Open-ended travel dates: How to navigate customs

Travel Forums Europe Open-ended travel dates: How to navigate customs

  • 1
  • 2
Last Post This thread is marked as being about Ireland
1. Posted by HoboGrl (Budding Member 4 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

Hi everyone, I am planning an open-ended trek through Europe using Ireland as my base. I am flying to Ireland from the U.S., and from Ireland will go to the Continent. I would like to keep my dates open-ended, to allow for spontaneous travels. I will go to Ireland in July, but want to keep my options open in case I want to continue traveling through the fall. Is this unrealistic? Do I need a firm date leaving Ireland to return to the U.S? Thank you for any advice you could give!

2. Posted by Beausoleil (Travel Guru 1318 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

Most of the countries on the continent are part of the Schengen Agreement. That means you, as a USA citizen, may not spend more than 90 days in the Schengen area. You need to familiarize yourself with the countries that are and are not in Schengen and plan accordingly . . . if you plan to travel more than 90 days. The rule is simple 90 days in Schengen; 90 days outside of Schengen. Yes, they do check and you should take care to get your passport posted as you go in and out.

Obviously if you aren't planning more than 90 days, this is not a problem. Here is the US govt. web page on Schengen with passport information.

As far as a return date, I'm not sure. There is always the possibility of an open return ticket. You would have a guaranteed return but not be tied to a date. I suspect that is rather expensive though. Hopefully, someone who knows about that will answer soon. Our members are in all time zones so be patient. It can take over 24 hours or more to get a response.

Good luck and enjoy your trip.

3. Posted by Kathrin_E (Travel Guru 436 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

An open return ticket will cost more than one with a fixed return date, but almost certainly it will be a lot cheaper than booking two single flights. So this is indeed worth considering.

Another option, if you want to keep everything open, would be booking the cheapest flight you can find on a low cost carrier from an airport within the Schengen zone to an airport outside the Schengen zone (for example Rome to London) for a date befor the end of your 90 days, and present that ticket in case anyone asks. Who knows, you might even end up using it.

[ Edit: Edited on 05-Mar-2017, at 23:14 by Kathrin_E ]

4. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 1871 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

As previous replies have said, working around the Schengen zone restrictions is key.

The clearest explanation I've heard for it is: you're allowed to be in Schengen up to 90 days in any rolling 180 day period.

So days outside the zone stop the counter toward 90 ticking, while days in the zone from 180 days ago fall off the counter.

You basically have two groups of countries outside the zone which you can use to lengthen your stay. The Common Travel Area is Britain, Ireland, and Britain's protectorates Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Man. I believe Americans can stay 180 days per entry in the CTA so no problem there. The other group is the Balkans, which each have individual borders; I imagine they'll be liberal with US passport holders but best check. They include Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Albania, Montenegro, Macedonia. Going further east you could also check out Ukraine and Moldova - non-Schengen but I don't know about their visa situation for you.

[ Edit: Edited on 05-Mar-2017, at 23:38 by Andyf ]

5. Posted by berner256 (Moderator 1277 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

Suggest you buy a one-way ticket; and decide later on the return trip. It won't be expensive. You'll have options.

There are major changes underway in the trans-Atlantic market. With increased competition, prices are falling. See this link:

Low-fare carriers, such as Norwegian Air, now serve both the U.S. East and West coasts from Europe.

6. Posted by HoboGrl (Budding Member 4 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

Thank you everyone, these all are great suggestions - I really appreciate it!

I originally thought about getting a one-way ticket to Ireland and going from there, but I wasn't sure if Irish customs officials would want me to come into the country on an indefinite stay.

This has me wondering now how long-time world travelers do this.

7. Posted by berner256 (Moderator 1277 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

See this link:

If your visit is for tourism; and you plan to leave Ireland to travel around Europe, then returning later to the U.S. from Ireland or elsewhere in Europe, then you're likely to be OK. If an Irish immigration officer were to ask you how long you plan to stay in Ireland, and you respond, "Indefinitely," that could pose a problem. But if you respond by saying, "I'll be visiting Ireland for a few weeks before going to the Continent to travel around there," then you'll be fine.

You probably won't need to show onward travel arrangements. But if you do, an itinerary, confirmation of a flight or other means of transportation or accommodations elsewhere in Europe usually will do the trick. So it's always wise to think one, two or three steps ahead of where you are going.

Suggest you review entry requirements for the countries you plan to visit at this State Department Web site:

[ Edit: Edited on 06-Mar-2017, at 07:42 by berner256 ]

8. Posted by HoboGrl (Budding Member 4 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

Great advice - thank you all so much.

9. Posted by hasbeen (Travel Guru 1260 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

Quoting HoboGrl

.... Do I need a firm date leaving Ireland to return to the U.S? Thank you for any advice you could give!

To answer that specific question .. No. Ireland would only need something to show you were leaving Ireland for the USA, if the USA were your next destination. Otherwise, they only have an interest in when you intend leaving their jurisdiction .. that is where the expression 'proof of onward travel' comes into play. Onward travel does not have to be 'return' travel.

I am sometimes asked for Proof of Onward Travel when applying for a visa .. they might ask how long I am staying when I enter a country, but do not remember ever being asked to show proof. That does not mean they will not ask you though.


10. Posted by ToddP (Moderator 225 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

Please bear in mind that Ireland is not part of the Schengen Area