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Travelling Freestyle!

My Husband and I (Perth, Australia) are retiring at the end of the year and plan to spend five months travelling around the UK, France and Italy. At this stage we are not booking any accommodation, having decided to 'wing it', giving us complete flexibility! The mere thought of this makes me anxious! We have never travelled this way as we've always been on a time limit and bookings were essential. I would love to hear form anyone who has travelled in this way and what was good/bad about it and would you do it again?

Posted by
2393 posts

We love freestyle and have done it several times - although never for 5 months (a little jealous!) We have never had problems finding a hotel room. How exciting for you.

Which 5 months? That could have an impact if you are traveling during peak season.

Transportation?

How frequently do you plan on moving?

Do you plan on hotels, hostels, apt rentals?

Have you considered renting a caravan?

There are a lot of variables - especially over 5 months.

Posted by
5 posts

Hi Christi, thank you so much for your reply....we are leaving Perth at the beginning of July (2017) high season I know, and heading to Scotland (my hometown) for 3 weeks. I have sourced an Airbnb flat for that one! After Scotland will be Ireland, Wales and the South of England all by car and moving around every couple of days I think. France & Italy will be the same, although we are very familiar with Italy. A caravan/winnebago has been discussed, but I felt that would mean we have to drive instead of having the choice to drive (if that makes sense). I have created numerous wishlists on Airbnb, which means every few days finding somewhere else to stay. Though this shouldn't be too hard as I will have my i-pad with me. I'm trying not to overthink it all. Can I ask where you have travelled Christi?

Posted by
1321 posts

I am totally envious :-D

You are hitting the absolute rush season and I suggest you plan most of the accommodation in the first two months. Wing it after that.

Quite unrelated, but try to look on http://www.leboat.co.uk/ and see if that could interest you. We loved it both times we have tried it (Caledonian Canal and River Shannon) and we are planning a trip in Venice next summer.

Posted by
5 posts

Thank you for the info on the website, I will check it out...also the tip about booking in advance :)

Posted by
2393 posts

We have traveled all over UK, France, Spain, Germany, Italy & Austria and a little Switzerland. We are just starting to explore Eastern Europe. We have driven all over the UK, Spain much of France and Tuscany. The rest were all on train. We travel in the shoulder season & off season - better weather and less crowds

For travel in July and August you will need more planning or stick to places less traveled - after that wing it! I usually book the night before for the next town - the web sure makes that easy these days! I use google maps to find hotels in the area I want then check their reviews on Google, TA & Booking.com.

Posted by
27062 posts

Go for it! Last year I arrived in Europe on May 26 and left on October 13. Only my first hotel was reserved before departure. The others were mostly found on venere.com or booking.com 24 or 48 hours in advance. I went to Italy, eastern Germany, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Montenegro. Not a lot of A-list destinations, but I did go to Rome and Berlin.

My hotel requirements may be more basic than yours (clean, private bath, Wi-Fi, convenient to bus/train station, air conditioning if it will be hot), but my budget is probably lower, as well. I sometimes had to go up a class to find a/c and a good location because the less expensive places were booked up, but it wasn't that much of a problem. Traveling on the spur of the moment, you'll really want decent Wi-Fi in your hotels. Every hotel/pension claims to have it, but it doesn't always work in every room. It's critical to read the hotel reviews, and I always note that I need a room with good Wi-Fi reception during the booking process. I still occasionally run into problems. Many restaurants, cafes and bars in Italy have Wi-Fi that can be used in a pinch.

You certainly have to be prepared to modify your plans if you hit an unexpected local fiesta, but that's something much more easily accepted on a long trip. I knew from previous trips that Bologna can be a tough city for budget stays, so I booked that hotel 4 days ahead. I think beach destinations can be quite tough during peak season. It will probably be easier if you day-trip to those from an inland city. If there are specific coastal destinations where you know you want to spend the night, you should probably book those more than a day or two ahead. (For sure the Cinque Terre, but also other spots where Italians swarm.)

I assume you know that (without a visa that's complicated to get) you can only spend 90 days in the Schengen zone, including both arrival day and departure day. So France and Italy are limited to a total of 90 days. A side-trip to Switzerland will not help. Do not cut it too close. We've had reports of substantial fines levied on tourists who overstayed the limit. I managed to get sick on Day 84 last year and just managed to recover in time to cross the border into Croatia on Day 90.

One thing I'll caution you about is that every time I've traveled to Europe for 2 months or more, I've picked up a gastrointestinal bug, and sometimes also a cold. I think it happens because travel--wonderful though it is--is a bit tiring. I've learned to travel with a few days' supply of several OTC meds, and you might want to get, and fill, a prescription for an antibiotic suitable for bacterial GI infections.

Posted by
1219 posts

Go for it! So jealous, and I have noticed in England at least in researching accommodation for my trip next spring that places Rick recommends even have late availability booking. If you know where you are going to be a couple of days down the road start checking websites and book those rooms. Have fun!!

Posted by
23245 posts

We live and die with an app called Hotel.com and it's sub app - HotelTonight. About noon or so when know where we are going to be that evening, we log in into HotelTonight. It has a large numbers of last minute hotels available. Haven't been burned yet.

Posted by
5202 posts

Congratulations on your upcoming retirement!
It sure sounds like a wonderful trip!

Make sure you understand the Schengen agreement rules, & also check your passport(s) expiration date(s).

Have a fabulous trip!

Posted by
23245 posts

As Australians, I don't believe the Schengen agreement applies to them.

Posted by
508 posts

Now, that's a way to begin your retirement years!

By all means, go freestyle! I've traveled that way by bicycle many times in many countries and find that it adds a bit of flavor, excitement and mild adventure to our trips.

The "worst" (and I use the term lightly) that ever happened to us by just showing up was in a small town in Egypt. We went to every hotel and even knocked on a few doors looking for rooms. There was a convention or some large meeting going on already, so every place was fully booked. We ended up inquiring at the police station, where we were treated with great kindness and ushered into a small room to wait for the chief.

After a while, the chief showed up and told us he was sending a couple of officers out to scout around town to try to find us rooms. Needless to say, we were truly amazed. Well, we waited for nearly three hours (and fed crackers and water in the meantime) before the chief returned and informed us that there were simply no rooms to be had that night. He then mentioned that a friend of his owned a hotel in a larger town some thirty or forty miles away and offered to drive us there. There were four of us. We squeezed our bikes and gear in the back of a truck, arriving at his friend's hotel around 10 pm. After greeting us outside the hotel, the owner opened up his kitchen, cooked us dinner and then showed us to our rooms.

I'll never forget what the chief said to us just before he left - and after we thanked him profusely: "Is there any other way I can be of service?" That sentiment left four guys standing speechless on the sidewalk. You never know what kindnesses and serendipitous experiences you'll have while traveling.

Posted by
346 posts

I hope you will take good notes and post updates as you go so that those of us here can follow along!
David, your story is heartwarming.

Posted by
346 posts

I hope you will take good notes and post updates as you go so that those of us here can follow along!
David, your story is heartwarming.

Posted by
8125 posts

Traveling free style has never been easier.

In the old days, I'd get off the train and look for the Big "T"--tourist branch. They'd find me a great room for a great price for a couple of bucks.

Now, you've got dozens of websites that you can get rooms on the fly. All you need is a WiFi spot and a $120 to $150 one pound Chromebook and you're in business.

Posted by
5 posts

WOW!! What fabulous ideas I now have, thank you to everyone who responded, it's fantastic to 'chat' with so many well travelled people. Thanks for the tips on the visa situation, I believe we will have to explore that as we don't head into Croatia until mid October. Awesome tip about the antibiotics too, in 2014 I ended up with a nasty chest infection in Italy and was astounded that I could walk into a pharmacy and buy antibiotics otc. I'll be checking out all the accommodation websites too...thanks again, I'm feeling a lot more confident about 'travelling freestyle'.