Once upon a time, before the days of revenue-based mileage earning and other lifestyle complications, Ben and I used to fly together a lot. Granted, these were almost always miserable-sounding mileage run itineraries where we’d spend two weeks going back and forth to Managua six times, with the occasional “why wouldn’t we get back to California from Chicago via Paris, Tokyo, and Taipei?” thrown in.

But it was fun, and in the days before ubiquitous WiFi those awful 737 flights were a good chance to catch up on stuff and talk through business challenges and whatever else. Nowadays we still make a point of seeing each other, but it’s more practical to just go and spend a few days at the other’s house, and our opportunities to actually travel together are generally limited to once every year or two.

So we’ve been trying to put something together for about 18 months now. We finally pulled the trigger this week and booked a trip to Romania for this autumn, which we’re both really excited about (and hope is fun for y’all to follow along with).

Flights

Ben picked the flights for this trip, and I have to say he showed admirable restraint. Normally our trips together require a ton of debate about what to fly (which usually leads to settling for crummy planes), or the itineraries have an outrageous number of flights, with universally miserable connections.

And while he flirted with a “We could do MEX-IST-CLJ that’s really a triangle route with a 6AM pitstop in Cancun!!!”, as though Mexico City is a convenient starting point for either of us, we eventually settled on something more reasonable.

For the outbound, we’ll be flying Turkish Airlines’ new 787 business class from Atlanta (with a connection in Istanbul that is probably too short), then continuing on to Cluj-Napoca.

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We’ll be returning from Bucharest, where we’ll get to fly Romania-based TAROM to London, leaving just Aerolineas Argentinas and it’s non-stop faxing service as the only SkyTeam carrier Ben hasn’t flown.

Then we’ll fly to New York from London on Virgin Atlantic’s new A350.

Those should be some fun flights, and a pretty manageable itinerary.

Unless you consider that neither of us live in either Atlanta or New York, so there will be an entire truckload of domestic flights in there too. Mine will likely be better than Ben’s. 😉

Road trip time!

I’m actually shocked that Ben agreed to this. Obviously I’m not going to suggest a trip that I think we’ll hate, but spending a week driving through the countryside is more than a bit different than the kind of travel we’d normally do together.

The conversation went roughly like this:

“Hey. Would you go on a road trip with me?”

“A road trip. Like in a station wagon to the Grand Canyon?”

“Maybe…I was thinking Europe though. We had a really nice time driving through Greece last week, and the whole time I was thinking about how much you would have enjoyed it.”

“Ummmmm.”

“It would be fun! You can drive, I will navigate, we can listen to trashy pop music that our husbands hate…”

“You want me to drive? That will end well.”

“Well, I can’t drive a stick, and you sure as hell can’t navigate, so that’s really the only option.”

“A road trip.”

“A fun one. With me!”

“Where in Europe?”

“Romania? Wales? Coast of Portugal? It’ll make for great internet.”

‘Hah, okay, I’m in. Sounds fun-ish.”

And then I obviously picked Romania, because hello:

Given life and schedules the best timing for this trip is October, which sounds like it will be a beautiful time to drive through Transylvania (though I’m less thrilled about the potential for “oooooh! It’s close to Halloween and so we have to kick our Dracula Tourism into overdrive” nonsense.

Plotting out an itinerary

We’ll be flying in to Cluj, and then leaving from Bucharest six days later.

If we were to drive straight through, it would take ~7 hours to get between the two cities, which seems like it will give us a good amount of time to explore each day and take detours without feeling too rushed.

While I love the concept of just seeing where the drive takes us, that’s not wholly practical for this trip. We will both still be working (and are planning on WiFi being iffy, which makes the work day longer), so do have to plan ahead a bit.

This is the general outline I have so far, but I’m very open to making changes:

We’ll probably want to limit the driving to about three (not necessarily consecutive) hours each day, but are pretty flexible otherwise. If our past five or so trips are any indication, there’s also a better-than-decent chance that Ben will have some kind of cold or flu, so we have to preserve the option to just bail on everything until he feels better, even if means doing all the driving in one day.

Planning and questions

We’re definitely at the point in trip planning where we have more questions than answers, so would love to hear what you guys recommend, have heard great things about, or even what you would eventually like to see reviews of.

I would love to get OMAAT reader feedback, since the hive mind here is incredible at this stuff:

  • Are there any cities or towns we should definitely make a point of seeing?
  • Do we need to visit All The Castles, or just one or two? (I love architecture, Ben only likes it, but he loves scenic spaces and cute towns)
  • Any particularly great hotels or guest houses we should check out (or any we should decidedly avoid)?
  • Should we stay multiple nights in some towns and take day-trips, or keep to a cadence of changing locale every day (I’m naturally drawn to the momentum of the latter)
  • We both love hiking and nature, but assume October doesn’t always provide ideal conditions — if there are parks or otherwise maintained trails that are less likely to be a muddy mess in Autumn we’d definitely detour

And then of course there are the (somewhat) practical considerations, like:

  • Is one rental car company better than others for a one-way trip? (I know Ben needs an IDL, and that we have to get a toll sticker thingy)
  • How impossible is eating at local restaurants going to be with our fun “she can’t have most grains” and “he doesn’t eat pork” restrictions?
  • Do we need a special road-trip theme song?

Regardless of how the details end up working out (or even if they don’t), I’m super excited for this trip. As much as I love flying, there’s something about the natural unexpectedness that goes along with a driving adventure that really appeals to me.

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