On large, complicated trips like our upcoming mother/daughter tour of Europe, most of the planning has to be done well in advance. That said, there are plenty of last minute items that we’ve been taking care of this week, and I imagine the one week left until we leave will go by in a blur!
Several months in advance:
9 months: Concoct a Crazy Idea
The process began back in September, when I first concocted the crazy idea to take a mother/daughter trip to Europe, like my mom had done with her mother 40 years ago. When I got the go-ahead from her, I began planning the details, like how I could use my stash of miles and points from credit card sign-up bonuses to finance our trip.
Related: Motivation for Europe 2013, An Engineer and An Artist Walked Into A Bar
6 months: Book Flights
After doing some research on flights, the best days to travel for our work schedules, and other big picture items, I booked our flights. This was a critical first step, as our flights could now serve as constraints on our planning. We knew when we were arriving and when we were leaving, and everything else had to fit in that time period.
Related: Saving $1746 on Flights to Europe, Credit Card Points and (Mostly) Free Flights to Europe
3-5 months: Book Lodgings and Intermediate Travel
Once I determined the best route to see all of the cities and countries on our wish list, I started researching hotels, apartments, hostels, etc. I knew some of the top tourist destinations (Paris, in particular) were going to be very limited in availability, so I started with those and saved the less busy cities for last. Around this time, I also looked into the short, cheap flights that would take us long distances (e.g. Paris to Venice, and Venice to Warsaw). While I booked the last two lodgings in Germany only a couple weeks ago, most of the lodgings and flights were booked at least 3 months in advance.
Related: Booking with Airbnb in Paris, Saving $405 on Two Nights in Amsterdam, Booking with Airbnb in Venice, Booking with Airbnb in Krakow
– Review airline requirements to make sure your luggage meets the more restrictive carry-on limits for dimensions and weight limits in Europe.
– Review a preliminary packing list to make sure over-packers don’t plan to take their entire closet along on the trip. Reiterate the fact that she’ll have to carry her bag around narrow alleyways and through train stations.
– Review potential tours and day trips that you might want to do while in certain cities, research things like free museum days (first Sunday of the month in Paris) and hours of operation.
Tomorrow I’ll be back with the travel planning steps for the weeks leading up to our trip.
How far in advance do your book your flights and your hotels? A year? A few weeks?