Belgium, France, Lynn, Netherlands, Roadtrip, Travel tips

The Time Some of Us Relayed Trip Planning

12 Dec , 2015   Gallery

The Time We Paid Our Respect to the Umbrella Graveyard
Roadtrippin' Paris to Bene(no)lux Itinerary

It all started when one of my good friends, Matt, finally agreed to my begging of him to come visit me in Paris in 2013 and asked our friend lePMP (you can read it by adding an “i” in your head as we move along this series) to come along.

At first neither of us thought lePMP was gonna come, given that he had just visited Paris with his sister and then-fiancee-now-wife in July, while Matt’s trip was going to be in October of the same year. But I guess Paris did its magic (or maybe I was just that amazing of a host) and lePMP bought his ticket and arrived about a week after Matt.  He came just early enough for the two of them to prance around Paris hand-in-hand, eating a baguette a day and taking selfies in front of the Eiffel Tower.

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I bet you thought I was joking

However, getting the trip planned wasn’t as easy as one might think:

  1. All of us have separately been in Paris before: Matt in 2007 and lePMP just mere months ago. Waffles is always here and I live here. We all wanted to do different things in Paris – but together!
  2. We are all in different time-zones: Matt and lePMP are in Toronto (EST) while I am in Paris (CET) and Waffles is in London (GMT)
  3. We were all arriving in Paris at different times: I live here, Matt arrives first, lePMP arrives a week after, and Waffles was to book his trip to Paris the same time lePMP arrives (which turned out to be a different fiasco altogether..that I might write about later)

But fear not! lePMP and I are both Project Managers by profession and weirdos by nature who love:

  • spreadsheets
  • finding the cheapest deal possible
  • colour-coding
  • spending our time browsing the web until our eyes bleed more than our SOs

so we knew that Google Spreadsheet was the right way to go.

Planning Attractions in Paris

We started with creating a calendar documenting everyone’s arrival, and then a section for the attractions in Paris, noting the cost and time needed to visit.  We asked everyone on the trip to vote on whether they were interested in the attraction. Based on the votes we were able to fill out some of the days on the Calendar.

If you look at the screenshots carefully, you might see that lePMP and Matt were flying out of Amsterdam together. You might also note that Matt got lazy after entering in two “Y”s in the spreadsheet and that about sums up the amount of planning he did for the rest of the trip.

Matt’s note: The funny part is, I don’t even remember entering those two “Y”s.  Can you say “not project manager material”? 

As Matt and lePMP needed to leave from Amsterdam, they had to get there somehow. Waffles and I had yet to go to ourselves so we thought we would make a trip out of it. But the question is, how shall we get there?

Planning A Trip Outside of Paris

Fear not! During our intersecting wake times, lePMP and I googled and compared prices of how one can get to Amsterdam. It didn’t take long to find out that driving to Amsterdam would take only 6 hours and splitting a car and gas between all of us would be much cheaper than even just sending the two of them off by train.

We checked with Waffles to see if he was willing to make that drive, as he is the only one who can drive a stick shift, and he was extremely happy to say yes – he loves Roadtrips. And when we found out that we would pass many different cities and countries on our way to Amsterdam, it solidified that we were driving there and making pit stops along the way.

The car rental portion was easy, as all lePMP and I had to do was look up ALL the car rental agencies and aggregate sites we can think of and rented whatever was the cheapest.

What was difficult was picking cities we wanted to go. Waffles and I didn’t have too many vacation days left for the year (it was Oct and we needed to go back home for Christmas; also we were in Australia earlier in the year), which meant we could only take 2-3 days off, plus the weekend.

Neither Matt nor lePMP had been to any of the cities north of Paris and they didn’t really care where we made stops. Thus Waffles and I asked our coworkers for some ideas and I messaged my friends who live in the Netherlands, which essentially shaped our itinerary.

Another way we determined the stops were by hotel costs. We looked at accommodations in all the big cities and found out their prices.

The tough part about this was that not only were there a ton of sites and places we can look at (various Air BnB type sites, hotels, hostels, etc.), but most accommodations had pros and cons.

Every night before I went to bed, I would do my due diligence and pore through all my favourite websites for booking accommodations and record the good ones on the spreadsheet with its pros and cons and prices.

lePMP would wake up to my research and we would discuss our previous day’s work, and then cyber-pat each other so that I would tag out and he would tag in. I would wake up the next morning to a wealth of new information that he has created and refined.

Matt’s note: Actual image of tag in process http://img4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20131030151122/prowrestling/images/2/21/Night_of_Champions_2008.21.jpg 

We also had a budget that was agreed to between all of us, and updated the budget sheet as we went along to keep the costs transparent

Budget

Budget sheet that we updated as we researched to keep the costs realistic

Once we had at least four options for each night, all of us would rate each of the options to come to a consensus for booking.

Of course, we had Google chat going with all four of us too. To my dismay, they managed to talk me out of booking a houseboat in Amsterdam, despite my having highlighted the option in bright yellow with very convincing reasons and minimized the pros in tiny letters.

houseboat

Who wouldn’t want to stay in a houseboat???

Matt’s note: As awesome as that houseboat idea sounded, we did not relish the idea of listening to you complain about being sea sick (dock sick??) or screaming every few minutes about rats.  Also if you will recall, it was RAINING BUCKETS for 3 days.  That boat is probably at the bottom of the canal by now.  ; ) 

 

And of course, true PMs will also record and analyse our actuals.

Actuals

You can also see all our sheets in the workbook at the bottom.

LePMP is the true PiMP

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PEE AY EM PEE

As we begin winding this long post full of spreadsheet screenshots to an end, I must give credit where credit is due. Without lePMP’s meticulous guidance, we would not have gotten ANYWHERE.

Although Waffles did all the driving, lePMP did all the real work on getting us there.

  1. He brought a GPS to Europe, in anticipation for a car without GPS
  2. He downloaded GPS apps on his phone and his tablet
  3. Every night, he put in our next day’s trip destinations in every single machine
  4. He found the solution to parking in Amsterdam: A ride and park just outside that gave us free tickets to ride in
  5. He even knew where to get cheap 3rd party car insurance
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How many GPSs does it take for a short roadtrip? A Gaggle.

We couldn’t go anywhere without him.

Matt’s note: He also sent you on your way out of Amsterdam back to Paris with EVERY possible route and contingency set up in an effort to (and I swear this is the actual reason) try and stem any in-car fighting before it began.  The real question is… was he successful?
Lynn: I plea the fifth 

And I? Well I just sat in the back playing Candy Crush on my own tablet while chatting on BBM and drinking my latte.

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Caught in the act

What about Matt you ask?  He did a lot of drinking and eating…

To be fair, Matt is usually the person who plans all our group trips, solo; so we were happy to let him take a little nap on this trip. Except I fell asleep first…

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This about sums up our contributions to the roadtrip

Matt’s Note: I fell asleep for 30 gorram minutes and it forever gets thrown in my face.  ugh.

Lynn: the issue was that we made the driver fall asleep too…GAH!

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The Time We Paid Our Respect to the Umbrella Graveyard
Roadtrippin' Paris to Bene(no)lux Itinerary

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2 Responses

  1. […] hard and the guys were unprepared for the weather. But let’s be honest here, regardless of how prepared we could be, who would want to wander around and sight-see when there’s almost no one on the streets, you […]

  2. […] They do! They’re really cheap!” Of course it would be lePMP who would know this and to come up with these wonderful […]

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