Planning a big trip can feel exciting and terrifying, all at the same time. When you start thinking of all of the things you have to consider it can seem daunting and it is often difficult to know where to even start.
We are The Rambling Travellers. We absolutely love to travel and see new parts of the world. Our goal is to travel to 30 countries before reaching the age of 30 which means we’ve been fortunate enough to explore much of Europe. We also know that when traveling to far-flung destinations for the first time, there are many things to think about. We’ve put together this list of top tips for how to plan a trip to Europe to help remove the stress of planning your once in a lifetime adventure.
So let’s get started!
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1. Don’t Try and Pack Too Much Into Your Itinerary
Europe may seem small compared to some countries like the USA or Canada and if this is your first trip, understandably you will want to try and fit in as much as you can. Whilst Europe may be small, each place has so much to see and do. Being a bit more selective with the places you have on your itinerary meaning you can stay an extra day or two in each place can be so much more rewarding.
When you try to pack too many cities or countries into your vacation you’ll only get a limited amount of time in each place. Trying to pack in so many things may feel like you’ve not had a vacation at all. By taking things a little slower not only will you have the opportunity to get to know the place really well, but your trip will feel a bit more relaxed and you’ll have time to fit in those hidden gems you hear about whilst on your adventure.
2. Check Whether You Need a Visa for your Europe trip
In most parts of Europe, it’s possible to stay for 90 days without having a visa if you’re from the USA or Canada. However, this only applies to countries within the Schengen Area. What’s the Schengen I hear you ask? The Schengen is a group of 26 countries within Europe that do not have any form of border control.
What this means for you is that you can stay for 90 days within any 180 day period without a visa. If you’re planning to visit Europe for longer than 90 days, consider breaking up your trip with countries that aren’t part of the Schengen Area but that also don’t require a visa to visit, for example, the UK, Ireland, Romania or Bulgaria.
3. Planning Your Travel Between Destinations
Europe is so well connected and there are many ways to get from one place to another. Budget airlines like RyanAir, easyJet and Wizz Air often have flights across the continent for as little as $10 one way. These flight prices don’t usually include checked baggage though, and these airlines will fly from out-of-city airports so you will need to factor both of these in when budgeting and scheduling. That being said, the prices can still be significantly cheaper than many of the bigger airlines such as British Airways.
Trains are also a great way to get from one city to another and Europe boasts an extensive high-speed network. It may take you a little bit longer on a train than on a plane but the views along some of the routes are absolutely breathtaking and you have the added convenience of traveling from city center to city center. Grab yourself a picnic, a good book and a deck of cards for the journey and you’re good to go.
Some trains also have overnight routes where you can get a cabin for the night. Not only will this save you money on accommodation but it also minimizes time lost traveling between places as you will wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in your new destination.
4. Don’t Pre-Book Everything
Similarly to not packing in too many destinations, don’t try and pack in too many activities before you go. There are so many things you can book before you even board the plane: museum entry, walking tours, boat cruises, theatre shows and the list goes on. It can be so tempting to book these and pack your itinerary full of attractions for each destination.
However, there are so many reasons not to do this! Firstly, pre-booking doesn’t allow for things that could potentially go wrong, perhaps you’re feeling tired from the jet-lag, unwell or just need a more relaxed day.
Secondly, pre-booking doesn’t necessarily allow any space in your itinerary for those hidden gems you could find along the way when exploring or talking to the locals. A great example of this for us was on our trip to New York where we had planned to see a Broadway show. We didn’t book in advance, instead deciding to use the TKTS booth at South Street Seaport. However, when walking towards South Street Seaport we stumbled upon helicopter tours over Manhattan. We ended up scrapping the Broadway show for a once in a lifetime helicopter tour! Thank goodness we hadn’t booked our theatre tickets in advance as we wouldn’t have been able to afford to do both.
Having said all of that, pre-booking some of the more popular attractions can definitely save time and money. We learned this the hard way when we missed out on visiting the Vatican Museums in Rome due to the 2-hour long queue having not pre-booked our tickets! Other sites that might be worth booking ahead are the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
5. Money Money Money
When you’re doing your last minute run through to make sure you have everything, the local currency is going to be pretty high up on that list. When you think of Europe you naturally think of the Euro, right? However, there are almost 50 countries within Europe and a total of 28 different currencies!
Chances are you will likely need more than just the Euro for your adventure. However, you may not want to travel with a bunch of different currencies for your whole trip and in many instances, you could actually be getting a terrible exchange rate by using an over-the-counter exchange service.
It’s worth checking the exchange rate for withdrawals and transactions in Europe through your bank as the rates are often significantly better than the alternative over-the-counter services, especially when fees are taken into account. When you land you can head straight to the ATM at the airport and use your normal bank card to withdraw the local currency. Yes, it might feel uncomfortable to head off to a foreign destination with no local currency but your wallet will thank you in the long run! And if you’d rather have some cash with you then you can always get a small amount before you leave and the rest when you’re there.
If you run short of cash at any point and have to use your bank card to pay for something, always pay in the local currency. It may be tempting to convert to Dollars there and then but you’ll receive a terrible rate so always pay local and let your bank do the currency transfer.
6. Always Be Adaptable
In this day and age, everyone has lots of electronic devices, many of which will find their way into your luggage when packing for your big adventure. If you’re planning on staying in the best hotels they will likely have adapters you can borrow to save the day if the one you have is not compatible with any of your devices.
If on the other hand you’re not planning to stay in hotels or will be using the likes of Airbnb for your accommodation, then you need to be prepared. Therefore, investing in a worldwide travel adaptor is definitely worthwhile to make sure you can use all of your devices when abroad.
However, it’s also worth bearing in mind that travel adaptors cannot always be used with all accessories (for example, straighteners or laptops). Do check if all of your devices will be compatible with your adaptor plug and it may even be worth investing in some absolute essentials, like a phone charger, which has European plugs. This will also free up your adaptor to charge up your Kindle or laptop.
Final Thoughts on Traveling to Europe
We hope you have found these tips on how to plan a trip to Europe helpful! Best of luck planning your trip, you definitely won’t regret it. Now comes the hard part – which of the many incredible destinations will make it onto your itinerary?!
BONUS: Save Time & Money in Europe
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