Back in the states

We kept a pretty low profile while in London. Lots of Judge Judy and gas station food.

The day finally came and we boarded our very empty plane back to the states.

A quick, not really, ten hours later we had made it to Miami. After a few basic checks we were officially on the other side of immigration and had made it back “home”. Whew!

It was pretty exciting to be back on US soil. Just something about the comforts of the known.

While in London the kiddos and Dad had convinced me to book a house in Orlando with a pool and  spa while we awaited our flight back to the cold white North.

Oh man am I happy I humored them! Ha!

Not only did we get a deal because, well, Airbnb’s aren’t exactly thriving at the moment but it has given us a chance to “self isolate”.  And of course it’s been pretty awesome to soak up some sun and enjoy the water.

We’ve got a few more days here and then we head north. We’ll face a 14 day mandatory quarantine up there, but it sounds like there’s still a ridiculous amount of snow on the ground so what else are you going to do, right?!?

Today we made a video recapping our European Adventure.

I’m so grateful we got this experience. Even with a health crisis at our heels. I mean would the Cunningham’s do it any other way?!?


Check out my new page “Europe Flights”

“Europe Flights”

Where to start:

When I first started planning our Europe trip, it obviously started with a budget. You can find lots of information on how to prepare for any trip HERE! So at this point, I’ll assume you’re all caught up, and we can move on with Europe specific planning.

First off, you’ll need to set your time frame and determine your locations. Then you’ll need to plan your route and decide what modes of transportation you will use. Simultaneously you should research lodging options and activities and keep plugging all this info into your spreadsheet.

I determined that we had about 7 weeks, and it was in our best interest, mostly for financial reasons, to fly to each new location. Train travel sounds like a dream, but it is expensive, at least for the short time frame I was looking at. Perhaps if you had months and several different countries, a Eurail pass might be beneficial, but every situation is unique, and you just have to find the sweet spot for what you’re doing. We are primarily hopping from city to city via budget airlines. We also plan on renting a car in a couple of spots. Once I determined that flying was our main mode of transportation, I hit Google Flights and started checking routes and prices.

How did we determine our route?

It took me a long time to decide what path we should take. I literally have columns and columns on a spreadsheet where I took each location and priced our flights in every direction. Here’s a little glimpse into the madness:

As you can see, we had a set of areas that we wanted to travel to, and it was just about finding the right order. Cost is always at the forefront of my decision making, but if the price difference is negligible, then I start thinking about flight Length, flight departure and arrival time, and overall flow of the trip. You may have an experience that limits your dates in a specific location, or perhaps prices are significantly higher at one time or another. All these things need to be considered when planning your route.

After I sifted through my research and got a rough idea of our itinerary, I was confident in booking our big flights. We decided to fly to London and fly out of Paris. This was mostly driven by cost. Overall the cheapest cities that I found to fly in and out of were London, Barcelona, and Paris.

Our Long Haul Flights:

We opted for Norwegian Air. It’s here that it pains me to say I overpaid for my flights, ugh! I hate it when that happens. I purchased our flights in late August for a February Departure and a March Arrival. I was so close. Basically, the flights went down about a week after I made my purchase. I overpaid but about $20 on our departure and about $40 for our Arrival. I was happy with the price I paid, but obviously, I could have saved a little more, I just get too trigger happy I suppose! Now that I’ve been tracking the price, I can see that the flights have been roughly the same since the beginning of September and don’t appear to be fluctuating.

Total for our Long Haul Flights:

Norwegian Air (No Seats/Cabin Bag 10kg)

MCO-LGW $160pp

CDG-FLL $189pp

Roundtrip $349pp

Family Total $1396

While it’s not the best price in the world, I still think it was a fair price. This does not include seat selection or baggage. Every passenger on Norwegian gets 1 bag at 10kg or roughly 20lbs. And while we did not pay to select seats, we did wind up getting seated together. In fact, it was one of the best flights I’ver ever taken. No frills, no food, no perks. But we were very satisfied.

Our Hopper Fights:

After we got our long haul flights booked, I was able to hit our reservations at both ends. For anyone who knows me, they know that I am horribly noncommital. But for anyone who understands budget travel, they realize that spontaneity and budget don’t go hand in hand. So for me, I start with the things I know are not going to change, leaving what little room I do have for spontaneity along the way.

The first flight I booked was from LGW-ATH. This was a must because no matter what, we had to get out of London, and once again, it came down to price. Based on all of the research, I determined that this was the cheapest way to get to Athens.

Easy Jet (Prepaid Seats/Cabin Bag 10kg)

LGW-ATH$34pp

Family Total $136

The next flight I booked was from RAK-TLS. Now, this is where it gets a little weird. We really hadn’t talked about Marrakesch, but one of us got a wild hair, and I ran with it. I happened to find an amazing flight from Marrakesch to Toulouse, France. Only $25 per person. I thought, WOW, this was a deal. Marrakesch is generally a little more expensive than say getting from Paris to Rome, so coming across something like this was awesome.

Plus, Olivia had gone on her European tour over the summer and really wanted to take us to some spots along the coast of France and Spain, and the only way this was going to happen was on a road trip. So, we decided that we would fly into Toulouse, rent a car, dip down into Spain and then drive back up to Paris. Back to the amazing flight, I decided to take a chance and book a flight out of Marrakesch even before I had a flight to the city, but I figured it would all work out.

Easy Jet (Prepaid Seats/Cabin Bag 10kg)

RAK-TLS $25pp

Family Total $100

Next up, I booked our flight from ATH-CIA. By now, I had a pretty good plan of where we would be staying and for how long. Marrakesch was still a bit up in the air, but once again, I only had us going as far as Athens, so we had to get somewhere, and Rome made the most sense. At the time of booking, we were either going to fly out of Naples or Rome to get to Marrakesch, either way, flying into Rome from Athens was way cheaper than Naples.

Ryan Air (Prepaid Seats/Cabin Bag 10kg)

ATH-CIA $34pp

Family Total $136

Lastly, I booked our flight from NAP-RAK. This one really got dicey. I track flights regularly, review historical averages, and scour the blogs for good prices. But sometimes you just get sucked into wanting to save even more. It’s kind of like a gambler’s mentality, ha! Anyways, I missed out on a good flight, and then the price shot up and wouldn’t come down. Day after day, I waited and refreshed with no luck. Then one day, the price finally came down, and I jumped on it immediately. This was the last piece of the flight puzzle. While it wound up being an expensive flight, I am pleased with the price we paid.

Ryan Air (Prepaid Seats/Cabin Bag 10kg)

NAP-RAK $75pp

Family Total $300

Check out my new page “Europe with Teens”

Europe with Teens

We’ve dreamed of visiting Europe for years, I mean, who hasn’t? And for 2020, we finally made it happen. The countries on our list:

England

Greece

Italy

Morocco (Yes, I understand this is part of Africa)

Spain

France

More specifically, we will be spending:

7 nights in London

7 nights in Athens

7 nights in Rome

7 nights just outside of Pompeii

6 nights in Marrakesch

6 nights on a road trip through Spain and France

3 nights at Disneyland Paris

and

7 nights in Paris

Obviously, Europe is a big place. But I think we are hitting the touristy highlights. Some would say that getting off the beaten path is a truer way to soak up the culture and have a meaningful trip, but when it comes to Europe, I think I’ll save that for my second tour. For now, I want to see what has made Europe famous, the Louvre, the Parthenon, the Colosseum. All the greats!

You also may be wondering how Morocco got put on the list. To be honest, I did want a little bit of an authentic experience, and I felt that Marrakesch may offer that, but mostly it came down to cheap flights. You’ll find plenty of budget specific information on each countries page.

As for the kiddos, they are now 15 and 13 and have really matured quite a bit since that first trek to Central America. They’ve been exposed to so much world history over the years, and we really hit the books and You Tube hard prior to our trip just trying to soak in all the history and prepare for actually being here.

During the summer of 2019, I really began to realize that my kiddos were starting to become their own little people. Actually big people. At 13 and 15 I just don’t have much time left with these guys, and quite honestly I wanted to do a big trip to capture this moment in time. Of course, we will continue to travel and vacation and spend time with each other, but you never again have what you’ve got right now, so you might as well do something with it!

Plus, Europe was the only general destination that I could get the kids to agree on, moreover they were both really excited about Europe. So away we went!