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  • Writer's pictureNancy Schmidt

Want to Travel Europe for More Than 90 Days? Do the Schengen Shuffle!

Updated: May 13, 2023

Are you thinking of traveling Europe for an extended period of time? Did you know you don't have to apply for a Visa to do this? All you need is your U.S. Passport and knowledge of, what some people call, the Schengen Shuffle. In this post, I will give you a simple explanation of Schengen, how to do the Schengen Shuffle, give you tips for planning, and show some example itineraries to get you inspired. Let's go!


My family and I (pictured above) are slow traveling in and around Europe for a whole year and we only need our passports. We have visited 9 countries so far! We hope to visit 12+ by the time we head home -- and who knows -- we may return next year.


WHAT IS THE SCHENGEN AGREEMENT?

First, it is good to know that there are countries in Europe that are part of the EU (European Union) and there are countries that have what is called a Schengen agreement. This agreement allows Visa free travel across its member states for a maximum of 90 days within a rolling 180 day period.


NOTE: Not all EU countries are part of this agreement and vice versa. As of April 2023, there were 27 European countries united by the Schengen agreement with 3 more gearing up to join. You can visit the Schengen Visa web site for an up to date list of Schengen countries.


Currently, Schengen countries include: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenschtein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland -- all shown in the map below.



THE SCHENGEN SHUFFLE IN ACTION

You will note on the map, the countries in grey and green are not part of the Schengen agreement. This is where creative planning and your willingness to travel (or shuffle) to different countries comes in handy.


For example, if you travel to a Schengen country like France for 90 days and then go to a non-Schengen country like England for 90 days and so on, you can hypothetically travel in Europe for as long as you want. ;)


However, if you want to hop in and out of Schengen countries several times during the course of your trip, just be aware that the approach involves a rolling calendar that only looks backward 180 days to see if you have exceeded 90 days in Schengen. This can be a bit tricky to calculate in your head. So, be sure to use this free Schengen Calculator to help you stay in compliance. We have used this calculator very successfully and it gives us peace of mind.





TIPS FOR NEWBIES

Now, we get to have some fun! Where do you want to go? There are so many options but first I want to give you some tips for planning your trip so you can have a less stressful, more meaningful time.

  1. Take a Slow Travel Approach -- Many people try to pack in too many countries and cities during their travels. This ends up causing a huge amount of stress and can be a barrier to truly enjoying all that each country has to offer. Try staying in one place for a longer period of time. If you want to visit France, stay in one region for 2 weeks or more and then explore another region. Staying 1-3 months in one country is a wonderful way to really immerse yourself in the culture.

  2. Book an Open Jaws Flight -- Fly into one country and leave out of another so you can maximize your time and utilize the benefits of the Schengen Shuffle. For example, you can fly into Frankfurt, Germany and explore Germany for a month, then you can soak in Switzerland for a month, and end your Schengen time in France for a month. Since you are now close to the UK, you can head over there for 3 months and explore all over England, Scotland, and N. Ireland before heading back home.

  3. Travel During the Shoulder Season -- The Fall (Sept - mid Nov) and the Spring (April - mid June) are considered shoulder season when there are less crowds but the weather is still pleasant. We started our travels in Sept and have loved it! Some days we were the only ones on the beach or walking a medieval town. It is now April and we are already seeing more crowds.

  4. If New to Travelling Abroad, Give Yourself a Soft Landing -- When starting out, travel to countries that have a culture more similar to your own. If you are a U.S. citizen, you might try traveling the UK first or someplace like Germany. Then, once you get more familiar with different languages, customs, train schedules, etc., you can branch out.

  5. Give Yourself Permission to Make Mistakes -- Things will go wrong during your trip and that is totally okay. It is a foreign country for goodness sakes and no one can predict everything, especially a strike in France. ;) Treat mistakes as opportunities for learning and approach each new thing with curiosity -- humor doesn't hurt either.


INSPIRATIONAL LONG TERM TRAVEL ITINERARIES

The following ideas are just for inspiration and based on neighboring countries that you can do the Schengen Shuffle with. I also chose routes that allowed for either train or car travel and with no (or very minimal) flying time. You can do these in the order suggested or backwards -- you can skip countries you don't care to visit or add in some -- you can play with the amount of time in each by using the Schengen Calculator. Remember, 21+ days in one country may seem like a long time but you can plan to move around as little or as much as you like - each country has so much to offer. Have fun planning!


NOTE: (S)=Schengen (NS)=Non-Schengen


Itinerary 1 -- Old Legends of the North (Summer to Fall)


  • Norway (S) - 21+ days

  • Sweden (S) - 21+ days

  • Denmark (S) - 7+ days

  • Netherlands (S) - 7+ days

  • England (NS) - 21+ days

  • Wales (NS) - 7+ days

  • Scotland (NS) - 21+ days

  • N. Ireland (NS) - 7+ days

  • Ireland (NS) - 21+ days



Itinerary 2 -- From Majestic Fall Colors to Winter Deserts (Fall to Winter)


  • Germany (S) - 21+ days

  • Austria (S) - 14+ days

  • Switzerland (S) - 14+ days

  • France (S) - 21+ days

  • Spain (S) - 21 + days

  • Portugal (S) - 14+ days

  • Morocco (NS) - 28+ days

  • Algeria (NS) - 14+ days

  • Fly to Egypt (NS) - 21+ days



Itinerary 3 -- Bring Me Some Southern Sun (Spring to Summer)


  • Turkey (NS) - 21+ days

  • Greece (S) - 28+ days

  • Albania (NS) - 7+ days

  • Montenegro (NS) - 21+ days

  • Bosnia (NS) - 14+ days

  • Croatia (S) - 14+ days

  • Slovenia (S) - 14+ days

  • Italy (S) - 21+ days



Itinerary 4 -- A Taste of Europe & More

  • Portugal (S) - 28+ days

  • Morocco (NS) - 14+ days

  • Spain (S) - 28+ days

  • France (S) - 28+ days

  • England, Wales, & Scotland (NS) - 56+ days

  • N. Ireland & Ireland (NS) - 28+ days

  • Netherlands (S) - 14+ days

  • Germany (S) - 21+ days

  • Switzerland (S) - 14+ days

  • Italy (S) - 21+ days

  • Greece (S) - 21+ days

  • Turkey (NS) - 14+ days

  • etc...


There are so many amazing countries, national parks, and sites to visit in and around Europe - these itineraries are just the tip of the iceberg. So, be sure to think of your travels as ongoing. You don't have to see everything the first time you visit, and you can stay even longer in one spot before moving -- Italy for 3 months sounds pretty amazing to me!


Knowing how to do the Schengen Shuffle will not only keep you in Europe longer, but out of immigration trouble too. No one wants to get banned from going back :(


Where are you interested in going? Do you need more ideas and help? Be sure to keep on the lookout for more posts on traveling Europe and sign up below for the newsletter so you don't miss any new information. You can also follow us on our adventures getting Sidetracked around the world on Insta or Facebook! Hope to see you there.


The world is waiting!

Nancy & family


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