Here we are at the end of Q1 2017, and you know what that means? Its time to start thinking about summer 2018 travel. That’s right- I start brainstorming my trips about 15 months ahead of time. I need to start gathering ideas, because come September 2017, I will start booking flights for June 2018 travel. I like to spread out my travel research over several months- this gives me plenty of time to save up articles, blog posts, and recommendations from friends for where I want to go. Sometimes, the research and planning phase is the most enjoyable! There is nothing quite so delectable as a quiet Sunday spent curled up with a cup of tea, my laptop, and a stack of travel books.
I’ve just barely put the finishing touches on my 5 week summer 2017 Europe trip. Now its time to start strategizing credit card miles for the NEXT trip. I will need to apply for at least 2 credit cards with hefty sign up bonuses in order to bank enough miles for 3 roundtrip overseas tickets. The good news is that I haven’t opened a new card in 2 years, so I should be able to take my pick of the amazing sign up bonuses that are coming out this spring.
With the help of CreditKarma, I monitor my credit scores weekly, so I know exactly what my scores are. This is a free app that everyone should absolutely be taking advantage of! Its a great resource for staying on top of your general financial picture.
My youngest will be studying Ancient Greece in school next year, so I’m pretty sure we will be spending 2 weeks amongst the Greek Islands. (We are planning to spend some time at the British Museum in London this summer, so she will get a little foretaste). I’ve never been to Greece, so it satisfies my rule of visiting at least 1 new country every year.
I will add on 4-5 days in Croatia (also new), and then 2 weeks in Italy (I’ve been once, but will be new for my kids), before winding up in France for 2 weeks for our yearly visit with my family.
My goal will be to book the 6 week trip for a FAT budget of $6500. I think this is doable, because we are only doing 4 countries. I’ll probably have to fly either to or from London, because I have a ridiculous number of British Airways miles accrued from my British Airway Chase Visa (I use that as my business card, so all of my Dallas remodel costs went on that card. Its all paid off, but I certainly racked up a hefty stack of miles!).
Here are my budget goals:
- Taxes and Fees from SFO- Europe: $250pp (again, those British Airways miles will kill you on the taxes and fees)
- Taxes and Fees from Europe to SFO: $50 pp (The Star Alliance airlines have pretty low taxes)
- Taxes and Fees from gateway Europe city to Athens $50pp
- Taxes and Fees from Greece to Italy: $50pp
- Car Rental Italy 2 weeks $600
- Car Rental France 2 weeks $600
- 32 nights accommodations at $120/night average: $3840
So far, this will cost me $6,240 and includes: Accommodations for 6 weeks (including 10 nights staying with family), 1 month car rental, flights to and from Europe, and a few intra european flights.
The transport and flight budget is a little generous- I once paid $15pp on flights from Istanbul to SFO! But I am padding the budget a bit so there are no surprises.
The goal is to leave SFO right after school gets out- I like traveling in June, because its less hot and the crowds aren’t too bad yet. So, I will be looking to book my outbound flights around the end of September (the booking window for award flights is typically 9 months max). I plan to return at the end of July/ beginning of August depending on what the award flights look like, so I will start looking for return flights in November.
The beauty of flying with miles is that you get to be a flexible explorer! Who knows? I might just find a low-mileage flight into a different country for a few dollars, and will have to reconfigure my plan. At least now I have the general outline sketched out. I will post periodic updates as I open new credit cards and start accruing bonus miles!