Hockenheim via train, returning to Frankfurt to retrieve luggage. Travel to Cologne via the Rhine Valley that evening.
  • Cologne (1 night) - Arrive from Frankfurt in the evening and stay until late afternoon the next day.
  • Paris (1 night) - Arrive from Cologne via international train in the evening for one final night in Paris for the last night of the European part of the trip.
  • New York City (2 nights) - Leaving Paris on an early flight, fly into New York just after noon and spend the rest of the day and the Fourth of July in Manhattan. Return to Atlanta around noon on 5 July.

I was pretty happy with that schedule, which was reworked several times, before being finalized. Major shuffling to the order of the cities occurred when an unexpected pleasant change to the trip was made : my new girlfriend would be going with me! In my next post about the Deutschland Adventure, I will outline how I selected my hotels and transportation between cities!