Angela and I met in Philadelphia in 1983 at the school bus stop when our youngest children were starting kindergarten. We both worked at home and started walking together every afternoon. Over the years we talked about taking a walking trip with friends to some wonderful places when our children graduated from high school. The destination would be Europe, and we’d hike inn-to-inn, stay at modest places, dine well, and go with enough friends for good conversation.
Our first serious planning meeting was a very cold weekend at a B&B in Boiling Springs, PA in 1996. Eight of us gathered to start planning a trip to the Dordogne area of France. Since then walking inn-to-inn trips have been planned to:
- Tuscany and Cinque Terre, Italy;
- Zermatt, Switzerland;
- Amalfi Coast and Capri, Italy;
- Dolomites and Venice, Italy;
- Southern coast of Turkey
The hiking trail is the most important component. Start here. Look for GR (short for Grande Randonnée) trails if planning a trip in Europe. These are long distance, well-marked hiking paths criss-crossing the continent. Use established tour catalogues and guidebooks as a reference. Order detailed hiking maps. The group needs to agree on minimum and maximum distance to walk a day, taking into account the elevation gain and loss. When you have a rough idea of the hiking trail route – it’s time to look at possible places to stay.
Agree on price range and expectations that suit everyone. Most hiking trails link very small towns so research all possibilities. If one town has no suitable place to stay, the hiking trail is adjusted to another town. Most inns are small so make reservations for multiple rooms well in advance. Even then, we often had to go to our next choice.
Dining is last on the list. Surprisingly, this very important aspect is most easily planned. Wonderful places seem to be the norm. We’ve rarely had a mediocre meal.
It really helps to know that what is planned meets your expectations. What is the best way to check it out? We cross-reference multiple sources: trekking companies, guidebooks, tripadvisor, slowtrav.com, and blogs.
Our group plans a trip every two years or so. As one finishes, planning for the next begins. We email a lot and meet at various B&Bs for off-season weekends, lugging our guidebooks, maps, and now our laptops that connect via WiFi. These planning weekends mimic our planned trips: we hike, stay in a modest B&B or hotel, and dine well with lots of good conversation.