8 Days, 5 Countries, Taking only 3 Vacation Days
Updated: Nov 28, 2023
The Thanksgiving holiday provides the perfect opportunity for international travel! A friend of mine travels most years over Thanksgiving with a group of his friends. They are brilliant because fewer people travel during this time and you only need to burn 3 vacation days to get 9 days of travel (for those of us who have full-time jobs and count our precious vacation days, this is a sweet deal!). I decided to join them this year (and will for every year moving forward) because they chose 2 places I’ve been dying to see: Egypt and Israel. The first question from many people when I told them I was doing this trip was, is it safe? Western media has done a fantastic job of scaring us into thinking Americans are not safe to travel in Egypt and that Israel will be a war zone. Neither of these is true. There was not one moment during the entire trip that I felt physically unsafe or was concerned. To be clear though, we did stick to touristy areas as we were mostly seeing the main sites. Had we ventured farther out, like many cities or countries, the situation could have changed?
This trip’s itinerary was packed because we only had 3 days in each country. We also tacked on 2 full-day layovers in Paris and Athens between our travels. So the full itinerary was Chicago to Cairo with a day layover in Paris, 3 days in Egypt (Cairo, Giza, and Luxor), fly from Cairo to Tel-Aviv with a half-day layover in Athens, and 3 days in Israel (Tel-Aviv, the Dead Sea, and Jerusalem/Bethlehem). The amount we wanted to see on this trip was ambitious and I will be the first to admit I felt like I wanted more time in a few of the cities (specifically Luxor, Tel-Aviv, and Jerusalem). But the goal of our trip was to see as much of the two countries as possible, and we definitely accomplished that. A word of caution is that a trip like this can be exhausting and overwhelming. I don’t recommend this for every type of travel. Also, it’s important to point out that we only scratched the surface in many of these places because we simply did not have enough time. In the following posts, I will call out where I’d like to return because the place deserves more time.
The last plug I have for joining a trip like this is what I allude to in the title. You learn a lot about people by traveling with them and living on top of each other for over a week. In some ways, you find another type of family and it is an experience I wouldn’t give up for much. Going on this trip there were 4 of us who had the same itinerary the entire time (Josh, Derrick, and Alli who will pop up in my stories later). We booked everything together which was a key way we brought costs down. In Egypt, our group grew to 11 people at one point and we met more friends in Luxor. Some of the 11 trickled over to Israel where we continued our time with 7 people. Before going on this trip, I knew 3 of the guys well and had met one of the girls a few weeks before heading out. Everyone else was a new face that I now would consider a good friend. We’ve already had one reunion dinner and I expect there will be a few more. These people are wonderful and their role in the incredibleness of this trip cannot be overstated.
To make each of our days easier to digest, I’ve broken up this trip into separate posts for each city. (As I add each post, I will link provide the links below.) For those wondering about the costs of airfare and hotels, I will include that detail in the itinerary post.
A day in Tel-Aviv
The Dead Sea & Masada
Jerusalem & Bethlehem in 1 day is not enough
Reach out with any questions about this trip and others! And definitely connect with me on IG if you have trip suggestions, ideas, or asks!