A Travellerspoint blog

Training for the Train: A Eurail Primer

Your Eurail pass gives you access to most of Europe's trains, but it's good to know that some trains need to be reserved in advance. A reservation is a guaranteed seat on a specific train.

We are now less than 75 days from departure on our trek through the Central/Eastern Europe. Our Eurail passes have arrived and now we are making seat reservations for the night trains that we will be traveling on. For the most part we will be using Couchette's and Seats. Our pass provides 1st class seating which really just means there is a bit more legroom.

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As for figuring out which trips need to have reservations made? While here is one of the best resources that I have found along with seat61.com.

Which European trains need reservations? Find out here

So, there you have it, we are still prepping the travel and have a good number of activities on our wishlist. Stay tuned and we will keep you updated.

Posted by darrenesl 10:42 Comments (0)

Taking the Plunge

There comes a time when it gets real, that time has now arrived.


View Eastern Europe on darrenesl's travel map.

There is a knot in the stomach, palms are sweaty, it is hard to concentrate and wonderment surrounds. That is the experience that surrounds the moment of no return, that moment when dreams become reality, when there can be no turning back. That is the moment when you actually purchase your airline tickets for the journey.

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Deciding to fly into Warsaw, Poland may have been the easiest part of the decision. What proved to be much more difficult was determining when and where to buy the tickets for our trip. You may wonder why Poland was an easy decision? When we first started discussing a trip to Eastern Europe (Yes, I know it is actually Central Europe, but as an 80's youth, when communism and the cold-war still existed, it was Eastern Europe to millions of Americans, myself included), we looked at tickets to Hungry, Croatia, Czech Republic, and some of the larger Western European countries. The average RT flight from Los Angeles (LAX), California, to the destination cities that I looked at were $1,500USD for airfare in June 2014. However, as we continued looking at the map we decided to check Poland for flights, sure enough $987USD.

Once we discovered the difference in prices, the decision was made. We will fly into Poland and travel via train from there. The whole process seems easy enough, where does the previously mentioned angst come from you ask? Let me tell you, curses on that little "roaming gnome," I mean really does anybody know what he does for Travelocity? Or Hotwire, Kayak, WebJet, Orbitz, Expedia, Priceline, these companies quickly became a thorn in my side.

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All of the companies have handy fare alerts that will tell you when the prices are going up or down, and it is as bad as watching the stock market rise and fall hourly. Really, how often can the airfare rise and fall during a single day? And Orbitz, well, they have all these great fares, but a "this fare is no longer available comes up on all of their lowest flights," what's that all about?

Information abounds about where to get you tickets and when to buy them. We researched and continued to watch the numbers rise, rise some more, and fall a bit. Again, they fluctuate, day-in and day-out. Eventually, you have to take that step and we did. Finding a $1000USD fare among the prices of several others that had now risen to $1100+, it was time to jump.

Yes, I hit that purchase now button and won't be looking back. We will be traveling on Lufthansa from LAX to WAW. That's right it is now official Eastern Europe 2014 is no longer a dream but a reality for Terri and I!

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The stress of choosing a flight is gone, now it is time to plan some activities!

Posted by darrenesl 10.16.2013 14:03 Archived in USA Tagged travel vacation eastern austria poland holiday air hungary croatia europe czech republic planning airlines fare Comments (1)

The Planning Stages

Research, Research, Research -- What is important to you?

The research for our trip has begun, as well as the first reservations on where to stay and how we are going to travel. We always begin with a bang and try to have our trips paid off before we go with only the daily activities needing to be paid for upon arrival. The internet has become a travelers best friend and I love the hours of research that become part of my travels.

Living in San Diego, we have decided to fly Los Angeles to Warsaw, Poland as the air travel will be under $1000USD per person as opposed to $1200-1400USD flying into Hungary or Croatia. As a result of the addition of Poland to our trip, we have decided on 21days for this excursion. Look to our last post to see more and also below.

1. Warsaw - 2 days
2. Krakow - 3 - days
3. Budapest - 2- days
4. Zagreb - 2 days
5. Split/Dubrovnik - 4 days
6. Vienna - 3 days
7. Prague - 3 days
8. Warsaw - 2 days

You can follow along with the planning and trip, and many holidays leading up to this event on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/MrDarrenesl/ where I will post videos of what is going on and the thought process leading up to the trip. For now, as always, we look forward to your thoughts and ideas on how to make this trip a success!

Posted by darrenesl 15:36 Archived in USA Tagged travel vacation eastern austria poland holiday hungary croatia europe czech republic planning Comments (0)

Keeping It Simple

Transportation and Accommodations that make sense.


View Eastern Europe on darrenesl's travel map.

When it comes to booking accommodations there are a few factors we always like to consider when making our choices. To make it easier I utilize a couple of online tools, first off the industry standard, Trip Advisor, the other online reservation system I use for information is hotels.com. By doing the research, we try to find accommodations that suit our needs the best. One other important place I check is bedbugregistry.com to make sure that the rooms are going to be free of critters.

However I am now planning an Central European (Eastern Europe as most Americans would call it) excursion for my wife and I next year. Having lived in Japan and traveled Asia and Europe, I am ready. My wife luckily for me is ready to try the rails and hostels out. We will keep you posted as of now our itinerary is looking like:
1. Warsaw
2. Krakow
3. Budapest
4. Zagreb
5. Split/Dubrovnik
6. Vienna
7. Prague
8. Warsaw

We'll provide more details as we continue planning in the meantime, feel free to comment or share places of interest. Looking forward to hearing from all.

Posted by darrenesl 09.23.2013 15:29 Archived in USA Tagged vacation eastern austria poland hungary croatia europe czech republic Comments (0)

Flying the Friendly Skies

Airlines - The Dilemma of Who to Fly With

Earlier in this blog we talked about where we are going on our summer vacation, Washington D.C. and New York City. Living in San Diego, California provides a variety of options for flying to the East Coast. The number of airlines offering fares is limitless and the possibility of traveling from San Diego, Ontario, Orange County, or even Los Angeles keeps the rates fairly competitive. With all the options to choose from, a traveler needs to decide who they want to make the trip with and what flight is best for them to maximize their time.

Back in the 80's and 90's, the "Red Eye" was a popular choice enabling the traveler to sleep as they traveled across country to their destination. This flight options has become less frequent an option for domestic flights and is now usually reserved for the international flights exclusively. I am fine without the "Red Eye" as I never can fall asleep while traveling, I think this comes from my time abroad and needing to stay awake to keep an eye on my possessions.

Unfortunately going West to East results in that three hour loss and makes it a complete day of travel to get to your destination. Having lived in D.C. and traveled their often on business, I usually have two favorites to fly into for price and convenience. Two of the three main airports are outside of town, while the third is right in D.C. but a little limited. If you want a good deal and don't mind a 40 minute drive I highly suggest BWI (Thurgood Marshall Baltimore/Washington International Airport). The airport is much smaller than IAD (Washington Dulles), making security and check-in easier and rental car rates more affordable.

Due to the above facts and the fact that the airline we chose doesn't fly into or out of DCA (Regan National), we went with BWI. Another factor in the decision it that we will be heading north upon arrival towards New York City. The Interstate 95 close location of BWI allows for easy acces both north and south.

As for the airline, American, Delta, and United are the cheapest for the flight, but cheap isn't always the cheapest. When just making an overnight trip these are good choices, but for a family trip or if their will be any length of stay, I have become a fan of Southwest Airlines. I used to hate them, but with the ability to change flights even for a better rate and no bag fees it is definitely cheaper for three people to fly on Southwest than one of the other airlines who will charge at minimum $25.00 per bag. So Southwest was the chosen carrier with one-stop going and non-stop coming home.

The above factors are what led us to make the choices we did for where and who to fly with. In our next post we will share our itinerary a bit more and what we doing for accommodations. We look forward to your comments, suggestions, and anything else you wish to share with us.

Posted by darrenesl 11:24 Archived in USA Tagged planes vacation san new_york_city washington_dc tsa escondido darrenesl tljohnson tlwforgiven darren_johnson terri_johnson bwi bag_fees dca iad southwest_airlines dhs Comments (0)

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