In order for my European exploration to go off without a hitch, there had to be a fair amount of planning beforehand. This planning was mostly focused on travel between countries rather than within. Within countries, Andrea (my travel partner) and I stuck to what I call no-plan planning. We were essentially flying by the seat of our pants, and that worked for us. Read below to find out about large scale planning and no-plan planning that made this trip one of a kind.
My natural first step when beginning the planning of my trip was to pick which countries I wanted to visit. I already had a select few places that I knew I wanted to see, which made things easier. I also had to be strategic concerning my budget. With this in mind, I chose my top 5 countries I wanted to visit; France, Spain, Italy, Greece, and the UK. Some of these countries were a short train ride to others (like France and Monaco). That meant I was spending about a week, give or take, in each country.
After selecting the countries I wanted to visit, I made sure that the order of my visits was both logical and economical. To ensure this, I went old school and pulled up a map of Europe to see the proximity of countries. While looking at the map, I decided to begin in France, followed by Spain, another stop in France, Italy, then Greece and then our last stop in the UK.
After deciding what order to travel we made sure to select what cities we wanted to visit in each country. First up was France where I’d already decided Paris was a non-negotiable visit. After some Pinterest research and reference to prior knowledge, we also decided on visiting both Marseille and Nice. Considering the coastal locations of these cities and their proximity to the Spaniard border we decided that it made sense for us to visit those cities after our tour in Spain. Since our last stop in Spain was Barcelona (close to the border and the coast) it made sense. So after our visits to Madrid, Valencia, and Barcelona, we made our way to Marseille followed by Nice. Please reference the map below so you can see I’m not crazy and this is actually logical.
After leaving Nice we touched down in Italy beginning in Venice followed by Rome and concluding our Italian visit in Positano on the Amalfi coast. If you reference the map you will see this order meant we were navigating ‘down’ Italy; north to south. This was on purpose, of course, considering our next stop was Greece, the southernmost part of Europe. We started in the Greek Cyclades with Santorini and Naxos then finished our Greek tour on the mainland in Athens. From Athens, we flew to London (then a short stop in Dublin) to finish our journey.
Flights and Train Rides
After making location decisions, it was time to buy tickets for transportation between and within these places. Early on we decided it would best to fly between countries and train within. With this theory in mind, I bought flights into each country from whatever city visited last. That means we flew from Paris into Madrid, Barcelona into Marseille, Nice into Venice, and Positano (Naples airport) into Santorini and Athens to London. After London, we took a short flight back to Dublin (where we flew in and out of from the U.S.) to go back home.
See below for a list of flights and prices. I found these deals through using the flight search option on google and using budget airlines such as Ryanair. Google flights do all the searching for you, you just have to find the times and dates that work best. My main goal in my search was typically price so I compromised on flight times for better prices. Note that all these prices included 2 suitcases and 2 carry-ons so if you are taking a shorter trip with less luggage you could get them for even less!
- 2 tickets purchased from Ryanair — Dublin – Paris (Beauvais): $149.70
- 2 tickets from Ryanair– Paris (Beauvais) – Madrid: $174.15
- 2 tickets from Veuling– Barcelona – Marseille: $113.01
- 2 tickets from EasyJet– Nice – Venice: $171.39
- 2 tickets from Volotea– Naples – Santorini: $211.05
Keep in mind that we did not fly straight into Paris but found the cheapest flight we could into Europe then navigated to Paris from there. We purchased round trip flights in and out of Dublin to the U.S. for about $850 and then flew to Paris (Paris- Beauvais) for around $75 each. An awesome deal if you compare flights from the U.S. straight to Paris.
The flights listed above are the only means of transportation that we purchased ahead of time. Meaning in order to navigate between cities within countries we bought train tickets along the way, which I believe saved us money. We often bought train tickets to the next city the night or two before we would need to leave.
Airbnb, Hostels, and Hotels
After purchasing flights we made sure to book our stays in advance as well. This was the hardest part because I believed I could always find a cheaper stay somewhere with all the amenities I wanted, too. There was no specific organization to my search other than wanting to find places where saving money did not mean I would be somewhere uncomfortable or less than my standard. I accomplished this by using multiple means of search including Airbnb, Google, and booking.com. I will go more in-depth in what stays worked better where in upcoming posts.
As I hope you have picked up on, I’m not an intricate planner but I attempt to be prepared. As mentioned earlier we got into the habit of purchasing transportation between cities last minute. That is also how we planned our daily itineraries in the cities we visited. At most, we would look up ‘things to do’ or ‘2-day itineraries’ for the next city we were visiting the day before going. This was a great idea for us; it allowed us to be more adventurous and less worried about a ‘plan’. We typically figured out a rough list of what we wanted to do and mapped it out all in the night before visiting the city, and sometimes the day we arrived.
I can imagine that reading the idea of not planning is a little hard but it worked well for us. We sometimes missed sights we wanted to see but that’s the nature of a trip like this one. There was never enough time spent in one city to fully experience all of it.
Ultimately, this style of planning up to the last second made for a fun trip and planning process, but I will say it wasn’t the absolute best. To say that this type of planning is a privilege would be an understatement. I am aware that when operating on a strict