Those of you who follow my blog may have noticed that I haven’t posted in awhile. Why? I have been busy traveling!
If you have read my blog in the past, you may remember reading about my Grand Eurotrip May 2016; well, I’ve just completed another Grand Eurotrip— Grand Eurotrip June 2017!
Our 2016 Eurotrip was inspired by accompanying my mother as she traveled from Cyprus to Milan by stopping up north in Vilnius. Well, since then, my mother has decided to spend her summers in the north of Italy (it’s easy to see why). For that, we decided to somewhat repeat our 2016 experience and visit her. Our trip consisted of 3 different “checkpoints:”
- We spent a couple nights with my mother at the beautiful Lake Como in Italy.
- We visited my mother-in-law in Bulgaria.
- We topped it all off by celebrating my husband’s birthday in Florence.
Fortunately, we planned our trip right after Ukrainians were granted a visa-free regimen within EU countries. This meant that, being Ukrainians, we had complete freedom in booking tickets/accommodation without having to pay for everything in advance. As well, we didn’t have to wait for our Cyprus Pink Slips to be issued, nor did we have to provide the Embassy with a bunch of detailed documents.
Unfortunately, this was a very spontaneously planned trip. Since we booked everything at the very last minute, we were unable to snag those super sweet 9.99 EUR ticket deals that are oftentimes found on WizzAir or Ryanair if you plan ahead of time.
However, to our delight, some perks of being a freelancer kicked in and saved the day: right before our trip, I was assigned a new client— FlixBus. FlixBus is a low-cost bus service that travels all across Europe; before I started working with them, I never knew about these super-affordable options. So, whenever we could, we replaced expensive flights with cheap bus trips. Although, since Cyprus is an island, we ended up splurging a bit and booking 100 EUR flights (to and from) with major airlines.
The end result of our extensive 3-day planning? The Grand Eurotrip v.2: 20 days, 5 countries (and even more cities), and the chance to experiment with various types of transportation!
- A flight from Larnaca to Milan through Belgrade
- A transfer from Milan to Vercana
- 3 nights in Vercana, during which we took a one-day car trip to Switzerland
- A transfer from Vercana to Bergamo
- 1 night in Bergamo
- A flight from Bergamo to Varna through Sofia
- A transfer from Varna to Saints Constantine and Helena
- 2 nights in Saints Constantine and Helena
- A bus trip from Saints Constantine and Helena to Sofia
- 3 nights in Sofia
- A flight from Sofia to Budapest
- 3 nights in Budapest
- A bus trip from Budapest to Vienna
- 2 nights in Vienna
- A bus trip from Vienna to Florence
- 4 nights in Florence
- A flight from Florence to Larnaca through Rome
The total budget for two people was 2,170 EUR, out of which:
- 1,206 EUR was spent on airplane and bus tickets, as well as transfers.
- 964 EUR was spent on accommodation.
The total cost does not include money spent on food and taxis. Also, it doesn’t include the cost of our road trip to Switzerland (we were given a ride by my mother’s husband), nor the cost of our 3-night stay in Vercana (we stayed at my mother’s place).
Two negative aspects of our trip
- Red-eye (or early morning) flights from and to Cyprus.
Since we live on a small island, we do not have many flight time options to chose from. To some degree, I appreciate these red-eye flights because I like to be online as much as possible during the day to communicate with clients (yes, I still work during my vacations). However, although I am flexible as a freelancer, the late nights do tend to eventually wear on my normal day/night sleeping schedule. It’s been nearly a week since we’ve returned from our trip, and I’m still having difficulties getting back to my full-time work mode.
2. Our overnight bus trip from Vienna to Florence.
Despite all the claims made by Flixbus that their seats are comfortable enough even for the tallest individuals, I found myself having a hard time getting comfortable. As for my 195cm tall husband? No comfort, whatsoever. From this experience, I have decided on taking flights instead of buses for these long trips.
Three positive aspects of our trip
- Our flight from Sofia to Varna.
We ended up flying from Italy to Bulgaria to visit my mother-in-law for a few days. Looking back, our last-minute decision to fly for an hour instead of taking a 7 hour bus ride was the best decision ever. By doing this, I really think that we made the most of our trip and saved ourselves a precious day— especially when you are vacationing, time is so valuable!
2. Roaming like at home.
This 2017 Grand Eurotrip was the first time when I was able to use my Cyprus mobile Internet package in all EU countries!
Previously, I had to top off my TravelSim in order to consistently be online to communicate with all of my customers; this ended up costing around 50-70 EUR, on top of my already expensive monthly bill. Luckily, though, as of June 1st, 2017, our mobile provider canceled all the roaming charges! So, now I can check my email and stay connected with customers while traveling. Unfortunately, this new feature didn’t work in Bulgaria or Budapest, but I was very pleased with the awesome service in Italy and Austria.
3. Our return flight with Alitalia.
We usually fly with low-cost airlines. However, despite the ticket prices themselves seeming more expensive than low-cost airlines, we are officially ‘turned on’ to major airlines. They are now my #1 choice for long trips.
Why? The overall customer experience! As well, we received awesome services, like onboard meals and 3 free luggage items per person (which we usually have to purchase with a low-cost airline). The money you save with free onboard meals and free luggage checks nearly cancels out the extra amount you pay for the ticket; plus, you get fantastic service!
For more stories and information about every part of our Grand Eurotrip, you can view these separate posts (coming soon):
- Part 1: Northern Italy and Switzerland.
- Part 2: Bulgaria
- Part 3: Budapest
- Part 4: Vienna
- Part 5: Florence