For the past three or four years I have gone on a trip in October. I find that it is a really good time because there are plenty of places where October is a shoulder season, so the weather is still good, but the tourist peak is no longer there. The prices are a bit cheaper, there are less people everywhere, but the tourism infrastructure is still operating. October is also a pretty peaceful time at my job as the main initiatives take place after the people come back from holidays in August and September and things pick up again around Christmas, but October is kind of in the middle. Most of the projects are kicked off, but they are rolling forward basically their own and no new initiatives are taken anymore, because we need to start focusing on Christmas period soon. So I have taken a couple of weeks off in October with very minimal downsides.
So this October we were thinking about different places, but ended up choosing Portuguese Azores as a destination. We were very late with our planning (I blame my boyfriend for waiting until last minute to confirm his holiday at his workplace), so the flights were at this point around 400€ each (Berlin – Ponta Delgada – Berlin). We also first booked tickets and then I started researching the islands and we found out that the islands were in fact pretty scattered and the ferry was partially seasonal and in October some of the routes weren’t operated anymore, so we decided to get additional return flights Ponta Delgada (São Miguel) – Pico – Ponta Delgada (São Miguel), which cost I think 160€ per person. The good news is that if you plan things in advance, you should be able to manage to get tickets much cheaper.
Azores was so far the most difficult trip I had to plan. It is not a super popular destination and there is pretty much only one guidebook for Azores (Azores by Bradt, which I borrowed from the library) and I didn’t find it to be particularly easy to use. The official tourism web sites for Azores were abysmal sometimes not working, sometimes switching to Portuguese and not containing very much of suggestions or even useful information. The only site that had pretty good info, but was super slow is the site for Hiking Trails in Azores. Unfortunately we aren’t big on hiking, so even though the web site is good, it wasn’t very useful for us. I found a couple of blogs and some suggestions for the main sights, but mostly I picked the places to see just by guessing.
What I have done is create an Excel file with the plan, the restaurants, which I found interesting or were recommended, with all the contact details, opening hours, etc. I don’t have any mobile data abroad, so it is very useful to have the data readily available. I know that nothing sounds less sexy than Excel, but I have tried several travel apps and they have been much more difficult to use and modify that I have gone back to the good old Excel and printouts. Here is an Excel travel plan I have created for us for Azores: 2016-azores
And when I say that I create a travel plan in Excel, it doesn’t mean that it turns out 100% as planned. But at least I know what I want to see, the nearby sights are grouped together and if we need to switch plans, we know what alternatives we have. Here are some pictures of what the plan looked like after our trip:
So we switched restaurants around, some places were closed, it rained on one day, so we needed to find an indoor activity instead of what we had planned, and of course we stopped to see some sights, which weren’t in the plan just because I had no idea they existed. 🙂 We got some interesting tips from our Airbnb host and then we just followed some road pointers just for fun.
So this was the planning phase. More about the trip itself in the later posts.