Planning for Eurotrip 2017
First things first, find your crew. I love to travel and discover new places, but it’s just not the same without a couple close friends to share it with. So, I called up my travel buddy, Elena, who lives in Pennsylvania to join me. She agreed almost immediately. Next, I asked a friend from Colorado, Kim, if she would like to join as well, she also excitedly agreed.
I learned a lot of lessons on packing and planning from a trip my friend, Olga, planned last year. One of the most important takeaways was choosing the right time of year. I don't like to be cold when site seeing, so winter was not an option. Summer is peak travel season in Europe. To avoid crowds, we had to start our trip before June. End of May worked out really well last year with weather and tourist traffic. So, we chose the dates May 23rd-June 6th. If you're a working person such as myself, I highly recommend taking the day after your return off! I did it both years and was really thankful for a day to rest and recover from the jet lag.
Now for the fun part; choosing your destinations! I love to search for beautiful travel destinations and to learn all about other parts of the world during the process. I knew for sure I wanted to visit Switzerland and that I didn't want to travel far to get to other destinations. I also knew I loved Rome from last year's trip and I wanted to see more of Italy. We chose Zurich as our center point in Switzerland because I have a friend who lives nearby that could show us around. From Zurich to Milan is a highly recommended scenic 3-4-hour train ride, and from Milan to Venice is only a 2-hour train ride. And that is how our 3 main destinations were determined.
Finding the airfare, the least fun part. I used Skyscanner and Expedia to book most of our airfare. I found flights to Zurich and shared a screenshot of a screaming good deal for one-way flights to Zurich with my Swiss friend. He noticed the ticket had a layover in Iceland and made a comment how incredible Iceland is. I figured well if we're going to be there anyway, might as well make it one of our destinations. I looked up how much one-way tickets are to Keflavik, Iceland, and was shocked at how cheap direct flights from Portland are! I booked tickets for Elena and I to fly into Keflavik around 6:00am and Kim booked her flight to arrive about the same time. The 3 of us flew into Iceland from 3 different time zones in the US. I can't imagine a better way to reunite with old friends.
I created a spreadsheet to help me keep track of our schedule, budget, and how much each person owes for transportation, lodging, and pre-booked activities. I suggest pre-booking and printing paper copies of all activities that have the option. You won’t have to wait in lines at ticket offices and you won’t miss out on attractions that you really wanted to see because they sold out. Some popular attractions can be bought through an app like Tiqets.
I researched each city and picked out the main attractions we wanted to see. Reykjavik, Iceland has the world famous Blue Lagoon, and the island is very known for its unique landscape. Zurich, Switzerland has a very charming “Old Town”, largest waterfall in Europe “Rhine Falls”, great food, shopping, Zurich Lake, and Lucerne is a 40-min train ride away. Venice is an attraction in and of itself, but I did pre-book tickets to St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace. Milan had the longest list of to-dos’, but also was the easiest to plan because of the array of attractions in close proximity. I pre-booked our tickets to the Duomo Terraces and chose the option to take the elevator—we were doing most of our site seeing by foot, I couldn’t imagine climbing 250 stairs to get to the top!
I will be sharing details and pictures from each destination and attraction in following posts.
Blog about Iceland is up! Click here
Feel free to reach out with comments or questions.