I love Europe! After my first couple trips to Europe, I decided I’d to take a trip with each of my daughters individually. This summer, I’ll be going to France with my oldest daughter and her husband. The trip with my youngest daughter was in 2012 and the trip with my second daughter was in 2014. After this summer, I will have one daughter-trip left, with my third daughter.
In 2012, when I traveled with my youngest daughter, I kept a journal of my trip planning. I decided to share it, so you could get an idea of the planning timeline. There are a few things that I do differently now from what I did then, but the timeline is about the same.
Six Months Before the Trip
We started planning about a year ago – just talking about where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do. My daughter wanted to go back to Paris, Dachau, and Cologne. We also decided to go to the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Salzburg. We decided three weeks would be ideal and thought about how to arrange the itinerary.
124 Days To Go
In January, I started looking for plane tickets for a trip in May. The prices are more expensive this year than I expected – by well over $200. Flying to Amsterdam was cheaper than Paris or Frankfurt, but still more than I wanted to pay. My husband suggested Brussels. I had already looked at this option, but looked again. Tickets to Brussels were $150 cheaper than any I had seen. If we didn’t buy tickets soon, we might have trouble getting them.
101 Days – Plane Tickets
I bought two plane tickets early in the morning on February 9. We will be flying out of O’Hare to Montreal, Canada, and then on to Brussels. Since we will be in Belgium, we added Bruges to our itinerary.
On February 10, I bought trip insurance. If we have to cancel, we should be able to get back most of what we have had to pre-pay.
99 Days – Paris B & B
I had started sending some inquiries about rooms in a couple of places, but I didn’t book anything until the plane tickets were secured. The first, and what I thought would be the hardest, was Paris. I had done a lot of looking, trying to find something remotely close to our budget and in, or near, the seventh arrondissement. On the home page of a recommended B & B website was an ad for a room in the nearby sixteenth arrondissement. The place was advertising a half off sale (not sure why) and the owner was only asking €69 per night. It seemed too good to be true, but I decided to take a chance. We booked five nights.
88–89 Days – Lodging
We continued to tweak our itinerary and decided to add Venice, this could work if we shortened Germany by a day and took a night train to Venice. We took part of a day off Cologne so we could spend time in the Bavarian area in Southern Germany. I started booking other places – Haarlem (4 nights), Bruges (2 nights), Venice (1 night) and Bacharach, Germany (2 nights). We adjusted our stay in Salzburg to work with our changes and booked two nights there, too.
Haarlem is just outside of Amsterdam. We will be staying with the Post family; at a B & B they call WhereEls. I found their place on the internet and it was highly rated by was Tripadvisor. Mrs. Post is giving us a bit of a break on the price.
Bruges will be our last stop before we come home. We are staying at a B & B there also; owned by the Dieltiens. Venice is terribly expensive. We were lucky to find a room at Pensione Guerrato for a reasonable price and we are staying only one night. The Kranenturm in Bacharach, where we had stayed before, did not have an opening for both nights we needed, so we are trying the Zur Loreley in St. Goar. We are staying with Brigitte(no website) in Salzburg, a small place with a good recommendation.
86 – 87 Days – More Lodging
I booked one night each in Cologne (Brandenburger Hof), and Rothenburg (Pension Elke) and two nights at a hostel in Interlaken (Villa Sonnenhof). I nervously booked an overnight train from Salzburg to Venice for less than the cost of another night in the Venice hotel. We will leave Salzburg at 1:30 in the morning and arrive in Venice seven hours later.
We had one night left to book. I emailed a couple of places in Munich and looked at several on Tripadvisor and other sites. Places were too cheap, too expensive, or were already full. We really wanted to stay near the city center. Finally, I found a room in Motel One (part of a chain). It is quite new and highly rated on Tripadvisor. Overall, the lodging averaged less than €75 per night.
80 Days – Visit with Friends, Train Tickets
After some correspondence with our friends in the Netherlands, we figured out our schedule for the day we are visiting them. We will leave Haarlem in the morning for Enschede, Netherlands. After we have lunch, we will see the town center and spend time visiting in the afternoon. We needed a train sometime in the evening for Cologne so I checked the schedules. I bought tickets on the Deutsche Bahn website from Gronau, Germany (across the border from Enschede) to Cologne
The next tickets that I needed to book were from Venice to Interlaken and Lucerne to Paris. I had not bought an Italian ticket before, so I did an internet search. I found the website of Mark Smith – seat61.com. He has instructions for how to buy tickets from nearly all European countries to other ones. His site was a great help.
75 Days – Train Tickets
Tonight, I ordered the tickets from Venice to Milan to Spiez, Switzerland following Mark Smith’s instructions. We will buy a ticket from Spiez to Interlaken when we get to the station.
Next, I looked for tickets from Lucerne to Paris. We wanted to leave Lucerne around 3 pm to go to Paris. There wasn’t as much choice as I had hoped, so I ended up with tickets for a train that leaves Lucerne at 27:05 (5:05) and arrives in Paris at 21:37 (9:37). Next, I need to buy the ticket from Paris to Bruges and then see if we need to buy more for Germany.
59 Days – Questions and Confirmations
Wow, I can’t believe it’s getting that close!
I looked at the Keukenhof website again because I am a little concerned that the flowers will be done flowering by the time we get there. I asked Mrs. Post (Haarlem) if there was a “flower report” of any kind. We will have to ask around when we get there. At home, we’ve had record high temps all spring.
A couple of weeks ago, I emailed the woman in France who we are staying with to let her know what time we would be arriving. My email may have been a little unclear, but she had no idea who I was or if I had paid or not. I hope we didn’t make a mistake by booking with her.
32-33 Days – Organization
I finally got a chance to work on updating the Excel spreadsheet that I am using to keep everything organized. The addresses of all our hotels and B & Bs have been entered. I have to do more research on the sites we plan to visit and restaurants where we might want to eat. There is a lot to do before we go.
21 Days – Airplane Seats
I called AirCanada and booked our seats. On our flight over we don’t have great seats. I am hoping we can still change them. I’d also like to change our flight back to the US to the one that is earlier in the afternoon. I probably won’t be able to do it until the last minute, though.
7 Days – We leave a week from today!
How did that happen? I’ve been busy with work and haven’t had much time to work on planning. I’ve updated the spreadsheet with all the info we have. I still have to work on restaurants and shopping, but I’m getting there. I looked at a few restaurants in Amsterdam. We want to eat at an Indonesian restaurant again, but we want to try something different.
1 Day to Go!
I did not have time to do much more planning -we will have to plan as we go. I ended up in the hospital for a few days and got home just in time to pack. Oops…well here goes.
Note: The trip was fantastic! My hospital stay just before we left was a minor inconvenience with no lasting consequences.
Our final lodging itinerary was Brussels, Belgium (no lodging here, just the flight) – Haarlem, Netherlands – Cologne, Germany – Bacharach, Germany – Munich, Germany -Salzburg, Austria – Venice, Italy – Interlaken, Switzerland – Paris France – Bruges, Belgium – and then flying out of Brussels, Belgium.