The One Thing I Should Have Bought For My European Vacation

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I had the awesome opportunity to take my family to Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and France this past May. We visited all of those places over the course of a month.

It was super ambitious, and to be honest, it was a little crazy (although memorable!) We learned a lot about traveling with little ones and budgeting for vacation expenses, which I’ll share more about below.

The Planning Process

If you’re wondering how in the world we were able to take off a whole month from life, the truth is, I wasn’t exactly “off.”

Because I own my own business, I worked from my computer every night, and my husband had just graduated from medical school and hadn’t started residency yet, so he had one month off.

Although the timing was right, that was only one small step in the planning process. As you can imagine, planning a month long European vacation required a substantial amount of thought, especially when it involved taking two year old twins and all their toddler gear to a few different countries. It also involved saving up some serious cash.

And, we’re not the only ones who planned a lengthy or expensive summer vacation. Allianz Travel Insurance’s annual Vacation Confidence Index showed that even though fewer Americans will go on vacation this summer, they’ll spend 11% more than last year as a whole. In fact, Allianz’s research research reported that Americans will spend $89.9 billion on summer vacations this year, an increase from $85.5 billion in 2015.

This research is in line with my own experience. Last summer, we planned a short weekend vacation to the beach, but this year, our trip was much more extensive. In order to prepare for such a lengthy trip financially we budgeted and saved over the course of several months, and that helped us tremendously.

Although we like to consider ourselves financially savvy, we did end up going over our planned budget due to some unexpected expenses. Here’s what happened:

Oops Moments On Our Trip

So, like I said, even though we budgeted for our trip and went all Type A planning on the whole thing, we definitely had some memorable Oops moments that still make me cringe. Here are three budget busters that I wish would have never happened:

1. Hitting a Curb With the Rental Car

Ah yes. Gotta love rental cars. Rental cars were one of our biggest expenses on the trip, and they were definitely convenient. When you travel with two kids, it’s nice to have carseats and room for the stroller. Our credit card did have built in rental car insurance but it had a huge deductible. So.... when my husband went out to get pizza one night and bumped into a curb, which somehow broke the entire rim of one of the tires and flattened the tire, we knew we’d be in for it.

The whole flat tire/broken rim event cost us around $380, not to mention the challenge and the frustration of trying to send a tow truck to my husband on a Sunday night in a small town in Sweden. Good times, good times.

2. Completely Missing a Bus for an Expensive Tour

This one hurts, really hurts! We had a big excursion planned in Norway that cost us over $1,000. It involved taking a bus which took us to a fjord tour by boat and more. It was a pretty complicated tour to begin with, and we were already nervous about making all of our connections. The problem is, this tour ran once per day. If you missed the first bus, you missed the whole thing with no refunds.

So.... guess who missed the first bus? Ding ding ding! That would be us, the Alford family. This was not from lack of trying. We actually woke up extra early to request a cab, get breakfast, and more. However, there was some confusion with the cabs and carseats for the twins and it ended up taking so much time that when we finally pulled into the bus station, we actually saw our bus pull away. Just like a movie. Ouch.

3. Losing The Most Important Bag

The last oops moment was the fact that our airline lost our most important bag. We purchased some really cool and unique items for our new home while we were in Norway, and we were super excited about them. We put these household items plus an expensive wool blanket that we bought in Iceland along with some other things in a suitcase and checked it in Finland. It didn’t arrive in France when we got there, and we had a really hard time getting it back.

By the time we made it all the way home to the USA, we still didn’t have the bag, and none of the tracking numbers for the bag showed that it had been found. We had to call and call and call and deal with unhelpful people. Somehow the bag ended up at JFK airport in New York, where it sat for over a week because it had to change airlines. Since a bag cannot grow legs and move itself to a new airline, we had to rely on someone to go and get it and move it, which was apparently a difficult task.

After another week or two, I finally tweeted both airlines, and our bag miraculously showed up on our doorstep about 4 weeks after it was lost. We were really happy to get it back!

We Should Have Bought Insurance

So, I have to say, although the trip wasn’t perfect, the one thing that would have made a lot of this better would have been travel insurance, which we did not buy but should have. Travel insurance could have covered some of the oops moments mentioned above.

It would have also given us an ally to help us when things went wrong. Instead, we spent a lot of time on the phone trying to rectify some of the situations mentioned above. Most of them were #firstworldproblems that were simply annoying. However, it’s really hard to work so much to save and plan for a trip and then lose $1,000+ dollars while traveling just because of simple travel issues.

All in all though, we wouldn’t trade our trip for anything, and I’m so glad we got to experience it.

Did you plan a trip this summer? Where are you going and did you have to spend a lot of time budgeting for it? Do you typically purchase travel insurance for your trips?

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