European Planning

This summer will have been three years since our last trip to Europe, which means it’s high time we get over there again. If you’re new to the blog, Denisa and I try to get to Slovakia once every three years, so she can see her family and friends, and so the kids can be immersed in that side of their heritage. It’s not as often as we’d like, but it’s about as often as we can afford, realistically.

I love the initial planning stages of a trip to Europe. There are just so many possibilities. What if we fly through Madrid and do a stopover there? Or we could see Iceland, or Denmark, or Sweden. What if we do another big road trip, hitting some Eastern European countries this time? It can all get rather overwhelming, of course, as there are so many decisions to make, and so many unknowns to wade through. Will we be taking a car or the train? If we’re staying in new cities, where should we stay? How long? Who do we want to see when we’re over there?

Decisions, decisions.

So what I try to do is start nailing down a few specifics first. Exact travel dates for flying to Europe and coming home. Last time when we had my brother in law fly out to us, his airline (Air Berlin) went insolvent for the return trip, forcing us to buy a new ticket. Having been burned like that once, I’m now becoming more cautious with my flights. This time, I’m going to put them on my Chase Ink Preferred Card, which comes with $5,000 of free travel insurance. If something crazy happens, we can get that money back, so that’s a perk. We’re also looking at Denisa going with the kids earlier, and me following a week or two later. That gives them more time to just enjoy Slovakia without me having to take extra vacation days, which come at a premium.

Getting the specifics in place make other things easier to plan. For example, it’s looking (at the moment) like we’ll fly in and out of Budapest this time. If that’s the case, then I think we might do a road trip of Eastern Europe. We could show the kids Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava, Prague, Krakow, and Kosice, with maybe a quick jaunt up to Dresden, because it’s really hard to convince myself it isn’t worth going back to Germany, even for a day.

Of course, that leads to other questions. Hotels. Rental cars. How many days to give to each city. You’d figure with all those different variables, I’d get overwhelmed. But this is where the advice I give my freshman classes each year comes in handy: when you’re doing research, give yourself plenty of time. If you’re trying to wait until the last minute, it all gets to be too much. I have eight months to plan this thing now. Plane tickets first, since it pays to be on the lookout for them early on. Hotels and rental cars can come later. They aren’t as hard to get. Places to see can be filled in as we go. Passports, cannot. Denisa and I both need new ones, and I’ll be putting in those applications soon. (Really want to avoid the mess that happened three years ago.)

With enough time, any research project can be fun. But then again, I’m a librarian. It’s kind of my thing.

Anyway . . . anyone want to get a tour of Slovakia? August is looking lovely.


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