Now that we know where and when Tomas is going on his mission, we can actually begin planning our life some again. First up? One last trip to Europe. Yes, Tomas will be living there for 2 years, but he won’t be with us, and we didn’t get to go last year, so . . . why not bring him along for a preview? Of course, to do that, I need to get a handle on the many different aspects of another trip to Europe, and I’m discovering I’m woefully out of practice.
With that in mind, I thought I’d take a bit to go over what needs to happen when I start a planning process like this. That will help me remember, and it might come in handy for one of you.
First up is always the parameters. I need to know when we can leave and when we can come back. That involves looking at schedules with Denisa and talking things over with the kids. When our kids were younger, their schedules were much easier (since they were essentially set by us). Now that they’re older, the each have conflicts at different points over the summer. Looking at it all, it appears we’ve got from mid-June to mid-July. That’s a big enough window to work with.
Second, we always try to go someplace other than Slovakia on each trip. Might as well multi-task as long as we’re over in Europe, right? This time, the plan is to go see a bunch of Italy. But “a bunch of Italy” is pretty broad, so I took some time to look over the different cities of the country and decide how long to stay in each, and what route would work best. I knew we wanted to go to Rome and Venice, so that pretty much cut out southern Italy due to time constraints. Looking at northern Italy, it seems like checking out Milan and Florence and some of the western coast (Cinque Terre and Pisa) could make for a nice loop by car. We don’t want to run ourselves ragged, so I try to limit the number of hotel/house changes. Maybe 4 different places, over around 10 days? It’s a starting point, at least.
Then comes the tricky part, which has proven especially tricky this time around: Figuring out how to get between Slovakia and Italy most economically. Right now, it appears we have two viable options. The first is to take a plane, but the only carriers that have seats right now are Wizz, Ryanair, and Austria Airlines. Wizz and Ryanair generally treat you like packages, and their reliability often leaves much to be desired. Austrian Airlines doesn’t exactly have uniformly glowing reviews either, and they’re more expensive. But on the other hand, the other choice is to travel by train, which will take something like 14 hours. There’s a sleeper car option, and that’s fairly intriguing, but it’s even more expensive. Not sure yet what I’m going to do about it. Currently the thought is to fly into Vienna on a one way ticket, then to Rome on another one way, and finally back to Boston on a one-way. But price is definitely going to matter, because money.
We debated traveling around the countries by car or train this time, as well. Trains can be pretty slick, and you get to avoid having to navigate strange cities and figuring out where in the world to put your car when you get where you’re going. But if you don’t have a car, your options to see the countryside are very limited, and you’re generally stuck staying in the city. We’d love to get a villa outside Milan or Florence for at least some of the time. Again, in the end it will depend on how much the car will cost, to see how much that compares with the train. My gut says we’ll get a car, but I’ll compare before I commit.
We’ll need places to stay, so I look into all of those in each city. I usually avoid hotels, but I’ll price those out just in case. (Traveling with 5 puts us out of the range of almost all European hotels, which generally only sleep 4. Paying for two rooms makes them anything but economical.) I check Booking, AirBNB, and VRBO, though if anyone knows any Italian-specific sites to look at, I’m all eyes. (The Slovakia side of things we have much more experience with.)
I really won’t worry about things to do and places to eat until all the rest of the pieces are in place, though I can’t wait that long, because if we want to do anything special that needs tickets, those can sell out if we’re too slow. But I do poke around online a little just to see what those things cost. (Again, I need to know a ballpark range to make sure I can afford everything.)
These days, we also need to look into extended dog sitting. Know anyone local who’d love to have a golden retriever with them for a few weeks this summer? As lovable as he is energetic . . .
I think the biggest problem I have with all of this is how much each piece ends up depending on every other piece. Instead of just being able to go through and buy one thing at a time, I need to get the big picture down so that I can know what options to make on each smaller choice. If I’d had more time to prepare for this, it would have been easier, but there’s the added “fun” of a time constraint now. Mid-June is less than two months away. Plane tickets will get more expensive, event tickets will get more scarce, and VRBOs will get snatched up the longer I wait. I’ve already put in many hours of research, and I have many to go.
Wish me luck.
(And as always, if you have any pointers for things I’m forgetting or ignoring, please speak up!)
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