It seems the Langford family can’t stay put for long.
Exactly one year after returning from our Big Trip (53 weeks around the globe), we’re preparing to leave for another 3 months.
The initial plan had been to return to South America, spend some more time back in Salta, Argentina, and visit other places we had wanted to go to, like Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. We hoped to hike to Machu Pichu, among other things. And then we found out that baby #5 was on the way. And there went visiting high altitudes (good-bye Andes Mountains), and a wife that was happy to take 26 hour, cross-country bus rides to save money.
Which got us thinking about other places we were longing to return to. And Europe came to mind pretty quickly, with its addictive artisan bread and fabulous markets and quaint villages and mind-boggling ruins and breathtaking countryside and charming villas and perfectly crumbling stone walls, and well, we just couldn’t resist.
After getting an amazing thumbs-up from the friends we had been planning to meet up with in South America (they had also begun to change their minds and wondered whether we shouldn’t meet up somewhere else – when we said Europe, I think they may have had happy tears in their eyes), we set our plans in motion.
Here’s the itinerary, so far:
January 29th- fly to London. Spend just about 2 weeks in England and Ireland, with a quick drive through Wales.
February 11th- fly into Nice, France. Settle into a rental home in a small town for a month, where we’ll catch up with the Oxenreiders, and do plenty of work and school, mixed in with local sightseeing.
Somewhere around March 11-12th – head out via Eurail passes to explore more of Italy. We’re leaning towards some agriturism (staying at farms) in the Tuscany/Umbria region, Venice, and one other location yet to be determined (got suggestions for North/Central Italy, that don’t include Florence or Rome?). Then on to Croatia, possibly passing through Slovenia, to spend some time on the Dalmatian coast.
March 31st (or somewhere around there)- say goodbye to our friends and fly from Croatia up to Denmark. We’re planning to surprise a certain little boy with Legoland in Billund, then a day or two in Copenhagen.
April 3th- fly to Bergen, Norway. We’ll spend a couple days there, then up to the fjords, then make our way over to Oslo for our April 8th flight to Iceland.
April 8th- April 15th- Rent a van and drive the ring road of Iceland, stopping in hostels and B&Bs along the way.
April 15th- fly back home to Canada, just as my international travel insurance ceases to cover my pregnancy.
It’s hard to believe that we’re already just 3 weeks out from our departure date. It’s flown by insanely fast.
The great thing about having done this before is that we have a lot of what we need for the trip, and a very good idea of the prep that needs to happen.
Here’s what we’ve been working on lately:
- Booking as many of our England and Ireland accommodations, rental cars, etc. as possible and trying to find a rental house in France.
- Buying a few more winter-warm pieces of clothing for us and the kids, like light-weight layers to wear under our pants on chilly days, a few more mix-and-match maternity items for me, warm socks, hats and gloves for everyone, etc. We’ve traveled in cold weather before, but we weren’t nearly as prepared for the cold (because it came on the tail end of 9-10 months spent in warmer climates), and traveling is seriously no fun without the right clothes to keep you warm.
- Buying a bag for Ryan (and one for Kepler, who wasn’t old enough to carry a pack last time, but is going to take his own 12 litre backpack for this trip). We needed to get creative since, in addition to my own piece of luggage, I’ll be sporting an ever-growing baby belly. We’re also trying to pack lighter than last time since a) it’s just 3 months, not 12, b) we’re not going to developing countries so I don’t feel the need to pack as may just-in-case items, and c) we’re no longer carrying Kepler’s belongings. After an hour and a half of deliberation in the store (no, seriously, it took us that long), we settled on a new Osprey convertible 75 litre pack for Ryan. It has really rugged wheels for rolling, but can also be converted into a very sturdy backpack. He’ll use that one and I’ll carry my own 65 litre backpack (but packed a lot lighter than last time). When I’m feeling too tired or my back is bothering me, he can wear my lighter pack and roll his own, while I push the stroller. I think it’s a good compromise solution, as much as I still want to be independent with my own pack.
- A few items to re-stock a (much) smaller version of the travel kit we brought with us last time.
- Some more packing cubes and a mesh cube for each child’s laundry (thanks for the idea, Tsh!), because I want to keep things tidier this time and no more Mom or Dad lugging around the entire family’s laundry in their bag!
- A few other odds and ends, like a case for our podcast microphone, no-roaming stickers for our cell pones, etc.
You may be curious how we can afford pricey Europe for three entire months, including short stints in both the UK and Scandinavia (which are notoriously expensive).
The primary reason is that we work while we travel. This isn’t vacation for us. We’re simultaneously running all of our businesses as we go, and it’s the simple (hmm, sometimes not-so-simple) fact that we’re bringing in an income that allows us to do this more freely.
The secondary reason is that we’re going back to Europe in low-season (last time we were in shoulder and then high season). Low-season prices are so, so much lower than higher season. Places aren’t full, rates of soft, negotiations are possible, things like car rentals and sight seeing and restaurant prices aren’t jacked up. Is it as nice as visiting in the spring or summer? No, of course not. But it sure is more affordable!
Lastly, we’re keeping our time in these more expensive places much shorter (only 13 days in the UK, one week in Denmark/Norway), and then spending the other 8 weeks of our trip much further south where prices are much more reasonable (southern France, Italy, Croatia). Also, we’re renting a house for one full month, which makes it far cheaper per night than if we were moving around frequently. This also means that we can actually stock up the kitchen with groceries and cook for ourselves that whole month, for even greater savings.
Plus, we scored 20% off on our Eurail passes because of an off-season sale, not to mention that flights are cheaper right now and I am pretty good at researching our options to find the absolute, most rock-bottom price possible. When you’ve got 6 flights to pay for, this becomes essential.
And that’s where we’re at with our trip planning right now! We’re down to the 3-week wire and I’ll confess, I feel stressed and frantic, but that’s normal when you get close to departure date. It will all come together, I know, and soon enough we’ll be on our way!
Have you been to any of these places? Of course, we’ll never be able to see it all and we’ve already made a lot of plans, but we’d love to hear your family-friendly suggestions!