“When one door closes, another opens.” This has been so true for me particularly this past week. And that new door opening? It’s opening up in Europe in the fall! I could not be more excited about this.
When 2018 started, we were looking at our big trip to Ireland in April. That was pretty much all we had in the books. I think we actually ended up booking Phoenix, Arizona at the very end of 2017 and we had plans to spend Christmas 2018 in Toronto. But our big travel plan was Ireland for 10 days in April.
But here we are in June, and we’ve pretty much traveled every single month! In January, we were just getting back from Mexico with my family. In February, we did a cozy cute log cabin weekend in Hope, BC. In March, we went to Scottsdale, Arizona for a long weekend to visit Colin’s cousins. April was all about Ireland. In May, we scored a super sweet deal to Austin, Texas and did an overnight in Whistler. And tomorrow, I get to go to Hawaii with a girlfriend!
So 2018 was really off to a bang. And as much as my wallet was hurting, I was so stoked to have a trip planned every single month. We also booked our trip for next year to Southeast Asia, and I love having all of this time to plan and research for that.
One thing I love to do is spend my birthday somewhere new. I’ve never been the kind of person who wants to throw a party and have people over. The idea of organizing a dinner with a big group of friends or going out to a bar just sounds stressful to me. I would much prefer to indulge my greatest love, travel.
And I have been very lucky to do that on many of my birthdays. I turned 15 on an island in the Philippines. I turned 18 on a volunteer trip in the Dominican Republic. For my 19th, I was just getting back from Peru. For my 20th, I was just getting back from my first solo trip to Europe. I turned 21 in Swaziland and celebrated in Cape Town the following weekend. I turned 22 in Tokyo, Japan. My 23rd birthday happened in Vancouver, which was actually a first. I turned 24 out at Harrison Hot Springs. And my last birthday, 25, was celebrated in San Francisco.
So I was wanting to follow suit with 26. It’s hard to find a good travel deal over my birthday (July 17) as summer months are pretty popular. But we managed to do it. We snagged $150 r/t flights to Calgary and planned to celebrate my 26th at the Calgary Stampede while visiting Colin’s cousins.
Full disclosure, Calgary has never been super high on my list. Nothing against Calgary; it was just never a place I was dying to go. But it was close by, the flights were cheap, Colin had family there we did want to see and it fit the bill for going somewhere for my birthday. So we booked it!
And then we had to cancel it.
I can’t remember ever having actually cancelled a flight before. There have definitely been some trips that I have planned and then had to reschedule or postpone. But I’ve never actually called an airline and cancelled flights. Once the flight is booked, I’m on it. But not this time.
We had planned to be in Calgary from July 13 – 18. Those were the dates that were cheapest and happened to include my birthday. Unfortunately, Colin received his updated schedule from work and found out he’d been scheduled to work five out of those six days. Plus, with our annual Pender Harbour weekend getting pushed back and no longer falling on the long weekend, Colin would need to get almost a week off of work. And for a guy with no more vacation days (my bad, I used up all of those!), it really wasn’t looking good.
So we cancelled. It sucks to be losing money (though WestJet did only charge us one cancellation fee so we still have about $215 in flight credit). It sucks to be bailing on Colin’s family. And it sucks to not be celebrating my birthday somewhere special. But in the grand scheme of things, I am okay with it. I’m sure we’ll make it to Calgary at some point (though this is our second cancelled Calgary trip. We had planned to road trip out there in the summer of 2016). And I’d rather Colin get the days off so we can go to Pender Harbour than miss out on Pender for Calgary.
And that was the door closing.
But then a new door opened! And it was so much better than Calgary for my birthday (no offense, Calgary. I’m sure you’re lovely.). Colin and I had been joking about a fall trip for a while. Even though Ireland was supposed to be our big one, we both knew I couldn’t sit still for the rest of the year. So Colin was coming around to the idea that I was going to end up booking something for the fall. Vegas? New Orleans? Hawaii again? All good options.
Until a better option came around: Europe! I woke up to an awesome flight sale: Vancouver to London and Iceland, back to Vancouver for $400! We never get deals like this to Iceland from Vancouver. I remember an Iceland deal being advertised a few weeks earlier for $200 more. This was too good to pass up. (In my opinion, anytime Europe is on sale for less than $500 from Vancouver, it’s a good deal and I have to grab it!)
So I texted my dad about it and I texted Colin. My dad has never been to Europe and there was a similar sale out of Toronto so I proposed meeting him there. And then I waited. And waited. And waited some more! Apparently not everyone is working from home or glued to their phone all day.
Finally, I got a response. It was Colin. He was, justifiably, worried. We had just had our monthly money meeting and discussed how much I was spending on travel (too much). Plus, he was out of vacation days and would have to take the time off unpaid. I totally understood where he was coming from. And yet, London and Iceland for $400! He agreed that it was too good to pass up and gave me the green light to book it, with the condition that we don’t book anymore flights this year.
Well, that lasted about a day. Whoops!
The next morning, my dad (finally) texted back. My #1 rule with cheap flights is that you need to be able to jump on them ASAP. I’ve seen flight deals come and go in the time that it takes me to get to my laptop, input dates and press book. You never know how long a deal is going to hang around for. If you can’t press the trigger right away, you’ll miss out.
Case in point: those London/Iceland flights we booked for $400? They were being advertised for $520 the very next day!
So my dad writes back and says that he’d love to go to Europe with me. Now, that might not sound like such a big deal but it was HUGE to me. My dad has never been to Europe. He’s not a huge traveler. And it makes me sad that I haven’t been able to share this passion of mine with my dad. My mom, on the other hand, is very well-traveled and we’ve been lucky to have gone on a number of trips together, like our adventures through London, Amsterdam, Germany, Croatia and Montenegro when my mom came to visit while I studied abroad. But I’ve never been able to share any of that with my dad.
And that bugs me because I know my dad would LOVE traveling and Europe specifically. I can picture him wandering through museums, taking in gorgeous old architecture and just marveling at everything Europe has to offer. For years, I’ve been trying to convince my dad and that side of my family to take a trip, join me abroad and book that flight. Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened yet (though we have gone on some awesome resort trips to the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic and Mexico, so I really can’t complain). But this time, my dad said yes. And I really didn’t want to let that go.
So I got to searching. We decided to do a trip just the two of us, instead of having my dad tag along on Colin and my London/Iceland trip. Luckily, there were still some good flight deal options out there. After a few different searches (waiting for my dad to text back again, I had to keep changing the dates to get the good deal), we finally found our trip. We booked Vancouver to Amsterdam r/t for $550 for me and Toronto to Amsterdam to Iceland r/t for $420 for him. And the flights happen to be 10 days after Colin and I get home from our first trip to Europe in the fall.
Long story short: We had to cancel our July trip to Calgary. But ended up booking two trips to Europe in the fall – Colin and I to London and Iceland. And then me and my dad to Amsterdam (with a few days in Iceland for my dad).
Needless to say, I AM STOKED! Europe is always going to get me incredibly stoked. But I’m even more stoked that I get to go twice and get to go with my dad. Plus, I’m getting to revisit some of my favourite places in the world.
Oddly enough, this trip is only to places I’ve been before. I usually like to cross a new country off of the bucket list instead of revisiting somewhere I’ve been before. But I will always make exceptions for London, a city I will be visiting for the 7th time this fall, and Amsterdam, where I studied abroad in 2014 and haven’t been back to since.
Plus, these will be new experiences for Colin and my dad. Colin has been to London before, but he’s not in love with it like I am. I intend to show him all of the amazing parts of London that have my heart (high tea, theatre, Harry Potter, more theatre). And he’s never been to Iceland, so that will be so fun for him to experience (especially as a GoT fan). My dad has never been to Europe, so Amsterdam and Iceland are going to be amazing for him!
Plus, it’s not like it’s going to be a boring old trip for me. It’s Europe, for crying out loud! And I actually have never been to Europe in the fall. All of my European adventures have been in the winter/spring and summer. So experiencing Europe in the fall will be fun in itself. And there’s so much I still haven’t done in London, Iceland and Amsterdam. We’re planning a day trip from London to Stonehenge and maybe a little UK city, since I’ve never managed to leave London on any of my previous trips. We’re also thinking about renting a camper van in Iceland and experiencing more off of the tourist road. And in Amsterdam, I actually have three extra nights there by myself so I may need to adventure outside of the city (Maastricht? Utrecht? Cologne? Brussels?).
Okay, that’s enough from me. I’ve got to get back to work so I can actually afford these two trips to Europe!
Any suggestions for our itineraries in London, Iceland or Amsterdam?
Let me know!