Central Europe in the Fall

So, as you know, Portugal is my base for travel in Europe. An opportunity arose that I couldn’t turn down. A friend from the States was going to visit relatives in Czech Republic and wanted to know if I would like to meet up. Are you kidding? A chance to visit an area I haven’t been to yet? I’m in!!

As I started researching the trip I found that people suggested visiting two or three cities in the area at a time. Because they are so close geographically and I didn’t know when I might be back, I chose three I’d never seen before; Prague, Budapest and Vienna. But of course, that would be too easy if I just booked everything and started a packing list. Sure enough, as I looked into things to do in the area, I came upon a tough choice. I found that a new tennis tournament was scheduled to happen in Prague and it would feature the best tennis players in the world. In addition, as seats had sold out in a couple of hours almost a year ago, new seats had become available. But it meant I would have to reschedule my entire trip and lose my cheap airfare and rebook another airline at a much higher price as well as a non-refundable train trip between cities. Ugh. But I went ahead and bit the bullet, as I really felt this could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see my favorite players who may retire, be hurt, or not qualify two years down the road when the tournament came back to Europe.

Still stinging from the added expense, I got to the fun part…planning my itinerary and excursions. There are a lot of logistics and I had less than a month to get everything worked out. I admire my friend so much more now, as she was doing the same kind of activities, but for the three people in her family, as well as a couple other relatives coming with. Wow! All included, I had to book five different accommodations, open jaw plane tickets (flying into one city and out of another), two bus trips, two train trips, tennis tickets and purchase public transport tickets when I arrived in each city, including getting from the airport to the city center, which isn’t always included in your transport tickets. Then I narrowed down the sights I wanted to see in each city and the cheapest way to see them. I would have to exchange money also, as two of the three cities used their own currency, so that’s three types of cash. And when you want to travel on a budget, cash is king, as local places often don’t take credit cards. Yes, I could have done the plane tickets and one of the train trips using an e-ticket. But with so many charges to keep track of, I chose to print everything out. This was invaluable, as the night before leaving when I was going through the trip on paper, I realized I had a problem with one of the train tickets. And I forgot to cancel a refundable ticket that wouldn’t be refundable past the upcoming date.

The trip itself was amazing in so many ways. I am always a bit apprehensive when I know I’m going somewhere and don’t speak the language. But others had helped me plan and assured me most places would have English speakers. This is one of the times where I think it helps to be a “mature” single female. People seem to be more patient and willing to help you. While a single female might be unusual in certain places, at least they don’t question my motives like they might for perhaps, a single male. And being a bit older than the usual backpacking types I think I get the benefit of the doubt that I am responsible and trustworthy. Fair or not, I’m not going to question it, and I appreciated the help.

The trip details would take a short book to write, so I will add separate trip reports for each city. And of course, it’s not an interesting trip without a few glitches, right? At least, in my life. So the new AirBnb landlord that left me stranded in Lisbon or the bus that left me at the rest stop (yes, like right out of a movie!) were memorable, too. Luckily(?), both came at the end of the trip and while I was tired and ready to get back to my own place, I see them as footnotes to a wonderful trip. Well, I say that now. They weren’t that benign as I was going through them at the time. Although the rest stop allowed me to have a leisurely lunch and enjoy the sunshine after several days of rain. And the bottle of wine I purchased also helped pass the time………..

Your Takeaway – While I am a big believer in planning a trip or event as far out as possible, last-minute trips are doable, too, even if they are a bit complex or seem too expensive. Fall is usually a great time to travel as costs are lower and crowds are smaller. Methodically think through each part of the trip, make a list and check off your tasks. Research more if you are on a budget. Check with others who live there or have visited recently for the best information and insight. Ask your host at your accommodations. Find out about visitor or tourist passes that save you time and money. Eat locally for better and cheaper meals. Stay near a grocery store for savings on food or snacks or items you forgot to bring. Don’t let the idea of too many details or unaffordability stop you from a potentially once-in-a-lifetime trip or experience.

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