My husband and I and 8 of our friends just returned from a 12-night trip to Scandinavia,- July 11 -24. This was the second time we five couples (all in our late 50's, early 60's) have traveled together as a group. Our first trip was to Tuscany in 2017. That one was so much fun! Within 10 months of our return home we were already talking about where we should go next. A lot of planning went into the Scandinavia trip, and it all went very well, so I thought I'd write my first-ever trip review on this forum.
I was the main planner for this vacation and got started about a year in advance. I love travel planning! Doing the research, reading reviews, searching for hidden gems, chatting on this travel forum, connecting with locals in the foreign country, scoring super deals from booking so early . . . . it all adds to the fun for me. The excited anticipation of all that's to come is a way to get a year's worth of pleasure out of a two week trip!
The last time my husband and I traveled to Europe, we followed his preference: a home base for a week, with day trips. That trip was Provence, and the area lent itself well to that style of travel. This time, my husband knew that things would be much more fast paced, which is my preferred style of travel. Everyone in our group was of the mind that this would likely be the one and only time they'd visit Scandinavia. No one is retired yet so 12 nights (13 with the flight) is all we could manage. We wanted to experience as much of Scandinavia as possible! Instead of deeply delving into one country, we decided to do this as more of a "Scandinavia 101" survey course!
How to get started??? I looked at the itinerary of the Rick Steves Scandinavia in 14 days tour and saw that the tour has no overnight stays exceeding 2 nights. It has overnight destinations in 2 cities in Sweden, 2 cities in Denmark, and 3 cities in Norway. I read rave reviews about that tour. None of the reviewers complained that it was too much time spent in transit and not enough time spent enjoying the destinations. I contacted friends from our Rick Steves Village Italy tour, knowing that they'd taken the Scandinavia in 14 Days tour. They shared information about the places they stayed and the activities they enjoyed and wholly endorsed our idea of trying to replicate that trip on our own, so we decided to do that! However, I eliminated the single night stay in Kalmar, Sweden and the single night stay in the Jotunheimen Mountains, in Norway, and I reduced the two night stay in Oslo to a one night stay. I added a two night stay in Balestrand, Norway, so as to slow things down after our "Norway in a Nutshell" day, experiencing the tranquility and beauty of the fjords in between our stays in Oslo and Bergen.
I know that with fully guided group travel, the transit from place to place is effortless: just board the bus at the appointed time and you're off to a new place. Doing this as independent travel would be a little more stressful, but with careful planning, i knew we could do it.
We had a fabulous time! We saw and did so many awesome things!
Airfare: The first order of business was to book our airline tickets and after monitoring prices for a while, we saw a good deal and jumped on it. The booking was in August of 2018. Our flights from Chicago to Stockholm, with a plane change in Amsterdam, were $896 per person. We got to Chicago from the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area by a private limo service, only about $600 round trip, or $60 per person, less than we'd have paid to take a bus down and back.
Because of the cut off on number of characters, I'm going to have to review this trip in a series of posts. Next up, our stay in Stockholm!