I could not BE more excited to plan this trip! That’s a strong way to come out of the gate, I know. However, I also knew I was going to Sweden the minute that the TBEX team announced Stockholm as the next Travel Expo location in Europe. What I didn’t know at the time was that I would stretch the trip into a 3+ week jaunt around Scandinavia. I have yet to visit the land of the Nords, so this will be a trip filled with firsts for me to an incredibly scenic area of the world. Adding two additional countries would also make this logistically much more interesting.
I knew I would need four days or so in Stockholm to attend the conference and see the city, otherwise where I started and how I got around depended on local transportation and where I could book award point flights to and from.
3+ weeks. I really had no constraints here, other than knowing that the longer I was gone, the longer my wife would be stuck at home with the dogs while I visited the land of her ancestors.
When I plan, I usually start around the main anchor points and work inward; typically adding additional points based on travel days and logistical constraints. Depending on how structured you like your vacations you can continue to add anchors based on specific sights and events you wish to see.
In this case, I knew the conference in Sweden would be the main anchor, followed by my flights to and from Northern Europe. The question, in this case, was, “Do I want the conference to be the starting or ending point of my travel?” Based on things I have going on here at home, I decided to make Stockholm and TBEX the culmination.
After looking at flights and doing some research (below), I decided on seeing Norway and Denmark as well as Sweden. To top it all off, I would spend almost a full day in Rome as a long layover on the way home (more on that later). Initially I wanted to spend a few days in Iceland, again, reward point travel meant that I would have to fly over the island. I also wanted to see the Northern Lights; however, I consulted with Lapland photography guide Ralph Velasco who advised against it given the extended daylight in the north.
Reason behind the trip:
TBEX was the focal point, not to mention this would put me over my 40 countries to hit my bucket list goals for the year.
Research, where to start:
After looking at flights holidays and elections (below), I started writing country profiles for each location. Given the general safety record of the three countries I did not go too deep into security issues, rather, I focused more on what I wanted to see while I was there.
(Read my article on Planning for more tips)
For 60,000 points and $100, I booked tickets from Denver direct to Oslo and Rome back to Denver via Lisbon and Chicago. Outside of that, I booked a flight from Bergen to Copenhagen and another from Stockholm to Rome for my flight home.
Why fly out of Rome?
- A) I have never been to Rome and thought it would make for a cool layover.
- B) There were no award travel flights coming home from Sweden/Norway or Denmark.
- C) Airports charge airport tax, this amount varies from location to location. I chose FCO because they were dramatically less than leaving from anywhere in England.
Before booking I wanted to know if there were any instability issues. Both Sitata and GeoSure listed green lights for the entire vacation. Nice. The FCO listed minimal warnings: Pick pockets in big cities; weather in the north.
I checked the 2016 electoral calendar and found nothing.
Before booking, I always check the calendar to make sure there isn’t anything wacky going on during the period I’m planning. I looked at two calendar sites for each country and found that July 4th is Queen Sonja’s day in Norway which may result in some festivities and/or some closed shops. I assume this will have the most impact in Oslo. Outside of that, it looks like I’ll be traveling right smack in the middle of summer break which may or may not mean shops are closed and a slower transportation schedule.
A quick visit to the State.gov website listed no visa requirement for stays of less than 90 days.
No requirements; however, the CDC says Hep A, Hep B and Rabies vaccinations are recommended.
Lonely Planet makes a consolidated Scandinavia guide, so I purchased it early on to help with making plans and figuring out what I wanted to see.
Since I’m traveling to a relatively safe area I’m not making any hotel reservations outside of my time at the conference in Stockholm. I’ll mostly be staying in hostels; I don’t want to be tied down in case some awesome opportunity shows up, so I’ll be making minimal reservations.
Now is when I go back to the guidebook and also visit the Google machine to see what the major attractions are. This is the point where I map out what I want to see, how to get there and how much time I can devote to each locale. I’ve already eliminated the Northern Lights, so I want to see the fjords, spend some time in Oslo, Bergen, Copenhagen and have a few days in the countryside of Sweden and Denmark – TBD. Will most likely travel by train within country, maybe rent a bike somewhere and take a ferry down the fjords.
I’ve reserved the hotel in Stockholm, so now I’ll go through and collect all the contact information I’ll need to have on hand during the trip and get it onto one quick Crib Sheet, print it the size of a credit card, then laminate it – or into Evernote for quick reference. Here’s a free template of the one I use personally.
A few days out I’ll check the weather report and start packing. Twenty-five days = One backpack, easy. I’ll take a spare bag, in case I end up doing some shopping. Expect a last minute prep and packout article on this before I leave.
So this was the process I went through to plan my latest trip, and the process for any trip is basically the same depending on time restrictions, destination choices, etc. Hope you enjoyed the ride along!