After our semi-retirement last year in 2018, and a wonderfully successful 5 month trip around the world, it’s pretty safe to say that Whitney and I are hooked on traveling and exploring various international destinations. We spent about a month in Europe during the trip last year, but most of our time was in SE Asia. We really enjoyed SE Asia and will definitely be going back there in the future, but we decided that for this year we wanted to take a long trip around Europe in the summer to experience some more of the history there.
In addition to this trip, we have a short trip to the Dominican Republic planned in March, and a 3 week road trip from Virginia to Las Vegas and back (for the Traveler’s Conference “TravCon”) planned in September. We don’t have any plans for the 4th quarter of this year yet, but it could involve a longer road trip around the US, or maybe even a trip to Central and South America :D. Or we may take a second travel physical therapy contract. It’s still up in the air!
Even though we may very likely only be working three months this year (maybe 6, who knows… semi-retirement is pretty tough, right?) we decided to keep the trip to Europe under four months. There are two reasons for this. First, we were getting tired and a little homesick after five months during our last trip, so we thought we’d do one a little shorter this time. Second, my brother graduates from PTA school in May, and we are going to the conference in Vegas in September, which leaves us just the right amount of time to fly over to Europe and spend a few months adventuring between those two big events!
Below is a rough outline of where we plan to go because we still have a ton of planning to do, but we generally know where we’ll be going and for how long. We have our arrival and departure flights booked already just like we did on our last trip, and we’ve started booking some of the beginning and some of the end of the trip based off the flights. This was our strategy on our last trip, booking the beginning and end, then filling in the middle. It worked great for us last time, so we’re doing it that way again!
Many others who have done longer periods of travel have recommended that we leave our itinerary more open ended to allow for flexibility and spontaneity while traveling, but we really prefer to have it mapped out in terms of flights and accommodations in advance. First, it makes it less stressful once we’re already on the trip, so we don’t have to spend time while we’re in an exciting country sitting and trying to book something and make plans for the next day or the next week. Second, we found that comparing notes with other travelers we met overseas, we paid significantly less for our accommodations by booking in advance. Other travelers staying in the same city or sometimes even the same hotel/Airbnb as us paid two to three times as much as we did for booking last minute!
We realize we are “sacrificing” some possible spontaneity, but, for now, we like our plan and are sticking with it! Here’s what we have mapped out so far:
- Portugal: 2 weeks (already booked!)
- Spain: 2 weeks (already booked!)
- Northern France: 1 week (already booked!)
- Luxembourg: 3 days (already booked!)
- Luxembourg city
- Belgium: 4 days
- Netherlands: 5-7 days
- Germany: 3 days
- Poland: 1 week
- Czechia: 1 week
- Austria: 1 week
- Slovakia: 5 days
- Hungary: 5-7 days
- Croatia: 4-7 days
- Slovenia: 3-4 days
- Italy: 1 week (already booked!)
We need ideas for cities to visit where not listed in the countries above. We would also love ideas of things to do/see in the cities where we are going! Give us some ideas in the comments below!
Future Travel Plans
There are many more places in Europe that we want to visit in the future, but we had to narrow it down for this trip so that we wouldn’t be moving around every couple of days. We prefer to travel a little more slowly so that it’s not so exhausting and such a whirlwind. On a future trip we’ll visit southern France, Switzerland, more of Italy, more of Germany, Greece, and a few more countries in Eastern Europe. So yes, we know there are lots of wonderful places not on our list, but we can’t do it all in one trip! 😉
Minimizing Expenses on the Trip
Just like last trip, we’re taking advantage of a lot of travel hacking in order to save money and be able to travel for 3.5 months!
Flights: We have our main flights (from the US to Europe and back to the US) booked using American Airlines and Delta miles, so we’re only paying out of pocket for taxes and fees there.
Hotels: We will redeem credit card points for about 20 free nights throughout the trip (most of this coming from the AMEX Hilton Honors Aspire card) which will save us a considerable amount.
Food: We will also get free breakfast at the reward hotels that we plan to book, which will save us some money on food.
Airbnb: I’ve been watching for more deals on discounted Airbnb gift cards to save on our stays for all the nights that we aren’t getting free hotel nights.
Transportation: We also plan to travel mostly by bus and train between cities to keep costs lower, although we will take advantage of cheap flights on discount airlines such as EasyJet and RyanAir when available.
I’m setting a tentative budget of $1,500/month (about $50/day), but we’ll see how that goes since Europe is much more expensive than SE Asia where we kept our costs low on the trip last year. (I was able to spend less than $6,000 total for our 5-month trip in 2018!)
Thanks for reading and please give us your suggestions for places to go and things to do in the comments!