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Schengen Zone without a student or other visa

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Hello fellow Fodorites,

My daughter is travelling through Europe for 5 months. She and her friend do not intend to apply for a Schengen Visa, nor are they students (they're celebrating their graduation!). Everything I've read, including the posts here, states that you can stay in Shengen for 90 days and then must wait another 30 days before you can re-enter. Unless you're from New Zealand, lol. (Is that right?)

My questions...

what if you stay less than the initial 3 months in the Zone? do the 90 days have to be consecutive for the restriction to kick in?

is there a way to travel to the UK or other (which??) non-EU states without having to stay out for a month in order to get around the restrictions? the UK exchange rate is horrible right now, and it would be tough to stay on budget for them.

My daughter has to come back to the U.S. after 2 months for a week, and then she's heading back. Does that cause a "reboot"?

or should they really apply for a visa (how much $)?

Alec, if you're out there, you seem to be the resident Fodor's expert on the subject...Help! And of course, all help is welcome and appreciated.

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