After spending a couple of days online with a window open at Hostels Worldwide and another open to Hosteling International, I have found (and booked) all of the lodgings for what ended up becoming a 120-Day European Holiday! Yep, you heard me right – 4 months! Since I am planning the basics with so much advance time, I was able to pick and choose the cream of the crop from each of the locations I want to visit and spend time exploring.
On the google travel map I created, I chose a possible driving route. Following that route, I began searching for hostels, B & B’s, and hotels along the way. The first place I like to check is Hosteling International. I’ve stayed in their hostels before and highly recommend them. If I couldn’t find anything there, or I just wanted to see what else might be available, then I go to Hostel World. The advantage to their website is that they not only list hostels, but also B&B’s and hotels.
The blue line on the map below is the travel route. Scattered along the route are little mustard-colored icons in the shape of a person lying in a bed, which tells the name and location of the lodging I’ve booked a room with.
Before making an actual booking at each place, I went through making notes on what was available for which dates and put a placemark on the map with the name of the hostel and the date. I tried to spend at least 2-3 days at places of particular interest and a week in a bigger city.
When I found myself having to drive a relatively long distance from one point to the next, I also looked for something in between and found additional, delightful little side notes to stop at. This process took a while to accomplish, but the results were fantastic!
When I got back to the point where I would need to get on a plane and fly home, I counted up the total days and realized I had added 20 extra. I could have shortened my trip, perhaps not go to Scotland and Ireland this time.
“I wonder if I could afford to actually stay that long?” I asked myself. I decided to tally up the total cost for each night’s stay and then divided it by the number of days. When I saw the results, I couldn’t believe my eyes! The average cost of a night’s lodging was only $34.59! That’s totally terrific!
Based on that figure and what I know I would spend on average per day for food, fun, a car (and some gas to put it in), I could definitely afford to do to the whole 4 months’ worth! This is getting better and better by the minute.
Knowing where I wanted to go and for how long, it was time to look at available flights that hopefully will jive! Saving Airmiles on a particular credit card, in my case – United Mileage Plus – is a massive piece of my traveling puzzle. I buy everything on my rewards credit card each and every day and only pay one bill per month; the visa card. Doing so allows me to earn, and more importantly – save – miles for traveling to distant places. I have gone to a lot of places over the years, doing just that. More than likely, I would not have gone because I wouldn’t have been able to afford the expensive airline tickets.
Saving miles is definitely the way to go….it takes a while to earn enough to go somewhere big like Europe, but when I use my credit card daily to buy anything I would typically use a debit card or check for, it adds up faster than you might imagine. I’m not a big spender or spend a lot of money shopping either.
Knowing I had close to 100,000 miles saved to use, I began an online search for “Award” travel. It didn’t take long to find not only one but several possibilities this far out in the future, but also one that allowed me to make a multi-city trip! Wow, that’s a first! West coast to Paris, Paris to Aberdeen; Aberdeen to West Coast! This is working out so, so fantastically great. See how fun it is to dream and what it becomes a reality if ya just put in some effort to see what the possibilities are?
Before I booked my airline ticket, however, I went right back to the beginning of the route and started booking a room for the nights that I wanted at each location. It’s really quite easy. I put down a minimal deposit for each of my stays, a small percentage of the total bill. If I want to change something about my booking, that’s totally doable as well or even downright cancel up to 24 hours before arrival.
When I finished each and every booking, I went back to my reward airline membership and booked myself the ticket I found to fit my desired route! Yeah! It’s becoming a reality right before my very eyes. I have actual airline tickets now and a host of places to visit and explore!
My wonderful friend, Maria, and I have been daydreaming about going to Paris ‘someday’ together for several years. We’ve been diligently saving our money and our air miles to do so. She let me know in the recent past that she had enough saved to go to Paris and that we could start planning it. I’ve been planning alright, as you can see, so as soon as I booked my flight, we got the same flight for her, allowing us to travel together to Paris. Yippee! It’s a dream come true for both of us!
Want a glimpse of where this itinerary is going to take me and the places I’ll be staying at? Keep reading…..
March 24 – April 7: Two glorious weeks in Paris! Lodging – Le Village Hostel, Montmartre
Apr 8: Lyon, SLO Living Hostel
Apr 9 – 15: southern coast of France Villeneuve-Loubet, Residence Syracruse Timeshare (near Nice)
Apr 16 – 22: Canet-en-Roussillon
(on the other end of the southern coast of France near the border of Spain).
Lodging is another timeshare week at a place called Malibu Village.
Apr 23: Carcassone Hostel, Carcassone, France.
Will spend the night in the middle of a World UNESCO sight! How cool will that be?
Apr 24: Toulouse; El Gran Camino Hostel
This spot marks the end of the first month. We’ve still had 3 more to go!
Apr 25-26: Bordeaux, Residhotel Tatry
I’ll give you a taste of the next 30 days, starting with the Bordeaux region.
I’ve listed the rest of the stops below with the corresponding date. If you want to see more, look for my next posting. I’ll be adding pictures to each place. This is going to take a little while. I thought you’d enjoy seeing what I’ve compiled so far.
When I get done adding pictures to each date and location, throughout the coming winter, I will work on the next phase; planning the individual weeks, I will be in a major city, like Paris, for instance. I will build a separate travel map just for that location, with placemarks denoting the various sights and attractions I hope to visit.
I have one built for Amsterdam already. (Started planning that portion of the trip last winter – tt’s going to come in really handy.) I will also refer to my favorite guidebooks from Rick Steve’s. (www.RickSteves.com) to plan my visits to particular places. Rick provides a wonderful narrative, helpful suggestions, and is a wealth of information regarding the details of buying tickets, public transportation, and basics like that as well as a thorough rundown on various attractions and their history.
I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about the process of planning, seeing for yourself how easy it can be, and seeing photos of some of the results. I would love to listen to any of your comments. If you’ve ever visited any of these locations and would like to offer recommendations of must-see/must do’s while in the area, I’d love to hear them.