Itinerary for Great Smokey Mountains Nat’l Park

I’m in the midst of preparing an itinerary for a last-minute trip to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park for this weekend!  I found the cutest studio cottage for only $60 a night–10 miles from Gatlinburg, situated on 2 acres–with a pond.  Here are some photos from the owner’s site…

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On the Way to the One World Trade Center aka Freedom Tower

My second day in New York City began with a train ride from Brooklyn to Manhattan on the D line, exiting near City Hall, with a loose itinerary of walking to the One World Trade Center — Little Italy — Chinatown — then taking a train up to Rockefeller CenterSt. Patrick’s CathedralCentral Park.

This is what I saw on the way to the One World Trade Center.  Flower pots overflowing with beautiful tulips and a small cafe…

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Woo Hoo…Planning a trip to Europe!

I have brain pain right now!  The good kind!  I’m planning a six-week trip through 12 countries in Europe!  I’d like to visit Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Copenhagen, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungry, Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey.  The only one I’ve been to is Germany (I lived there for a couple of years back in the late 70’s).  I’m hoping to Couchsurf in some countries, stay in hostels or cheap hotels for others, and I’d love to meet some of my fellow bloggers (like I met Rory in Cape Town)!

I’m not set on these countries yet but if I purchase a Eurail pass they are the most convenient to visit.  I would get discounts on boat travel with the Eurail pass.  As many of you know, when planning a big trip like this–it’s so time-consuming.  To get the best deal, I’m flexible with my dates (hoping to leave in about a month) and with my beginning destination.  I’ve looked at flying into Oslo, Norway; Helsinki, Finland and Copenhagen, Denmark.  From Helsinki I’d like to take a fast ferry to Tallinn, Estonia (2 hrs.) and spend a day there.  Also from Helsinki there is an overnight ship through either Silja or Viking Cruise Lines to Stockholm, Sweden.  And…of course in Norway the Fjords are at the top of my list!!  Air travel is quite inexpensive between some of the European cities also.  Less than $100 to fly from Bergen, Norway to Berlin!

So…my itinerary could be fly into Helsinki..stay a couple of nights..take a day trip to Estonia..take the overnight cruise to Stockholm..stay 2 or 3 nights…take a train to Oslo, Norway..stay 2 nights..take the scenic train & fjord cruise to Myrdal..Flam..Gudvangen.. bus to Voss..train to Bergen.  Fly to Copenhagen..trains on to Berlin, Prague, etc.

Or…fly into Copenhagen…stay 2 or 3 nights..take the train to Stockholm..stay 2 or 3 nights..take overnight cruise to Helsinki..stay 2 nights and do day trip to Estonia..fly from Helsinki to Oslo where I start the itinerary listed above onto Bergen…then fly from Bergen to Berlin, then trains onward.

Or…fly into Bergen…reverse the fjord & train itinerary to Oslo..stay 2 nights..train to Stockholm..stay 2 or 3 nights…overnight cruise to Helsinki…stay 2 nights with day trip to Estonia…fly from Helsinki to Copenhagen…then trains onto Berlin, Prague, etc.

Whew!  I was allotting at least 30-35 days for all of the countries except for Turkey, where I would stay in Istanbul for 3 nights — then possibly see Cappadocia (where the fairy chimneys are) — and for sure the Mediterranean shore, called the Turquoise Coast, in the area of Fethiye.  I’d love to hike a few miles along the Lycian Way (500 km) which is located on the coast.

I would be traveling solo…and thinking I won’t plan everything this time…to let the universe do its magic!  So if anyone would like to meet up…let me know!!

Itinerary for Africa

I enjoy reading other traveler’s itineraries…so…here’s mine for my upcoming trip to Africa at the end of this month!  I added up the amount of travel hours (mostly driving) and it is an unbelievable 129 hours!  That’s over 3 weeks of 40 hr. work weeks!  I know it will be worth it though!!

I fly from Dayton–Detroit–Amsterdam–Cape Town.  About 28 hours of traveling time when you account for the drive to the airport, waiting time, and getting to the hostel in Cape Town.  I don’t arrive until late evening, so my day 1 begins the following morning.

Day 1 – no plans yet.

Day 2 – take an all day tour of sites around Cape Town…including Cape of Good Hope and quite a few other spots along the coast.

Day 3 – Hike Table Mountain.  I haven’t picked a company to hike with (I could do it by myself, but will probably go through a company.)

Day 4 – No plans.  (I want to utilize the red/blue hop on/hop off buses around town).  I’ve also touched base with a fellow blogger who lives in Cape Town and hope to meet up with him.  I need to check out of my hostel and move over to the hotel that is included in my G Adventures trip.  I’ll be meeting up with the group in the evening.

Day 5 – Drive to Gariep River (Orange River) still in S. Africa near the border of Namibia.  Drive time:  9 hr.  This is what the overland vehicle looks like…

Day 6 – Drive to Fish River Canyon (oldest in world/2nd largest) in Namibia.  Drive time:   5 hr.  (drive time includes border crossing)

Day 7 –  Drive to Namid desert.  Drive time:  10 hr.

Day 8 –   Explore

Day 9 – Drive to Swakopmund (Walvis Bay) on the Atlantic.  Drive time:  7 hr.

Day 10 – Explore.

Day 11 – Drive to Damaraland.  Drive time:  7 hr.

Day 12 – Drive to Etosha Nat’l Park (game drive in afternoon).  Camp at Okaukuejo.  Drive time:  8 hr.

Day 13 – Another game drive on the way to East side of Park.

Day 14 – One last game drive before driving to Waterberg Plateau Game Park.     Take a walk in the forest or hike up the plateau.  Drive time:  6 hr.

Day 15 – Drive to Windhoek.  Drive time:  4 hr.

Day 16 – Drive to Kalahari (crossing Botswana border) (take walk with bushmen).  See town of Ghanzi.  Drive time:  9 hr.   

Day 17 – Drive to Maun (stock up on supplies for 2 nights in Okavango Delta.   Drive time:  7 hr.

Day 18 – Drive 1-2 hrs. then board a mokoro (dug-out canoe) for 2 hour trip to where we camp in the Delta.

Day 19 – Okavango Delta.

Day 20 – Take mokoro canoe, then drive back to Maun (p/u luggage) then drive 5 hours to Gweta (between the larger towns of Nata and Maun and on the edge of the Makgadikgadi Pans).  Drive time: 5 hrs.

Day 21 – Drive to Chobe Nat’l Park – camp near the town of Kasane.  In the afternoon, take an optional game drive in the park, or an afternoon sunset boat cruise along the Chobe River, which is the best opportunity to view hippo, crocodiles and watch many elephants wallow in the water.

Day 22 – Drive to Livingston (Victoria Falls).  Drive time:  4 hr.  

Take an optional early morning game drive in Chobe before leaving for Zambia. Cross the Zambezi River to enter into Zambia and continue to Livingstone. We will spend the next three days of our tour here.  A great base to see both some natural wonders and take part in some exciting activities. Get up close (and wet from the spray) while awing at the immense Victoria Falls, raft the whitewater of the mighty Zambezi, for the more adventurous, bungee jump with the Victoria Falls in view.

Day 23 – 25 – Livingston.

Day 26 – Today’s long journey across rough and bumpy roads takes us to a private game farm 20km’s outside of Lusaka, the capital of Zambia.  Here we’ll marvel at the Zebras, Buffalos, and the Boks that roam the property, or relax by the pool or at the rest camp’s bar.  Drive time: 7 hrs.

Day 27 – Travel north east up through the Zambian country-side, to the capital of the Eastern Province, Chipata.  Please note that as this is a long driving day we will not be able to visit the town of Chipata.  Drive time: 10 hrs.

 Day 28 – 31 – Spend four nights relaxing on the shores of “the Lake of Stars”. Beach walks, swimming in the crystal clear water and snorkeling are some of the activities in the area.  Visit various lakeside camps as we travel north along the shores of Lake Malawi.

This is Malawi’s main attraction and covers one fifth of the country. It is the third largest lake in Africa and is about 500km long. The lake has more fish species than any other lake in the world with around 600 different species.  The lake is also known for its good snorkeling and diving.

Day 32 – Begin the day by making the border crossing out of Malawi and into Tanzania.  Climbing out of the Great Rift Valley through some spectacular mountain passes, view the vast tea plantations in the highlands along the way as you make camp outside Iringa.  Drive time: 9 hrs.

Day 33 – Travel to Dar Es Salaam.  Drive time: 12 hr.

Remember that Zanzibar is a Muslim society, and immodestly dressed women, or men in shorts, will get harassed and cause great offense in Stone Town. In Nungwi, customs are a little more relaxed, but passengers are encouraged to be respectful of the islands culture and still cover up when walking around. Never try to take a photograph without asking permission. The polite way to ask is “Tafadhali (pronounced tougher-thaarli) naomba ruhusu kwa kupiga picha yako.” Many guidebooks say the correct phrase is “nataka kupiga picha yako”, but this is incredibly rude, the equivalent of saying “give me your picture”.

Day 34 – Take the 3 hr. ferry to Zanzibar – After arriving – spend the remainder   of the day exploring Stone Town, the heart of the island. It has an intriguing maze of narrow, cobbled lanes hemmed in by Arabic buildings. The best way to see the Stone Town is, literally, to get lost. You can spend hours just wandering the alleys and squares, drinking potent coffee from pavement vendors, or buying sweetmeats from scores of tiny cafes. At this point other G Adventures travelers may join you, who are continuing their tour here on Zanzibar. A group meeting with your tour leader is scheduled for the early evening.

Day 35 – 36 – No visit to Zanzibar would be complete without a visit to the spice plantations – an activity that is included on our way north to Nungwi.  It was the wonderful spice plantations that brought the beginnings of Zanzibar’s infamous slave trade dating back to the 1840’s. Drive time: 4 hrs. (including 2 hr. spice tour).

Stay in Nungwi for two days/ two nights at one of Zanzibar’s major highlights.  Here you can either relax on the idyllic white-sandy beaches, take an optional diving/snorkeling excursion, or take a wander through the village of Nungwi.     

Day 37 – Drive back to Stone Town.  Drive time:  2 hr.                 

Day 38 – Take Ferry back to Dar Es Salaam.  Drive time:  3 hr.

Head to airport.

It’s tons of driving and a lot of camping, but I can’t wait!!

Importance of Travel Itinerary

If you arrange your own travel plans, a Travel Itinerary is a key component of staying organized and being able to maximize your vacation time.  Below is my itinerary for an upcoming trip to the Pacific Northwest.  I like to research most details ahead of time, so I don’t use valuable vacation time.

You can determine how many sights and/or activities you can squeeze in comfortably.

I use Bing or Google Maps and plan out my driving route.  My driving time is minimized because I plan my order of activities based on the driving route.  Sometimes I use it to plan my walking route if I need to see a lot in one day.

For ideas, I usually look at Frommer’s suggested itineraries and Trip Advisor, and talk to the owner of the VRBO or friends that have been there.   I also Google “itinerary” for the area and look at other people’s blogs for inspiration.  Sometimes it’s difficult to decide which places to visit because they’re all wonderful!

Spontaneity is nice, that’s why I always leave 1 or 2 days open.  Some people might prefer to plan a lot less and take it day by day, but I feel when you’re spending a lot of money, you should get to see and do as much as you can.

You’ll notice on my itinerary that we take the light rail from the airport to a car rental place downtown.  You can save hundreds of dollars by not renting the car from the airport…just another tip!

Tues

6:30 am – Leave house

9:20am  – Delta Flight leaves Cincinnati

11:10am – Arrive Seattle

(Take light rail 10 stops (36 mins) to University St. Station

BAY A then walk to 6th street to the Hilton & p/u rental car)

Stop at grocery – arrive to VRBO unit approx. 2:00pm

5:00pm – Dinner at Palisade – 1st seating $29pp

Wed

7:00am – Drive to AMGEN Co.

Walk 40 min. to Pike Place Market

Walk to Olympic Sculpture Park

Walk to Space Needle – take monorail to Seattle Center – take Monorail back to Space Needle

Walk to Edgewater Hotel for Happy Hr.        

Thur 

Walk to Discovery Park

Fri

7:00am – Drive loop around Mt. Rainier

Hike Rampart Ridge trail (4.6 miles)

Sat

  FREE DAY

Sun

6:00am –    Drive 1 ½  hrs. to Anacortes

9:00am –   Board ferry

10:00am – Arrive San Juan Islands

Drop luggage at hotel – explore Friday Harbor /  eat lunch / bicycle

Have lunch at Market Chef   or  Duck Soup Inn

3:00pm – Whale watching tour with Western Prince (3 hrs.)

OVERNIGHT: SAN JUAN ISLAND

(They have indoor pool/sauna/hot tub/free bikes)

Mon

9:00am –   Take ferry  from San Juan

10:00am – Arrive Anacortes

Drive 2  hrs. to Vancouver – arrive 1pm (with customs wait) – Eat lunch

Keep driving to Squamish towards Whistler…then drive back

OVERNIGHT: VANCOUVER

Tues

8:00am – HAVE breakfast with Mahara & Ken (friends)

Explore Granville Island – go to the sandbar restaurant under

the Granville bridge (go to The Lobster Man booth also)

1:00pm – Take 15 mile (4 1/2 hr.) bicycle tour with CycleVancouver

OVERNIGHT:  VANCOUVER

Wed

Cont’l Brft Included

10:00am – Drive 2.75 hrs. to Seattle (go thru Customs)

2:00pm  –  Arrive back at condo

Thur 

9:00am – Leave rental

12:45pm – Flight leaves

8:05pm –  Arrives Cincinnati

Grocery list:   juice; bananas (6); fruit; muffins, eggs; butter & jam; coffee; cream; chips; beer; wine;

water; trail mix; lunchmeat/bread/cheese/mayo

$1225      –  $1150 for 9 nights – $75 cleaning fee (tax included)

$320       –  Vancouver lodging (includes parking 2 nights) =

$216       –   San Juan Island lodging

$200      –  Whale Watching tour

$23        –   Ferry Fee to San Juan Islands for 2 pp round trip

$15         –   Nat’l Park Entrance Fee

$423       –  Rental Car

$100       –  Gas (approx.)

$ 12        –  Light Rail round trip for 2

$170       –  Guided Bicycle tour Vancouver for 2

$  20       – Parking Lot fee at Anacortes for 2 days

$300      –  Restaurants (approx.)

$100      –  Grocery (approx.)

$3133    –  TOTAL