I've learned a lot from our trips to Costa Rica and from vacations around the states. And even after 20 years together, we're still learning a lot about each other and how we like to (and need to) travel. I know that if it were just me, I would have nearly every second planned. And I would miss out on a lot! But what is a compulsive planner to do? This one is going to try to kick that habit! I foresee an awful lot of anxiety (already begun), but I keep telling myself that this is not a once-in-a-lifetime trip. We'll go again. We don't have to do everything this time. If we miss some festival, get stuck in some generic hotel for a night or two, can't get tickets to some sold-out event, etc. etc. etc., well - that's OK. We'll experience something else :-).
What do we want out of this trip? Ideally, everything! Flexibility is the number one criterion. We want a slice of life mixed with a bit of tourism. So it's all about research and ideas instead of reservations. *This* is where the planner gets full expression! Not so much "we'll stay at this hotel x days," but more "we'll shop in the farmer's markets" and "let's aim for festival x, but see how it goes."
With all that in mind, some investigation is on-going. We have decided to stay in the Southern areas - Paris and Bretagne (and so much else) will stay on the list for another time. We'll fly into Toulouse (aerospace and high-tech!), and spend some time based in Montpellier. These two cities have a reputation for excellent public transportation, and so are good areas to go car-less. We also want to try out village life, and so expect to rent a car for at least some of that time.
We know that neither of us like to eat out every meal (but we don't like to eat every meal at "home" either!), so we're aiming for places with kitchen privileges. These are apparently not that common, but that's what we'll look for.
We, like many, are watching the trip budget. Some of the things that are budget-friendly, and also fit with how we like to live-while-we-travel are:
- most of the time, make lunch the big meal
- have appetizers or a picnic for lunch or dinner
- split a meal now and then
- self-cater; shop at the local markets
- some of the time, try youth hostels (but mix in some upscale places too)
- do a lot of self-tours by walking, driving, and using public transportation
- see what the area itself is like, not just the monuments it may be known for
- canal boat ride
- bullfight festival
- aerospace tour