Planning a Trip to Europe 101

This weekend, my friends and I got together to plan our trip to Europe.  While planning our trip, I realized that this can be intimidating for those who have never been to Europe before and don’t know where to start.  My friends who had never been before relied on the two of us who had to help them navigate through websites, give advice on where to stay, when to book, etc.  Since I started this blog to share my love of food and traveling, I thought this would be helpful to all your first time travelers out there or those of you who may want some tips on planning a trip.

  1. First things first, how long to travel for.  This can vary depending on where you are in your life and what this trip is for.  If you just graduated from college and are planning to celebrate by backpacking through Europe and don’t have a job lined up, chances are your travel time is going to depend on finances and/or relationships back home.  If you’re like me, who gets less than 1 week of PTO per year and you already took all yours, well… let’s just say that 2 weeks is probably more than enough time to go and not get paid.
  2. Where to go.  Which countries and cities you are planning on traveling to is second because this depends on the amount of time you’re going for.  You can travel to a lot more places in a month than you can a week.  My best friend and I went to 5 countries and 7 cities in 2 weeks a few years ago and I would not recommend it.  Although we had a great time, we were constantly on the go and didn’t have any real time to explore the cities we visited.  Europe is a big country so choosing just a few cities can be difficult but I would recommend spending at least 3-4 days in each city.  Some cities have more to see than others so be sure to look up what there is to do and plan accordingly.
  3. Pick flexible dates.  After deciding which cities you want to visit, pick a time frame you want to go.  I.e. early June, late August, etc.  I say pick flexible dates because sometimes you can get a much cheaper flight on different days of the week.
  4. Now the fun part!  Booking your plane ticket(s).  You can tell everyone you’re planning a trip to Europe but until you actually book your ticket, it doesn’t quite seem official.  There are several sites that allow you to search multiple airlines for the best deal which I would recommend going to to get the best deal.  Kayak.com, Expedia.com, Skyscanner.com and Orbitz.com are some of the ones I always check.  You can also go directly to an airline’s website and check this way.  My friends and I are planning on going to Iceland first, so we checked WowAir first since we knew they had great deals to Iceland.  Once you’ve checked out the options, choose which date, time and price point work best with your schedule.  Before you confirm your ticket, go to step 5.
  5. Where to stay.  This is sometimes the hardest decision since you have so many options.  Should you stay in a hostel, a hotel, a bed & breakfast, or maybe you want to meet the locals and try couchsurfing??  All of this depends on your personality, who you’re going with and want your goal is.  I personally love staying in hostels.  They are generally filled with young travelers and it is an easy way to meet people to tour the city with and give you advice on where to go.  It is also more cost effective than staying in a hotel or B&B.  However, hostels can be a bit noisy and if you’re staying in a 12 person dorm, there is definitely a lack of privacy. If you’re someone who likes a lot of privacy and sharing a room with strangers doesn’t appeal to you, a hostel probably isn’t for  you.  Double check that the places you want to stay are available at the times you are traveling before booking your plane ticket.  Most cities have a lot of options to stay but I have found that places like Reyhjavik, Iceland can be booked on holidays like New Years.
  6. What to do.  Look up things to do in the city and make a list of all the places/activities you want to see/do.  You don’t need to plan everything out right away but having a general list will make sure you’re able to do them all.  You may find that you have too many activities and sites to see and need to narrow it down.  Also, double check that you don’t need to purchase tickets in advance for popular attractions like The Vatican.  My friend and I found that taking a tour the first day was a great way to see where everything was and learn a little more about the city.  We did this at every city we went to and I would definitely recommended it.
  7. Packing.  Now that you have your trip booked, you’ll need to pack.  I’m planning on writing a more in-depth packing post when it gets closer to my trip since this can be a little tricky when you’re backpacking and don’t want to take too much.  Just remember that you can always do laundry or purchase clothes over there if you do end up needing more.
  8. Last but not least, have fun!  Traveling can be stressful especially when you’re in a different country and they speak a different language.  Remember to have fun and embrace the unknown.  Things aren’t always going to go exactly as planned and that’s okay.   Learn to adapt to the changes and enjoy the journey!  You’ll look back on the times that didn’t go exactly as planned and laugh about them later.

 

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