Packing List

Adding RyanAir to our plans saves us some travel time, but it does mean we have to travel super light. That means one smallish backpack or duffel and one tiny under the seat bag. The “bigger” bag must weight less than 20 pounds. They can and do pick people out to weigh their bags. If you are over weight, you have to pay big cost to check the bag – like $80. Which is actually more than most of our flights costs. So – packing light. No fashion plates this summer, lots of grey and black and wearing everything twice before we do laundry. Sounds like college.

Note: Items crossed out we either threw away or mailed home because we didn’t need nearly as much as we thought. After this trip, I became a convert to the pack-lite movement.

Important Stuff

  • Passport
  • Some cash in Dollars and Pounds
  • ATM/Debit and credit cards
  • Driving licence
  • Digital copies of passport & travel docs stored on laptops and emailed to ourselves
  • Money belt for Karen
  • Wallet for Jacob


  • Travel power adaptor kit
  • USB flash drives
  • Jacob’s camera and gear and bag and charger & sd cards
  • Spare USB Cable
  • Phone, charger
  • Headphones
  • Headphone splitter – so we can listen to one device together for tours
  • Tablet and charger
  • Digital keyboard for writing
  • HooToo with adapters


  • Travel information (minimal paper – mostly digital)
  • Addresses (digital)
  • Small picture book of our hometown and pictures of our family
  • Tiny flashlight on key chain
  • eyeglass repair kit
  • safety pins – assorted sizes
  • ziplock bags – 2 each size
  • small notebook
  • small sketch pad (Jacob)
  • pens, pencil & eraser
  • Earplugs
  • Eye mask
  • Sea sick bands


  • 1 Backpack or duffel each (too big by end of summer but great for shopping)
  • 1 tiny under seat storage bag each
  • Foldable/packable day pack each
  • We each bought a beautiful leather bag in Florence and carried that the rest of the summer.
  • 1 small combination lock each
  • Packing cubes
  • Compression bag for laundry

Plane Travel Kit:

  • Tissues
  • Nasal saline gel
  • gum
  • dop kit
  • shawl
  • fuzzy socks
  • Plane snacks: nuts, chocolate, sandwiches
  • Refillable water bottles and/or travel coffee mug to make coffee and take it out in the mornings
  • Paperback book each, books on audible, books on Kindle and Nook books

Jacob’s Clothes

  • walking shoes (outgrew these on the trip! Bought sneakers in Paris)
  • Sports sandals (waterproof)
  • rain jacket
  • light sweater or sweatshirt
  • Jeans (debating this one)
  • Other pants  (not jeans)
  • Shorts x 2
  • 1 long sleeve shirt
  • 3 t-shirts
  • 5 underwear
  • 3 socks
  • Swim shorts (did double duty as walking shorts)
  • Sunglasses in travel case

Karen’s Clothes: (can I put stuff in Jacob’s bag or is that cheating?)

  • Gray and black – no whites, no reds to fade
  • swim suit
  • Pajamas (tank and shorts can double as emergency clothes)
  • 1 grey jeans (wear  these on planes)
  • 1 skirt (lightweight)
  • 1 dress (double as beach cover up)
  • 1 black leggings
  • sandals
  • walking shoes
  • light rain jacket
  • grey sweater -wear on the plane
  • fleece beenie for cold days and planes
  • umbrella
  • hat for sun/rain
  • 5 3 shirts + wear 1
  • 5 3 underwear + wear 1
  • 2 bras
  • 3 socks + wear 1
  • scarf

Dop Kit (what we call our toiletry bag)

  • Toiletries to share (we can each carry only 3)
    • Shampoo
    • Soap
    • Lotion
    • Sunscreen
    • Hair gel
    • Dr Bonners
  • acne wash
  • toothbrush with covers
  • toothpaste
  • floss sticks
  • pads
  • eyeliner
  • lipstick
  • comb
  • deodorant (shared by end of summer)
  • By the end of the summer, we had one bottle with a few:
    • benadryl
    • Ibuprofen
    • Aleve
    • Immodium
    • Dimenhydrinate travel sickness pills
    • Medicine and vitamins. Keep medicine in original containers, if possible, with legible prescriptions and generic names.
    • Few bandaids/moleskin
  • Prescription meds
  • tiny roll of duct tape
  • Shout wipes
  • Prescription sunglasses.
  • Travel size hairbrush
  • Lip balm

Planning Jobs

We’ve been homeschooling since 2009. Our son, Jacob, is turning 14 this year and we are taking the school on the road with a summer long trip to Europe. We’ll visit 3 major cities in five countries in 77 days.

Since there is so much planning work to do, we split up the jobs. First, together, we came up with an itinerary and agreed on what cities we’d visit. Then I booked the airfare and the apartments and the one rental care we needed for Spain.

Jacob’s job is actually bigger and a lot more work. But he’s out of school for the summer so now he has a lot of time to do all this. He has to research each city. Make a list of things we want to see, then research them so he knows how to get to them from our apartment and can teach ME about them when we get there.

Oh, and he’s also drawing custom maps for each city with the sites we want to see. I’ll post those when they’re done. He’s quite the cartographer!

Jacob’s Job:

  • Learn 30 useful phrases in each language
  • Understand the currency in each language
  • Research each country and learn the history
  • For each city, choose the sites we will see
  • Create the daily itinerary with travel directions to each site
  • Draw a customized map of each city with all the sites
  • Read about each site and be prepared to teach it to Mom
  • Official trip photographer
  • Keep a daily journal
  • Co-author this site
  • Live local and learn

Mom’s Job:

  • Budgeting and financial planning ($20,000 trip)
  • Book the airline flights early to get great deals
  • Find safe but inexpensive places to stay (goal: $50 per night or less)
  • Review Jacob’s plans based on previous travels
  • Take pictures
  • Co-author this site
  • Keep a daily journal
  • Live Local and Learn

Introducing Mom & Jacob

My name is Karen, aka Mom. Jacob is my son. We are going to try and live locally in 10 European cities in 80 amazing days during the summer of 2016.

What does live local mean to us? We’re not staying in hotels and eating in restaurants.  We’ve rented apartments on Airbnb and similar sites. We’ll shop in local markets and stores, cook our own food most of the time and try to live as authentically as possible.

To do this, we’ll be  avoiding the 50 cities in 50 days type of trip and instead, stay at least a week in each city. Some cities, like London and Paris, we’ll spend more time, but take day trips to explore the nearby cities. We plan to learn some common phrases, how to manage our money in a different currency and how to do everyday things like public transportation, shopping, site-seeing and of course, some art, some history and some literature. (Math is covered by budgeting and shopping! And you thought we weren’t well- rounded!)


A note about that Mother of the Year Award


I know.

There are crazy things going on – refugees in Greece, bombings in Belgium and more.

Is it insane to take my son into all that?

Maybe. But I was living in London in the 80’s during the bombings there. People shopped, went to school and to work and kept going with their lives.

Because that’s how you win against the crazies – you keep living.

Crazy Just Hit a New Level

In December 2015, I made a (possibly) crazy decision to go ahead with an idea we’d been talking about for years. We are going to spend the summer – 11 weeks – traveling around Europe.

There are a ton of reasons why this is crazy. We can’t really afford it. There are a dozen other uses for every penny we are spending. We have dogs and chickens and a garden. My husband used this as his excuse to stay home and cut trip costs. We’ll miss you so much! But we rented out our guest house and I got a great contract that ends in mid-June. Still, there’s a serious risk we could come back broke and out of work.

So why not just go to one city each summer and spread it out? We could. But the big cost is always GETTING to Europe. Found an amazing deal to fly from San Francisco to London for under $400 each. Then found another one way from London to Oakland for under $400. So for less than half the normal flight cost, we can get to Europe and back home again.

Then I found Ryanair. I know, I know – SO MANY DRAWBACKS! But – if you are willing to cut your luggage down to 20lbs and take one bag and fly at crazy times from odd, remote airports, you can get from one country to another for a lot less money than you think. Started putting together the itinerary based on where they fly and the specials running in December and January.

The next biggest cost is lodging. London alone is frightfully expensive. But – my best friend from college just happens to live there and she invited us to stay. We’ll kick in for food and help with chores AND get to spend time with her and her amazing sons.

Then I found Airbnb. I had only thought of using it as a way to rent out my guest house. I started searching for places to stay in Edinburgh – another expensive city. Then Dublin. Then Athens. By this time, I was hooked and decided this crazy plan was actually doable.

So – we’re going!


Oh the places you’ll go! We’ll be traveling for 80 days. This is our plan so far:

San Francisco to London for 8 days (Bath, Stonehenge, Oxford day trips)

London to Edinburgh for 2 days

Edinburgh to Dublin for 3 days

Dublin to Athens for 6 days (including 1 day in Hydra, 1 day in Delphi)

Athens to Santorini for 5 days

Santorini to Crete for 4 days

Crete to Rome for 7 days

Rome to Florence for 7 days (including a quick stop in Bologna and 1 day trip to Pisa)

Florence to Venice for 3 days

Venice to Barcelona for 4 days

Barcelona to Madrid and Toledo for 3 days

Toledo to Seville for 3 days

Seville to Gibraltar for 1 day

Valencia for 7 days

Back to Barcelona for 1 day before flying to Paris

Paris for 12 days, including a couple of day trips to Amsterdam, Bruges, Rouen, Chartres, Mont St Michele

London for a few days (and Leeds) before heading home!