Off I Go
It has basically been my dream since I can remember to go abroad for a summer. Not just a short week long thing but an extended trip. I recently took the ultimate step and signed up for a European Tour in the summer of 2017. The tour is 35 days and covers 14 cities in 10 different countries. From Athens to Amsterdam to Barcelona. The thing is, it didn't include London and I knew my sister and I had talked in the past about her coming with me for part of my trip abroad. Thus, I decided to do an extension at the start where we fly into London on the 2nd of July and meander our way down to Athens, where my tour will start. We have been tirelessly brainstorming different itineraries and scouring Pinterest, along with our favorite blogs, for suggestions. It has been a bit of a whirlwind, but definitely in a good way.
In the next few months, I'll be writing about much of the advice I have from budgeting for a trip like this to helpful websites and apps. Everything I come across I think will help you plan your own trip a bit more gracefully than myself, I'll pass along. I'll still have many of my usual posts, too, of course. For now, I'll just let you know a bit more about the tour I'll be going on as well as what we're planning on for the extension at the start.
To start us off, the tour. I decided to book through EF College Break because not only was their Ultimate Europe Tour exactly what I had in mind but our high school has used the same site to book their group tours for years. I had faith in the company and was beyond impressed with all they had planned. Additionally, I have wanted to do a trip abroad forever but I've always chickened out as the time got closer, deciding next [insert semester, year, etc. here] would be better. EF allowed me to go all in and have minimal planning to do. I'll admit, the tour does cost more than it would have to just go backpacking on my own. However, everything they accomplish for you is well worth the cost. Plus, the chance to have someone who has your back throughout the whole thing is a major confidence booster. Lets be honest, going so far from home to a different culture surround by new people and various languages is intimidating. This makes that intimidation a little less terrifying.
As for specs on the tour, I jumped in around the black Friday sale so I got a major discount. I highly recommend signing up for trips around this time, if possible. Every year, trips are never as cheap as then and the extra $750 or so can really make a difference in what you can afford. As for paying, I suggest covering as much of the down payment as possible right from the start. If possible, pay for the whole thing but if you can't, they do offer a monthly payment system which can draw directly from your account, interest-free. I went this route so I wouldn’t have to draw from my emergency fund or college fund. Covering a lot from the start, though, dropped ominous monthly payments by over half! Yeah, you pay either way but minimizing bill-stress is always nice. Just make sure you always have enough in your account to save yourself a banking fee. Lastly, make sure you'll be making enough in the upcoming months to cover the payments. It's as easy as estimating your budget (food + housing + bills + fun) and subtracting that from what your paycheck usually hovers around. If there isn't enough left over to cover the trip payments, now may not be the best time to sign up. If you want to know any other details about the trip, my email is always open.
Now for the fun part of the tour; where I'm going! Like I said, 14 cities in a mere 35 days. Above, you can see the basic itinerary, starting with Athens. Most cities have a walking tour planned along with various activities and free time. I'm particularly focusing on historic locations and natural events. Budgeting wise, I'm a total foodie so there is a bit of padding when it comes to meals. I won't get into what exactly each location entails here but as we get closer to departure, I'll delve into more specific plans.
The other aspect of this trip will be, like I mentioned, traveling with my sister. Her name is Sarah and, upon coming back, will be starting 11th grade. We've been incredibly close growing up so it's more like going traveling with my best friend than my sister. Our plans have been going back and forth but we do plan on focusing on Eastern Europe for the most part. We know that’s where our budget will go the farthest, and I'll be in many of the western capitols just a few weeks later. The current debate is in how to balance spending enough time in each spot vs. wanting to visit so many. London will mostly be quickly seeing main spots then heading out (the $100 daily costs can't be held up for long). Then, we'll be getting more into the culture as we get further east. Our current plans look about like this:
Sophia (17th *Travel Time*)
These are, of course, subject to change as we look at travel time but this is where we lie at the moment. I'll be keeping you all updated with changes as well as with the resources we use to plan things throughout the experience.
That's about all I have for now but there will most definitely be advice, updates, and itineraries to come.