From the Mailbag: 2 Week European Adventure
Every once and a while I receive a question from a reader that I think would appeal to a wider audience. Today’s post will answer the following question from a Canadian reader, Amanda:
In August I’m going to a wedding in Krakow, Poland and I want to spend two weeks in total traveling. I was thinking about going to Spain beforehand and Prague afterwards. I’d like to be near a beach and we’re looking to plan this trip affordably. Do you have any suggestions for travel within Europe? Airlines to choose? Websites to check out for affordable accommodation?
A summer wedding in Krakow sounds beautiful! The chance to see how different countries celebrate weddings, to witness their traditions, is a great reason to plan a trip. I have a few suggestions as you get your summer travel plans together. First of all, August is a time in Europe when many Europeans take their holidays. For this reason, I’d avoid planning trips to cities in Italy or Spain unless they are coastal cities. Inland destinations tend to empty out during August, but this won’t be the case in Prague – more on that later!
The single most expensive element of any European trip (besides the initial flight) will be accommodation. I always think that a summer vacation, especially one to a beach, is better when there’s a little extra breathing room. For this, I’d recommend a vacation rental. There are many affordable 2-bedroom vacation rentals that will also help you save money by having the added convenience of a kitchen. One website I would recommend is OwnersDirect. I had a great experience renting a 3-bedroom villa with them last year in Mallorca, when I traveled to this Spanish island for a friend’s wedding. Another website to try is VRBO.
After a quick look on OwnersDirect, there are about 60 choices for 2-bedroom apartments in Barcelona. This Spanish city could be a good destination because it has the best of both worlds: beaches and city life. In Barcelona it will be easy to spend your days on the beach and evenings enjoying the tapas bars and nightlife. Barcelona is also home to fantastic art museums and architecture.
Barcelona is also home to a major international airport (and two smaller airports). Barcelona International Airport is located only 10km from the city and would be very convenient to continue on to Krakow. The low-fares airline RyanAir flies from the two regional airports, both at a distance of 100km from Barcelona, but they do offer direct service from Barcelona – Reus to Krakow. A more convenient alternative might be to fly from Barcelona’s main airport to London, and connect to Krakow. It would be possible to find affordable fares for both of the legs of this journey, but I’d recommend booking in advance as during the summer, even low-fare airlines can raise their prices significantly. Another low-fares airline to try is EasyJet. You can use a website such as Skyscanner or CheapOAir to compare prices on different airlines.
If cost is your main concern, I might go in a different direction altogether. Croatia is spectacular – and combines beaches with history, great restaurants and nightlife with a laid-back approach to life. A vacation rental along the Dalmatian Coast or one of the islands could be a perfect solution – and generally you will find better prices in this region.
While train tickets don’t need to be purchased in advance (although in some instances you will find discounts on upgrades, etc if you do book in advance) I would recommend making reservations for all of your airfare and accommodation in the upcoming weeks. For accommodation in Prague, you will be pleasantly surprised at the number of boutique hostels that have sprung up in recent years. Book a private room in Czech Inn to both save money and stay somewhere stylish and comfortable.
For a 2 week vacation, I’d recommend one week in a vacation rental in either Spain or Croatia, followed by a few days in Krakow for the wedding, and a few days in Prague. Taking the train between Krakow and Prague will be simple, but I’d avoid making the journey at night. If heading to the beach is your main concern, both Spain and Croatia should satisfy an urge for some sunshine!
What do other readers think? Any suggestions for Amanda as she plans her two week summer vacation? Post your comments below. (And send any more questions directly to my e-mail: email@example.com)