Thursday, December 20, 2012

European Planning Post no. 1

We're planning our Winter Getaway 2013 and I'm loving every second of it.  Literally, dreaming of French Macaroons and Swiss Fondue {but we can blame that on the pregnancy}.  It's going to be amazing.  and cold.  probably very cold.  But I'll be in Europe, so, there will be no complaining.

I decided to document this trip as best I can, here, for all my readers to know the planning process for such a big trip.  Not only is my little family going, but some extended family and friends too.  A serious planning task, one I would not be comfortable with if I hadn't done similar trips in the past.  This will be my 4th trip to Europe, my 2 {and a half} trip planned by myself.  The other two were with EF tours.  Once when I was in high school to Spain, 17 days, and again with EF tours as a chaperon with the teacher I student taught with.  That trip was 4 counties in 15 days, and Husband, my sister and I stuck around for an extra 2 weeks in a few other countries {planned by yours truly}.

This trip is going to be a two new countries and about 20 days {four countries total}.  I'm not sharing the exact dates or hotels BEFORE we travel for obvious safety reasons {sorry, creeps} but I'll be posting ALL the details once we're back safe in the states.

Step one of any trip is setting a budget {and sticking to it}...

Because of the amount of time, number of people and quality expectations I have, my family is budgeting around $10,000 to include airfare, hotel, food, spending and Eurail passes.

The breakdown for my budget is this:
Airfare: expected to be about $1,800 per person x 3 people {baby will be on my lap},
              but could be as low as $1090 a person according to recent searches.
Eurail: Select Pass 4 countries 6 days $474 per person x 2 {my kiddos are free}
Hotel: $50 per adult x 2 {making our nightly average around $100 USD} a night x 20 nights
Food and spending: $100 a day for our family {about $30 a meal with little spending money} x 20 days

Total: $10,348
Hopefully the airfare can really be as low as I've found, that would be super helpful, but I'm guessing high so if we have money left over we can splurge on more museums and souvenirs.

Step two is picking out where you can afford to go and in what order...
We knew we wanted Europe, and once we set a monthly savings goal we picked our favorite cites, based on proximity.
After looking at a map, getting input from the various members of the group and based on where we wanted to be for what holidays, we decided on Option 1.  Option 3 would have put us in Barcelona for New Year's Eve, which I really, really wanted.  Option 2 would have allowed us to spend a week in Calabria with Husband extended family on their farm.  But, Option 1 allowed for the most new cities and got the winning vote.

Step three is booking the trip...
This is a little more complicated than just "booking it."  I decided to start booking from the middle out.  Since we knew Paris was going to be our second city, I started there.  We are going to be there for a few nights and by having everyone book their room, now, a year out; we were able to confirm who was serious about actually going on this trip.  I DID NOT start with the first city on our trip, because we don't have tickets yet. Tickets will be available on Expedia soon.  But until then, I want to make sure we have some flexibility on the arrival and departure dates {in case, ticket prices fluctuate on a given day or other travel reason}.  Also, Hotels fill up quicker than plane tickets, and it's a good idea to get them a year out, when you still have choices.

Another thing to consider when booking a hotel is their cancellation policy.  It's up to you, if you want to book a refundable room.  I'd rather save money than consider cancelling or rescheduling, even though it's riskier that way.  What if we miss our flight, what if we get sick, what if, what if, what if.  I've had good experiences with hotels in the past and if you give them enough notice they're usually reasonable about refunding the money, or allowing you to reschedule.  And if not, they usually just charge a $35 {or more} fee for cancelling, which is about the cost of getting a refundable room anyway.  So, I prefer to pay it if necessary, instead of as a precaution.  Either way, you'll want to consider what is best for you, and how it will affect your budget for your hotels.

And that's part one of our planning so far.

Hotel in Paris Booked!

Next will be Geneva and Lucerne, Switzerland...
I want to get tattooed while in Geneva by Kim Anh-Nguyen {but her schedule might not allow it}, and a high school friend is now living in Lucerne so I'm very, very excited for Switzerland!

Safe Travels,

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  1. Berlin is 20x cooler than Frankfurt.

    1. It's also 20x north of where we want to be so it's out :(

      next time?