How to Plan a European Trip: Step-by-step Guide 2024

by grace ashi
how to plan a european trip

How to Plan a European Trip: First-time visitors guide

Are you searching for tips on how to plan a European trip? After traveling to 30 countries in Europe each year for several months, I have compiled all the information you need to know. If you’re looking for charming towns, stunning architecture, or breathtaking landscapes, Europe has it all! Trust me, it’s worth the trip!”This article covers all the essential aspects of planning your first trip to Europe, from selecting your destination to making the most of your time there. Firstly, your European vacation starts with choosing a destination.

Europe has 44 countries with distinct cultures and languages, so your interests, budget, and travel style should guide your location choice. Whether you’re into historic towns, beaches, or mountain hikes, Europe has everything. Once you’ve decided on a destination, it’s time to plan your Europe itinerary. For budget destinations, read the cheapest European countries to visit.

When planning your trip, balance sightseeing, relaxation, and exploration. Consider the travel time, the distance between the places you want to visit, and the available transportation mode. Check the attractions’ visiting hours and entrance fees. It’s best to book tickets in advance to avoid any last-minute hassles. Planning your Europe itinerary can help you maximize your vacation time and minimize stress.

Key Takeaways

  • Your travel style, budget, and interests will all play a role in selecting your European destinations.
  • Make sure to factor in the length of your round-trip flight, the distance between sites, and your preferred mode of transportation when creating your Europe itinerary.
  • Get tickets in advance and familiarize yourself with the attractions’ opening times and entrance costs.

Choose Your European Destinations

When planning a trip to Europe, the first thing to consider is where you want to go. Europe is home to some of the world’s most famous cities, charming little towns, and breathtaking scenery. Some places can be easily explored with a day trip, while others require a boat ride. Take your time to research and plan your itinerary so you can make the most of your European adventure.

Popular European Cities

eiffel tower, paris, france

Western Europe is a popular travel destination with some of the most visited cities in the world. You’ve likely heard of major cities like London, Paris, Vienna, Prague, Budapest, and Rome, which attract millions of visitors yearly. If you have limited time or budget, starting with the basics is best.

This way, you can cover a few places and attractions without feeling overwhelmed or running out of money. Paris, London, and Amsterdam are usually the accessible routes for first-timers. They are located just a few hours away from each other, making them ideal destinations for first-time international travelers. Consider taking the speed train to travel between cities in less than 4 hours, making the journey quick and efficient.

Another easy route combines Vienna, Prague, and Budapest into one itinerary. Begin your journey in Prague, take the train or bus to Vienna, and then travel to Budapest, with each leg of the trip taking about 3 to 4 hours.

Italy is also a top-rated European destination for first-time travelers. Famous towns like Rome, the Amalfi Coast, and Florence offer plenty of opportunities for sightseeing and exploration. Venice is known for its canals and gondolas, and Paris is famous for the Eiffel Tower.

Other popular European travel destinations include Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland. These places offer stunning natural beauty and unique cultural experiences that will make any trip unforgettable.

Off the Beaten Path

Discover These Treasures of Europe Off the Beaten Path - TheStreet

There are many unique places with off-the-beaten-path locations to explore if you want something different. Spain’s most visited city is Barcelona, while Portugal has several charming cities and villages.

Germany’s Bavaria is renowned for its picturesque towns and breathtaking landscapes. Stockholm and Copenhagen are Scandinavia’s most stunning cities, while Dubrovnik in Croatia is a hidden gem. Greece is also a great option, with beautiful beaches and fascinating ancient ruins.

When choosing a destination, consider your interests and travel style. Some travelers prefer bustling cities with lots of attractions, while others enjoy the slower pace of smaller towns and villages.

Also, be mindful of your budget, as some places can be quite expensive. Fortunately, Europe offers many destinations that cater to every budget. Check out the Cheapest European destinations to find affordable options.

Planning Your Europe Itinerary

How To Plan a Trip Itinerary for Your Vacation -

If you’re planning a trip to Europe, carefully research and plan your itinerary with so many unique destinations; deciding where and what to see can be overwhelming. However, planning can make all the difference in ensuring that your trip is enjoyable and stress-free. To help you get started, here are some valuable tips to help you organize your European itinerary.

Deciding on Duration

When planning a trip to Europe, decide on the length of your vacation beforehand. This will help you determine the number of places you can visit and how much time you can afford to spend at each location. It is always better to focus on a few European countries rather than trying to see everything in one trip. This way, you can fully immerse yourself in each destination’s local culture and attractions, making the most of your trip.

Planning Day-by-Day Europe Itinerary

Once you have determined the duration of your trip, it’s essential to plan your daily schedule. Researching your desired destinations and activities in advance is always a good idea to avoid arriving in a foreign country without knowing where to go. Planning your transportation options and travel times between destinations is also essential.

If it’s your very first trip to Europe, it’s best to avoid trying to fit too much into one day, as this can lead to fatigue and burnout. To help you create your daily agenda, you can consider using a travel itinerary planner or app. These tools can assist you in managing your itinerary and keeping track of your bookings, flights, and activities. You can read about the best travel planner apps to learn more.

How to book flights to Europe

Planning a trip to Europe involves booking flights, which is crucial. To make your trip more comfortable, managing jet lag effectively is essential. Additionally, finding affordable airfare can be a challenge, but there are some tips and tricks that can help. Here are some suggestions to help you manage jet lag and locate the best airfare deals.

Finding the Best Airfare to Europe

When booking flights, consider flying into one city and out of another for efficiency and cost savings. Next, start looking for the best deals on airfare; several resources are available to help you out. My favorite is Skyscanner, a website that allows you to search for and compare airline tickets. What’s great about this site is that you can set up price notifications to stay informed about any changes in flight prices. You can book your flights at the most affordable rates possible and save money for other travel expenses.

Time of year

Traveling to Europe can be costly, especially during the peak months of June to August and significant holidays. Keep in mind that flights during these times are usually more expensive.

Departure city

Big cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago typically offer smoother, more affordable flights than smaller towns.

Layovers

When booking your plane tickets, you may notice that layover tickets are often less expensive than non-stop flights. While this may seem like a great deal, consider the extra time and inconvenience of a layover. Waiting at the airport can be tiresome and time-consuming. Weigh the cost savings against the potential drawbacks before making a decision.

Airlines

When planning to make a reservation for your next flight, take the time to review the fine print carefully. Different airlines have varying policies and flight costs. Do your research! Also, check the refund policy in case your plans change unexpectedly. If you’re looking for more flexibility, Play Airlines is my favorite airline for traveling to Europe. They allow you to change your flights up to 24 hours before departure for a small fee. Take note of airline policies before booking your flight.

Dealing with Jet Lag

Traveling to Europe can often lead to jet lag due to the long flights and significant time differences. Coping with jet lag can be challenging, but there are ways to adjust. In this context, the following tips can be helpful to minimize the effects of jet lag.

Adjust your sleep schedule before you leave.

Before you leave for your trip, it is recommended that you adjust your sleep schedule gradually to align with your destination’s time zone. This will help prevent jet lag and ensure a smoother transition into the new time zone.

Stay hydrated

To keep yourself hydrated while traveling by air, make sure to drink an ample amount of water before, during, and after your journey. This will help counteract the drying effects of flying and keep you refreshed and energized.

Get some sunlight

If you’re dealing with jet lag, a simple and effective way to reset your body clock and alleviate its effects is by exposing yourself to natural light. This can help regulate your circadian rhythm, resulting in a smoother transition to your new time zone.

Take it easy

When you arrive in Europe for the first time, it’s important not to try and do too much on your first day. Give yourself time to adjust to the new time zone and recover from jet lag. By following some helpful tips, you can reduce jet lag symptoms and find great deals on airfare for your European trip.

Choosing Your Accommodations

When planning a European vacation, choosing the suitable accommodation is crucial. You have several options, including hostels, Airbnb, and hotels. Research the neighborhood’s location, amenities, affordability, and safety, particularly if traveling alone. It’s always best to select a place close to city centers and old towns as they are usually convenient for most tourist attractions.

Hotels Versus Hostels

When traveling in Europe, hotels and hostels are two of the most popular options for lodging. Hotels are more expensive but provide greater privacy and amenities like room service, fitness centers, and on-site restaurants.

Hostels, on the other hand, are generally less expensive and offer a more communal atmosphere. They have shared rooms and common areas where guests can socialize, making them ideal for solo or independent travelers. If you prefer more privacy, some hostels also offer private rooms.

To decide between a hotel and a hostel, consider your travel style, preferences, and budget. A hotel room might be best for a more secluded and private experience. However, a hostel is a better option if you’re on a tight budget and want to meet other travelers.

Booking Sites

Booking websites like Expedia and Booking.com can be helpful when comparing European accommodation options. These websites frequently offer special discounted rates and allow travelers to search for hotels and hostels based on location, cost, and amenities.

To make an informed decision, read customer reviews on booking websites before selecting a place to stay. This will help you get an idea of the quality of the accommodation and avoid any unpleasant surprises. I have personally found that reading reviews have saved me a lot of trouble in the past. Additionally, comparing rates on multiple websites is a great way to find the best deal.

Budgeting Your European Vacation

The cost of international travel can quickly add up, so plan to avoid overspending and going into debt. Here are some tips to help you stick to your travel budget when planning a European trip. Having a financial management strategy is crucial when visiting Europe. You may handle your finances while traveling by using the following advice:

Carry cash

It’s always a good idea to bring some cash with you, as some European destinations may not accept credit cards. Having money on hand can help you avoid any difficulties.

Use credit cards

Credit cards are widely accepted in Europe and can be a practical way to cover expenses. Just make sure to monitor your spending and not exceed your budget. You can also use travel apps to help you budget and keep track of your expenses.

Get a travel credit card.

A travel credit card can be an excellent option for earning rewards on your purchases and avoiding international transaction fees. Consider getting one before your next trip to Europe to help you save money and make the most of your trip.

Use ATMS

ATMs can be a convenient way to withdraw cash when traveling in Europe. They are widely available, but you must check with your bank about any fees associated with using foreign ATMs to avoid surprises. You should notify your bank and credit card companies of your travel plans before departure.

Saving on Transportation in Europe

trolley, tram, tramway

Transportation costs can be high in certain European countries. If you’re planning your first trip to Europe, knowing how to minimize these costs is essential. Below are some practical tips to help you reduce your transportation expenses and make the most of your trip.

Use public transportation

If you’re traveling in Europe, using public transportation can be a great way to save time and money. Many cities offer day and week passes that allow you to use public transit for a lower cost.

Book in advance

If you make transportation reservations early, you can save money on flight and train costs. Many budget airlines and train travel operators offer discounts for early bookings.

Consider alternative transportation

Exploring other modes of transportation, such as taking the bus or using car-sharing programs, might be a good idea. These options tend to be more affordable than traditional transportation methods.

Walk or bike

Walking or cycling is one of the best ways to explore Europe and save money on transportation. Many European cities have bike-sharing systems that allow you to borrow a bike for just a few hours a day or a few days a week. This is not only a great way to see the sights, but also a healthy way to get some exercise.

To ensure you don’t overspend during your Europe trip, create a budget before you go. This will help you stay within your means and enjoy a debt-free vacation. By following these tips, you can effectively manage your finances, which will reduce your need for transportation and hotel costs.

Packing for your European Vacation

passport, map, world

When planning a European vacation, keeping the weather and your planned activities in mind is essential. To ensure maximum comfort, it’s best to pack breathable, lightweight, and layerable clothing. Don’t forget to bring comfortable walking shoes, since you’ll be walking in Europe. By adequately preparing, you can enjoy your trip without worrying about discomfort.

For a hassle-free vacation in Europe, it helps to pack smart. The following tips will help prepare your suitcase and make your travels more comfortable.

  • Passport and other travel documents
  • Cash and credit cards
  • Travel adapter and charger for electronics
  • Lightweight clothing that can be layered
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Rain jacket or umbrella
  • Toiletries, including sunscreen and insect repellent
  • Medications and first aid kit

Luggage and Backpacks for Europe

When choosing the right luggage for your European trip, there are two main options: a travel backpack or a suitcase with wheels. Suppose you plan on staying in one place for an extended period and don’t want to carry your luggage around too much. A wheeled suitcase is the way to go. Remember that many European homes have cobblestone streets that can be uncomfortable if your luggage is heavy. Choose a portable, sturdy, lightweight bag you can easily move around.

On the other hand, if you prefer to move around frequently or explore the area on foot, a travel backpack would be a more suitable choice. Look for a backpack with adjustable straps for comfort and several pockets to keep your things organized. Pick a bag that is the right size for your travel needs.

How to get around Europe and Navigate Transporportation

When planning your first trip to Europe, one of the most critical decisions you’ll have to make is how you’ll get around. With so many different transportation options, including public transit and vehicle rentals, it can be challenging to figure out what’s best for you. That’s why this section will provide an overview of these various choices to help navigate European transportation a little easier.

Train travel

The train is a common and practical way to get around Europe. High-speed trains are available to travel between most cities or countries. The Eurail Pass is popular for those who want to travel to one European city or country. It provides unlimited travel on participating European rail networks for a limited time. Various pass options are available to travelers, such as worldwide and regional passes.

Going to the train station early is best if you plan to take a train. This will give you enough time to locate and board your train. Train stations can be busy and confusing, so arriving early is always better. You can familiarize yourself with the train station layout and the ticketing procedure beforehand by going early.

Car Rental

For those who wish to see Europe at their speed and have the flexibility to venture off the usual path, renting a car can be a wise choice. Driving in Europe can present difficulties for individuals unfamiliar with driving regulations and conditions. Before you leave on your trip, learn about the area’s different driving laws and regulations.

Selecting a reliable rental car company or business and thoroughly reading the rental agreement to comprehend the terms and conditions are crucial when renting a car. Figure out the total cost of renting a vehicle, such as the price of gas, tolls, and parking.

To get through Europe, you can choose from various transportation such as trains, rental cars, and public transportation.

Exploring Activities and Attractions

greece, greek, isle

Historical Sites

Europe is renowned for its fascinating history that goes back hundreds of years. Numerous historical sites throughout Europe offer visitors an opportunity to experience life as it was centuries ago. For example, Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany and Edinburgh Castle in Scotland are famous castles that take visitors back in time.

The Louvre Museum in Paris and the British Museum in London allow visitors to explore the past through art and artifacts. Skellig Michael Island, located off the coast of Ireland, is another unique historical site. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is famous for its stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and houses a sixth-century monastery.

Natural Wonders

Europe is a continent filled with a plethora of natural and historical attractions. For example, you can take a trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia and witness a breathtaking display of lakes and waterfalls. Or, if you want to experience some of the best views in the world and enjoy hiking or skiing, head over to the Swiss Alps.

For those fascinated by marine life, the Portuguese Azores Islands offer the perfect opportunity to swim with dolphins or watch whales. Alternatively, you can explore Waitomo, an enchanting glowworm cave in New Zealand. With so many adventures and sights, Europe is an ideal destination for all types of travelers.

Travel Insurance and Safety in Europe

Travel insurance and safety are super important when going on a European trip. Although traveling to Europe is generally safe, preparing for emergencies and mishaps is advisable. Regarding security and travel insurance, have the following points in mind:

Travel Insurance

When traveling to Europe, it is recommended that you get travel insurance. A good travel insurance policy can cover various events, such as medical emergencies, lost or stolen luggage, and trip cancellations. Some policies may also include coverage for adventurous activities like bungee jumping and skiing.

Be sure to read the fine print carefully to understand what is covered when choosing a travel insurance policy. Some plans may have exclusions or limitations that could affect your coverage. Ensure the insurance covers the countries and activities you plan to engage in.

Safety in Europe

Even though traveling to Europe is generally secure, you should still exercise caution to protect yourself. Here are some pointers to remember:

  • In busy places, pay attention to your surroundings and remain vigilant.
  • Passports, cash, and credit cards are things you should keep in a secure place, like a hotel safe.
  • Instead of carrying a lot of cash, utilize traveler’s checks or credit cards.
  • Use caution when taking public transit, particularly after dark.
  • To prevent any misunderstandings, familiarize yourself with the laws and customs of the area.

Visa and Passport Requirements for Visiting Europe

passport, flag, travel

The correct paperwork needed for traveling to Europe includes a current passport and, at times, a visa. Prepare for the first international trip and ensure all required paperwork is obtained before departing.

Passport Requirements

If you’re a US citizen planning to travel to Europe, you must have a valid passport before you leave. Make sure to check the expiration date of your ticket, as some countries may require it to be valid for at least six months after your planned entry date. Passports for children are valid for five years, while passports for US citizens aged sixteen and above are valid for ten years. Carrying your passport when visiting any Schengen nation is recommended, even without a border check.

Visa Requirements

If you are a citizen of the United States and hold a valid US passport, traveling to Schengen countries for business or vacation is allowed, and you don’t need a visa for a stay of up to 90 days. You can visit multiple countries within the Schengen area without obtaining a visa if your stay does not exceed 90 days.

However, if you are a citizen of another country residing in the US, the visa requirements may vary depending on your travel itinerary and duration of stay. Therefore, confirming the specific visa requirements for the nation or countries you visit is essential to avoid any issues while traveling.

ETIAS

europe, european union, flag

This is an ETIAS (European Travel Information and Permission System) permission. This authorization allows you to travel visa-free within the Schengen Area, but it’s not a visa. Although initially set to begin in 2024, the launch has been postponed until 2025.

The application process is usually straightforward and costs $7 per application for most travelers. However, applying at least 72 hours before departure is best to avoid any issues. Additionally, checking the passport and visa requirements for the country you’re visiting is crucial to ensure a smooth journey. Failure to comply with these requirements could result in entry being denied or, worse, deportation.

Dealing with Weather and Climate

Know the local temperature and weather while organizing a trip to Europe. Europe offers diverse weather patterns, and each country has a different climate. Here are some points to remember:

Best time to visit Europe

When it comes to the best time to visit Europe, it all depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re after sunny weather, then the summer months are the busiest travel periods. However, prices can be higher, and popular destinations can be crowded. Alternatively, winter is the off-peak season if you’re looking for a more affordable trip. During this time, airfares and hotel rates are usually cheaper, but the weather can be chilly and rainy, and some attractions may be closed.

If you’re looking for a happy medium, your best bet is traveling during the shoulder seasons, which run from April to mid-June and September to October. During these times, you’ll enjoy fewer crowds and more pleasant weather, all at a more affordable price.

Of course, everyone has their preferences, and for me, the best time to visit Europe is during the springtime, particularly in May and early June. The weather is warm enough, and there are fewer crowds, which means shorter lines.

Researching the Climate

When planning a trip to Europe, it’s important to remember that each country has its unique climate. This means that you should take the time to learn about the local weather before you go.

Northern Europe tends to be colder than Southern Europe, where the weather is warmer. Central Europe has a continental climate and experiences four distinct seasons. Meanwhile, the Mediterranean region is known for its hot summers and mild winters.

By understanding the climate of the country you’re visiting, you can better plan your trip and pack the appropriate clothing and gear.

Packing for the Weather

It is crucial to be aware of the weather conditions and pack accordingly. Before leaving, check the weather forecast and plan your packing list accordingly. If you plan to visit during the summer, pack clothing suitable for cooler weather. Pack walking shoes, a rain jacket, sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen for a summer trip. On the other hand, if you are visiting during winter, pack a warm hat, gloves, and clothes. By doing so, you can ensure that you have a comfortable and stress-free trip.

Being Flexible

Weather can be unpredictable, even if you’ve planned for it. Be flexible and have a backup plan in case the weather turns bad. Don’t worry; you can still enjoy your trip to Europe! If it’s raining or stormy, you can always try indoor activities like visiting museums or art galleries. On the other hand, if the sun is shining, you can enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking or strolling around the city center.

Always check the weather forecast of the European country before packing and be ready for any changes. With careful planning, you can make the most of your trip to Europe, no matter what Mother Nature throws your way!

Making the Most of Your European Vacation

Creating Lasting Memories

Prepare for your trip to create an incredible journey with unforgettable memories. Start by listing all the places you want to visit and researching them thoroughly to maximize your time and not miss out on any must-see attractions.

To avoid disappointment, scheduling your activities, day trips, or excursions ahead of time during peak travel periods is best. This will allow you to explore each location and learn about the local culture.

To remember your experiences, take photos or keep a travel journal. These souvenirs will help you recall the details of your trip and share your adventures with others.

Experiencing Local Culture in Europe

One of the best ways to experience and learn about the local way of life is to get involved in the community. You can try attending local festivals, eating at local eateries, and staying at Airbnb or local lodging. You can easily find such events on Meetup or Couchsurfing, and pub crawls or walking tours on tours are also great ways to meet locals. Most major cities host these events so that you can search for them online.

To make it easier to communicate with locals and show your appreciation for their culture, try learning a few basic phrases in the local language. This can help you connect with new people and make the most of your travels.

If you want to learn more about the region’s history, cuisine, and customs, consider exploring museums, art galleries, and historical landmarks or taking a food tour. Cultural activities such as wine tastings, cooking classes, or traditional dances can also help you get a more authentic sense of the local way of life.

FAQ How to Plan a Europe Trip

How do I organize my trip to Europe?

Planning a trip to Europe can be overwhelming, but breaking it down into smaller tasks can make it more manageable. Start by choosing your travel dates and budget. Then, research potential locations and create an itinerary based on your interests and budget. Booking flights, lodging, and activities in advance are recommended to ensure availability and save money. Don’t forget to get travel insurance and make copies of all necessary paperwork before you leave.

How far in advance should you plan a trip to Europe?

If you plan to travel to Europe during peak season, booking accommodation at least six to nine months in advance is highly recommended. This approach will ensure that you can easily enjoy all the famous tourist spots and activities while also getting the best travel and lodging rates available.

How to plan a trip to Europe for 7 days?

Organizing a seven-day trip to Europe requires careful consideration of your hobbies and travel objectives. Start by picking a few locations that are easily reached by train or air and close to one another. Then, sort the must-see sights into priority lists and adjust your schedule accordingly. Remember that to get the most out of your limited time, you may have to sacrifice some experiences. By following these tips, you can ensure that you make the most of your European adventure.

Is $2000 enough for a Europe trip?

Your travel preferences, chosen destination, and length of stay will impact the cost of your trip. For those who value inexpensive lodging, public transit, and free events, a budget of $2000 may be adequate. However, you must save more money if you prefer fancy hotels, fine dining establishments, and pricey activities.

How early should I plan my trip to Europe?

Participate in activities such as food tours and attractions while securing the cheapest airfare and hotel rates; starting the planning process for your trip at least 6 to 9 months in advance is recommended. This will help you avoid disappointment and book your preferred vacation dates and locations without hassle. Therefore, it is advisable to start preparing as soon as possible to ensure a smooth and successful trip.

How do I make a travel plan for Europe?

When planning a trip to Europe, the first step is determining your spending limit and setting your departure and arrival dates. After researching the destinations you’re interested in, create an itinerary that suits your interests and budget. Book your flights, accommodation, and activities in advance to save money and ensure availability. Don’t forget to get travel insurance and make copies of all necessary documents. With good planning, you can turn your travel dreams into a smooth and affordable reality and enjoy the freedom that comes with it.

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