It’s hard to believe, but we leave for our trip to Europe tomorrow! It seems like we just got back from our 2018 Around The World Trip! We enjoyed our 5 months abroad so much last year, that we had already begun planning this year’s trip before we even got back in the states. Now that we’re getting ready to leave for our 2019 Europe Trip, I wanted to publish an updated itinerary.
Background on Our Trip Planning
We are a bit different than some long-term travelers, in that we prefer to have our entire itinerary planned before leaving. Most long term travelers and backpackers prefer to have more of an open-ended itinerary to allow for spontaneity and adjustments in plans as they go. While we can understand that, we find a lot of benefits to having at least our main flights and accommodations booked before leaving. Mainly, it takes a lot of stress out of having to plan while you’re on the trip. We don’t want to be spending hours inside on the internet trying to plan where we go the next day or the next week. It’s nice just to have all of that set. Also, we find that we save a lot of money by booking everything in advance. We use a lot of credit card rewards for free flights and free hotel stays. You simply can’t book these last minute, they have to be planned in advance. In addition, we stay at a lot of Airbnbs. To get the best deals, and stay in the best places, you need to book in advance. If you wait til the last minute, prices go up, and availability goes down. So for these reasons and more, we prefer to have the basic itinerary set. We don’t, however, have any pre-planned activities or excursions. We do these on the fly as we go, as well as day trips outside of the main areas where we’re staying.
Last year, we had most of our itinerary planned before we left, including the first two months and the last month, but not the middle part. We had originally planned to have it all booked, but just ran out of time. This was our first time planning any trip of this kind, so it was definitely a lot to take on.
This year, we are happy to say that we have ALL of our major flights and accommodations fully booked before leaving! Woohoo! We will be traveling a lot more by bus and train between places, so we do not have those booked yet, as they’re not as important to plan ahead for.
Planning Process This Year
So we started by booking our beginning and ending flights, using airline points/miles, and basing our starting and ending points around where we could find the best deal with our points. We made a rough outline of the countries and cities where we wanted to go in between our start and end points (Spain to Italy). We then scoped out which places were better to use our hotel points and which places were better to use Airbnbs. We went ahead and booked the majority of the hotel nights based off our rough outline. We then started ticking away at the accommodations at the beginning and ending of the trip, using Airbnb to fill in the gaps.
As of about a week ago, we had planned about 75% of the trip. We had plenty of time off between the holidays and when we started our most recent Travel PT contracts to sit down and plan a lot. Then we ran out of time and left a few cities open to plan later. So then later came, and I was doing a little more research as we got closer to the trip.
This is where we made an interesting discovery. Previously, based on our research we had figured out that we didn’t need a Visa to travel to anywhere we were going in Europe as US citizens. What we failed to understand were the rules for the Schengen Area of Europe. For those of you already familiar with this, dope!! (Face-Palm!) For those not familiar, let me explain. Basically this is an area consisting of 26 countries in Europe that have agreed to have open-borders, so once you’re in the region, you don’t have to show your passport to cross between the borders…. kind of like being in the US and traveling between states. However, there is a limit on how long you can stay in this entire region without a Visa! This is the part we did not realize. The rule is 90 days (3 months) within a 6 month period! We thought that this rule applied to one individual country, not the entire region. So we thought, well of course we’re not staying in one country for 90 days! But we were in fact planning to be in the region over 90 days (102 to be exact).
So upon making this discovery, we had a couple choices. We could either make sure we spent at least 12 of the days on our trip (over the 90 day limit) in a Non-Schengen country. Or, we would need to get a Visa to allow us to stay over 90 days. Being that this was only within days of our departure, we decided finding a way to spend the 12 days outside the region was going to be the easiest. Fortunately for us, of the few countries that we had not booked up to this point, one of them was Croatia! And lucky for us, Croatia is a Non-Schengen country! So, what we decided to do was cut out some time in the surrounding countries that we’d planned to go to previously, and add that time to Croatia to make it 12 days. This really was a pretty strategic move anyway, because we have heard really great things about Croatia! So it’s kind of a win-win. In order to make it work, we did decide to cut out Slovenia completely for this trip, and cut down Hungary to just one day which was unfortunate. Otherwise, we would’ve had to cut down our time already booked in Slovakia using free hotel nights (including the 5th night free reward from Hilton), which was not a good strategy. But, all in all it’s okay because we plan to return to Europe in the future, so we can explore these areas more at a later time!
So now, let’s get on to the good stuff, the itinerary!
Trip Itinerary and Breakdown
- Trip Length: 102 days
- Total Countries: 14
- Total Free Flights: 2 each (US to Spain, Italy to US)
- Total Free Hotel Nights: 25
- Total Airbnb Nights Using Discounted Gift Cards: 76
- Spain: 2 weeks
- Portugal: 2 weeks
- France: 1 week
- Luxembourg: 3 days
- Luxembourg city
- Belgium: 1 week
- Netherlands: 1 week
- The Hague
- Germany: 3 days
- Poland: 5 days
- Czech Republic: 1 week
- Austria: 5 days
- Slovakia: 5 days
- Hungary: 1 day
- Croatia: 12 days
- Italy: 1 week
Time to Take Off!
Phew!! Lots of planning went into this, and we’re excited that the time has come to head off on our next journey! Lots of adventures to be had this summer!
What do you think of our itinerary? If you have any suggestions for activities, day trips, etc. in any of the above locations, please let us know in the comments or send us a message! Thanks for reading!