Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Lee & Sara's European Adventure: The Planning Process

It has been a little over a year since Lee and I adventured to Europe, but I figured it would be fun to reminisce and write a few blog posts about our trip. Lee and I really love to look back at pictures and remember this vacation. It is by far the most fun we've had together on a trip. We planned to be gone for about two weeks, over Christmas and New Years. We picked this time of year, because my office closes between the holidays, and Lee's is pretty slow around that time, so we knew neither of us would have a problem taking that much time off work.

To plan the trip, we really weren't sure where to start. We first called a travel agent since that's the route we had gone with booking our honeymoon to Punta Cana. We found quickly that a personalized trip to Europe through the travel agent was extremely expensive. A couple thousand more than what we had budgeted to spend. So instead of working through the travel agent, we decided to plan ourselves. I would definitely recommend this method, because although it was time consuming, it was really fun, and we learned a lot and saved money doing it.

We started by planning which cities we wanted to go to. Lee had never been to Europe, and I had only been to Spain so far, so we wanted to hit several of the main touristy places to start. We knew for sure we wanted to see Rome, and decided that while we were in Italy that Venice would be fun, too. Both sides of Lee's family are German (with a name like Fehrenbacher, could you ever guess?), so we both were really interested in visiting Germany as well. We chose Berlin because that was the city we had heard a lot about, and we chose Munich because we knew the Bavarian area was known for great food, and Munich was not too far from a few castles we wanted to see. Lastly, we chose Paris because we knew it was reasonably close to the other cities we were visiting, and we knew we would love to see the Eiffel Tower and a few other things the city has to offer.

As far as the order of our cities go, we tried to time that based on the holidays. We thought it would be really awesome to be in Rome and visit the Vatican on Christmas, and since we were already in Italy we chose Venice next, then we moved on to Germany and decided Munich would be third, and that would allow us to spend New Year's in Berlin. Last but not least, we snuck Paris in, and waa-la, we had an itinerary!

After we had an itinerary, we bought the Rick Steves books. These are awesome, and I definitely recommend if you are traveling to Europe to use them. They are like a traveling bible, and tell you pretty much everything you need to know. We used these books to determine which hotels to stay at, and how to travel from city to city, where to eat at, etc.  Rick also give suggestions on what to wear, and how to pack, and that was really helpful. As much as I love to look cute, this is one of the FEW times in life that I would say forego fashion for comfort, and pack lightly. Dragging luggage on and off of planes, trains, around cities, and up stairs is never any fun, and you will do plenty of that if you plan a trip like ours.

We tried to plan a few activities for each city, but didn't book more than one thing each day since we weren't sure how long it would take us to figure out how to navigate each city. For most of our tours, we booked using Viator. I really liked this site because it allowed us to pay in US Dollars, and we didn't have to worry about exchanging currency. Several of the tours we booked allowed a "Skip the Line Pass". This was AMAZING and definitely worth the extra money! We saved so much time not waiting in lines at the Vatican, Colosseum, Eiffel Tower, etc.

This was a trip of a lifetime, and I'm so thankful I got to experience this one with my partner in crime. Check out my other posts to see how much fun we had in each country.