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Emily: I’ve wanted to go to Croatia for the last several years. I heard wonderful things about the country and how beautiful (and relatively affordable) it was compared to the rest of Europe. It’s located in Eastern Europe and is just a few hours from Venice, Italy, making it a great side trip.
Last year, my friends and I organized a group trip to visit Rovinj, a small coastal town on the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia. It’s a gorgeous town full of romance. Everything is stunning there, from the streets to the houses. The food is also excellent.
We went for a kizomba dance festival. Later in the trip report series, I will introduce you to kizomba and describe what an incredible dance it is! The dance festival was amazing and Croatia is definitely a place I want to return and spend more time exploring! The trip’s retail cost was ~$17,000 but I paid ~$900.
My Dance Family
Jeff (the only guy who came with us) and Sarita (above photo, far right) are both kizomba dancers in my city, and Sarita also teaches the dance. Gissell (above photo, middle) managed a local dance studio and teaches fitness classes.
Robbie (pink hair) teaches salsa, bachata, kizomba, and an array of other dances. I got lucky to travel with such an amazing group of friends! We became family during our short time together in Croatia. You’ll get to see them more later in the series.
Captivating Croatia Trip Report Index:
- Part 1 – Introduction and Planning
- Part 2 – Admirals Club Lounge, New York (JFK)
- Part 3 – Air Berlin Flight to Croatia
- Part 4 – Getting to Venice
- Part 5 – A Night in Venice – Gritti Palace Hotel Overview
- Part 6 – A Night in Venice – Gritti Palace Hotel Room
- Part 7 – Apartment in Rovinj Croatia
- Part 8 – Activities in Rovinj Croatia – Discovering the Old Town
- Part 9 – Activities in Rovinj, Croatia – Exploring the Old Church
- Part 10 – Activities in Rovinj, Croatia – Day Trip to Plitvice Lakes
- Part 11 – Activities in Rovinj, Croatia – Dance Festival Review
- Part 12 – Eating in Rovinj, Croatia
- Part 13 – Shopping in Rovinj, Croatia
- Part 14 – Return Flight on Lufthansa
- Part 15 – Conclusion & Reader Giveaway
Traveling outside of the US requires some extra planning, but it’s well worth it. I love meeting people who speak other languages, sampling the local food, and experiencing another culture.
If you haven’t traveled outside the US, or want some tips on saving potentially hundreds of dollars in credit card foreign transaction and currency conversion fees, read our World Travel 101 series.
This was the 1st major international trip I’ve planned and booked on my own. I researched the cities I wanted to fly in and out of, and booked 2 one-way flights, because I wasn’t sure exactly when, or where, I wanted to return from.
English is widely spoken in Croatia, so you won’t have any communication problems. The people are very friendly and the streets are extremely safe.
|Retail Cost||Cash Cost||Miles & Points Used||Sources of Miles & Points|
|Two 1-way coach tickets from Austin to Venice||~$1,000 per person or ~$2,000 for two||~$18 per person or ~$36 for two||30,000 American Airlines miles per person or 60,000 miles for two||How to earn lots of AA miles|
|One night at the Gritti Palace Hotel||~$1,100 per night||0||30,000 Starwood points||How to earn Starwood points|
|11 nights in a shared apartment||$317 per person or $634 for two||$317 per person or $614 for two||N/A||N/A|
|Two 1-way Business Class tickets from Paris to Washington, DC||~$6,000 per person or ~$12,000 for two||~$118 per person or ~$236 for two||70,000 United Airlines miles per person or 140,000 for two||How to earn lots of United Airlines miles|
|Two 1-way tickets on Southwest from Washington, DC, to Austin||~$175 per person or $350 for two||~$6 per person or ~$12 for two||~14,000 Southwest points (or ~28,000 for two)|
|TOTAL||~$8,592 per person or $17,184 for two||~$459 per person or ~$918 for two||30,000 American Airlines miles, 30,000 Starwood points, 70,000 United Airlines miles, and 14,000 Southwest points (or 60,000 American Airlines miles, 140,000 United Airlines miles, 60,000 Starwood points, and 28,000 Southwest points for two)|
I booked the flights from the US to Europe using American Airlines miles. It cost 30,000 miles plus ~$18 in taxes and fees. The retail cost is about ~$1,000 per person 1-way, so using miles saved me a lot of money! I flew to Venice because it’s so close to Rovinj, Croatia. From Venice, we had to take a ferry (or bus) to Rovinj.
To get the best rates and most available seats, I looked for flights departing from large US cities like Atlanta, New York, and Washington, DC, into large European hubs like London, Paris, and Frankfurt. Even if you pay cash for your flights instead of miles, this strategy can save you hundreds of dollars!
I booked the flights in March, or ~4 months in advance. I tried searching for Business Class, but no seats were available. I kept checking back, especially during the week prior to departure, but still nothing became available.
I did get lucky that I didn’t have to fly on British Airways, or I would have had to pay hefty fuel surcharges of ~$700 for a 1-way trip.
We had a 1 night stopover in Venice before we continued our journey to Rovinj. I stayed at the Gritti Palace Hotel using 30,000 Starwood points. It was a beautiful hotel in an excellent location!
Daraius and I have a lot of Starwood points, and using them for 1 evening at this hotel made sense. In a future post in this series, I’ll review other Venice hotels where you can use your points.
Rovinj, Croatia Apartment
My friends and I stayed in a soba, which is a private apartment. We decided to share the flat, so we split the cost. My friend Sarita found the apartment via Booking.com, and it cost ~$317 per person for ~11 nights.
Activities in Rovinj
Rovinj’s relaxing, laid back atmosphere makes it a great place to spend time taking it easy. Being in a small town by the sea was a great escape. There’s beautiful architecture, peaceful seaside restaurants with delicious food, and cobblestone streets to explore.
My friends and I chose to go to Rovinj for their annual dance festival that includes salsa, bachata, kizomba, and other kinds of dancing.
There’s also great shopping (especially for locally made crafts and art), restaurants, historical sites, and beaches to keep you busy.
The beaches are not the nicest since they are rocky, but the atmosphere more than makes up for it. I also enjoyed the side trips you can take from Rovinj, including a trip to Plitvice National Park!
Eating in Rovinj
The food in Croatia is very good quality and delicious! Being a coastal town, there is a lot of very fresh seafood. I have a food allergy and didn’t have any issues with the food being served to me. Also, English is widely spoken, so it’s easy to read menus.
You Can Do It, Too!
My favorite way to get to Europe from the US is with American Airlines miles.
Here are ways to get lots of American Airlines miles. And here’s our series on using American Airlines miles. It could also be worth using an award booking service to book the flights for you. If you’re considering taking a trip with American Airline miles, remember some award flights are increasing in price when you book after March 21, 2016.
1. Using American Airlines Miles
A flight from the US to Europe costs:
- 30,000 American Airlines miles 1-way in coach
- 57,500 American Airlines miles 1-way in Business Class
- 85,000 American Airlines miles 1-way in First Class
You can use American Airlines miles to fly many different ways to the Europe, including on British Airways, Air Berlin, etc.
2. Using United Airlines Miles
To fly from the US to Europe, you’ll pay:
- 30,000 United Airlines miles 1-way in coach
- 57,500+ United Airlines miles 1-way in Business Class
- 80,000 United Airlines miles 1-way in First Class
Note: Award prices on partner airlines in Business and First Class are higher.
Here’s our series on how to use United Airlines miles. And all the ways you can use United Airlines miles to fly to Europe.
3. Other Ways to Get to Europe
Check out our posts for more ways to fly to (and within) Europe cheaply:
- Top 5 Cheap Ways to Get to Europe Using Miles & Points
- All the Ways to Get to Europe Using American Express Membership Rewards Points
- How to Fly to Europe Using the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
- Explore Europe for Cheap With Budget Airlines
Getting the Miles and Points
I used Starwood points earned from the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express cards to stay in Venice. The sign-up bonus is 35,000 points, which is the highest offer ever (ends March 30, 2016)!
But there are lots of other options in Italy and throughout Europe to stay for free or cheap!
The easiest way to get miles and points for Europe is by applying for certain credit cards. Here’s a post on how to decide which miles & points to collect for your trip.
If you are new to collecting miles and points, start off by reading our Beginner’s Guide and applying for 1 to 2 credit cards to get comfortable with the process. I have applied for 3 to 5 cards every few months, but do what you are comfortable with.
If you have questions on how to complete the minimum spending requirements, see the 40+ Ways to Meet your Minimum Spend.
Check out these posts for ways to earn airline miles for your trip to Europe:
- All the Ways to Earn American Airlines Miles
- Earning Lots of United Airlines Miles
- Fly Amazing First Class Suite to Europe With Little More Than 1 Credit Card
- All the Ways to Earn British Airways Avios Points for Big Travel
There aren’t any big chain hotels in Rovinj, but the rooms are fairly cheap. My friends and I stayed in a soba, or private apartment for 11 nights.
The total cost was ~$1,594 that was split between 5 people, which brought the hotel to ~$317 per person. We weren’t located right in the city center, but we were very close and had a very peaceful ~15 minute walk to and from town.
However, you can combine your Croatia trip with Venice like I did, and use hotel points to stay in Venice for a fraction of the cost! On a previous trip, Daraius and I stayed at the Hilton Molino Stucky Hotel. This trip, I stayed at a Starwood hotel that was in the heart of the city.
But there are lots of other options in Italy and throughout Europe to stay for free or cheap!
- 5 Great Hotels in Europe When You Can Stay 2 Weekend Nights With the Hilton Reserve Card
- 5 Top European Hotels to Book With Starwood Points
- Top 5 Hotels in Europe to Book With IHG Card’s Free Night
- 5 Fantastic Ritz-Carlton Hotels in Europe
- 5 Great European Hotels to Book With Hyatt Points
Also consider Airbnb for affordable stays with a more local feel. Or you could mix and match award stays with Airbnb to stay in Europe longer. Use my link to get $20 off your first stay!
Visiting Croatia was an unforgettable experience and rivaled my travels to several European countries including France, Italy, and the UK!
The beautiful scenery, romantic ambiance, perfect weather, delicious food, and rich culture made it a destination worth traveling to.
Traveling with my friends for a 2 week dance festival half way across the world was 1 of the best decisions I ever made! We had so much fun with each other and I can’t wait to travel again using miles & points.