Joseph LaMountain of SparkLight Communications in Alexandria, VA can laugh now about holiday travels, but he wasn't laughing 15 years ago when he took off without reservations. Playing it by ear is not for the squeamish!
Before we were married, my wife and I took our first European vacation over the Christmas holidays. We had little money, and didn't plan very well, but figured that with our names (I'm Joseph and my wife is Mary), could smooth over any potential problems.
On Christmas eve, we departed Geneva, Switzerland we entered Italy's pristine Val D'Aosta region. Absolutely nothing was open. Starving, we pleaded with a local restaurateur to feed us in the late afternoon. He declined even though we could see the place was full of locals enjoying the day. We eventually found a small convenience store that was open and we stocked up on bread, fruit, cheese and water.
Looking for lodging was even more treacherous. We made it to Turin, but nothing was open except a small place near the train station. After a short tour, we realized that it was THE place in town where ladies of ill repute entertained their clients. Other hotels were full and despite our pleading ("Giuseppe et Maria!!"), we had no luck. And then I developed a raging sore throat.
We soldiered on, eventually finding a hotel off the highway in the town of Novara, Italy. I plopped on the bed and consulted my travel guide; Novara's claim to fame is that it is Italy's largest producer of cement. On Christmas Day, through a driving snowstorm in the Appenine Mountains, we made it to the small port town of Portovenere where, the next day, we proceeded to eat a huge meal and drink too much wine.
It was awful at the time, but fifteen years later we can look back on it and laugh.