You know the 7 Ps right? My dad has drilled them into my head-Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Well I THOUGHT I had been planning properly... Turns out, I missed a pretty big detail about travel to Europe. It is called the Schengen Zone. To my understanding, this Zone is not as well known to Americans as it is to the rest of the world. When I posted in my girls travel group asking for help about this Zone I received many comments about how laughable it was that I hadn't heard about this. Turns out, many other American women backed me up saying they too, had never heard of such a thing. Even my travel agent never mentioned this to me-which is frightening since it is a huge deal. The only reason I found out about it was because I was talking to a fellow American traveler. She warned me about this Zone because she herself didn't know about it UNTIL she had already arrived in Europe! Thankfully that will not be our case, but it still certainly has messed up our plans.
So, what is the Schengen Zone?
The Zone was set up to allow essentially "border free" travel throughout many countries in the EU. This allows for easy and efficient travel, because you do not have to go through customs when going from country to country in the Zone. This also means you do not have to provide proof of onward travel in each country, rather proof of travel out of the Schengen Area. This is convenient for people who are wanderers or just want to keep their options open.
HOWEVER, the downside to the Schengen Zone is that you are only allowed to be in the area for 90 days. Then, you must exit the Zone for 90 days before you are allowed back in again. On a side note, the 90 days do not have to be consecutive, but 90 days out of every 180. Yes, it’s a bit confusing, but once you look there are several websites that explain it well. Below is a useful map of Schengen and non-Schengen areas. There are visas you can obtain in order to stay longer than 90 days, but they are hard to get if you are not a student, and expensive.
So yes, this really puts a damper on things. We arrive in Spain around August 28th, which means we have to leave the Zone by about November 26th. We were originally planning to stay there until about February, leisurely weaving our way through western European cities, then finish off in the UK. We are now having to cut some cities out, and somewhat rush from city to city. We don’t particularly want to spend 3 wet, cold, months of winter in the UK so we are currently determining what we should do. This may be one time we learn to be very flexible and we just go wherever the wind takes us.
Have you been to Europe? What are cities we CAN NOT miss?
Have you heard of the Schengen Zone? Let me know by commenting below!