Our DIY European Adventure: #1 Why, Where, and How

Why we are planning our vacation to Europe road trip style.

2/17/20234 min read

Kathy and I have done our fair share of road trips across the United States and parts of Canada. In our opinion, there is nothing quite like a good road trip to get you off the beaten, touristy path and help you get a bigger picture of the area you’re visiting. A road trip also means you create your own schedule and fill it with the people and places you value seeing. Call us control freaks but we want to decide how long we sit and view a beautiful vista or chat with a local, and decide when and where we will eat and sleep! You get the picture.

So… last year Kathy and I decided that we’re taking a trip to Europe- road trip style! It can be a bit daunting trying to figure out where to begin and how to plan everything. That’s why we’re going to share with you —through our blogs and some video clips — our process, our mistakes (hopefully not many), and our outcomes.

Map of places we are going-France, Portugal, and Belgium
Map of places we are going-France, Portugal, and Belgium

Where to begin?

There are so many good places to visit on this globe that we started by narrowing it down. YouTube has an amazing number of informative travel videos. Start there by typing in the search “best places to visit in Europe” or wherever you’re considering going. Make sure to keep paper and a pen handy to jot notes. Once you’ve chosen your spot, read blogs, and do Google searches about the best things to do in your location. At the bottom of this post we list a few of our favorite YouTube channels.

Kathy and I decided on France, Portugal, and Belgium!

4 Reasons Why To DIY:

Travel these days can be super expensive. We did some research and here are a few figures . A Rick Steves’ “Heart of France” 11 day tour would cost us $8,790, for the two of us, not including airfare. We shopped early for airline tickets and saved more but currently 2 tickets round trip to Paris are running about $1,600+ for cabin seats that can be rescheduled. If we add the Rick Steve’s’ 12 day Portugal package $6,990 and travel there and back to Paris (about $300), the grand total ends up at $17,680. This figure is at least $8k more than we expect to spend! We used Rick Steve’s’ trips because A) we trust that these are quality trips without hidden costs B) We are planning 2 weeks in Paris/France and 12 days in Portugal. This is as close to an apple to apple comparison as we could find.


There is nothing as wonderful as having your vacation fit your personality like a glove. As our own itinerary coordinators, we have complete freedom over where, when, and how long we will stay in an area. We remember being with a tour group in Hawai. We were given 20 minutes to explore a beautiful black sand beach but then held captive in a souvenir store for 90 minutes (must have been a friend of the bus driver!) We also won’t be stuck with a group of strangers who we may or may not mesh with.

More time-

So my comparison prices in Point # 1 weren’t entirely comparable because Kathy and I are going to stay longer and take in Strasbourg and Colmar, France, and Bruges, Belgium. The total amount of time on our trip will be 34 days! That’s a gain of 10 days. If you plan your own trip, you can stay longer. We’re choosing to have humble but nice hotel rooms mostly. We are getting a few classy ones by booking early. But from what we saw on vacation packages, you’re not getting fancy unless you pay for high end travel. You may also end up with stairs, no elevator, and/or no AC. Read the fine print. We did thorough research on each hotel and its location.

Get more of a local vibe-

Now for many of us, this part sounds a little scary. It means navigating public transportation in another language! With the internet and apps you have easy ways to figure all that out (at least we think we have). We might have a few mishaps, but Kathy and I are looking forward to our planes, trains and automobiles. We’re only renting a car two times, once in the Loire Valley and Normandy to get out in the countryside a little, and once in the Algarve in Portugal. Otherwise we are relying on European transit to efficiently and affordably get us to our destinations. We also look forward to strolling the streets of non-touristy French neighborhoods, sipping a cafe creme on an outdoor patio, and giving Kathy a chance to practice her French with the locals.

All this said, we haven’t actually taken the trip yet. So, follow our blog to see how it all goes and to get the final price tag. We’re going to pass along useful tips as well.

Bon Voyage until our next post!