First-pass planning

We did a trip to Switzerland one summer. Not having thought to look for some of the lesser cities, I missed the famous Basel Tattoo by one day. So I figure it’s worth checking in each planning pass for events that might change your trip. 

In your first pass, just check the main places you’re considering, for dates on and around what you’re looking at. 

If you’re planning quite a long way out, many of the online event calendars may not have been updated. If this is the case, check the tourism sites at various levels to see if there are regular annual events.  If you find some, you may see that they still have only last year’s details.  So, for the ones that REALLY interest you, dig deeper; maybe go to the city’s TripAdvisor forum and ask for information on the next version.

Don’t narrow it down too quickly

When we decided that Wengen, Switzerland to Brussels would be too much travel in a day, I looked for intermediate stops. Basel looked good, so I researched it. Then I looked at how to get from Basel to Brussels. Hmm, all the recommended trains go via Paris. I wondered if we could get to Brussels more directly through another city. A look at the map showed Strasbourg and Nancy, so I checked them out. Strasbourg has a wonderful cathedral, and I discovered that Nancy has a famous central square that does a light show every summer night.  

But if we want to be in Nancy at night, what about beautiful Basel? Back to the research. How much of Basel can one see in a few hours? Quite a lot, as it turns out. Back to the Swiss trains website. Can we do Wengen-Nancy with a three-hour break at Basel? Indeed we can. But can we check our bags at Basel? Google, Google … yes, we can, and it’s easy.  

Next step is to make sure we use those three hours effectively. Google Maps showed me Basel, TripAdvisor’s city page told me some of the highlights, and Basel’s own tourist pages gave me some more. Armed with that information, I went to TripAdvisor’s Basel forum and asked how to use my time effectively. A couple of hours later I had three excellent suggestions. 

It all worked out, but in the end, the train that worked best for us took us from Nancy to Brussels via Paris anyway!

Lesson learned: this was all very well, but with this late change I did not notice that the famous Basel Tattoo was the day before we got there. I could easily have arranged our dates to fit. 

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