A Week, Maybe Two

My 2016 Travel Plans

by , on
Mar 3, 2016

Every year, I get seven weeks off from work between the months of June and August. I usually spend four or five of those weeks running a summer lesson program (during which I teach two days a week), which still allows me to travel quite a bit during the summer. Last summer, I had two big trips planned – a week in Ireland at the end of June with my friend Jacki and a solo roadtrip around southern California in July. I ended up having to postpone the Ireland trip because my sister was diagnosed with brain cancer a week before our scheduled departure and I canceled my trip to California because leaving her for that many days was something that I could not (and did not want to) do.

I do not regret the decisions I made regarding these trips at all, but let’s just pause here for a moment while I share some big-time, heartfelt (non-sponsored) gratitude for the actions of so many others that made the decisions to not go on these trips way less stressful than they could have been:

  • To my friend Jacki, for jumping into go mode when I told her I couldn’t go to Ireland and taking care of everything that needed to be done to postpone our trip. (And for doing all of this without ever making me feel bad about my decision.)
  • To Delta, for allowing us to postpone our flights to/from Ireland for up to a year. We ended up being able to book nearly identical tickets for this coming June for less than $1.50 each.
  • To Paddywagon Tours, for allowing us to postpone our 6-Day ALL IRELAND Tour until June of this year.
  • To US Airways/American Airlines, for refunding  ALL of the miles I used to book my San Diego flights.
  • And to Priceline, for refunding the cost of the rental car I had booked for my southern California trip.

Thanks to all of those folks,I was able to reschedule both of those trips for this year, in addition to scheduling a few other exciting trips as well. Here’s the current state of my travel plans for the rest of this year:

Spring Break in Tuscany

tuscany photo

Spring Break is fast approaching and my friend Nikki and I will be spending it in Tuscany. We’re flying from JFK to Milan on March 21st on a redeye flight and picking up a rental car when we arrive. We have a hotel booked in the center of Tuscany for several nights and will be filling our days with day trips all over the region. We’re spending the last night of our trip in Milan, before flying back to JFK on the 28th.

In terms of an actual itinerary, we don’t actually have one yet. I’m just starting to do some research on the area, but if you’ve ever been to Tuscany, please share your experiences and tips in the comments!

June in Ireland

ireland photo

The week after school lets out for summer break, Jacki and I will be off on our Ireland re-do. We’re flying on a redeye from JFK to Dublin on June 22nd and have have a full day and night to enjoy in Dublin before we start our tour with Paddywagon Tours. Over the next six days, we’re going to see so many different parts of the country – Belfast, Giant’s Causeway, Derry, Galway, Killarney, The Cliffs of Moher, Dingle, Cork, Kerry, and The Blarney Castle. We’re hoping to fill each night of our tour with as much live music as possible in pubs all over the country and we opted to upgrade to our own room at the end of each day because…well, because we’re old. (Not really, but compared to the average age of the people who travel with Paddywagon, kind of.) We’ll spend one more day and night in Dublin before we fly back to JFK on the 30th.

July in Southern California

On July 18th, I’m flying into Los Angeles for a re-do of my Southern California trip. Last year, I was going to fly into San Diego and then drive a big loop up to Santa Barbara and back. This year, I’m going to fly into Las Angeles because it’s a more central location.

Annnnnd because I found out about the American Airlines A321T a couple of days ago.

Isn’t is pretty?

The closest I’ve ever come to flying first class is sitting in an exit row (which I get to do often, thanks to my own stubbornness combined with a mild case of obsessive behavior). But with the US Airways/American Airlines merger last year, and the fact that I haven’t used any of my miles in a long time, I had a lot of them sitting around, just begging to be used in a really fun way. So, I’m dragging myself backup to JFK for a third time this year (PHL is my home airport, but American doesn’t offer flights from PHL on the A321T) so I can finally experience the joy of not flying coach.

I had to get a little creative to make it work and take advantage of the MileSAAver award level for business class, but for just 50.000 miles (actually 45,000 because I got a 5,000 mile bonus when I booked the flights), I will be flying business class on the A321T from JFK to LAX and then flying first class from LAX to SFO and in business class (again on the A321T) from SFO to JFK for the way home.

As for California itself? Well, I’m going to swing down to San Diego for a few days, maybe spend a day or two in the Santa Monica/LA area, and visit a couple of friends in Santa Barbara. I haven’t started planning much yet, but I’m hoping to hop around between some cute Airbnb places and will be visiting a LOT of breweries. And eating all the tacos.

August in The Netherlands, Belgium, & France

amsterdam photo

Yes, we’re going to Europe in the summer. Yes, we’re going to be in Paris when the locals flee the city and business owners close up shop for the month. When you’re a teacher and you get ten weeks off of work already, they REALLY don’t like it when you take time off for travel in the middle of the school year. So, summer travel it is!

This is a trip I’m taking with my Mom and I’m really excited to nerd out over all the history in each of the locations we’re visiting with her. We’re starting in Amsterdam, then heading to Bruges by way of Brussels, and ending in Paris. We booked this trip through Gate1 so that a lot of the logistics were taken care of for us, including our flights to Amsterdam and home from Paris (through PHL, YEAH!), airport transfers, all accommodations, transportation between all of the cities we’re visiting, breakfast every morning, dinner a couple of nights, and some tours mixed in with the free time we have on our own to explore each of our destinations.

That’s what I have officially booked for this year…so far! If you’ve been to any of the places I mentioned above and have any suggestions for my time there, please let me know in the comments.

*Your turn!

Where are you traveling this year? Have you ever flown on the American Airlines A321T?


  1. Stef

    March 3, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    I’m heading to the Bahamas in May. I’ve got tentative plans to go to DC with a friend who has never been there (apparently southerners don’t take a million class trips to our nation’s capital, who knew?). I’ve been eye balling a trip to Scotland and Ireland for awhile now so I’m looking forward to reading about your experience!

    • Sara

      March 3, 2016 at 10:30 pm

      I’ve been wanting to go back to DC as an adult. And I hope you are able to take that Scotland/Ireland trip soon!

  2. Beth

    March 4, 2016 at 5:51 pm

    Love reading about your travel plans! We have been to Santa Barbra the past two summers as David has family there. Love Alcazar Tapas Bar on Cliff Drive! We also took a cruise on the Sunset Kidd which was very nice. Oh and kayaking out amoungst the sea lions was so great!

    • Sara

      March 4, 2016 at 6:26 pm

      All of that sounds lovely! Thank you, Beth!

  3. Beth

    March 4, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    Oh and the Four Seasons Resort…so gorgeous! Maybe a lunch there so you can see the decor and flora!

  4. Kristin P

    March 31, 2016 at 11:33 pm

    I was in Ireland last summer, but sadly only for about a day and a half before heading to england. I only saw Dublin, but loved it. I wish I could have seen more, but the gardens in dublin are beautiful. If you can just walk down a residential street and peak over the fences, you will see some beautiful gardens! The weather is crazy, always changing, so always be prepared for rain. I took a really light rain jacket (because over the summer its nice and warm, but not hot) that i could squish into a small bag that i kept on me all the time.

    Enjoy your trips!

    • Sara

      April 4, 2016 at 10:02 am

      Thanks for the Dublin tips, Kristin!


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