A few weeks ago, I wrote an article on the BMW European Delivery with some observations and tips from Paul, who has just completed his amazing journey. As I have mentioned in that article, I was going to post his amazing 19 day trip throughought Europe and to show some of the beautiful pictures he has taken. So today, I have decided to start with the first episode, a pre-sequel to his trip. You can learn a lot of valuable things from this pre-planned BMW European Delivery, and maybe it will help you in the future when you decided to “try” one yourself. Here is what Paul had to say:
This trip initially grew out of the idea of buying a new car in Europe, which grew out of the conclusion of the lease on Annette’s current car – a Chrysler Crossfire. The Crossfire had been lots of fun, but we’d chosen to go with a lease since we weren’t sure if a two-seater (and new model) would still hold its allure after 3 years. Having seen an ad for the new 3 series coupe, in October of 2006, I was driving along El Camino Real in San Mateo and stopped by Peter Pan BMW to check it out.
I saw a gorgeous graphite coupe with RED leather interior and aluminum trim and announced “I found your next car” to Annette when I got home. In the end (after a fair amount of debate), this wasn’t the color combination we went with, but the car itself stuck. Neither of us had owned a BMW before, but this new coupe’s graceful lines – and the 300hp turbo-charged engine – told us that the time had come. With a little research online, I learned about BMW’s European Delivery program and the idea was hatched to pick up the car in Munich and take a European vacation with the new wheels.
Fortunately, between the two of us, we had enough United Airlines Mileage Plus miles to convert into two round-trip “super saver” fares to Munich in Business Class. Ironically, since all the “super saver” fares in Coach were already gone, it would have cost us more points to fly coach under the “regular” allocation. That didn’t stand much of a chance. I had started doing some online research on the car, what people were paying and tips on the European Delivery program.
There are several good forums on the Internet, including bimmerfest.com, e90post.com (for 3 series) and bimmerforums.com. Bimmerfest.com has a forum dedicated to European Delivery and was the source of lots of information about the process and also suggestions for travel.
We had also decided against getting a GPS built into the car, but instead opted for a Garmin Nüvi (yes, they really do spell it with the umlaut!), which is a very slick, portable unit. Our thinking was based on a couple of conclusions: a) we rarely need a GPS when doing daily driving or much around the Bay Area; b) we have multiple cars, and if we do need GPS for a local trip it would be nice to be able to move it from one vehicle to another; and c) most times we need it is in an unfamiliar city in a rental car, when it doesn’t do much good to have one built into the dash of the BMW sitting in the garage at home! Thus, the Nuvi, which we “gave ourselves for Christmas” and first tested in Phoenix in January when there to watch Stephanie run in a marathon with her Team in Training group from Boston. Via Bimmerfest, we were able to find someone who would loan us his SD card with European maps, so we were set for Europe!
We also decided on a different color scheme than the graphite and red. Although the “coral red” leather interior was striking, Annette decided there were too many greyish-silver cars on the road and it was too safe and boring. So we went with the bright, Montego blue exterior with saddle brown leather seats and dark walnut trim. As Annette would say, “a head turner.” This girl has always had a thing for hot cars.
Meanwhile, I began my rather obsessive trip planning phase. It wouldn’t be an understatement to say I’ve never been much of a planner. That’s always been Annette’s role :-). But for this trip, I built a spreadsheet with several possible trip scenarios, using the viamichelin.com road planner to estimate distance and time for travel between cities and towns.
Once we had settled on an ambitious but, we hope, still relaxing and realistic agenda, I researched and booked hotels through a variety of online sites (expedia, Travelocity, venere.com, hotels.com). It was surprising that the prices were not the same on different sites, nor did one site have the consistently best deals. The site that was easiest to use as a “master” site was http://www.tripadvisor.com/, which then links to multiple booking sites where one can compare available deals. Tripadvisor also has extensive reviews from travelers and average ratings.
Like any online review site, it is prone to attempts to “stack the deck” with bogus reviews, but it’s pretty clear in reading a few reviews which ones have the sort of specific details that indicate that it was posted by a real traveler and which ones read like a marketing brochure. We also booked a couple of hotels using the priceline.com auction site, which tend to be large, American-style hotels like Marriott.
Our goal in setting the itinerary was to have a variety of cities, towns, coastal and alpine resorts, and a corresponding variety of lodgings – large American style hotels to B&Bs. Balance and variety. Tweak it some more. Is this too much driving for one day? On and on. It had clearly gone too far when I pasted little photos of the hotels into the spreadsheet, and I had to be restrained from further obsession with the planning grid.