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How to Plan a Trip to Europe

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Let’s face it; the insane events of 2020 are something that we all did not collectively anticipate when ringing in the New Year in 2019. Thankfully though, this year is not quite over yet. Which means that there’s still hope for all my fabulous gallivanters out there who want to visit some of the most beautiful cities in eastern Europe. Because guess what? I’ve got the perfect destination for you. And, hardcore drumroll, please, it’s Europe! So, if you’re wondering how to plan a perfect 3 week trip to Europe on a budget, then this is the post for you!

Why Should You Visit Europe?

A beautiful cathedral in Dresden, Germany,

A beautiful cathedral in Dresden, Germany,

Trust me on this. Europe is the IDEAL destination for any and all of my fellow culture cultures out there who are desperately seeking a wealth of different, totally amazing touristic attractions to explore.

However, if you’re still not fully convinced that Europe is super duper amazing, then here are a few reasons why Europe should be on your bucket list.

  1. Rich in history – There are countless historical sites and monuments to explore, including the famous Monalisa painting at the Louvre in France, La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, and the immortal Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy.
  2. The food – Each country on this enormous continent has its own unique variety of cuisine. That’s why Europe has the power to instantly transform anyone who visits into a total foodie. Especially since France, Spain, Hungary, Germany, and Italy are all home to some of the best wines in the world.
  3. Ease of travel – The transportation system in Europe is second to none and allows visitors to quickly and easily move from one country to another. The railway system in particular makes it exceptionally easy to travel across borders. And, added bonus? Americans can actually travel to most countries in Europe without a visa. So yeah, three cheers to that!
  4. The cities – Cities like London, Paris, and Madrid are all premiere travel destinations with very distinctive vibes. Therefore, while in Europe, you could watch a world-class performance in London’s West End and then head to Ibiza to party the night away in one of the city’s famous night clubs.

When Should You Visit Europe?

Lezzeno village in the Lake Como district of Italy.

Lezzeno village in the Lake Como district of Italy.

Just like any other destination, the best time to visit Europe is when you’ve saved up enough Benjamins (aka money) and have created a fantastic itinerary for your trip. Due to the current global pandemic though, it would be best to do a bit of research and check out specific travel restrictions for each country you plan to visit.

How Do You Plan a Trip to Europe?

A beautiful view of Santorini in Greece.

A beautiful view of Santorini in Greece.

Occasionally, you may come across online posts with the hashtag “ultimate trip to Europe.” If this is what you’re after, then you must be willing to spend hours doing thorough research. The good news is that while planning may not appear exciting, it will eventually pay off because you won’t have to worry about leaving your luggage at the airport or from where to buy your train tickets.

So, here’s a nifty little guide that will show you exactly how to plan a trip to Europe

  1. Establish a clear budget – Knowing exactly how much you have and how much you are willing to spend is perhaps THE most critical step in the planning process. I seriously cannot stress this enough. Because your overall budget will determine basically everything about your trip to Europe. You know, things like what mode of transportation you’ll take, where you’ll stay, which countries you’ll visit, how much shopping you’ll do, and what type of tours you’ll take.
  2. Put together your travel documents – The first thing you’ll need to do is look and see if your passport is still valid. Because you will 100% need a passport to travel to Europe. And is this document is not valid, you’ll need to apply for renewal immediately since this process can take close to two months, depending on your country of origin. Secondly, apply for your single-entry Schengen visa. If you’re American, you won’t need this visa. You will, however, need to acquire the European Travel Information and Authorization System document (ETIAS) which takes minutes to get and can be done easily. Another thing to be aware of is that you may need to take a COVID-19 test and provide proof of a negative result since some airlines, and countries, need this to check your health status prior to entry.
  3. Choosing your destinations – To create an itinerary, you’ll first have to decide which countries you want to visit. Once you’ve made this list, figure out exactly how long you would like to stay in each place. Remember, Europe is HUGE. So, give yourself at least two or three days in each place. This way, you won’t be spending your entire trip traveling from one destination to the next. Now, when planning your itinerary, consider your interests. Are you a foodie? Are you a creative person who’s interested in arts and culture? Are you adventurous? Also, what is the purpose of this trip? Is it a family vacation or a romantic getaway? And trust me, these are just some of the many questions that you’ll need to ask yourself before planning a trip to Europe.
  4. Buy insurance – Generally speaking, domestic insurance will not cover the cost of any problems that you incur during your international travels. Therefore, my best advice would be to buy additional travel insurance to cover any potential mishaps while you’re in Europe. Trust me, do NOT skip this crucial step with the hope of saving money. I know from personal experience that travel insurance is a lifesaver, especially if you plan on taking high-end equipment with you – devices that could easily get lost or damaged.
  5. Look up available flights – Try to book your flights at least two months before your trip. And for a comprehensive list of the most affordable flights to Europe,  check out Omio right now. But, just in case you’re not in the know, Omio is an online booking platform that allows you to purchase incredibly affordable tickets for flights, ferries, buses, and rental cars anywhere in Europe – and in various other travel destinations too. As you purchase your flight tickets, try to remember that round-trip tickets are usually much cheaper than one-way flights. However, based on your itinerary, a round-trip ticket might not make sense if you’re departing from a different country than the one you arrived in. Because if this is the case, then booking a one-way flight makes total sense.
  6. Plan your Trip in Detail – Before your leave home, be sure to look up the location of various tourist information centers for the different cities that you plan to visit. Then, upon arrival, stop by these centers and request a city map and any other material that you think might come in handy. You’ll also want to purchase city passes for each of your various destinations. Trust me, these cards save you a TON of money (and time) since they include free entry to various museums and public transportation systems in cities throughout Europe.

Traveling within Europe

Sunset on Lake Bled in Slovenia

Sunset on Lake Bled in Slovenia

Your city of arrival will probably be your home base while in Europe. From here, can then plan various travel routes and find a form of transportation that works best for you.

Buses are cheap and easy to use, making them ideal for backpackers. Just be sure they are comfortable and book your tickets with a reputable carrier.

Now, if you have the budget for it and are short on time, you can also book some fairly cheap flights between cities in Europe. Flights are perfect for any long-distance trips that you’re planning.

Conversely, you could always opt to travel by train. This option is perfect if you are not in a hurry and want to see the exquisite landscapes that dot the countryside of many European countries.

Alternatively, if you’re traveling as part of a group, you could rent a car and just drive yourself. This way, you could travel at your own pace, stop wherever you like, and discover lesser-known cities – making for a more authentic feeling vacation.

Accommodations while in Europe

Houseboats lined up along a canal in Amsterdam.

Houseboats lined up along a canal in Amsterdam.

When booking accommodations, there are two main things to consider, your budget and the purpose of your trip.

Thankfully, Europe has a wide array of options available for every type of traveler. Because from five-star hotels (perfect for a romantic getaway) to local Airbnbs, Europe really does have it all. And If you’re on a backpacking trip, hostels are ideal since they are much more reasonably priced.

However, depending on where you go and the overall cost of living, you can sometimes find a fairly cheap hotel.

For a group trip though, try renting out an apartment with a kitchen. This way, you can easily whip up some meals and won’t have to spend money eating out every single day.

Travel Essentials for Europe

A view of the beautiful coast and vibrant blue waters od Capri, Italy.

A view of the beautiful coast and vibrant blue waters od Capri, Italy.

When creating a packing list for Europe, always check the weather forecast prior to your departure. Also, be sure to take the right carry on luggage with you. Because if it’s a backpacking trip, it would be best to take a backpack instead of a suitcase which could easily break.

You’ll also want to pack a few toiletries (within the cabin weight limit) and an extra shirt for emergencies. You know, just in case your flight gets delayed and you can’t make it to your hotel. These items will also come in handy if you check your luggage and the airline happens to misplace it.

Here are some other travel essentials that you might want to pack as well.• Camera

  • Plug converter and chargers
  • Advil/Medicine
  • Toiletries
  • Travel insurance
  • T-shirts, Pants, sweatshirts
  • Shoes
  • Boots
  • Undergarmets
  • Electronics
  • Your passport and National ID
  • International driver’s license

What to Know Before Going to Europe

A traditional stone windmill in Vidzeme, Latvia.

A traditional stone windmill in Vidzeme, Latvia.

Lastly, this article wouldn’t be complete without a list of some of the most important things that you need to know before visiting Europe.

  • Let your credit card company know that you’ll be out of the country. This way, that won’t freeze your account for what they think might be fraudulent activity.
  • Always book tickets and tours in advance, especially for popular landmarks.
  • Avoid overpacking (nobody likes excess luggage fees) and bring a backpack if at all possible since it will make traveling between cities a whole lot easier.
  • Always research visa requirements prior to your departure. This way, you know you have all the proper paperwork.
  • Only exchange money at official bank ATMs for security purposes

Take all of these precautions and you will have an amazing time in Europe. Because if you carefully plan out your itinerary, set a clear budget, and book tickets well in advance, you’ll really have nothing to worry about .

And although this process might seem tedious and daunting, you’ll thank yourself later when you’re enjoying a stress-free vacation and relaxing on the white sandy beaches of Spain.

So, what are you waiting for? Dust off your suitcase and begin planning a glorious trip to Europe. This way, you can really start the new year off right and finish 2020 off with a bang!