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How do you handle figuring out a return flight when you don't know how long the walk will take?

2020 Camino Guides

tarasis

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Plan Camino Frances (May-June 2019)
I'm about to book my flight to go to Bordeau, for heading down to SJPdP, and was left wondering how to handle the return journey.

Ideally I'd like to book a return flight (once I work out the least painful way back from Santiago to Hamburg) but without knowing a rough end date thats impossible. Especially as I'd like to be flexible to staying a day or 2 here and there along the route.

Flexible tickets are far too expensive, but last minute prices could also be expensive.

So I wonder, how did/do you handle it? Wing it? Pick a date that you hope you hit? Go Flexible?
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
I'm about to book my flight to go to Bordeau, for heading down to SJPdP, and was left wondering how to handle the return journey.

Ideally I'd like to book a return flight (once I work out the least painful way back from Santiago to Hamburg) but without knowing a rough end date thats impossible. Especially as I'd like to be flexible to staying a day or 2 here and there along the route.

Flexible tickets are far too expensive, but last minute prices could also be expensive.

So I wonder, how did/do you handle it? Wing it? Pick a date that you hope you hit? Go Flexible?
I allow myself plenty of extra days - at least week or so. I know that I can always spend a few extra days in Finisterre, Muxia, Santiago or any other nearby city. One year I had 3 wonderful days in A Coruña.
 

tarasis

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Plan Camino Frances (May-June 2019)
Cheers to you both!

Okay. so pick a date with sufficient buffer.

Hmm i guess maybe 50-55 days (thinking 35 minimum for CF, in theory extension to Finisterre for the sea and back, plus buffer for taking time if somewhere interesting).

Are albergues and such in Santiago/Finisterre okay with post Camino pilgrims spending a few extra days loitering?
 

MichaelB10398

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago de Compostela, Lourdes to SdC, SJPP to SdC
Cheers to you both!

Okay. so pick a date with sufficient buffer.

Hmm i guess maybe 50-55 days (thinking 35 minimum for CF, in theory extension to Finisterre for the sea and back, plus buffer for taking time if somewhere interesting).

Are albergues and such in Santiago/Finisterre okay with post Camino pilgrims spending a few extra days loitering?
It depends on the albergue along the way. Ask when you arrive that you would like to stay an extra day to see the city - there are several worth the extra time to get to know.

I good range for a moderately healthy walker is 35 days. Pick 5 days along the way and in Santiago for extra time then add 5 more just because - 40 days. 50-55 days sounds a little too much unless you are taking more time along the way.
 

Robo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
VdlP (2020)
I just do a rough timeline. Whatever the distance, I allow 22 kms a day average. I walk slowly.
I add a rest day for each 10 days.
And 3 more at the end.
And I try to book a flexible ticket for the return, just in case.
 

EckMS

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
9 caminos since 2012
Via de la plata in 2019
I also would not add so many extra days. If you are faster than expected, you have time to walk to Finistera anyway. If you are slower, just skip it. If you like the camino, you will return an then you may visit Finistera the next time.

I usually fly back to Hamburg from Madrid. There are flights in June starting from about 25€. Extras may be booked later. If you have to change plans, this is not a big waste.
Santiago to Madrid I prefer to go by train, as an early reservations is not required.
 

H Richards

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2017 Francés, Le Puy / Francés (parts), 2018 Norte (Biarritz), Francés, 2019 Portuguese (Lisbon)
If you can return with Ryanair, just leave it unbooked till the last 10 days. I've always been able to get a reasonably priced return flight.

If this isn't an option then you book "extra" days and worst case scenario is you have to hang around that filthy dump Finisterre for a while. ;-)

I'd add at least five days on to your estimate of how long the Camino will take you, because ... well, life never goes to plan.
 

tpmchugh

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
Camino Frances (2015)
Camino Frances (2016)
Camino Frances (2018}
I'm about to book my flight to go to Bordeau, for heading down to SJPdP, and was left wondering how to handle the return journey.

Ideally I'd like to book a return flight (once I work out the least painful way back from Santiago to Hamburg) but without knowing a rough end date thats impossible. Especially as I'd like to be flexible to staying a day or 2 here and there along the route.

Flexible tickets are far too expensive, but last minute prices could also be expensive.

So I wonder, how did/do you handle it? Wing it? Pick a date that you hope you hit? Go Flexible?
Never had a return flight booked. Never worry about it, just book it when you are within a few days of the end. First camino, I stopped unexpectedly at Burgos. Went to the tourist office, got a wifi account and booked a flight home from Madrid having first checked bus times for getting to the airport. When I came back to finish it, I booked a flight home once I reached Sarria. When you get that far, you have a very good idea of how long it will take you to walk that last little bit so you can judge just when to book your flight. Of course, it is easy for me. I live in Ireland so the flights are more expensive but not greatly so. For further afield, it may be more expensive to book last minute flights. If I am stuck, I can always get to Santander and take a ferry home. The guy I finished my first Camino with was from Amsterdam. He took a bus home from Santiago. Aerlingus to Dublin just over €100 and Ryanair to Hamburg around €60. Prices vary depending on time of year. You can do it so put it out of your mind until you get to about Sarria. In the mean time, enjoy and Buen Camino
 

martin1ws

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Somport to Finisterre Jul-Aug 2018
I booked a flight home as I arrived in Santiago de Compostela before going to Finisterre.
It is a good idea to have a creditcard... I had no creditcard and chose my flight by finding a airline that accepted paypal.
And it is a good idea as well to look for possible return flights / airports / airlines at home at the laptop / desktop computer and bookmark the websites on your smartphone.
 

NorthernLight

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
It's about 800 km from SJPDP. If you can determine the average daily distance your body is comfortable with, then the math will tell you how many days you need. Add a few for resting/sightseeing along the way, a few more for Santiago and perhaps the ocean.

The last time I booked a return, I had a lot of bonus time at the end. My usual practice is one way tickets and I much prefer this. I hunt around for options and usually find something that works for me.
 

domigee

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
See signature
Booking a return flight ahead rarely works for me....
First camino: Not having a clue how fast/slow I would walk, I allowed myself much too much time. I had time to go Finisterre/Muxía but still had to change my booking to an earlier date.
Second camino: bed bugs disaster once in Santiago so skipped Finisterre AND changed my booking.
Jerusalem: that was ok as I only booked my return flight a week or so ahead.
VdlP: booked return flight a week or so ahead.
Third camino: I planned it right which left me a week or so to go and visit friends in Santander. STILL had to change my flight (different airport) 😁
VF: Booked my return at the beginning as I HAD to be back at a certain date. Worked fine ticket/money-wise for once but.... it meant walking on a tight schedule. Had to combine a few stages ie long distances in heat-wave. Probably explains my blisters :rolleyes:
Fourth camino: hurray, I got it right! (You’d think! )
Err....no, still had plenty of time left to walk a new camino, the inglés. But didn’t have to change date or airport, Yay! 😀

All in all and everything taken into account, (you’re from Europe?), I think I’d advise to only book your return flight a week or so before you finish.... :confused:
 

sugargypsy

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
First one planned for May 2019: Camino Francés
So I wonder, how did/do you handle it? Wing it? Pick a date that you hope you hit? Go Flexible?
I just checked at this meta search engine how much a flight would be to Hamburg, if you'd need to leave SdC tomorrow. There are still a few possibilities, ranging from 139 € - one stopover included - with Iberia up to 430 €, Lufthansa. If you'd book a flight back today for let's say in two months time from now, you'd have to pay around 90 €.

Did the same checking for myself (SdC - Stuttgart) and decided that I'll wait to book my flight back when I'm arriving in SdC. Since I want to walk to Finisterre / Muxia, I guess that's early enough to still get a flight back on reasonable terms. If worst comes to worst, there's always ALSA/Flixbus ;).
 

Rover

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francis, Fall 2016
I'm about to book my flight to go to Bordeau, for heading down to SJPdP, and was left wondering how to handle the return journey.

Ideally I'd like to book a return flight (once I work out the least painful way back from Santiago to Hamburg) but without knowing a rough end date thats impossible. Especially as I'd like to be flexible to staying a day or 2 here and there along the route.

Flexible tickets are far too expensive, but last minute prices could also be expensive.

So I wonder, how did/do you handle it? Wing it? Pick a date that you hope you hit? Go Flexible?
I also had no idea how long it would like to complete the Caminio Francis so I purchased an "open ticket" - little expensive but it gave me peace of mind knowing I had ride home when the time came - AND the big benefit, I never rushed for the finish line, so to speak, I had plenty of time to wonder and enjoy my journey.
 

David Harbert

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
(2016)
I'm about to book my flight to go to Bordeau, for heading down to SJPdP, and was left wondering how to handle the return journey.

Ideally I'd like to book a return flight (once I work out the least painful way back from Santiago to Hamburg) but without knowing a rough end date thats impossible. Especially as I'd like to be flexible to staying a day or 2 here and there along the route.

Flexible tickets are far too expensive, but last minute prices could also be expensive.

So I wonder, how did/do you handle it? Wing it? Pick a date that you hope you hit? Go Flexible?
My wife and I kept track of our training hikes on trails near our house. We were generally walking 13-14 miles on our training hikes. At that pace we figured we could do the Camino Frances comfortably in 35 days. We planned 6 extra days as a buffer cushion in case we got sick/injured or in case the weather was so bad on a particular day we could choose to not walk that day or if we wanted to stay an extra day to explore a city along the way. We knew we had those 6 days "in the bank" and could use them if/when we wanted and we figured if we didn't need them during the Camino we would head to Finisterra or some other nearby coastal town at the end and just recuperate. We ended up staying one extra day in Lyon to rest and explore the city so we had time at the end to go to the coast and we also spent a couple extra days in Santiago. So the plan worked well for us and I'd do it again if/when we go again.
 

Cookiedave

Member
Camino(s) past & future
French way 2019
Never had a return flight booked. Never worry about it, just book it when you are within a few days of the end. First camino, I stopped unexpectedly at Burgos. Went to the tourist office, got a wifi account and booked a flight home from Madrid having first checked bus times for getting to the airport. When I came back to finish it, I booked a flight home once I reached Sarria. When you get that far, you have a very good idea of how long it will take you to walk that last little bit so you can judge just when to book your flight. Of course, it is easy for me. I live in Ireland so the flights are more expensive but not greatly so. For further afield, it may be more expensive to book last minute flights. If I am stuck, I can always get to Santander and take a ferry home. The guy I finished my first Camino with was from Amsterdam. He took a bus home from Santiago. Aerlingus to Dublin just over €100 and Ryanair to Hamburg around €60. Prices vary depending on time of year. You can do it so put it out of your mind until you get to about Sarria. In the mean time, enjoy and Buen Camino
I'm in the same boat (so to speak), your idea sounds like the option I will take. As I want to go to finstere as well and are using the john Brierley guide as a reference...
 
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Jermann75

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2018
Estimate, add a buffer and then a couple more. I thought I’d do 20kms a day. 40 days. But I didn’t take into account blisters (needed a day off because of infection) as well as a pesky kidney stone that landed me in hospital. So my buffer went out the window and I needed to bike the Meseta to catch up a bit. My experience is more is better then less and you’ll always find ways to fill the time in if you have too much. If you don’t, then you’re stressed you’re not going to make it in time. Buen Camino!
 

tarasis

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Plan Camino Frances (May-June 2019)
Thank you all for providing insight. That was very helpful.

Listening to all the advice I was going to hold off booking a flight until I get to SdC or near it. I am going to give myself a window of 56 days to cover the walk to SdC, Finisterre, Muxia, rest days and staying on for a day or 2 in various places on route.

There are enough possibilities for getting back, although the prices seem to start increasing from middle of July (summer holidays I guess), that I can leave it with enough peace of mind.

I just checked at this meta search engine how much a flight would be to Hamburg, if you'd need to leave SdC tomorrow. There are still a few possibilities, ranging from 139 € - one stopover included - with Iberia up to 430 €, Lufthansa. If you'd book a flight back today for let's say in two months time from now, you'd have to pay around 90 €.

Did the same checking for myself (SdC - Stuttgart) and decided that I'll wait to book my flight back when I'm arriving in SdC. Since I want to walk to Finisterre / Muxia, I guess that's early enough to still get a flight back on reasonable terms. If worst comes to worst, there's always ALSA/Flixbus ;).
That meta search engine is useful, rather than using Googles flight search feature. They have enough of my data without giving them even more :)

Thanks to your post I have have a bunch of other options I hadn't considered (bus to Bordeaux, Bilboa, Madrid ... then flights from those respective cities)

:D

This might help, good luck
Thanks for the link. Useful to get an idea of varying possibilities.
 

Roland49

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2019 July
Hello!

The date I will arrive in Sarria, I will look via Skyscanner etc. for a flight back home to Hannover, maybe Hamburg. Depends on the price and offerings.
If I can't find any flight direct from SdC for a reasonable price, I will change airport, maybe from Valladolid or even Madrid. The Train will cost ~50€.
I just have 3 days as buffer to find a flight back home.

The 3 days from Sarria to SdC and the 3 days buffer should be enough time to find a way home.
I booked my flight to Biarritz and did not book any further. No lodging, no bed.

The wise saying: "the camino provides" convinced me not to overplan my Camino.

Buen Camino!
Roland
 

Mark Barnes

Old Engineer
Camino(s) past & future
Frances - September - November (2017)
It looked to me that most people did the Frances in around 35 days. I knew I was older (58) and not in great shape so I took what I thought was the average of 35 days and added 8 days for a total of 43 days. I started in Pamplona so thought that would allow me enough time. It was very hard physically for me but I did it with a few days left to spend in Santiago, Muxia, Finesterrie. I flew in and out of Madrid so allowed a day to travel from Madrid to Pamplona. I also allowed a day for the train from Sarria to Madrid. If you can afford the time please add a few extra days beyond what you calculate you would need so you do not have to stress over time during your Camino.
Have a blast.
 

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015); Ch. d'Arles: Oloron Ste Marie to Aragones; Frances (2016); V.d.l.P.; Sanabres (2017)
You will not know how many days you would prefer for walking a camino of a certain length until after your first camino. You don't know yet how far you are comfortable walking each day for multiple days, or if you will want or need days off. The only solution that I can think of is to give yourself ample extra time on your first camino, then plan more closely for the next walk, after you know what works for you. Yes, I am assuming one or more returns to camino. Buen camino on this your first.
 

tarasis

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Plan Camino Frances (May-June 2019)
Or, like me allow a little more time each year to explore other places in Spain and Europe. Anything to prolong the time away from my "real life". 😀
Heh 😃 in my case, anything to prolong going home to do something I lack the strength to do 😯 (I was seriously considering SJPdP-SdC, SdC-F/M & back, SdC-Lisbon for the very reason)
 

Allyson Hughes

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
fall of 2017
Cheers to you both!

Okay. so pick a date with sufficient buffer.

Hmm i guess maybe 50-55 days (thinking 35 minimum for CF, in theory extension to Finisterre for the sea and back, plus buffer for taking time if somewhere interesting).

Are albergues and such in Santiago/Finisterre okay with post Camino pilgrims spending a few extra days loitering?
Yes.... I stayed many days in Santiago, Muxia and Finisterre. They know you are done and want to hang around. No problem for me...I stayed at the Albergue Blanco and The Last Stamp at Santiago. I can't recall the albergues I stayed in Muxia and Finisterre but they all seemed to do this.
 

tarasis

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Plan Camino Frances (May-June 2019)
Yes.... I stayed many days in Santiago, Muxia and Finisterre. They know you are done and want to hang around. No problem for me...I stayed at the Albergue Blanco and The Last Stamp at Santiago. I can't recall the albergues I stayed in Muxia and Finisterre but they all seemed to do this.
Awesome, thank you very much for letting me know that and some of the names. That’s helpful.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) Portugues(2013)
San Salvador (2017) Ingles (2019)
Cheers to you both!

Okay. so pick a date with sufficient buffer.

Hmm i guess maybe 50-55 days (thinking 35 minimum for CF, in theory extension to Finisterre for the sea and back, plus buffer for taking time if somewhere interesting).

Are albergues and such in Santiago/Finisterre okay with post Camino pilgrims spending a few extra days loitering?
Don’t know where you are in relation to setting off, or to your specific question. If in Santiago you go for a private albergue, you can stay for as long as you like, I imagine. They are of course providing a service, but they are also looking for a good return for their investment...twicé, in Santiago, we booked for 3 nights. I recommend The Last Stamp, but there are many recommendations and perhaps you have already dealt with that detail. Buen camino...
 

tarasis

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Plan Camino Frances (May-June 2019)
Don’t know where you are in relation to setting off, or to your specific question. If in Santiago you go for a private albergue, you can stay for as long as you like, I imagine. They are of course providing a service, but they are also looking for a good return for their investment...twicé, in Santiago, we booked for 3 nights. I recommend The Last Stamp, but there are many recommendations and perhaps you have already dealt with that detail. Buen camino...
Thanks Kirkie. I just arrived in SJPdP, due to start tomorrow 😬
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) Portugues(2013)
San Salvador (2017) Ingles (2019)
Thanks Kirkie. I just arrived in SJPdP, due to start tomorrow 😬
Glad to know this, and so if you post from time to time we can follow you and cheer you on... Buen Camino, and it will be all over before you know where you are!
 

tarasis

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Plan Camino Frances (May-June 2019)
Will do. I’m set up to blog, but haven’t posted yet. Opted to spend today in and around SJPdP and walking tomorrow to Roncesvalles
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) Portugues(2013)
San Salvador (2017) Ingles (2019)
May I recommend the little trip uphill on the way to Trinidad de Arre, to visit the church of San Esteban. A treat. There is an albergue, but if it doesn’t suit your plan, continue on skirting the mountain and you will reach Trinidad de Arre in no time., A worthwhile place to stop, stamp, visit. A very active facebook page, or there was when I used facebook in the distant past!
 

Texas Walker

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Norte (2017 summer)
Portugues (2015)
Frances (2014)
My wife and I kept track of our training hikes on trails near our house. We were generally walking 13-14 miles on our training hikes. At that pace we figured we could do the Camino Frances comfortably in 35 days. We planned 6 extra days as a buffer cushion in case we got sick/injured or in case the weather was so bad on a particular day we could choose to not walk that day or if we wanted to stay an extra day to explore a city along the way. We knew we had those 6 days "in the bank" and could use them if/when we wanted and we figured if we didn't need them during the Camino we would head to Finisterra or some other nearby coastal town at the end and just recuperate. We ended up staying one extra day in Lyon to rest and explore the city so we had time at the end to go to the coast and we also spent a couple extra days in Santiago. So the plan worked well for us and I'd do it again if/when we go again.
This is pretty much the system we use. We look at the expected number of days in guidebooks, and also consider whether the books include ridiculously long stages. (I try really hard to figure out a way to break long stages. If possible.) We build in a few zero days--in places we'd like to spend some time taking in museums and such. We build in a couple rest days in Santiago. And add a few, like 4 or 5, to the end "just in case." (Because many smaller injuries respond to a short rest.) Then make the round trip, or multicity, reservation months in advance and purchase trip insurance along with the ticket. If there is a serious end of hike injury, we can file the claim when we fly home. If there appear small injuries of the "rest for a day" variety we have the time.

It seems to me that the strategies for this depend a lot on how far you have to go to start walking. People who live only a few hundred miles away have a different situation than people who live over 1K miles away with overnight plane flights involved.

Buen camino to all.
 
Camino(s) past & future
(2019)
For those from the US who didn't purchase a return flight home - was there ever an issue at the airport when you entered the EU? I've been told by someone who works for customs/immigration in the US that it's a "red flag" when traveling without a return flight? My husband and I are walking the Camino Frances starting September 10 (first Camino) and planned on staying in Europe for a while without a specific return time.
 
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alipilgrim

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2005, 2007; Madrid/Frances 2011; 1/2 VdP 2012; Portugese Litoral2019; Finisterre/Muxia2019;
I haven't personally flown on a one-way ticket but some years ago the lady in front of me at Miami International had to buy a return ticket on the spot as the airline wouldn't let her check-in with only a one-way ticket. It's the airlines responsibility to return you if you're not allowed in to your arrival country. I'm not sure customs/immigration care too much about a return "flight" as you could easily take ground transportation out of the EU, so just as long as you have some type of onward ticket to leave their area you should be fine (that doesn't mean that wherever you go to won't have the same issue 'accepting' you!).
 

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