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To pre-book or be spontaneous when touring?

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When I started to tour around Europe, I had the ideology of aimlessly wandering and as the sun goes down rocking up at a delightful hotel, that welcome you...

The reality was far different, with no room at the inn (due to a local festival, national holiday or simply as they thought we were going to cause havoc as we arrived on a motorbike), over-priced hovels and dirty, flea ridden rooms or simply not finding somewhere (sometime in rural France and Germany you cannot find a cafe open never mind a place to sleep), we now plan the trip before we go. This way we find lovely places to stay, in areas/towns/cities we want to visit and enjoy (at great rates) and thousands of miles later would not do it any other way now.

Twice in Germany we had a final destination and went through other countries to places en or a bit off route.

We used the Biker Friendly Accommodation on thebikerguide.com to stay in places we really wanted to stop at as they looked really Biker Friendly and interesting and also used booking.com to find places in specific towns/villages/areas. We then programe the whole lot into a bike sat nav when at home and on the day just go, knowing we have places to stay and a route planned.

Of course we close the sat nav and wander, but it is there to get you out of the copious amount of road work with no diversion signs, find the gorgeous place in the middle of nowhere you booked and can find you petrol and food if needed.

Its also worth pointing out that by doing this we know how much everything has cost and its always nice to see the rate card at the hotel for the room you paid €35 for is 3 times that if you had indeed 'rocked up!'

We plan trips sort of like this...

Find a final destination then plot the route using Google maps, riding 150- 200 to each destination. Ideally two/three days at a place, so you get to see something when there and have a day off the bike - or even so you can go somewhere on the bike without being loaded up. When we did one nighters we found it too much of -

'riding/getting there/taking stuff into accommodation/unpacking/shower/eat/drink/sleep/get up/pack' and again and again...

Personally we prefer accommodation on these long trips rather than campsites, plus its extra weight on the bike.

We use a sat nav to get us to places which takes a lot of stress off from when we used to do it by maps. Would not do any distance now without one, as you enjoy the ride so much better. Plus can program sat nav in the UK before you leave. 

Sat nav v maps

I used to like the idea of being spontaneous and also did not fancy using a sat nav however once you have tried to get a room somewhere to find you cannot get one as they are full due to a local festival, over priced (Italy circa 2001, 11 pm in a roadside motel style @ 175€ comes to mind) , you cannot find one (sounds strange I know but there are miles and miles of nothing in parts of Germany - well apart from excellent scenery) and to book into somewhere and find it awful, we now do as above - i.e. find a final destination and plan route around it. We use a combination of Biker Friendly accommodation on www.thebikerguide.co.uk and if there is nothing in the area we want we also look on booking.com.

We did a trip a couple of years ago with the final destination being Colditz Castle, which you can stay in. Went in July for 3 ish weeks with everything booked, set into sat nav and you know what - thank goodness as it rained everyday but one. We would set off with the next place in the sat nav - take off route when we wanted and arrive at destination stress free. We stayed at some great places, travelled fantastic roads and routes and would pass by others at the side of the road battling with a big wet soggy map to find their way.

I think once you have used a sat nav on a big trip which gets you to destinations easy, gets you out of a diversion and back on route, helps you navigate/find food and petrol, you wonder what you did before the United States military released the technology for GPS!

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  1. Debbie Boardman

    I agree although it depends who you are with and what you ride. If you tour with your mates on sports bikes you may be happy to do 400 miles a day or until your ass turns to concrete. We are a couple in our 50's riding a couple of sports tourers and the tours are our holidays. We don't do beaches and books. We have done lots of tours in the UK, Ireland and a fair bit of Europe, self-guided, guided and on our own. Moving on each morning is pretty tedious packing everything up and not much fun if you need to travel 200 miles to the next destination in the pouring rain if you need to put on yesterday's wet gear. We've also stayed for a week in a cottage in rural Bordeaux. The village didn't have much going on and the ride-outs were spent searching out fuel stations. We've just returned from a week touring Ireland from Galway to Belfast. Two nights in Coleraine meant on our 'down' day we could visit Joey Dunlops memorial park and the Dark Hedges Road and a trip to Malin Head. Two nights in Belfast involved a bus tour of the city, sampling the 'local produce' and a night at the theatre. If you are going to stay in one place. Do your homework to be sure there are things to do if you fancy a couple of days bike free or if the weather is inclement. We are planning a tour of the Picos next year and we are booking a hotel on the coast and a biker friend has given us lots of ride-outs she has done there. We have booked a book and beach holiday to Gran Canaria in October but have now had a boredom fear and contacted Martin at Canary Motorcycle Tours to collect us for a couple of days on his CBFs! If you are a solo tourer or you hate getting lost, maybe consider a guided tour. We have friends who travel extensively and have just returned from Dubai and the Maldivies and have pity in their eyes when we tell them we are having a long weekend in Fishguard. They are not bikers so they don't get it

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