If you’re reading this post, there’s a good chance you have an incredible trip to Europe coming up. I must admit, I’m a little envious. My month-long trip to Europe with my besties last summer was seriously one of the highlights of my life. I wish I could do a trip like that every year. I truly think about the memories we made every day! So, world-traveler, it’s time to get EXCITED and start PLANNING!
Are you the planning type? Let’s be honest, planning a trip to Europe can seem pretty daunting if you aren’t type A. Luckily, I am, and planning this huge trip was, yes stressful, but also so much fun. We went to 5 different countries, 8+ cities, had to figure out the maze of transportation, and were working on a TIGHT budget. But hey, we did it and did it well. So friends, if you’re about to sit down and nail out your own trip, let me offer some advice to ease the stress. Here are some tips I learned after planning our own trip to Europe last year.
- Grab a friend and make some lists:
Whether your traveling with your significant other or traveling with a group, put your heads together and brainstorm all the places you may want to visit on your trip. When we started planning, the first thing we did was browse Pinterest and see what countries really sparked our interest. It’s important to consider everyone’s contribution and make sure you hit places everyone wants to see. We crossed off places, added new ones, and finally had a concrete list that worked with our time frame. We opted for spending more time in less places. I highly recommend this. We had more time to experience the culture of each place, plus, it really cut down on our travel costs.
- Plan out your ‘musts’:
As fun as it is leaving room to explore in each city (more about that on number 8), it’s so important to nail down the things you really want to see while in each city and country. For me, a day at the Vatican was a priority. Even though we only had 3 days there, we made sure to do all our research about this place we knew we wanted to see. It was a good thing we did, because we realized we were able to buy tickets online which saved us literally hours and hours of waiting time.
- Figure out your budget – This is probably the hardest part of planning out a Europe trip – figuring out the budget. Depending on where you are in life, you may have a really luxurious trip, or a really budget-friendly trip like we did. Our budget for four weeks in Europe after purchasing our plane tickets was $2500 for four weeks. We had to sacrifice a little here and there, but overall this budget is completely do-able. We worked our butts off saving enough to do this trip and a trip like this was hands-down the best way to spend your money. You wont regret a penny.It’s important to know in advance where your money will be going. That’s a huge reason we decided to book the majority of transportation and stay before. That way, we already knew what we were spending and could better budget out our days accordingly.
We mostly ate breakfast at home in the mornings, cooked dinner at home some nights (Shopping at local markets is an experience in and of itself. It really makes you feel like a local), shared plates at restaurants, and left a little wiggle room for nicer dinners. It’s completely do-able, you just have to get a little more creative when on a smaller budget. On average, we budgeted about 30 euro a day per person on food. Some days we spent more, some days we spent less, but it’s always nice to overestimate than underestimate.
- Grab your type a friend and get ready to get detailed – As I mentioned above, I was the type A friend of the group, and I highly recommend that if you aren’t type A, to bring in someone who is. There are so many little details that need to be planned, so it really helps to have another person there who is a little more naturally inclined to notice them and help plan them out.Do your research on each city, noting different neighborhoods and places to go, researching if there’s anything you need to buy in advance. Getting an idea of what you’d like to do will really help you estimate how much you will be spending. A great source for me was pinterest. There are a ton of blogs that have laid out travel tips and expenses. See what I’ve pinned here, it may be of help to you!
When researching transportation to and from each city, pay attention to every possible route. Sometimes, it may be cheaper to fly from Paris to Rome than from Rome to Paris. Seeing these difference will help you identify the best route for your trip. Additionally, be sure to check on prices every day. They regularly fluctuate.
- Pick one person to make most bookings and transactions – This was something that really worked well for us. I was usually the person to make the bookings for travel and stay because I was a big part of the planning process. It made things a lot easier, because instead of there being a lot of loose ends between travelers, everything is concise with one person. After the bookings (pre-trip), I just totaled up what I had spent and divided it by three. We used the square cash app to pay each other back.
- Book your stay – Everyone travels differently. I heard from some people that fine details like hostels and hotels can be booked on the fly, giving you flexibility while you’re there. Through my experience, I completely disagree. There was SO much stress and worry and time saved on our trip by having our stay pre-booked. We had one instance in which we didn’t know where we would stay for the night. Figuring out where we would stay in peak-season took so much time and energy, wasting time we could have been exploring the city! That being said, I recommend booking your stay (or as much of it as you can) before you hop on your plan to Europe. This is where setting your dates in step 4 comes in handy.Instead of hostels, like most of our fellow travelers did, we opted for airbnb’s. For some, hostels are a great way to meet new people, but for this trip, we really wanted quality time with each other, which a private apartment provided. This was seriously the best decision we could have made. It was so nice to have our own space to come home to, privacy and security for our belongings, and gave us the true cultural experience. In peak season, most of the time, staying in a hostel was equal-priced or more expensive than splitting an airbnb 3 ways.
Sometimes, though, airbnb’s weren’t always so easy to book. When we just needed a place, Hotwire was an incredible resource. On hotwire, you put in where you are wanting to stay, and it gives you a list of hotels in the region without their names. The downside is that you don’t quite know what the hotel is called until you book it, but the upside is that you get a WAY cheaper price this way. It’s not like you’re booking in the dark though, when picking the place, it gives you the neighborhood it’s located in, price, and customer reviews. We had great experiences with it!
- Book your transportation – For the same reasons I recommend booking your stay before your trip, I also recommend booking your transportation. Let me say this first: Figuring out trains in Europe was probably one of the hardest things to manuver. So, if you’re wanting to pull your hair out, you aren’t alone. It was definitely confusing. While planes were definitely a more comfortable route, traveling by train is so much fun.
By train: For our train transportation, we ordered a Eurail pass. This pass MUST be ordered before your trip. The site can be pretty confusing, so really allow yourself time to sift through it and see what is the best option for you. Since we were going to less places for more time, an unlimited pass didn’t make sense for us. Instead, we did a select pass that allowed 4 trips. For the rest of the transportation we needed, we went by plane.
By plane: Traveling by plane was definitely, for the most part, a more comfortable option since it was familiar. We did a lot of our flights through Ryanair. We heard some negative things about flying with them, but our trips with them were actually a great experience!
- Leave your days open for adventure – As much as I recommend planning ahead on the big things, be sure to leave each day open to adventure. Sure, there will be a few things in each city that are a must-see, but wandering around, adventuring, and exploring are half the fun! Savor each moment.
- Make copies of your documents – Travel tip 101, be sure to make copies of all your documents or take a photo of them on your phone. Passport and credit card are important things to have copies of. Send pictures of these copies to relatives so that if you loose your phone, you have a backup!
- Take a deep breath – Planning a trip to Europe can be overwhelming and stressful, I know firsthand. But this is going to be a trip you will remember forever. Take a deep breath and just know that regardless of if you have every wrinkle ironed out, this is going to be a trip for the books. Enjoy the process and don’t be afraid to ask for help!
I hope these tips helped you in your planning process! Now grab a cup of coffee, read through your favorite travel blogs, and get excited because you’re going to Europe!