Welcome back Thriftaholics! We’re glad you’re here.
If you’ve followed us for a while, you may remember that we took our whole family to Europe last summer for the first time. We spent almost 3 weeks between Rome, Florence, and Switzerland…and it was amazing!!! It went soooo well, in fact, that we went back to France and Spain during our kids’ fall break. Again, it was awesome.
Now that we know the kids can handle a trip across the pond, we’re going back!!! By the time you’re reading this, we’ll have already landed at our first destination.
For the next 17 days, it’s going to be planes, trains, and automobiles for us. We even threw in a few boats for good measure! Oh, and we’ll be spending plenty of time sipping drinks at various European beaches too.
Summer Trip to Europe 2018
This year, we’ll be taking on a couple of “firsts.” While this will be the third visit to Italy for Holly and I, we’ve never actually rented a car there. We’ll also be taking our first Mediterranean cruise, so it could get interesting. Ha!
Our trip is broken up into three distinct legs. The first few days, we’ll be driving around Italy with our rental car. During the second part of the trip, we’ll enjoy a Mediterranean cruise. Finally, we’ll round out our trip in an Airbnb at a popular Italian beach area before heading home.
Days 1-4: Exploring Italy by Car
When we go to Europe, we generally like to set up a home base in a few different cities. From there, we’ll take some day trips to get out and see the surrounding area. This strategy works especially well when traveling with our kids because it gives us a chance to get settled and create short-term “homes” for them.
With that said, we’ve planned the beginning of this trip more like how we do a cruise. We typically use cruises to get a quick taste of places we may not otherwise go. From there, we decide whether we’ll go back and spend more time at each destination.
Our first day consists entirely of getting to Venice, Italy, flying from Indianapolis through JFK. We’ll fly overnight, try to get some rest, and hit the ground running when we land. (In case you’re wondering, we did find cheap flights and booked them with airline miles. We’ll get into those nitty-gritty details in our review after the trip.)
Immediately after landing in Venice, we’ll pick up our rental car and make the 1:45 drive to Bologna, Italy. We plan to hit the highlights during the day, eat some delicious food that night, then crash early at our Airbnb.
The next day, we’re headed off to the microstate of San Marino. I’ve always wanted to visit this tiny country atop a hill, so I’m super excited. I’m sure there will be plenty of breathtaking photos to come!
On Day 4, we jump back in the rental car and drive back to Venice. Holly and I have spent some time here already, and we wanted to give the kids a chance to explore the city. I can’t wait to see what they think of the canals, and – of course – we’ll be splurging on a gondola ride while we’re there.
This pretty much wraps up the first leg of the trip, and we board our cruise the next afternoon.
Days 5-11: Sailing Aboard the MSC Poesia
One of my favorite things about Europe – and especially Italy – is that the entire place feels so old and authentic. It may seem a bit odd, then, that I’m really looking forward to our 7-night cruise.
Well, sue me – I’m excited for it 😀
Our family recently took an 11-night Caribbean cruise on the MSC Divina shortly after the holidays. We had an amazing time, and the kids said it was their favorite trip they’ve ever taken. The kids club on the boat was fantastic, so much so that our girls sobbed the last night when they had to leave. As a parent, I love seeing them enjoy themselves, so I’m really looking forward to sailing with the MSC brand again.
The cruise also falls in the middle of our trip, so it will give us a nice break from exploring entirely on our own. We also purchased a laundry package, so we’ll get to have our clothes cleaned without having to do it ourselves. Bonus!
Plus, the stops on the cruise are pretty awesome. Here’s where we’re going:
- Bari, Italy – To give the kids a bit of a break, Holly and I plan to leave them with the kids club during this stop. We’ll get out and walk around the town, but that’s about it.
- Katakolon (Olympia), Greece – The whole family will be taking an excursion to Olympia, Greece during this stop. Holly and I visited here a couple of years ago, and it is one of the most amazing places we’ve ever been. I can’t wait to go back.
- Mykonos, Greece – You guessed it: Beach day!
- Athens, Greece – We’ll all be getting off the boat early and heading straight to the Acropolis for a self-guided tour. After that, we’ll take a stroll through the Plaka neighborhood and have lunch in either the Monastiraki or Psiri neighborhood. We’ll finish the day over at Syntagma Square to watch the changing of the guards. Again, Holly and I adore Greece. For me, it ranks right there with Italy as my favorite spots to visit. (Seriously, they’re like 1A and 1B!!!)
- Saranda, Albania – The whole family will be taking a beach excursion for our youngest daughter’s birthday.
- Dubrovnik, Croatia – Again, we plan to hit the beach before exploring the lunch options in King’s Landing…er…Dubrovnik. Oh, and before you give us too much grief, Holly and I are coming back to Croatia for a week later this November.
Day 12-17: Chillin’ on the Amalfi Coast of Italy
After the cruise, the final leg of our trip starts with a 5-hour train ride from Venice to Naples. At the train station, we’ll be meeting Holly’s brother Brian and a private driver who will bring us to our Airbnb in Praiano, Italy.
Last summer, we took a day trip that included Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast town of Positano. On our first trip to Italy, Holly and I did a day trip to the island of Capri. This is honestly one of the most picturesque areas in the entire world, so we decided to book a sweet condo in the village of Praiano for four nights.
While we’re there, it will be all about living “la dolce vita.” We’ll be swimming in our pool, drinking wine, soaking up the views, and eating some incredible food. To work off some of those calories, Holly and I plan to do a strenuous hike along the “Path of the Gods” which starts with a climb of 1,500 stairs straight up.
We’ve also booked a day trip to Capri using some flexible credit card rewards. We’ll detail all of that in our forthcoming review of the trip. For now, you can check out some of our favorite rewards cards here.
Follow Us on Our Trip
That’s it for now! Obviously, we’re pretty stoked for this trip, and we hope you’re excited to hear about it.
Don’t forget, you can follow along with us in real time. Join us on Instagram and Facebook to check out our live updates and pics! We’ll also have a recap of the entire trip (and our planning strategy) a few weeks after we return.
Thanks so much for reading! Happy traveling!
Have you been to any of these spots? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!