Long Report warning. Spoiler alert: We had a Wonderful time and were not ready to come home after a month away. :) I'll break this into sections: General Trip Report starting with Itinerary; Packing; General Lessons Learned; Travel during Pandemic Times; I can't cover it all so I'll include a bulleted list of favorite moments and am happy to provide feedback on request.
Overall, I would agree with many other comments that I've seen that may not be the time for travel for everyone. There are extra hoops to go through, last minute changes, and information to keep updated on. For us, all the extra effort was worth it and we're glad we went.
September 23 - October 23 Croatia, Slovenia, a few days in Italy - total travel 31 days
PUW > SEA > FRA > Dubrovnik
Ljubljana > FRA > SEA > GEG
2 people, carry-ons only. This was our first time in Croatia and Slovenia-we've been to Italy several times.
We had originally planned a trip in May of 2020 to include Slovenia, Croatia, ending in Italy with a few days in Venice & fly home from Florence. We discussed and discussed about rescheduling to Fall 2021, and for a myriad of reasons, we went ahead with the travel, albeit with an amended itinerary. '1st final' decision to go ahead was on July 4th, deposits put down and reservations solidified. Then as D variant popped up and numbers began to rise, also increasing the possibility of unknowns, we went around and around about whether to go ahead or stay home. 'Final-final' decision to go ahead was about 2 weeks before departure, around the first week of September. We've always traveled independently using RS guide books, but this time we thought it best to let someone else do some of the hard work of planning around what is open, current restrictions, boarder crossings, etc. And we're thankful for their efforts! We finalized on a 7 day small boat cruise, and a 10 day food and wine tour; 2 weeks [broken up] on our own.
Landed Dubrovnik, quick overnight then onto a Sail Croatia boat, the Esperanza, for 7 days island hopping the Dalmatian coast, ending in Split (stops at Mljet, Korcula, Vela Luka, Vis, Hvar, Stari Grad)
Plitvice Lakes and Waterfalls
3 days in Zagreb
Boarder crossing into Slovenia (EU) - 2 days in Ljubljana
10-day food and wine tour (8 people): Brda region and Karst; a few day trips into Friuli-Venezia Giulia Italy; Vipava valley; back into Croatia for 3 days in Istria; ending in Eastern Slovenia around Maribor and Ptju.
We then picked up a rental car at LJU
Lake Bled (2 nights at Villa Bled)
Across Vrsic pass and on to 2 nights homebased in Kobarid
Ending with 2 more nights in Ljubljana (see lessons learned)
When reflecting upon the itinerary after we got home, there may have been some 'Revenge Travel' mentality happening haha. Even though I don't really like that term, it probably best captures the mielleux of our trip.
We started with a week on a small boat cruise [Dubrovnik to Split] visiting a different island each day, breakfast and lunch on the boat with dinner on our own in the ports, and swim stops each day. The swimming was glorious, not as warm as Monterosso al Mare mid-September (previous trip), but for the end of September, the water felt great. The boat capacity is 38 ppl, there were only 12 other people on our week. And for the first time since February 2020, we truly relaxed. In the ports we encountered very few other Americans. It was definitely a positive experience for getting a taste of multiple islands!
(continued in comments below)