“Let’s go to Europe”, I told everyone… “it will be fun!” This was December 2018…
I hope that this makes you giggle and you enjoy the light heartedness of this story. I am excited to share this journey with you, however, the back story on how we got to where we are in the planning process is truly a gem and has to be told!
Ok flash forward a year later and we are 12 months thick in the planning process. Well let me tell you, this is no trip to Disneyland! Not even a trip to Mexico compares to overseas travel.
A little background before we get started, for those of you that don’t know, I am a Director of Travel for a cheerleading gym in Colorado. I book travel for over 600 athletes and their families to almost a dozen locations through-out the season. I am pretty well versed with domestic travel to say the least.
Back to the BIG EUROPEAN VACATION. First off, we have over 30 people going!! That is right, we don’t do ANYTHING small. Well, I guess I should say that 30 people going on vacation is small for us. We totally could have at least a dozen more!! When Justin and I got married in Mexico, our small destination wedding was made up of over 150 people!! (We had 500 at our Colorado reception- don’t worry, everyone came back home).
One of my best friends Wendy and I have always wanted to go to Italy/Greece and kept saying “Next year we will go!”. Well we finally pulled the trigger and decided 2020 would be the year (sounded far enough away back in 2018, hilarious how we blinked and we are now only 6 months away!!). We booked a Mediterranean Cruise through Royal Caribbean and started planning.
Quickly the guest list increased rapidly. Obviously my parents would go, they go everywhere with us. My mom hears Italy and thinks Under the Tuscan Sun! I don’t blame her, I do too! My dad has been to Italy before and has been dying to go back. So naturally Josh, Jake (my brothers) and my sis in law Lyndsey would also book. Josh and I are high end fashion lovers and Jake and Lyndsey are making a pit stop at the Grand Prix. Next round of guest– my sis Nicole and her family. Nicole is a big time hairstylist and goes to Paris at least once a month to do hair for celebrities and big events like fashion week. Of course she had to jump on the big fam vacay! Next up the Caruso side!! I was very happy to add my father in law Jack, he has been to Italy before a couple years back. Then we added my sister in laws Jessica and Jaclyn and cousin Courtney to the trip with their families. More cousins to have a blast with. It would not be the same without our full Sunday Dinner Crew.
Alright. Now back to how this gets interesting. The cruise would have been super easy, find a flight to Italy… stay a couple nights, get on the ship, sail, come back to Italy, fly home. Wouldn’t that be so simple… but that’s not my style 🙂 If I am flying ALL THE WAY OVER to Europe, I gotta do all the things!! I know I am not the only one.
Well the comment “lets go a little early and see Italy” turned into “lets go a week early and see Italy”. Once Justin came around to the idea, we decided to find airline tickets. First off, I couldn’t pronounce half of the airlines I was seeing online. Ain’t no Southwest flying us to Italy!! Haha, then flights from Denver to Italy are not only expensive they don’t fly direct (at least they didn’t when we booked… you will hear about this later). So it was our brilliant idea to fly to New York city (hey, we have never been to NY, lets see NY too!!) and then connect there. Well, that turned into fly to NY (spend the night LOL, got to get that extra sleep) fly to Paris (the cheapest flight at the time) and then stay there for two nights. THEN get to Italy. Have I lost you yet? Don’t worry, I have lost myself at least a dozen times!! Here is a diagram for you:
DENVER–> NEW YORK (spend the night) –> PARIS (spend two nights, gotta see Paris since we are there!) –>PISA (easy jet didn’t fly direct to Florence) take a train–> FLORENCE (YAY we are finally here!! 4/5 days later!!)
Ok, I clearly was sleep deprived to have agreed to this one!! And by agree… I mean come up with the idea and book it!! But it’s ok, we are making memories as we go! Isn’t that the reason we are doing this?
Now here is the hilarious part (for you all!). A couple weeks after we bought these tickets to get all the way over to Paris… Norwegian released direct flights again from Denver to Paris (they were not released when we did this). Oh and they are priced really well at $400/one way! It’s ok, staying positive over here. Yes it would have been nice to fly direct, but we are making that 9+ hour flight two flights made up of 1- 4 hour flight and 1- 5 hour flight by stopping.
Don’t worry, it keeps going. A couple weeks after this, Norwegian announced a brand new destination from Denver. Non-Stop flights Denver to Rome!!! ROME?? This is where we were trying to go from the beginning. Before New York, before Paris, before Pisa, before Florence…. Rome. We just wanted to get to Rome. Now if you don’t start cracking up at this, you will cry. We added about 5 travel days prior to the cruise and 1 additional travel day going home through New York city before we saw this announcement.
Honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing. This entire trip is such an adventure. We are going to be exhausted, I am sure! But we get to see some incredible place and experience some amazing things along this journey. I can’t wait to tell you more about what we are doing, where we are staying and how 5 flights and 4 train rides are with a small party of 30 turns out 🙂 I tell you this story to have a little chuckle and know that even when you think you know all there is to know about something (for me it is travel), God has an incredible sense of humor. There is always something to learn and boy am I learning! It’s ok to book the 3 leg flight to Rome verses the non-stop, just be lighthearted and enjoy! Isn’t it such a blessing that we get to experience this? That’s what I remind myself of.
Here is the first of many lists I will share with you about this trip.
WHAT I HAVE LEARNED SO FAR:
- Don’t book your flights early to Europe. Unlike domestic travel, booking the moment it releases is NOT always the best deal. Oh and they will just keep announcing new destinations, who knows you may luck out and get a direct from your home town like we did!
- Remember that the 7 night Mediterranean Cruise is still an AMAZING vacation on its own. You don’t need to add a week before… BUT it is still going to be a killer week of experiences. I am not saying don’t do it, I am just saying remember this is a 2-in-1 vacay!
- AMEX Platinum Cards will be your lifesaver. We got some amazing hotel deals through amextravel.com and I will report on which ones we choose with a full review!! Also the lounges are KEY when you travel like this.
- I just learned that international bags can only weigh 44 lbs!! Not 50 lbs… a 6 lb loss is a TON!!
- European beds are not the same size as US. One, most hotels only have one bed (EEKK hard for a family of 5!). Two, airbnb’s may say KING bed but they really mean a double and vice versa. I had to read the measurement descriptions of the mattress’ and get my tape measure out!! Not kidding!
- Tours can add up! Boy are these expensive. We are going to do a couple things but unless you have 10,000 to drop on entertainment– choose 2 tours and the rest will be a front of the line pass!
- Book your airbnb or hotel as soon as you find what you like!! They go quickly and we spent months figuring out new places because we didn’t act fast enough!
- Royal Caribbean cruise includes your room and the dinning hall. Everything else costs money. Plan for that. Drinks, tours at port, higher end dinning… etc.
- Oh and doggie day care (when everyone you know is out of town) is VERY expensive for 16 days!!
- Don’t have too many expectations, stay light hearted and excited to do and experience what you can. I am sure we will not be disappointed. We have no idea what we a missing out on either, we will love whatever we end up doing!
Stay tuned for more on Let’s go to to Europe!!