Episode 137 – Those darned Schengen rules!

All I can say is thank goodness that Ted keeps me grounded, and that we have the internet for resources.

Back in 2019, I got all excited about planning a full winter in Europe. Winter 2020 was supposed to have been spent in Germany, Portugal, Spain, and Cyprus – the latter because it lies outside the large swath of Europe that is now in a “border free” multi-country agreement area called the Schengen Zone, whose members share passport and travel rules. That’s a good thing for Europeans, but a sometimes frustrating thing for tourists, since non-European Union residents can only spend 90 days out of a “rolling” 180 in the zone.

In the simplest scenario, if someone spends a solid 90 day block of time in the zone, they need to stay out for a full 90 days before being able to return. That made our last set of (cancelled due to Covid) plans easy: December, January and February in the Zone and then out to Cyprus for March, April and May, and potentially back to the Zone in mid June.

After 18 months of looking back wistfully at what might have been, staying away from socializing, getting vaccinated, fretting over whether our booked world cruise would really happen, and lots of looking at other destinations and options, we’re more than ready to travel again. We’ve just been been approved by our provincial health insurance for up to a 2-year period outside Ontario, so I’m anxious to confirm plans: July, August, and September 2022 in Europe. 90 full days in the Schengen Zone! I came home from receiving our approvals and immediately started narrowing down my wish list of accommodations, and reaching out to property owners in Germany to get July booked.

But … NOT SO FAST !!

Fortunately, Ted reined me in before I could get too far into the process, reminding me that we’re already going to be in the Schengen Zone for parts of next April and May as part of the final leg of our world cruise AND again in November on the first leg of our transatlantic cruise. That means we’re not going to be eligible for that 90-day stretch I was getting so excited about.

Back to my calendar. I quickly realized that working with a rolling 180 day calendar is a lot less fun than just filling in the travel dates on my iPad. Sure, I could probably create an Excel macro on Ted’s laptop to figure it all out, but I really REALLY didn’t want to. Fortunately, the internet came to the rescue. Schengen Calculator – Calculate Your Legal Short-Stay in Europe is a site that allows me to enter our potential stay dates and see whether we’re over the limit or, if not, how many days we have left. The math and magic of the calculator verified that we can only spend 57 additional days in the zone next year, not 90.

So…. the new plan is 28 days in Berlin, 14 in Vienna, 14 in Trieste, and then out of the Zone to England (Greenwich) for a month – all booked with deposits paid, but all fully refundable until 30 days before our first stay, We’ll still make sure to be “home” for our grandsons’ October birthdays.

Life is beginning to feel normal again (which for me means planned out a year or more in advance – I have a lot in common with the guy in the cartoon.)

Nonetheless, there are still rules to follow. At least the Schengen rules are available to navigate; Covid travel rules remain a moving target, and therefore a continued stressor. Fully cancellable plans remain the only kind we can make.


  1. I’m looking forward to following you on your experiences in Europe considering the continuing Covid challenges facing us…best of luck in the near future…with flights, cruise, & travel. You have your protection of the full refund if any unpredictable hiccups occur along the route. I can certainly understand your eagerness to return back to your life as you had planned it….it looks like life is slowly returning to a “ more normal” in the world. Best of luck!


    • Thank you! Hopefully we won’t have to go the route of cancellations and refunds – the one thing that I have NOT planned is an alternate place to live this winter if the cruise can’t happen!!


  2. Yes, those Schengen rules are frustrating when calculating the actual days you get to visit. Added, if you want to be in warmer climates during those harsh winter months. Thank goodness, Schengen helps with the calculations. The posts from you and so many others help with the planning of where to go. Takes lots of research to find the perfect accommodations. When we finally get on that airplane, I sigh & tell myself it was worth all that work.

    Please, I’m following you for your world cruise. What ship? Curious on your itinerary. I’m praying for you to get to sail.


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