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By the time you read this, I’ll be impatiently waiting in line at immigration in London, clutching the passport I’m so excited to put back into play after four and a half months stateside. This trip kind of crept up on me, and while I’ve dropped hints about where I’m headed I haven’t given you a proper travel plans update since my rough sketch of how I imagined 2014 would shake out. You guys know that Europe is far from my usual playground, but somehow this summer just kind of… happened. Now that things are finalized, here’s where I’ll be hanging.

Summer in Europe

First Stop: England

With so many close friends having returned or relocated to London, I swing through any and every chance I get. In the past I’ve confessed that it’s not my favorite city, but I’m surprised by how pumped I am for my third visit. My week here will basically be one non-stop sleepover party with my various girlfriends, with frequent supply runs for Rekorderlig cider and bacon butties from Gregg’s (don’t judge).

London

Next Up: Malta

Within minutes of Anders accepting his dive instructor position in Malta I was online looking up flights. I purposely have kept my itinerary loose to be able to take advantage of any time off Anders might have (which sadly at the moment is looking like a whopping total of zero days) and haven’t had much time to crack open my guidebook. But lack of planning aside, I am seriously looking forward to a week of Mediterranean sun and exploring a brand new country that I quite frankly didn’t know existed this time last year. (Um, hey, European geography is hard.)

Malta

Party Pit Stop: Belgium

Ah, Belgium, the country that launched this whole crazy trip (crazy in the sense that my bank account is laughing at me in a really manically cruel way right now just thinking about it). As soon as I saw one of the infamous Tomorrowland aftermovies, I knew there was no way I could continue through life without attending this wild festival out in the middle of nowhere Belgium. Landing tickets to one of the most lusted-after music events in the world was no easy feat, but I’ll save that story for rave o’clock. In the meantime, go watch that aftermovie. Seriously.

In addition to the four days my partner in crime Heather and I will be spending in Boom — actual town name — for the festival, I’ll be spending four nights based in Brussels experiencing some of the best Belgium has to offer with unique accommodation (a Pantone-inspired hotel, anyone?) and Viator tours exploring Brussel’s gourmet chocolate making scene and the quaint city of Bruges. This will be another new country for me — this one I totally knew about, though, I swear.

Tomorrowland

Brussels

Last But Not Least: Greece

I have been itching to return to Greece ever since I cruised through with my momma in 2011 and got a hint firsthand of what all the fuss is about. So when Heather realized she could swing another week of travel post-Tomorrowland, we used Skyscanner’s Everywhere Search and discovered super cheap flights to Athens, and we were sold. We’ll spend the week doing the live-like-a-stylish-local thing with apartment rentals with Hara’s Houses in Santorini and Flipkey in Athens. I think it goes without saying that my heart almost explodes with happiness thinking about this.

After bidding goodbye to my temporary travel buddy I’ll be taking off on what to me is a serious adventure — attempting group travel. I rarely if ever travel in groups (basically just when it’s necessary, like in the Amazon or on the Inca Trail), and I admit I’m nervous about how this independent traveler will take to not being in charge all the time. But you know what? When Heather and I were trying to figure out the ferry schedules, and when I was trying to look into affordable accommodation for a solo traveler in peak season, my brain almost short circuited in protest. It felt pretty darn good to hand the reigns over to Contiki for their Greek Island Hopping itinerary and to Viator for their short but sweet jaunt to the cliff top monasteries of Meteora. All in all, I feel like a pretty lucky girl to be heading to Greece for such a luxurious amount of time.

Santorini

Meteora

And Beyond: Back to Southeast Asia

After 6.5 weeks in Europe, the CFO of Alex in Wanderland has put her foot down and demanded a return to a more affordable destination. Oh, hey, what do you know! The CFO is me. So from Greece I’ll be flying onward to Thailand, with a 24 hour layover in Bahrain en route. (Note to self: figure out what the heck to do in Bahrain.) Once in Southeast Asia I plan to spend about three months settled down somewhere living the good life and catching my breath after a super fast-paced summer. I think it will be the perfect way to wind down and balance out the year.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

So, about those euros…

Let’s start with the good news! All those one-way flights from New York to Santorini cost me less than $1,000. I snagged New York to London for $415, London to Malta for $137, Malta to Brussels for $186, and Brussels to Athens for $206 — including all baggage fees. And while the flight to London does admittedly involve an inconveniently long layover in Iceland, all the rest are direct and on decent airlines. On top of that, I snagged a totally free flight from Athens to Santorini — worth $134 — thanks to my Capital One Purchase Eraser. So in total, I’m hitting four countries in Europe in peak season for a total of $943.

How did I do it? Well, I booked almost five months ahead, which of course sacrifices some flexibility. Yet it’s really your best bet for scoring a deal — according to an article I gleefully ripped out of Travel and Leisure magazine, The Airlines Reporting Corporation found that the lowest summer fares to Europe are offered a full 31 weeks before departure.

I also went a little off the rails with Excel. I knew loosely where I wanted to go but I was pretty flexible on the order of my itinerary and the exact travel dates. So I made a spreadsheet of my itinerary options and I used Kayak and Skyscanner to check those various routes for basically all of July. I noted the routes that only ran direct a few times a week and the dates that were significantly cheaper than others. I was careful to check the airline’s policies on baggage and add those fees into my Excel as well. Then I just let the numbers decide. London was by far the cheapest entry point into Europe so I made that my first stop by default. From there I built my itinerary around the lowest fares I could find. Boom. Itinerary built and flights booked (we’ll just skip over all the tears and hand wringing in the middle.)

Yet while everyone keeps telling me what a killer deal I got, I am still bracing myself for the most expensive months of my travels ever, thanks to a lot of airtime and a seriously pricey festival ticket. While I am lucky to be working from the road and taking advantage of both personal and professional connections throughout this trip, there’s still little chance I won’t end up dipping into my savings. It’s peak season. In Europe. I’m trying to embrace that fact now and remind myself that I’ve been working and saving up hard for this, so that it won’t nag at me along the way and I can just enjoy the indulgence.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

So now that you know where I’m headed and what I’m up to, I want to hear from you! Is there a ouzo bar I must know about in Oia? A beach I can’t miss near Buġibba? A first timer festival tip I have to hear? Has anyone had any fabulous group travel experiences they want to reassure me with? Bring on the heavily solicited travel advice — I’m so looking forward to reading it in the comments. And hey — let me know what you all are up to this summer too!

I still have some US travel stories to share (including my heart-filled return to Hawaii!) before I start posting about my current European odyssey, but you can always follow along in real time on Facebook and Instagram! I can’t wait to share this new adventure with you.

Let’s do this! Summer in Europe, here I come…

. . . . . . . . . . . .

Image of Malta via National Geographic and edited by me, image of Tomorrowland via Tattoo Donkey, image of Brussels via Flickr and edited by me, and image of Meteora via Achtypis and edited by me. My trips with Contiki and Viator and my stays with Hostelworld, Hara’s Houses and Flipkey are being provided in exchange for media coverage. As always, you will receive my honest opinions regardless of who is footing the bill.

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113 Comments...
  • Taylor
    July 7 2014

    Sounds like a blast! I’ll be spending 2 weeks in Greece in about a month and I’m so excited. I’ll be staying at a hostel with some grat reviews in Oia. Totally stoked bc I’ve heard that’s the best part of Santorini. I’ve done group travel before but not with contiki, as I haven’t heard much good about them. I did mine with EF college tours and had a blast on both. It was the first time traveling on my own so it was a nice intro to central america and europe. It’s also nice to not have to plan put every aspect of a trip.
    Taylor recently posted..Rolling Hills of Tuscany

    • Alex
      July 8 2014

      Seriously! I’m a full time independent traveler so obviously I have the confidence and knowledge to travel on my own BUT I’m also a full time independent traveler, which means I get so burnt out on planning and logistics. Definitely looking forward to getting to check into a hotel that I haven’t researched to death, agonized over booking, and done a cost comparison for!

  • Maddy
    July 7 2014

    I am so jealous of this travel schedule! You’re going to have such an amazing time! A little indulgence won’t kill you, and you’ll make some great memories, as per usual. 🙂

    My travel plans this summer include a trip to Montreal/Quebec City (never been) and Charlotte, NC (never been), so I’m looking forward to exploring both and writing up some more in-depth travel posts! (esp with info from TBS)

    I can’t believe it’s already July!
    Maddy recently posted..Wearables | Copa, Copacabana

    • Alex
      July 8 2014

      One of my best friends just got back from Charlotte and she LOVED it! I’ve never been but it is high on my list of US cities. Enjoy, and I agree — July really crept up on us!

  • Fiona
    July 7 2014

    If you fancy a side trip to Ireland, pop on over!
    Fiona recently posted..Throw Back Thursday: Inca Trail

  • Janice Stringer
    July 7 2014

    Hi Alex,
    Check out the London street food scene. I love it.
    Janice Stringer recently posted..Destination: South Western Australia

    • Alex
      July 8 2014

      I love all the open air markets in London! I think Borough Market is the one with all the food, if I remember correctly? Yum!

  • It sounds like you’ve got an exciting few months ahead!! Looking forward to keeping up with the stories and so happy that you and Anders get to reunite soon <3
    Danielle @ The-Lifestyle-Project recently posted..Hungry Monkey in Costa Rica

    • Alex
      July 8 2014

      We are excited too! I’m pretty bummed he won’t have a day off when I’m there, but I’m definitely planning on hopping onto the dive boat so we can spend some time together during the day as well 🙂

  • Amanda @ Farsickness
    July 7 2014

    Ah, I’m sad you’re so busy in London. Would’ve loved to grab a drink! Enjoy this city. Hopefully the nice summer weather will stick around this week.

    I’ll be in Santorini later this month and if I find anything amazing (besides the general amazingness of Greece) I will let you know! Can’t wait to read about your summer in Europe.
    Amanda @ Farsickness recently posted..Knowing When It’s Time To Go

    • Alex
      July 8 2014

      Definitely let me know if you find anything in Santorini! And I’ve had a few requests now for a London reader meetup which I would love to fit in if possible… would you be free Sunday morning? Will have to check with my hosts but I might have some time then!

  • Scott
    July 7 2014

    You’ll love Malta! It’s been conquered by man civilizations, has a cool castle, great diving, and has ruins older than Stonehenge there! I did my honeymoon there years ago, and would love to go back!

    • Alex
      July 8 2014

      Yay! I’m glad to hear that. I will have a rental car so I’m looking forward to doing a bit of exploring!

  • Ashley
    July 7 2014

    $943 for those flights sounds like a really good deal. And that apartment rental in Santorini looks amazing!
    Do you know where you are going to live when you head back to Thailand?
    Ashley recently posted..A Two Week Itinerary of Western Australia

    • Alex
      July 8 2014

      Koh Tao 🙂 I might go up and do a month in Pai, too!

      • kee
        August 9 2014

        Hey. Just stumbled upon your blog. How can you stay in Thailand for a few months? Do you need to have a visa? Thanks.

        • Alex
          August 12 2014

          Hey Kee! I always get multiple entry tourist visas before I arrive and extend them for 90 days each. I’d check with your local consulate for the current rules for your nationality — good luck!

  • Dad
    July 7 2014

    As usual after reading this my first thought was, when I grow up I want to be one of my children

    • Linda
      July 7 2014

      DITTO

    • Alex
      July 8 2014

      Retire and join me! 😀 Now accepting applications!

  • Right now I can’t even get a return flight to Canada from Roatan for $943, so I think you did pretty damn well 🙂

    Suuuuuuuuuper excited to follow along with you… and also looking forward to seeing where you end up in Thailand, cause this fall is potentially looking at me ending up there!
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..5 Things I Love About Roatan

    • Alex
      July 8 2014

      That’s exciting! Where are you thinking of basing up?

  • Kristie
    July 7 2014

    I LOVE when you write about your flight tricks. Thank you!!! I’ll be going to Southeast Asia next summer and am looking for flights right now…sigh…US to Asia is one pricey flight.

    • Alex
      July 8 2014

      It is indeed! My flight from Athens to Bangkok was nothing to brag about… $648, ouch! The upside is I get to go to a new country for 24 hours, yay! And I was able to book my flight back to the US for the holidays using miles, so I only paid $65 in fees for that one. Phew!

  • Pilar
    July 7 2014

    Hey Alex, sounds amazing. Brugge its just amazing picture-perfect and Malta has got a Unesco Heritage city center, really quaint. Diving isnt bad too, but dont hold your breath after Indonesian seas…you need to head to the Red Sea (literally next door) if you want to have an incredible dive time (I guess thats another trip as you will not want to leave!). Pity you arent coming to Barcelona or Ibiza this time…spanish wine and tapas on me if you change your mind! So looking forward your SE Asia time, I cant get enough of that part of the world and your adventures there. I will be around there October to December too…
    Have an amazing time in Europe, I will read you daily!
    Pilar

    • Alex
      July 8 2014

      Barcelona is high on my list, so someday I will take you up on that offer! And who knows, I might end up in Ibiza again someday too 🙂 Thank you for coming along for the ride! 🙂

  • Shaz Lake
    July 7 2014

    Sounds fun! We were planning to do summer in Europe but a once in a lifetime, too good to be true opportunity came up to spend a few months in the Galapagos islands. Now it looks like Europe will be happening in winter, we’ll just have to stay south and take advantage of the non-peak season. I look forward to your tips 🙂
    Shaz Lake recently posted..Weekly Wanders 3: A Surprising Soft Spot for Quito

    • Alex
      July 8 2014

      That does not sounds like too bad of a trade off, girl! I am a bit sad I missed the Galapagos on this trip but not too broken up as I know I’ll get there someday.

  • Justine
    July 7 2014

    You’re going to Bruges?! Ever since I saw the movie “In Bruges” I’ve always wanted to go there! It’s definitely a dark comedy so if you’re into those types of movies I highly recommend it! Your itinerary sounds incredible. I wish I had some sort of fabulous suggestions for you, but my only experience with the places you’re visiting is spending the night in Heathrow. Well, I can’t wait to read about your summer adventures. And I’m especially interested to hear about what you think of group travel. Happy and safe travels 🙂
    Justine recently posted..The Best of Bogotá: Touring the City’s Street Art Scene

    • Alex
      July 8 2014

      I just added it to my “Movies to Watch” list on my phone! Thank you for the suggestion! Really looking forward to exploring Europe a bit more, as it’s not my usual haunt…

    • Fiona
      July 8 2014

      In Bruges is a brilliant movie with a very Irish sense of humour. If you liked it, check out Black Books, an English TV series.
      Fiona recently posted..Throw Back Thursday: Inca Trail

  • Sofie
    July 7 2014

    Yaaaaaay, Belgium!
    You know if you’d like to meet up, I’m totally game.
    Hope you’ll like it here:)
    Do you plan on spending a full four days in Brussels?
    Sofie recently posted..Book review: Free country: a penniless adventure the length of Britain

    • Alex
      July 8 2014

      No, one of the days I’ll be going on the Bruges trip I linked to 🙂 On another I’ll be touring Brussels and doing the chocolate class, and the third day I will probably work and do some supply gathering for Tomorrowland. I’d love to meet up if you’re around — shoot me an email!

  • RAJESH PANDIT
    July 7 2014

    Sounds like a fun trip. Just came back from a mini Europe trip(UK,Holland,Belgium,Germany and Austria) and been to Belgium (Brussels) where I had best fries 🙂 double fried ! Place for Godiva chocolates and actually u can see them making.

    keep us posted with your adventure an have fun!

    • Alex
      July 8 2014

      Thanks Rajesh! I am looking forward to all the fries, chocolates and waffles I can get my hands on!

  • becky hutner
    July 7 2014

    killer summer plans, alex! while london isn’t my favorite european city either, i say there’s nothing like a beautiful summer’s day in england, nursing a pint in a beer garden or sharing a bottle of wine in the park. so let’s hope the weather cooperates! not sure what part of town you’re staying in but cool things are happening in hackney wick & one of my favorite chillout spots is primrose hill with a diy picnic cobbled together from nearby markets.

    can’t WAIT to read about your adventures.

    ps — really enjoyed your interview on the daily travel podcast. it was kind of a trippy experience hearing your voice after exclusively reading & seeing you all this time. for the record, it’s a great speaking voice & i thought you handled the interview eloquently & with poise!
    becky hutner recently posted..Fashion ‘Round the World: What people wore in Spring ’14

    • Alex
      July 8 2014

      Confession, I actually haven’t listened to it. I just can’t stand the sound of my own voice recorded! But you have just inspired me to give it a listen….

  • TessaClare
    July 7 2014

    So jealous. My bestie hit tomorrowland last year and said it was hands down AMAZING!! Greece also just sounds wonderful! So check out adventerous Kate blog for Malta. Her fiancé is Maltese- if that is a word. She has lots of tips on the country cos she loves it and he has all the local hints. Enjoy Alex. Can’t wait to read about it all ps. Done three contiki tours and loved them all- no planning and lots of mates to meet party and chill with!

    • Alex
      July 8 2014

      Yes, I did read through her posts when I booked my flights! And I’m glad to hear you had a great time with Contiki, seems like a great way for solo travelers to link up.

  • Carrie
    July 7 2014

    Ohhhh, I’m envious about this European adventure of yours, and I can’t wait to live vicariously. Also, as always, you provided some really great travel tips, so thank you!!

    What’s in store for me this summer is a great mix of domestic and international fun. First, a trip back to my hometown for my __th High School reunion (ahem! let’s not focus on the number!). Next, the annual pilgrimage – Burning Man. As a many-times “repeat offender” (I say that in jest), I love the prep as much as the event itself, and I gleefully look forward to it. Finally, a yoga retreat on a remote island in Mexico! What a beautiful, restorative respite that will be, especially post Burning Man.

    Un buen viaje, amiga! I anxiously anticipate your updates! 🙂
    Carrie recently posted..¡Madrid Maravillosa!

    • Alex
      July 8 2014

      Wow, that sounds like a FABULOUS summer! All three trips sound special in their own ways. Next summer I will be back in Black Rock City if all goes according to plan, and a yoga retreat is so high on my list for someday! Enjoy it all x

  • Camels & Chocolate
    July 7 2014

    My sister and I have been looking at doing that Contiki trip in Greece for AGES. Excited to read about it on your site!

    Also, good luck with the euro as it’s been murdering me this past month. And kudos for the crazy cheap flights—we started monitoring US to Europe airfare last August and while Scott and I paid for ours with (a ridiculous number of) miles, my parents’ tickets each cost about $1800… =/
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..Paddling Montana’s Clearwater River Canoe Trail

    • Alex
      July 8 2014

      Yikes girl! Ugh flights kill me. I am so happy about what I paid for all of these, though I’m sure the figure would be much higher had I had to get myself back to the US in late August (flying from Athens to Bangkok at that time was no great score, either.) I’ve been assured that Malta and Brussels are both affordable but the $50 dorm rooms I saw in Belgium don’t exactly inspire confidence.

  • Meghan
    July 7 2014

    We stayed at the Pantone! Hope you like it. There’s a great bar across the park and if you continue up that street, a great butcher with cheap sandwiches!
    Meghan recently posted..i do: lindsey + mark

    • Alex
      July 8 2014

      Awesome Meghan, thanks for the recommendation! As an art school graduate I figured I just couldn’t stay anywhere else. Just checked out your Brussels post, fun!

  • Jason
    July 7 2014

    I definitely recommend renting an ATV to explore Santorini. And I definitely don’t recommend trying your hand at the Murphy’s shot challenge ten minutes before boarding an outbound ferry.

    If Anders doesn’t have Maltese friends or hasn’t had the chance to explore enough to load you down with recs and you’d like to meet up with an bubbly, energetic, and friendly Maltese HR worker who loves her country in a humble, yet evident way, e-mail me. She just wrapped up a traveling stint in SE Asia, and I think she would be thrilled share recommendations regardless of whether you can meet up.

    Bon Voyage!

    • Alex
      July 8 2014

      Ha! I will keep those in mind for Santorini. An ATV sounds fun! As for Malta I am pretty lucky to have three friends there separate from Anders, two are locals I met traveling and one is a fellow videographer from Thailand — score! However when I start thinking about Malta later this week I might take you up on that — can never have too many friends.

      • Jason
        July 8 2014

        Of course you have friends in Malta–that’s awesome! I’m already stoked for your Malta posts, and the Tomorrowland ones. I hope you have/are already having an awesome time in Europe 🙂

  • Chris
    July 8 2014

    Can’t wait to read some more adventures, although you left me shocked when you didn’t know Malta!

    Admittedly, I know of some fairly obscure locations (yes, picture me with an atlas memorizing capital cities as a child), however this was never one of them…

    Apparently the harbour is a wonderful dive for wrecks (I guess thank WWII and the siege for that), although I’m not sure how often the water is clear.
    Chris recently posted..15 miles a day (that bridge in safety orange)

    • Alex
      July 8 2014

      I think I had heard of Malta but I’m not sure I knew for sure it was its own country and I DEFINITELY could not have pointed it out on a map. Not to sound flip but Europe has never been a source of massive travel lust or interest for me so while I used to stare at maps and memorize every country in Brazil, I would seriously have a hard time placing Poland. And while Americans are hardly known for our collective geography, I’ve gotten the same reaction about Malta from a lot of my friends — “What is that?

  • Yay so exciting! All I would say is make sure you visit Richmond when you are in London. I lived there for a year on a houseboat and it is one of my favourite places in the world – more a beautiful village than a suburb of London and so much history including centuries old pubs and what is left of the Royal Palace that Queen Elizabeth I died in. Read more about it here http://bit.ly/1kwMeQF
    Katie @ The World on my Necklace recently posted..Uluru: That big red rock in the middle of Australia

    • Alex
      July 8 2014

      Wow that looks like a beautiful area Katie, and I love the idea of living on a houseboat! I’m off to look up how far away I am from it 🙂

  • Silvia
    July 8 2014

    So excited for you, Alex! And excited for us as well for getting to read the amazing stories to come. I just spent a week in Santorini, and after months traveling through the Middle East and the Balkans the prices nearly killed me, but now I’ve made my escape to cheaper Thailand for a few months of recovery so I’m feeling better. Great minds, yo!
    Silvia recently posted..Lazarat, Albania. Think Drugs?

    • Alex
      July 8 2014

      Nice one! Athens to Bangkok was one route I could NOT find a deal on, no matter how hard I tried. Coughed up $648 for it, ouch! But at least I get to swing through Bahrain…

  • Wes
    July 8 2014

    Wes from Cambodia forward reccie division of AiW has information on Phnom Penh rental situations.