So the travel itch has been activated! Not that it's ever inactive, but after EuroTrip2014, our wallets needed a wee bit of a recovery period. But within the last few weeks, we've started casually mentioning various destinations and time-frames for our next European adventure. Let the brainstorming phase begin!
As always, a trip to Europe will include an extended stay in Germany for quality time with friends and family in Bayern and Baden-Württemberg. So that part of our itinerary is always constant; Germany is our European home, and a trip to Europe without time in Germany would be inconceivable! But we'd like to visit at least one new country or city before we head to our Bavarian home base. We've narrowed it down to three choices:
Athens. Dubrovnik. Barcelona.
Picking just one place is so difficult! Greece has been on my bucket list for many reasons: the Parthenon, the coastline, the delectable food, the list goes on! But.... Croatia has been mesmerizing me with its stunning coastlines, and as an occasional viewer of Game of Thrones, I have to admit that part of the reason I want to visit Dubrovnik is to imagine that I'm walking through King's Landing. And what's not to love about Barcelona? I'd love to see the work in progress at the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, hoping it will be finished in my lifetime for a second visit to view it in its completed glory! And a day spent on the Mediterranean would be lovely, even if the water weren't warm enough for a dip.
So how to choose?
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Well, before we come up with a definitive destination and timeline for a visit, we start by researching flight prices. Yes, our decision is always weighed by two factors: interest in the actual place and prices of tickets for tentative dates of our trip. Transatlantic flights are expensive! If you don't do your research or aren't patient enough to compare websites, you might have to sell your firstborn just to fly to the old country. Although I use the internet to find ticket prices, I'm old school in that I like to write my findings down on paper or on my whiteboard for comparison purposes. I use at least three or four different flight search engines to narrow it down to the best deal, even if I only save a couple bucks from one site to the other!
Here's a shot of my good ol' fashioned whiteboard (and my excitedly sloppy handwriting!). As you can see, I've compared the prices listed on Orbitz and Kayak for all three of our possible destinations: Washington Dulles International (IAD) to Athens/Dubrovnik/Barcelona, from there to Frankfurt (FRA), and there back to IAD. As of my search tonight between Orbitz, Kayak, Skyscanner, StudentUniverse, Priceline, Opodo, and Swoodoo, the tickets for Athens are by far the cheapest option. So that makes it the "winner," right? Well, since we won't be able to book our tickets for another few weeks (roughly 6 months from departure) at the earliest, and the prices could change before we're ready to buy, the jury is still out on this trip. But so far Athens is the winner by a large margin!
And unfortunately, with how unpredictable life can be (civil unrest, infectious disease, personal injuries, etc), we aren't even 100% sure that in a few weeks we'll decide that a May Europe trip will be feasible. Even after buying the tickets, plenty of things could change before departure to jeopardize the trip. We'll be scrutinizing our finances heavily in the next few weeks and evaluating our long term goals (children, buying a house, etc) to come to a decision. But no matter the outcome, I'm happy we're at least considering another international trip for next year. These boots were made for walking, and they're itching for a few more steps!
How do you decide your next destination and plan the whats, whens, and hows of your trip?