A winter jaunt in Europe…the Intro!

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A trial run at family travel – planning vs reality!

Many of you that know us also know that we are planning a big round the world trip. We thought it might be a good idea to have a little trial run at sticking to our budget, combined with visiting some friends we haven’t seen in a while and places in Europe that we have wanted to visit for some time.

We started our trip on December 21st and planned to spend 3 weeks travelling, including a 5 day stop off in England for Christmas to see family, getting back to Abruzzo on January 10th.

idij1209Where we hoped to go

The original plan had us visiting…

  • Courgevaux, Switzerland
  • Crowborough, England
  • Middelburg, Holland
  • Amsterdam, Holland
  • Eindhoven, Holland
  • Leipzig, Germany
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • Vienna, Austria
  • Salzburg, Austria
  • Neuschwanstein, Germany
  • Verona, Italy

Ok, I admit it, it was a bit ambitious for the timeframe! I spent several hours pouring over the paper maps and google maps looking at the days we had available, the distances we would need to travel each day to get to each stop off, the time we wanted in each place to make sure we did what we wanted to do, the plans soon got scaled down. Before we even got past planning stage Amsterdam was dropped (just being there on New Year’s eve would have blown the whole budget anyway!),as was Vienna. But, with a bit of jiggery pokery everything else seemed doable, so on the list it went.

Where we actually went

For logistical reasons only (i.e. the boys not being able to leave school before lunchtime) an overnight stop in Milan also got thrown into the mix. We saw nothing there except the inside of the hotel room and we did nothing as we arrived late and left early in the morning, but it would have been rude not to mention it!

The first half of the trip went swimmingly, despite the blanket of fog that descended on northern Europe. According to plan we managed Milan, Courgevaux, Crowborough, Middleburg, Eindhoven, Leipzig and Prague with relatively few hitches. We even discovered Colditz was not far off route, so we took a little detour to pay a visit.

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Scuppered by the weather!

And then, on our stopover in Prague the super winter weather front arrived. Temperatures dropping to -19C and unusually severe blizzards were forecast for the time we were supposed to be crossing the Brenner pass, through the Alps back to Italy – oh joy!

Although we’re quite used to cold and snow here in our Abruzzo winter, and we knew travelling through the Alps in winter meant we would face some snowy weather, driving in the forecast unusually severe, unstable conditions would just have been a crazy idea. It was a risk we weren’t prepared to take – getting stuck half way across the Alps didn’t appeal and staying North of the Alps wasn’t an option – nor was it in the budget, so the plan had to change!

Salzburg got pushed aside, as did Neuschwanstein to my complete dismay!! It was to be my trip highlight, the crescendo after several thousand miles on the road (no offense intended friends that we went to see). Instead we scoured the map for a more direct route to Italy and spent a night in Munich (which I loved!) and headed straight across the pass to Verona during a brief, clear weather window.

Did we stick to ‘The budget’?

Ok, so the budget was tight! From our research following various families that are off on their round the world adventures we plucked a reasonably informed figure of 100 euros a day for food, accommodation and travel costs. And to my amazement, with the much appreciated help of free accommodation, and very good food too, from friends here and there, we actually made it work until the final day. Rightly or wrongly, my thinking is if we can do this in northern Europe – undoubtedly one of the most expensive continents to travel round – we must be able to do it for a year around the world! Fingers crossed…

What did we learn?

Apart from all the cultural aspects and discovering of new places, we also learnt about travelling as a family, which is probably one of the most important things given our future plans. My biggest lesson, I think, was actually to build in a bit of down time for us – the temptation is to fill every day with either travelling and sightseeing or doing something, but after a couple of weeks we were ready for just a day of hanging out and not doing much. So, I guess this is a lesson that will be built into planning the big one!

I will be posting more about each individual place we visited, what we did, how we managed the budget and what we thought in the next few blogs…Happy Reading!

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