We now have 22 days to set our preparation into stone, but we still had multiple questions;
- Where will we go?
- Where will we stay?
- What do we need?
- How much will it cost?
An inordinate amount of questions still needed to be answered, but we had the will to create our trip. This was probably the most exciting planning I have ever done, and as a personal insight, planning is not for me, that’s what my girlfriend does.
Our plan derived from our first major decision. We would drive. This came about through our caveats of being able to stick to our own desires and all or nothing. Driving enabled us to have the freedom to move on when we were ready. Additionally, it allowed us to be able to visit places consecutively and not miss out because public transport links between some of our destinations were non-existent.
Our destinations mainly included capital cities, with some of our own personal asks included. We believed that although travelling in Europe, there were certain considerations to take into account, and with little money for activities, sameness was one of them. Our decision to drive opened up more possibilities than we could have imagined and compared to transport to the outskirts of cities, it was a snip of the price.
Although driving was our best option it produced some problems of its own. Our car insurance would not allow us to drive in Russia, which meant we had to look at alternatives for getting between Scandinavia and the Baltic’s, so now ferries had to be added into the cost. Also, because we wanted to include Scandinavia on our trip, we knew there was a potential we could get stuck in snow driving through in the winter. An easy decision was made and the route was reversed, we would drive through Scandinavia in the Autumn.
Further South the route snaked from borders and coast lines, back into mainland then returned again. This was selected to maximise our stops (all or nothing) and be able to stick to our decision of being back before Christmas. I believe we both would have like to add more places, but due to time, money and the urge to go everywhere, sacrifices had to be made (Quick Tip: You will never see everything you want to. Accept this as early as you can, and don’t have any regrets).
I wouldn’t call it luxury travelling, but our aim was to get the best value for money when booking our accommodation. Like previously mentioned, we didn’t like the idea of shared sleeping/washing quarters, nor secondarily the intense social aspect, so we quickly ruled out hostels. We thought about our caveats and another area we had to take into consideration was parking. As an insight into things to come, it quickly became clear that parking charges would be astronomical if we relied on using the car in city centres, so we had to make sure parking was included in the cost of our accommodation whenever possible and that we were close to local transport links if possible.
We concluded through past experiences, to use Airbnb and discount hotel sites. Our go-to site became Hotels.com because of their prices, rewards and selection (Quick Tip: Book every Hotels.com through Quidco, and make sure to keep an eye out for the trade off between discounts and an extra night reward. We found that it had to be more than 10% discount to be worthwhile, compared to their standard one night free for every ten nights you stay reward scheme).
So the first leg of the journey was set, a drive to London for either the Eurotunnel or a ferry. We booked a night south of London for a stop off before the crossing and a place in our first destination; Bruges. It was set. The start had been selected and the Eurotunnel now booked (Quick Tip: It was cheaper to book a return than one-way).
Look out for more details on Cargo & Costs in part two.