Five Steps to Planning our 2019 Camino

By on October 24, 2018

I can’t wait anymore – I have to talk about the Camino! There is so much to say! This is the first of several blog posts over the coming months on the subject of the Camino de Santiago. We hiked the Camino Frances in 2017 which was a life-changing experience for both of our adventurous spirits. Many times we had heard the phrase, “you never hike the Camino just once,” but we had no idea what it meant until the draw of the Camino pulled us so hard we could not resist it. I have to admit, I am still shocked at how much I want to go back and hike the Camino again. Brian felt the same draw to go back, but he wasn’t as surprised as I was. There will be more on the reasons we both felt the draw in future blog posts.
Let me begin by telling you some people decide to hike the Camino and don’t plan a thing. This is not who we are, we like to plan, I can go so far as to say we love to plan. Spreadsheets are life to us! For us, the spreadsheet takes something that can be quite intimidating – hiking across a country – and making it more manageable. Our spreadsheet broke down the 550 miles trek into small sections so we had more confidence and set achievable goals. All of that being said, we have a lot of respect for the many thousands of people who complete the Camino annually without any planning. There is something to be said about just picking up and going, just because it is not for us doesn’t mean we don’t admire those who do.
It was about May 2018 when we both finally admitted to one another that we wanted to go back to the Camino; it was less than a year from being back in the states from our Camino 2017. I remember where we were standing in the new house we just purchased in April 2018 when we admitted our desire to hike the Camino again because my heart skipped a few beats. It took a few months to make any progress on that decision, mainly because we were in the midst of preparing for our son’s wedding and our summer 2018 adventure but we knew we were going! We plan the details of our next big summer adventure the moment we finish the adventure we are on and often while we are on the current summer adventure. So in September 2018, the real planning began. Determining when we are going to travel is not a step for us because we are teachers so we know that we’re traveling in June and July whether we like it or not. With that being said, before I outline the steps we have taken thus far, I strongly encourage you to join the American Pilgrims on the Camino Facebook group. With over 18,000 members, everything and anything you need to know to plan your Camino is in that group! Ok, without further delay, here are the steps we have taken thus far to plan our Camino 2019:
Monitor International Flight Prices
I cannot tell you how important it is to sign up for some sort of flight monitoring website. We signed up for a few and the winner of finding our cheap airfare was Scott’s Cheap Flights. You can pay up to about $1500 a person to fly internationally but with a bit of legwork, you can fly a lot cheaper. A couple weeks ago, I received an email from Scott’s Cheap Flights that Air Portugal was having a great sale so did further investigating and found great prices. If you are willing to fly from one of the main hubs (we picked Boston), they had round-trip tickets as cheap as $300. This means we still need to get to Boston, but we will monitor flights until we find a good price to get to Boston.
Determine the Route
Next, you need to determine which of the Camino de Santiago routes you will choose to hike. The most popular and the one we did in 2017 is the Camino Frances. Many people are inspired to hike the Camino Frances because of the 2010 movie, The Way, starring Martin Sheen, and we were no different. The moment we saw this movie we knew it was a bucket list adventure, and it only took us seven more years to get there.
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This time we are going to hike the Camino Portugués which is 640 kilometers. Since we have the time, and we want to go back, we are going to hike part of the Camino Francés from Leon to Santiago. Finally, we are going to hike the “extra loop” to the “end of the Earth” which is Santiago de Compostela to Finisterre to Muxia and back to Santiago. We hiked to the end of the Earth in 2017 to celebrate our anniversary but this time we want to complete the loop and go on to Muxia and then walk back to Santiago. Our total hiking mileage is coming it at 1162.3 kilometers. This is epic for us! The last time we were there we had 38 hiking days, averaging about 14 miles a day. This time we will hike 44 days and average 26.4 kilometers or 16.4 miles a day. We like a challenge – and well – we have one before us!
Buy Guidebooks
There are several guidebooks out there about the Camino and we have two favorites. The first, and most popular, guidebooks are by John Brierly and you can find any of his books on Amazon. This is the basis for our spreadsheet and provided us with everything we needed to know about hiking the Camino from villages, distances, terrain, details about where to stay, and notes of stuff to watch out for as you travel. Many people carry his book with them on the Camino and just rip out pages as they don’t need them anymore or they have the electronic version on their Kindle.
The second guidebook we use is the Village to Village guidebook by Anna Dintaman and Matthew Harms, their books can also be found on Amazon. You should also check out their website too. It has been a great resource for planning where to stay, what to wear, what to take, and has links or email addresses to albergues.
Buy your guidebooks about 6-8 months before you leave. You don’t want to buy them too early because you want the latest edition; however, you want to buy them early enough to have the time to read the books so you can, at least, mentally prepare for this undertaking.
Make Spreadsheet
Disclosure: We were not the original creators of this massive spreadsheet! One of our fellow Ohio APOC friends, Greg, created this spreadsheet and shared it with us. We have shared it with others so as to pay it forward because if you are a planner, this spreadsheet is amazing!
Ok, here is where we went crazy! But you need to know that we plan our summer adventures with this type of spreadsheet every year. Our rationale is that when we are gone for two months, we need a spreadsheet to ensure we meet our goals for the adventure.
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For our first Camino, we were not going to plan anything because we heard that most people don’t plan their daily goals on the Camino. It was about five months before we left for the Camino when we decided the no-planning philosophy was not going to work for us. There were a few determining factors going on here – (1) we have to travel during the busiest season, (2) we heard stories of people coming into a village and there were no rooms left (and we saw this happen!!), (3) we wanted to know where we were sleeping each night even if we had to bus ahead due to illness or injury, and finally most importantly, (4) our minds were at ease the moment we started planning our stays. For us, the spreadsheet is our lifeline and we love having it. Would we ever go without one? We could, yes. If we were only going for a couple of weeks, a good possibility, yes. If we weren’t going during the busy season, possibly. It is all a matter of preference.
Training Time
If you have the time, we would strongly encourage you to start walking! Walk 5, 8, 10 miles at a time as much as you can, build up to longer walks whatever that looks like for you. Start where you are comfortable to prevent injury. Since we are still about seven months out, we are walking once or twice during the week and have one long walk on the weekends. Do what works in your schedule. If you can get consecutive long walking days in, that would be perfect for your training! If you have any old Roman roads in our neighborhood, walk on them! Haha But seriously, do not go for a walk in the woods, which is what we would normally be doing. Walk on gravel roads, brick roads, pavement, anything to toughen up your feet. Carry a backpack with about 12-15 pounds in it during the last couple months of your training. I will talk about gear, I promise, in another Camino post! For now, here are a few more big suggestions to train for your Camino:

  • See your podiatrist and get insoles. They saved our feet! You have to find the shoes and insoles that work for your feet. It is critical. We both love Merrell shoes and insoles that are fitted for our feet.
  • Know how to care for blisters (see the APOC Facebook group, everyone has an opinion on what to do)
  • Do lunges and squats, just 10-20 a day, 3-4 days a week. Your knees will thank you for that specific training, I promise you!
  • Have your backpack fitted, we went to REI and both love our packs for different reasons.
  • When you know what you are going to wear on the Camino, wear it in your training. You want to minimize gear surprises.

Don’t overthink the training, just walk. There are people of all ages, backgrounds, and fitness levels on the Camino. We met two 12-year-old girls hiking the Camino, lots of 20, 30, and 40 something folks, and even more 50, 60, 70+ folks walking the Camino. If you can walk, you can walk the Camino. Even if you can’t walk the Camino will provide, see the 2017 movie, I’ll Push You if you need the motivation to walk the Camino.
Extra Step: Making Reservations
This step is not for everyone but it certainly made our Camino the most “relaxing” adventure we have ever had! I referenced making reservations in the “Creating the Spreadsheet” point but it needs to be clarified. The site we used to make most of our reservations was Booking.com. It won’t help you with every single reservation, for some villages you will need to email the albergue to make your reservation because they are not on Booking.com.
Before you make your reservations, check out the APOC Facebook group because everyone is talking about various albergues and may provide you with insight about where you want to stay or avoid staying because it does not meet your needs.
I didn’t talk about the budget in this blog, it’s a topic for another post. However, in short, you can spend very little or stay at 5-star hotels throughout your journey. You can find municipal albergues for $3-5 a night. We averaged about $40 a night for a private room. Sometimes that included dinner but often, for us, it did not. I will talk more about our “teacher budget,” this means that we had more resources than a college student but not as much as someone from Corporate America.
There are so many blog posts about the Camino, this is just our point of view from our experience. Read as much as you can before you hike your Camino. It’s your journey, it’s your Camino, make it what you want it to be. As we say on the Camino, Buen Camino!



6 comments on “Five Steps to Planning our 2019 Camino

  1. I would love to be able to take a look at your spreadsheet. Is there any way it can be shared for others to use?

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