It was never our plan to try to squeeze in four countries (five if you count a brief stop in England) in a little over two weeks time. That’s just not the pace we enjoy when we travel. Our original plan was to fly to Amsterdam for a week, take the train to Paris, stay another week, then fly back home to Washington state. Since we had enough miles for two one-way first class tickets to Amsterdam on British Airways, that leg was arranged first. Somewhere in the planning process however, we started to give serious consideration to adding Portugal to the itinerary. We’d had a long, wet, cold winter and endless sun on the beach sounded pretty darn good. Add to that our increasing desire to retire aboard, and the southern coast of Portugal became a “must-see” for this trip. Iceland also wasn’t part of the original itinerary but after looking at the outrageous costs of one-way return fares, Iceland Air (with its low fares and no-cost layover) was the obvious choice. And breaking up the ten plus hour return flight with a long soak in the Blue Lagoon and some sightseeing in Reykjavik is definitely worth the splurge.
After weeks of researching destinations, checking flight schedules, and looking for accommodations, our itinerary was set. When it all was said and done, we’d gone from three flights (two long and one short) and a relaxing train ride to seven flights of varying lengths, no trains, and two car rental/driving experiences in foreign countries. Not quite the leisurely pace we wanted but not too crazy either. Of course packing would be a challenge considering the different climates we’d be in. The highs in Iceland average 13C (55.4F) for early June while the temperature in Alvor (southern Portugal) can reach 30C (86F) during that time. One great thing about staying in apartments over hotels (besides having way more space) is being able to do laundry. That equates to less luggage to haul around and less baggage fees to pay. If you’ve ever found yourself rushing to make a connection while dragging heavy bags, you’ll know that less does equal more.
The main advantage of booking six or more months in advance is that you get the most choices and the best prices. The main disadvantage (as we learned) is that things out of your control can change and often not for the better. First our apartment in Reykjavik was cancelled. A set back for sure but we had ample notice and I found another one in the same building open for our dates (for more money of course!) Then the departure time of our flight from Lisbon to Paris changed several times and we went from having just under a two-hour layover to a whopping five-hour one. That change put our arrival time in Paris so late that we ended up buying tickets for an earlier flight. The final blow, the sudden cancellation of our rental in Paris, happened with less than three weeks until our departure. Rental choices were very limited at such a late date but I was able to find a place close to the original one that was open (for more money of course!) Since the owner cancelled so close to our travel date and without any reason given, the booking site I used will refund the cost difference. So despite several stressful days of searching, it all worked out in the end.