My best friend, my soul mate, and my sister-from-another-mister and I took the trip of a lifetime in February to Scandinavia! And we planned it in less than 3 months. How? Although neither of us had ever traveled in this way, we decided to throw caution to the wind and purchase a travel experience on Groupon with Fleetway Travel (and now we both highly recommend booking with them either through Groupon or on their own website.)
Note: This post is not affiliated with or sponsored by Groupon or Fleetway Travel. The views expressed in this post are 100% my own based on the experiences had.
BOOKING WITH A GROUPON VENDOR
Was this helpful? YES! I didn’t have to do a TON of research on logistics. Instead, I focused my time and energy on planning out our days and experiences. This was extremely helpful, considering we didn’t book the trip until mid-November and we left in late February. Time was of the essence, so we recommend it.
When I say I did nothing in regards to transportation and lodging logistics, I mean nothing. Through Fleetway Travel, our airfare, ground transportation, and hotels were all arranged. Here’s a brief outline of the logistics that were booked for us:
- Flight from JFK airport
- Air shuttle from Helsinki airport to hotel
- Hotel in Helsinki
- Car pick up from hotel in Helsinki to Tallink Silja Line docking
- Overnight ferry ride on the Silja Serende via Tallink Silja Line
- Car pick up from Silja Serende to hotel in Stockholm
- Hotel in Stockholm
- Train tickets from Stockholm to Oslo
- Hotel in Oslo
- Train tickets from Oslo to Mydral
- Train tickets from Mydral to Flåm on the Flåmsbana
- Fjord tour from Flåm to Gudvangen
- Bus from Gudvangen to Voss
- Train from Voss to Bergen
- Hotel in Bergen
- Air shuttle from Bergen train station to airport
- Flight from Bergen airport
Literally all I planned in terms of transportation logistics were:
- Identifying where the hotels and train stations were located in relation to one another so we could walk
- Identifying when we needed to be at the hotel and returned from our excursions to catch the next leg of our trip
So easy! So helpful!
So what did I do with all of that free time? I spent it researching and learning more about the history, the culture, and sites to explore in each of our locations. You can read about our time in Helsinki and Stockholm on my other blog posts!
WHY WE TRAVELED IN WINTER
I’d love to be able to say we chose to go in the winter because we are impervious to cold (my best friend will attest that she is absolutely not cold-blooded). However, that’s not the case. It honestly had to do with work schedules, life schedules, and pricing of Groupon- very unglamorous reasons.
What I will say about traveling in winter is that it affords you to be in a location in the off-season (typically), to experience a place like a local might (bundled up, but still looking fashionable), and to observe idiosyncrasies about the culture you might not be able to experience while traveling in more temperate weather conditions. One example, I’ll share was in Stockholm. From our hotel’s breakfast lounge we had a view of a busy street in Kungsholmen. In the morning, even though it was quite blustery, with large snowflakes falling from the sky, there were parents pushing strollers/trams in the snow with multiple kids in tow. The parents were still very fashionably dressed, despite the weather.
Also, I think the snow and cold temperatures add a sparkling, magical touch on every outdoor surface. Even the most ordinary buildings and trees have an aura of enchantment. Just dress warm, lots of layers, keep moving and you will stay warm. And if all else fails, just push your best friend into another museum, coffee shop, or bar! (I absolutely did that when she was complaining feeling cold.)
WHAT MADE THE PACKING LIST
Here is a look into what I packed to ensure that I could experience the cities but survive the cold temperatures (which were indeed cold- Helsinki was 4ºF and the day we were in Oslo, the locals said it was the coldest day that they had experienced yet in 2018).
- 3 base layer shirts
- 3 wool sweaters (purchased at Goodwill)
- 1 turtleneck sweater (purchased at Goodwill)
- 2 pairs of jeans
- 1 pair of thick stockings
- 3 pairs of fleece-lined leggings
- 1 going-out sweater
- Snow boots
- Warm coat (Gerry)
- Ear muff (purchased when I was in Iceland, so I knew it would be perfect for Scandinavia)
HOW I RESEARCHED WHAT NOT TO MISS IN SCANDINAVIAN CITIES
- Rick Steve’s Europe — It’s on Hulu and I stumbled upon it one evening, where I devoured three 30 minute episodes on Helsinki, Stockholm, and Oslo. It really helped me to see and understand the locations in a new way.
- Pinterest — I used this platform to discover other bloggers and see photos of the sites. Here’s the link to my Pinterest Board so you can see what I saved.
- Official Tourism Sites (Visit Stockholm, My Helsinki, Visit Oslo) — Yes, they are designed to portray the best picture of their cities, but they are helpful in identifying important sites to the culture, history, etc. Typically these websites have links to other external pages, so they’re a great resource. I particularly liked the Visit Stockholm curated lists.
- Instagram — If you are a visual person like me, this is perfect! I also started following the official tourism profiles to see what they were posting and featuring so I could plan and curate our experience based on the season of travel.
Consider taking a look at Groupon next time you’re itching to get away! So many deals can be found on there and you might just end up with the trip of a lifetime with your best friend!