We can travel Europe for a year, right?


Not so fast.  Have you heard of the Schengen?  We hadn’t either (stupid Americans)!

The Schengen

The Schengen is actually a treaty agreement between certain European countries.  The purpose is the make countries of the European Union one region, that way you don’t have to go through border control or customs every time you travel between countries.  For example, over the summer when we were in Bordeaux, France we decided to drive to San Sebastian, Spain for the day.  We didn’t have to show our passports or go through any border control.  The only thing that changed was the language on all the signs!

The Schengen essentially makes a large border around most of the European Union (EU).  Making the borders between countries more like borders between states in the U.S.

This is extremely convenient for members of the EU, making travel much easier between Schengen countries.  This means as US citizens, most of Europe is now really “one country” which limits the amount of time we are able to stay.  As US citizens we are only allowed to stay in the Schengen for 90 days out of 180 days.  Once you reach your 90 days you must leave the Schengen for 90 days.  There are countless blogs I have read that tell you this isn’t true or you can get around it.  We are keen to follow the rules and the US Government does a great job of explaining how long we are allowed to be in the Schengen, which is 90 days.  The good news though…we don’t have to apply for a Schengen visa!!  As US citizens our passport acts as our 90 day visa into the Schengen.

Schengen Countries

Currently there are 26 countries in the Schengen territory.  They include:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovak Republic
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

Non-Schengen European Countries:

We could also spend our 90 days out of the Schengen in these areas, although with caution.  Obviously we can’t be in Vatican City without being in Italy.  Some of these areas you can not get to without going through a Schengen airport.

  • Albania
  • Andorra
  • Belarus
  • Bosnia
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Ireland
  • Macedonia
  • Moldova
  • Monaco
  • Montenegro
  • Romania
  • Russia (European section)
  • United Kingdom
  • Ukraine
  • Vatican City

So what does this mean?  The United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland are going to get way more of our money!  We are planing on being in the Schengen for our 90 days, then we will be going to the UK for 90 days before we go back to the Schengen again, followed by another 90 days split between Ireland and the UK.

As US citizens we are allowed to spend up to 180 days in the UK, so technically our plan should work out perfectly, or at least we hope!

Has anyone encountered any border problems?  Or did I miss any countries?  Let us know, we would love to hear your stories.

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