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Good morning. It is Sunday May 24, 2020. The world is struggling with different plans on how to restart their economies due to the COVID-19 pandemic that started in a lab in Wuhan, China. It seems like most of the day today is going to be overcast with rain sprinkled here and there. The high temperature in the area I live in is going to be around 76 F. By the way, tomorrow is Memorial Day 2020!
Since I took a Data Science course a couple years ago, I have been talking about a system that would help planning a recreational trip. I have been lucky enough to have traveled for work and holiday reasons in the USA and different countries in North, Central and South America, Western and Eastern Europe and Western Asia.
In general, when you travel for work, the business purpose dictates location. That said; if you arrive a couple days earlier, or leave a little later, you can not only get business done but you can get to learn about your travel destination. It is educational and enjoyable to get to know the people in the area or country you are visiting. For a while, if the schedule allowed it, my wife has joined me on dozens of business trips. Of course, I had to take care of her airplane tickets. The nice thing is that most hotels do not charge you for an extra person in a room.
So once you have an idea of how many extra days you will spend on holiday, the most important thing is to get to experience the best sites. For that you might need to arrange some tours. It is also important to hit restaurants where the locals dine. Try not to have meals at the hotel or fall for any other tourist trap. The food in known restaurants and most hotels, for obvious reasons, tend to be international and expensive. For example, if I am in Italy, I would not think of having an American breakfast. I would try different pastries and savory foods. Trust me; the choices seem to be endless.
On some occasions my wife and I plan holidays alone, with family or friends. After the dates are decided, we plan the activities. The activities tend to vary depending on the scope of the holiday. For example, if you are in a cruise ship for a few weeks, the only thing left are which excursions to take when at port.
If you travel to a single country (e.g., Portugal) for a week, you probably would visit between two to three cities. My wife and I like to learn about what each city has to offer and experience the people, sites and foods. Others like to spend most of their time shopping and visiting as many cities as possible. It does not matter what you like; what is important is to be able to have the best possible time and be able to control costs. You can always get a hotel room for several thousand USD a night, or on the other end of the spectrum, spend nights is a backpacker house (have never experienced one) for about ten USD. You may want to visit as many attractions as you deem reasonable. Planning a schedule is not a simple thing to do. You need a lot of information regarding operation hours, closed days, prices, advanced tickets, distance, traffic, transportation, etc. The list goes on and on.
After several hours (which could be in the dozens) you may come to the conclusion that you have created a pretty good schedule. You then generate enough copies and distribute them to all the people that are in your travelling party. A diagram with locations, dates, and transportation information is a great thing to have handy. Done this a few times.
For example, you might have arranged a boating excursion on the Amalfi Coast (), and you are at the pickup location in Naples (), but it is a few minutes past the scheduled time and you are getting a little anxious. You would feel better if you could send your transport company a text message, email or just call them to verify if there has been a delay or if you might be waiting at wrong location. It is hard to collect such information while anxiously awaiting to be picked up and how about getting to port after the boat has left.
I used to prepare spread sheets but they are not easy to read in a smart phone. The best I have done is to use a graphic database (i.e., Neo4j) and graphically have all the cities, travel info, excursions, dates and times, phone numbers, etc. so if something appears to be off, you and the rest of your travel mates have all the information at their finger tips via a smart phone or tablet.
One more travel example. Last year, my wife and I flew from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul to Amsterdam. Our two granddaughters came along with us. We left a Friday around 05:00 PM and had a direct flight to Schiphol airport. We landed around 08:00 AM the following morning. I was the only one that was lucky enough to get a few hours of sleep in the Delta flight. I guess the girls were too excited.
At the airport we checked in our luggage, got our boarding passes and spent the next few hours in an international lounge. The amount and quality of the food and drinks was great. Around noon we headed to board an Alitalia flight. We had first class tickets. The first class section in the plane was almost empty. The coach section was quite full. The flight took about three hours.
We arrived at Leonardo da Vinci international airport in Fiumicino (outside Rome). We had first class tickets in a fast train to get to the Roma Termini station (). We developed the schedule to use planes, trains, boats and automobiles. My wife was quite tiered, so we got a black limousine (nice BMW) which took us directly to our hotel in Rome. It was a long trip but we were ready to spend the next few weeks in Italy.
It would have been nice to make the necessary arrangements on the fly to get a refund on the train tickets or to change them for our return trip three weeks later. We just lost them.
I can go on and on, on how many things go into planning a great and memorable (for the good reasons) vacation. You can always contact a travel agency, but imagine if you could keep all the data at your finger tips so your schedule could update in a reasonable way.
The reason for this post is to mention that in some of the posts in this blog, I may hope from one technology to another. I will not make specific references on how they could be used for this project. As some point I will post the work in progress software design document for a system that would help an individual plan and update a schedule to visit one or more cities or countries and get the most out of their time and money.
Last Friday after the end of the workday, my wife and I talked about the idea of the travel planning system. One thing led to another and I decided to spend time in the architecture, design and implementation of such system. I guess she is looking for a better system to be able to easily make and change our travel plans.
At this point I do not have documentation or software to share with you.
If you have comments or questions regarding this, or any other post in this blog, or if you would like for me to serve of assistance with any phase in the SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle) of a project associated with a product or service, please do not hesitate and leave me a note below. If you prefer, send me a private message using the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org. I will reply as soon as possible.
Keep on reading and experimenting. It is the best way to learn, refresh your knowledge and enhance your developer toolset!
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Keep safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and economy restart.