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Our Europe Trip: Part One

Nerdboy and I went on our first trip to Europe this May and June. I’m going to blog about our trip and the planning process leading up to it. I’ll be including some money saving tips and helpful information along the way! We spent months prepping for this trip; it was a full time job practically planning for it. I’m mostly writing this so I have the info for myself to look back on in the future, but if you like reading, I hope you enjoy it too! 😉

For the first post, I’m just laying out the basics. Where we went, how we got there, our favorites, etc. Future posts will share some more details!

We celebrated our first anniversary at the end of May so I wanted to plan our trip around that. I also wanted to avoid the summertime vacation rush and heat (that backfired a little because we had plenty of 90 degree days in May still!). Our trip was the most incredible thing I have ever done. As much as I loved our wedding (weddingmoon in Jamaica last year), this trip was far superior. We have both been to the Caribbean multiple times, stayed at Sandals and all-inclusive resorts before, traveled with family before, and we’ve been together for 9 years so the married life really wasn’t new to us (it’s great, don’t get me wrong). But Europe, Europe was new. It was exciting, it was far away, it was scary, it was just us, and it was totally unknown to the both of us. Thankfully, it turned out to be the greatest thing I’ve ever done and not a complete nightmare.

We both had dreamed of Europe most of our lives. Our first step when planning out or trip was writing down the countries, cities, and sites we wanted to see.

My list: Santorini (Hello, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants!), Paris (Eiffel Tower, duh), London (Harry Potter Studio Tour), and Italy (mostly Rome because of the Colosseum).
Mike’s list: London, Paris, Barcelona/Spain (He wasn’t picky, he just wanted Spain), Italy, Athens.

Like any old, married couple, our hopes and dreams overlapped almost perfectly. After lots of research we decided a cruise would help us get to more countries and cities without worrying about planes/trains, hotels, and food everywhere. We found a fantastic cruise that covered Athens, Santorini, South France, a few stops in Italy and ended in Barcelona. It was a luxury cruise (so you didn’t have to pay for sodas and alcohol separately!) and we planned to fly into London, train to Paris, fly to Athens to catch the cruise and then end in Barcelona. While waiting for Mike’s work to approve our trip, the cruise booked up and we were back to square one, with two months left until I wanted to travel. We are both also procrastinators which isn’t always the best when planning a big trip. For best results, I’d recommend planning more than two months out. While we didn’t have too much trouble booking flights and hotels a month (and some hotels were booked as little as 2 weeks) before, the selection and prices may have been better if we booked earlier.

Now that we we were on our own, we picked our top places (5 countries, 7 cities), had to narrow some down (sorry, Venice), looked at a map of Europe, and started looking at flights (Santorini to Rome for instance only flew twice a week and I really wanted to be in Santorini on our anniversary. And we had to book our tickets for the Harry Potter Studio ASAP as options were already extremely limited, so we had quite the challenge to figure out!). Two months before travel time, we finally found the perfect route based on the days we wanted to be gone. We made sure to include two weekends and a federal holiday which saved us 5 days off work. We came home on a Friday evening which gave us a whole weekend to recover (best idea I had). Here’s the itinerary:

  • Day 0 (Left Dulles airport that evening)
  • Day 1 (Arrived in London, England around 11am – Spent the day exploring London)
  • Day 2 (Harry Potter Studio Tour!)
  • Day 3 (Left in the morning and took the Eurostar train to Paris – Spent the day exploring Paris)
  • Day 4 (Full day in Paris)
  • Day 5 (Site see in Paris until afternoon then go to the airport for Athens -landed after 1am)
  • Day 6 (Full day in Athens)
  • Day 7 (Site see in Athens until afternoon then go to the airport for Santorini -landed after 11pm)
  • Day 8 (Our anniversary – Full day in Santorini!)
  • Day 9 (Full day in Santorini)
  • Day  10 (Site see in Santorini then go to the airport for Rome – landed after midnight)
  • Day 11 (Full day in Rome)
  • Day 12 (Took the train from Rome to Naples/Pompeii then back to Rome)
  • Day 13 (Full day in Rome)
  • Day 14 (Site see in Rome then go to the airport for Barcelona- landed after 11pm)
  • Day 15 (Full day in Barcelona)
  • Day 16 (Full day in Barcelona)
  • Day 17 (Left Barcelona early, flight to London, flight back home to Dulles – awake for over 24 hours!)

At the end of the trip, we were tired and ready to go home. It probably didn’t help that our last two steps (Rome and Barcelona) were my least favorite by far! I’m so glad we got to see the Colosseum, Pompeii, Sagrada Familia, etc., but the cities didn’t bring me great joy like the others, totally a personal preference. I was also missing my bed, tacos and Costco. But, about a week after returning home, I was already planning for our next trip! Right around the 10 day mark is where we started to feel it. I don’t think I’d go anywhere for over two weeks again. Europe is huge obviously, but we were able to check off a lot of major places. We have lists of new places we’d like to visit (including some in the US that we’ve never seen) and places we can’t wait to return to (Paris, Greece, Greece, Athens, Santorini, Greece, Greek Isles, and Greece 😉 ) Can you see what our favorite was?

17 days

7 cities (London, Paris, Athens, Santorini, Rome, Naples/Pompeii, Barcelona)

7 flights (5 within Europe)

5 countries (England, France, Greece, Italy, Spain)

2 trains (3 if you count the return back to Rome)

In the next post, I’ll share more about booking flights, hotels, and finding places to eat, while being mindful of money! If you have any questions, feel free to let me know in the comments here or on the Facebook group!