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Planning a trip in Europe is exciting and fun…but organizing the details can make it feel like a monumental chore. Don’t let planning a trip around Europe overwhelm you! Whether it’s your first trip to Europe or the tenth time you have traveled abroad, our travel tips will streamline your Europe trip planning!
Planning a Trip in Europe
Making travel plans for Europe is a big task. Not only do travelers have to choose where to go and what to see, but they also need to consider how to get there, where to stay, how to get around and what to eat. Additionally, a trip through Europe requires tackling language barriers, balancing foreign currency and avoiding scams.
Travelers trying to figure out the best way to plan a trip to Europe can easily get bogged down in the process.
What is the Right Way for Planning a Europe Trip?
The good news is that there is no right or wrong way to plan a trip to Europe. The best way to travel Europe is in a way that fits your style, budget and purpose of the trip.
That said, there are a few oversights and common missteps that many travelers make when planning a trip to Europe. To help you better navigate the process, we are sharing our top tips for how to plan a European vacation so that you can have your best trip!
How To Plan a Trip in Europe
Planning a trip through Europe should be fun, not frustrating. Our Planning a Trip to Europe process shows the steps that we personally take while preparing to travel. Additionally, we outline sample Europe itineraries and divulge our top travel hacks for Europe.
Save, Pin or Bookmark our Travel to Europe Guide for planning your next getaway!
European Vacation Planning: Where To Go
The first step in how to plan a trip to Europe is choosing where to go – and it’s not an easy decision. Because of the relatively small size of the continent, Europe travel plans can include multiple cities and several countries. That said, it is exhausting to try to see everything. Believe me, I’ve tried!
Historic European cities, stunning seaside escapes and unbelievable charming towns dot the landscape, making it difficult to decide which places to include in your Europe itinerary.
In fact, choosing where to go is often the biggest hurdle in planning a Europe trip. Our tips will help give you inspiration and direction for how to plan European vacation destinations.
Plan European Vacation to One Destination
For many travelers, the best way to tour Europe is to visit one city – and one city only. It is certainly the easiest way of how to plan an overseas trip. Staying in one location for the duration of your visit requires less planning, which also can mean less stress.
Furthermore, devoting an entire trip to one destination allows you to explore it more deeply or relax completely, if that is the intent of your European vacation! Rather than skipping through Europe’s top cities and only seeing the highlights, travelers can discover hidden gems, get a real sense of the culture and take excursions to nearby sights.
Multi-City Europe Trip Planner
Most travelers going abroad will opt for planning a multi city Europe trip. Overseas flights are expensive and long – so you want to get the most out of a single trip.
There are hundreds – thousands – of different ways for how to plan a multi city trip in Europe. Before you pick your European destinations, however, we have pertinent advice that will help maximize your time and enjoyment.
Multi City or Multi Country Trip to Europe
With a common currency among many EU Nations and border-free crossings within the Schengen Area, traveling through Europe to multiple countries can be nearly seamless.
You can book a trip to Europe to see multiple cities within one country (like our One Week Spain Itinerary) or plan a trip around Europe to cities in different countries (such as Two Weeks in London, Paris and Rome).
The benefits of staying within one country is that (usually) you will only be tested by one foreign language and it’s a shorter distance to travel between destinations. And, just like visiting one city in Europe, staying within one country can give you a more immersive experience.
On the other hand, it is difficult to resist experiencing several cultures on a single trip to Europe. Again, the best way to plan a trip through Europe comes down to your style, interests and budget.
Understand that More Is Not Better
When you first start the process of how to plan a multi country trip to Europe, understand that more is not necessarily better. Traveling too quickly results in ‘checklist’ sightseeing. Including too many destinations in a trip to Europe can wear you down. Instead, limit the number of stops you include in your vacation plan so that you can truly enjoy each place.
Calculate Travel Time
If you take a multi city Europe trip, the time it takes to travel between destinations needs to be calculated in your overall plan. While Europe is compact, it can still take significant time to travel between locations. You don’t want to spend your entire vacation in transit!
Furthermore, before settling on specific locations, research options for how to get from one place to the next. Can you fly, take a train, hop on a bus? How long will it take? How much will it cost?
Pro Tips: Investigate how you could make the journey part of the experience. Find out if there is a scenic train route connecting your two European destinations or if there is a place of interest between the two cities that could be a fun stop or overnight stay. An overnight train sleeper car can be another great way to maximize your time.
Moving Multiple Times Can Take a Toll
While visiting multiple destinations can sound like an exciting way to experience Europe, it can be stressful constantly changing accommodations. Although the packing-checking out-transit-checking in-unpacking conundrum should not necessarily deter you from taking a trip in Europe to multiple cities, it is important to understand the toll it can take. It is also a good reason to expertly pack your luggage – and we have advice for how to do that later in the article.
Getting Off the Beaten Path Requires Effort
Europe is home to some of the most charming towns in the world…and many wouldn’t be so charming if they were easy to get to. While traveling out of the way places can be a highlight of any trip, consider the time required to reach far flung spots. If your travel plans do include off the beaten path destinations, just be prepared to make the effort to get to them.
Budget Your Planned Trip to Europe
We’ll cover the cost of a trip to Europe a bit later, but it’s of the utmost importance to keep your budget in mind when deciding where to include on your itinerary.
Some cities in Europe are notoriously expensive, while other destinations are considered ‘cheap’ places to go. While we believe it is possible to travel anywhere on a budget, those looking for an affordable European vacation will need to consider how much they want to spend when selecting which locations to visit.
How Many Days and How Many Cities?
Deciding how many cities to visit – and how many days to spend in each – is a key element to planning your Europe trip. We believe most travelers need a minimum of 3 days in a city to thoroughly enjoy it. Of course, that is our rule of thumb and there are exceptions.
Travelers could easily spend several days in most big cities – and might be able to get away with spending just a day or two in smaller destinations. In France, for example, Paris visitors could stay for an entire week without seeing all the sights and visit Colmar in just two days’ time and see everything.
What it really boils down to is your desired pace of travel. We’ve been traveling to Europe for 30 years, and we moved much faster then than we do now!
One Week Trip to Europe: How Many Destinations?
Ideally, on a 1 week trip to Europe, travelers will stay in two destinations and take a day trip. However, it is also quite possible to stay in three different destinations, especially if they are close together and one is a smaller city.
7 Day Trip to Europe Formula
- 3 Days in City + 4 Days in City with a Day Trip
- 3 Days in City + 2 Days in Smaller City + 2 Days in City
Plan a Trip to Europe for 10 Days
With 10 days in Europe, travelers can squeeze in a few more stops. We feel it would be best to see three destinations – but possible to see four places with the right plan.
10 Day Europe Trip Formula
- 3 Days in City + 3 Days in City + 4 Days in City with a Day Trip
- 3 Days in City + 2 Days in Smaller City + 2 Days in Smaller City + 3 Days in City
Plan 2 Weeks in Europe
Many US travelers plan a 2 week European vacation. With 2 weeks in Europe, it is possible to stay in 4 different places. In fact, ambitious sightseers could stay in 5 destinations, but ideally these cities are in close proximity, well-connected and simple to navigate.
On the other hand, it might be better to slow things down and enjoy each stop more thoroughly by choosing 3 destinations.
2 Week Europe Trip Plan Formula
- 5/4/5 Days in 3 Different Locations
- 4/3/3/4 Days in 4 Places
Plan a Month Long Trip to Europe
Visitors who are planning a month trip to Europe will still want to carefully consider their route. Although lengthy trips allow for more destinations, long term travelers can experience burn out – trust us – so avoid packing your vacation with too many locations. Instead, settle into one spot and plan day trips.
One Month Europe Itinerary Formula
- 1 Week in 4 Different Cities
- 7/5/5/5/6 Days in Multiple Places
Trip Planner Europe: How to Plan your Itinerary
Now you hopefully have an idea of how many days to plan in each destination for a multi city trip to Europe, we have a few quick tips on the best way to plan a Europe itinerary.
When choosing your destinations, figure out how you will travel between them – and book in advance if possible. We recommend transiting between destinations in mid-morning. This provides enough time to eat breakfast and pack – and should allow for late afternoon exploration after you check-in at your next destination. Allow at least 3 days in your first destination; you will need time to adjust to the time zone and new surroundings.
While many European countries use the same currency and allow border free travel, not all do. Before choosing your destinations, find out if you will be required to go through immigration and what is required for your country of citizenship.
Sample Itineraries for a 2 Week Trip to Europe
Since choosing where to go is the exciting first step in European travel planning, we are sharing a few specific itineraries that might help you decide how to plan a trip to Europe for 2 weeks!
London, Paris, Rome
When it comes to deciding where to go on a first trip to Europe, many travelers stick with the three most visited cities: London, Paris and Rome. Well-connected and offering heaps of attractions, seeing three top European destinations on a single trip is understandably a popular choice!
Budapest, Vienna, Prague
Fascinating, historic and architecturally stunning, visiting Vienna, Prague and Budapest is an excellent trip plan! For this Europe itinerary, we recommend staying in Budapest for 5 days, Vienna for 4 days and Prague for 5 days. This would also allow for day trips to Bratislava, Cesky Krumlov and/or Dresden.
Pro Tip: European travelers eager to see more places could condense their route and add Krakow as a fourth destination!
Barcelona, Madrid, Porto, Lisbon
A Europe itinerary dedicated to exploring Spain and Portugal is a fabulous trip plan! How to plan a vacation in Europe to these two countries on the Iberian peninsula can be done a multitude of ways. We suggest spending 4 Days in Barcelona, 3 days in Madrid, followed by 3 days in Porto and the final 4 days in Lisbon.
Top Tip: Drop one day from each of the above and spend 4 days on Madeira Island, Portugal!
Berlin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich
Germany is a classic example of how to plan a trip around Europe within one country. What we love about Germany is that the cities are steeped in history and traditions, yet each one is truly unique. Our ideal Germany itinerary would include staying in Berlin for 4 days, seeing Dusseldorf in 3 days, exploring Frankfurt for 3 days and ending with 4 days in Munich.
Alternatively, make room for a day or two in Wurzburg or Nuremberg when traveling from Frankfurt to Munich. We visited these two cities on an Amsterdam to Budapest Cruise and they were two of our favorite places along the entire route!
London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Bruges, Paris
A wonderful way of planning a trip to Europe for 2 weeks includes both major cities and charming towns – and it’s possible with a London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Bruges, Paris trip plan.
Paris, Strasbourg, Colmar, Basel, Zurich
Another example of how to plan a two week trip in Europe visiting cities large and small in multiple countries is a combined France and Switzerland vacation. With the right itinerary, you can visit Paris, Strasbourg, Colmar, Basel and Zurich!
Dubrovnik, Hvar, Split, Zagreb
Croatia is a fascinating and beautiful country to visit – and one of our favorite places in the world. In fact, the region offers so much, spending 14 days here is quite possibly not enough!
To plan a 2 week trip to Croatia, you could start in Dubrovnik for 4 days and take a day trip to Kotor, Montenegro. Next, stay in Hvar Town or Stari Grad on Hvar Island for 2 days enjoying the sun and sea before taking a ferry to Split.
Then plan to stay in Split for 5 days – allowing plenty of time for a day trip to Mostar and additional Croatian Island Exploration. Next, travel from Split to the famous Plitvice Lakes National Park for 1 night and spend the last 2 nights in lovely Zagreb.
Plan Trip to Europe: What Type of Vacation?
Before we dig even deeper into the details of how to plan a Europe trip, you will want to decide what kind of vacation you want. Are you interested in popular sights or local experiences? History and art? Architecture and culture? Active excursions or beaches and parties?
The answers to these questions may dictate when and where you choose to go in Europe. If you want a fast-paced itinerary with loads of sightseeing, big cities are likely the best choice. If a leisurely trip is more your style, smaller cities and resort towns might be a better fit.
Personally, we like a bit of everything. We schedule some days of seeing the major sights and others for immersing ourselves in the local culture. We’ll go on long walking tours or hikes and then plan time for sampling the cuisine.
If you are taking a solo trip to Europe, planning what to do is fairly simple – as it is all up to you! However, if you are planning a family trip to Europe, a group vacation with friends or designing a once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon in Europe, you will want to make sure you are planning activities that suit everyone going on the trip.
Be sure to include kid-friendly activities for a family vacation, seek out optional ideas for group trips and plan special experiences for your romantic getaway to Europe.
Book a Trip to Europe: With or Without Guide
As you consider the best way to travel through Europe, determine if you want to plan on your own or have a guide lead the way.
Throughout this travel guide to Europe Trip Planning, we are sharing steps to travel independently – but we do want to mention a few benefits of hiring a guide instead.
Traveling on a guided trip is quite a bit more expensive, but it alleviates the stress and hassle of making plans and decisions on your own. Rather than worrying about where to go next and how you will get there, you get to sit back, relax and enjoy your hard earned vacation.
How To Plan a European Trip that is Partially Guided
Travelers can opt to join a complete tour of Europe – or plan part of their vacation on their own and join a guided tour for the rest. For example, plan your own time in London and Edinburgh, then head to the Scottish Highlands and take a multiday tour. Likewise, plan your own trip to Athens, then set off to see other parts of Greece on a 4-day guided tour before catching a ferry to the Greek Islands.
Travel Plan for Europe: Getting There
After choosing your destinations, the next step in how to plan a Europe trip is determining how to get there. There is no question that the best way to travel to Europe affordably and quickly is by flying. Before you book your round trip flight to Europe, we have tips that will save you money and time!
Round Trip to Europe
Typically, round trip tickets to Europe depart and arrive from the same airport. The problem with these traditional round trip tickets is that they limit your flexibility and creativity. In the case of visiting multiple cities and countries, travelers will need to spend precious time backtracking to their European gateway city.
One Way Flights
Purchasing one way tickets to and from Europe can solve that problem. Travelers who opt to buy one way tickets will need to figure out how to travel within Europe (and we have a few tips on that next!).
The downside is that one way trips are usually outrageously expensive, sometimes nearly as much as the round trip route. However, that is not always true, so pricing out the different options well in advance is always the best idea.
Open Jaw Flight Tickets
Open Jaw Tickets are a type of ticket that not all travelers don’t know about – and it is our favorite way to save time and money. How Open Jaw Tickets work is just like buying two one-way flights, but they are purchased together on the same ticket, so it’s usually much cheaper.
When searching for Open Jaw Tickets using an airfare search engine, like Skyscanner, select the Multi City option to find the best routes and prices.
Multi City Flights in Europe
Travelers can opt to add additional segments in the Multi City search option. However, we strongly recommend pricing out the options (and considering other methods of transit between European cities) before booking 3 or more multi city flights on the same ticket. Research is always key when planning a European trip!
Finding the Best Fares
One of the biggest concerns when it comes to how to plan a vacation to Europe, is the cost of the flight – and rightly so. Plane tickets to Europe are at an all time high!
We think it is best to price out different flights by numerous carriers to several destinations before booking a ticket. You can also use all our insider tips on How to Find Cheap Flights to make sure you are getting the best deal!
Surviving the Long Flight to Europe
From the US, the plane trip to Europe is a typically a long, overnight flight. You want to be as comfortable as possible to start your Euro trip off on the right foot. From what to bring on the plane with you to what to wear for the flight, we share our honest advice in our article, Long Haul Flight Tips.
How To Travel Europe: Best Way to Get Around
When you plan a vacation to Europe, one thing to also consider is how to travel in Europe. There is not just one ‘best way to travel in Europe.’ There are several factors to consider – like time, budget, comfort and overall experience.
Transit between Destinations
One of the great things about Europe is that there are several ways to get between cities and most journeys take just a few hours. Travelers can choose to fly, take a train or ferry, use a bus or rent a car.
Flights in Europe
Flying between cities is an easy way to get around Europe. If flying within the Schengen Area, travelers will not go through customs and immigration. Most flights are short and tend to be on schedule.
European low cost carriers – like Ryanair, Easy Jet, Vueling and Wizz Air – offer inexpensive and direct flights from major cities to top vacation spots. They do, however, charge a bundle for baggage (even carry-on) and seat assignments, so plan accordingly or prepare to pay a lot more than the low base fare.
Train Trip Europe
For many thinking about how to travel around Europe, trains are what come to mind. It can be an excellent way to get around the continent.
Often, we prefer train travel to flying in Europe – as it can be less time consuming. Train stations tend to be in the city center and there is no need to be there 2 hours before departure. Plus, there is no extra fee for bags and the seats are usually more comfortable!
Because there are fast trains, slow trains and scenic trains, you will need to check a specific route to determine if traveling by train in Europe is the best option. Those opting for train travel throughout their trip should price out the benefits of purchasing a Eurail Pass.
Travel by Bus
Traveling by bus in Europe can be a simple and economical way to get from one destination to the next – especially for places that are close in proximity.
While not as fast as flying or as comfortable as train travel, it is often the most affordable method of getting from one destination in Europe to another.
FlixBus is our preferred company – as they offer exceptionally low early-bird fares between major cities. Plus, their buses tend to be newer, comfortable, clean and usually have a toilet (and free WiFi) on board.
Car Rental in Europe
Although we prefer to travel car-free in Europe, renting a car is a popular way to plan a Europe trip – especially if traveling to smaller towns or through picturesque regions. Those who plan a road trip in Europe will have the freedom to get off the beaten path and move at their own pace.
The downside to having a car is that parking can be problematic in many European towns, tolls can add up and travel times are often longer than anticipated. If you plan to drive in Europe, you may also need to get an International Driving Permit.
How To Get Around European Cities Using Public Transit
Most cities in Europe offer an impressive public transportation network – from underground subways to city buses to electric trams. Even better, it is usually at a fairly affordable price.
Tickets vary by location, of course. Sometimes single tickets are purchased on board, while other systems require pre-loaded transit cards. Unlimited travel passes and European tourist cards might save money on transportation, too. Many transit systems in Europe now accept payment with contactless credit cards, as well.
If you plan on using public transit (and we highly recommend that you do), research how to buy tickets in advance for the places you are visiting. There’s typically a Tourist Information Desk at your arrival airport/station, too.
How To Decide Where To Stay in Europe
Determining where to stay is a big part of how to plan your Europe trip. Travelers can choose from a range of accommodations – from hotels to hostels to vacation apartments.
Hotels in Europe
Nearly all hotel chains are represented in major cities across Europe – so if you are loyal to a particular brand, you will likely find it at your destination. However, chain hotels do tend to be outside of the city center, near airports or in business districts and they typically lack European charm.
We recommend seeking out smaller, independent hotels that offer a unique experience. It’s an added bonus if they have a typical breakfast included in the price. Also keep in mind that hotel rooms in Europe tend to be smaller than most US hotel rooms. Bathrooms can be especially cramped, but it’s all part of the experience!
Our tips for Finding the Best Hotels at the Best Prices can help you find one that is right for your trip to Europe.
With the right mindset, staying in hostels can be a very fun experience. Much more popular in Europe than in the United States, hostels are an excellent place to meet people. For solo travelers to Europe, Hostels also keep your budget in check.
Most hostels now offer a wide choice of room types. Guests can choose to stay in bunkbed dorm rooms, a private room with a shared bathroom or a private room with ensuite bathroom.
Airbnb in Europe
For many years we have used Airbnb as our go-to resource for accommodations in Europe and around the world. What we love about staying in vacation rentals is that they usually offer more space than hotel rooms, a kitchen where we can prepare simple meals and a washer for doing laundry.
On shorter stops – when we are staying for 3 days or less – Airbnb is not always the best choice. Not only can the fees dramatically increase the price-per-night, but the extra amenities are unnecessary and getting an early check-in is unlikely.
House and Pet Sitting can be another way to find European accommodations. As International Housesitters, we have stayed in top cities in Europe for free! There is, of course, a big responsibility that comes with watching someone’s house and pet while they are away and it is not typically suited to the vacation traveler. However, if you are interested in Long Term Petsitting, it could be a great fit for you, it is for us!
Tips for Where To Stay in Europe
Choosing what type of accommodation is just one facet of planning where to stay. We have some advice to help you pick a desirable area to stay in. These are things we do every time we travel to Europe, or anywhere for that matter!
Research the Neighborhood
Picking the best place to stay in a big city in an enormous task – so do a little neighborhood research to help you narrow down where you want to be.
For example, if you are looking at accommodations in an area with an extraordinary high number of bars, it could be a fun place for nightlife…but it could also be incredibly noisy at night. On the other hand, if you find a great deal on a hotel in the business district over the weekend, it could be because the area is vacant outside of the work week.
Stay near the Sights
When visiting someplace for just a few days, we think it’s a good idea to stay close to the sights you are most interested in seeing. In fact, we feel it is best to be within walking distance to the places you want to see most.
Find Accommodations near Public Transit
In big cities, staying near a public transportation line is key. Not only will you be able to quickly route your way to top sights and fun districts, but you will likely have better access to and from the airport, train station or bus station when you arrive and depart.
Book in Advance
Typically, the top places at great prices get snapped up in a hurry – especially in the summer. The earlier you start looking, the more likely you will find the best accommodations for your Europe trip!
Choosing When To Go to Europe
When you go to Europe – as in what time of year – can have a big impact on how to plan your trip. There are pros and cons to traveling to Europe in every season. Knowing what to expect may help you decide when to go, and when not to go.
Summer Trip to Europe
Summer is the most popular time for travelers to visit Europe. The warmer weather and longer days are ideal for sightseeing, exploring and dining outdoors.
However, traveling to Europe in the summer means thick crowds, long lines and more expensive accommodations and transportation. It can also mean little to no air conditioning and ice is used far more sparsely.
If traveling to Europe in the summer months, it is imperative to book flights, transport and lodging in advance.
Europe in the Fall
Autumn is an ideal time to travel to Europe. The days tend to still be warm and sunny, but the crowds have thinned. Even in seasonal locales (like Croatia), most places are still open. That said, traveling to Europe in the fall is becoming increasingly more popular every year – prices can still be near the peak, so still plan well ahead.
Winter in Europe
Winters can be cold, but there are several magical reasons to go. Of course, we mean the amazing European Christmas Markets!
Still, Europe can be somewhat of a mixed bag in winter; cities with popular holiday markets actually see an increase in tourism, while popular summer destinations are all but completely shut down.
Overall, winter can still be a great time to travel to Europe. Travelers from North America are choosing more and more to visit countries like Italy, Portugal and Spain in winter. Even our trip to Iceland in Winter was spectacular – and the chilly temperatures in Berlin didn’t keep us from exploring the sights. Plus, during January and February, prices are at their lowest – which is fantastic for budget travelers.
Going to Europe in Springtime
Spring in Europe can bring largely unpredictable weather, but it can still be a wonderful time to go. Cherry Blossoms in France, Tulips in the Netherlands and Poppies in Tuscany are all in bloom and there’s a sense of a renewed spirit for the upcoming season.
Trip to Europe Cost
One of the most common questions asked about planning travel overseas is “How much does a trip to Europe cost?” Generally speaking, your flight and accommodations will account for the biggest portion of your Europe trip cost.
Where you travel to and the season you travel in will also have a big impact on your overall Europe trip budget. However, you can easily spend a bundle on dining out, drinks and activities, too.
How Much is a Trip to Europe?
Those wanting to know how to budget for travel in Europe need to consider all expenditures of the trip. We break down the costs into the following categories: Flights, transportation, accommodations, activities, meals, and souvenirs.
For an example of what a 2-week trip to Europe in the summer might cost (per person), we are providing some figures (in USD) based on 2024 research.
- Flight: $750
- Local Transport: $200
- Accommodations: $2000 (less if sharing/hostel dorm)
- Activities: $450
- Meals & Drinks: $1500
- Souvenirs: $100
- TOTAL: $5000
Tips for How To Plan a Europe Trip on a Budget
Don’t panic! In our experience, if you do the research, price out your options, plan ahead and make conscious decisions about your spending, you can plan a budget trip to Europe well below those numbers above.
When planning a trip to Europe on a budget, it’s also important to remember that the cheapest is not necessarily the best option. The cheapest flight might look like a great deal, but not if there are multiple connections, long layovers or inconvenient times. Likewise, the cheapest hotel might be appealing, but not if it’s uncomfortable or at an inconvenient location.
Planning an affordable trip to Europe does not mean missing out! In fact, travelers will likely find that some of the very best things to do in Europe are free. Gathering picnic fare from a local market and eating it with a view of the Eiffel Tower can be more memorable than a restaurant meal. Discovering a destination on your own self-guided walk might be more enjoyable than paying for a tour.
Backpackers Trip to Europe
For many considering how to travel Europe on a budget envision taking the backpacker route. Staying in hostels, eating spaghetti every night, and drinking cheap lager are signatures of a classic European backpacker trip. For many young travelers – it’s a fantastic way to experience Europe!
Just bear in mind that planning a cheap trip to Europe does not necessarily mean that you have to stay in hostel dorm rooms or eat all of your meals in. Do research and find a balance that will fit your budget!
Preparation for a European Vacation
While it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of deciding where to go and what to see, a little preparation is required for planning a European vacation that will be truly enjoyable.
Passport and Visa
For US citizens, a passport is required to enter all countries in Europe. If you do not currently have a passport, get one as soon as possible and consider paying the expedited fee if your trip is soon approaching.
Before you pay for flights and book accommodations, check the expiration date of your passport, which needs to be valid for at least 3 months after the end of your European trip.
Currently there are no visa requirements for US travelers to Europe. However, starting in 2025, US travelers will need to obtain a ETIAS travel authorization to enter European countries within the Schengen Zone. The application process includes completing an online form and paying a fee of 7 euros.
For the most current European entry requirements, immigration details and customs information, always check your home country’s state department website before making any travel plans.
The Need To Knows of Traveling to Europe
Part of making travel plans to Europe or any other international destination is educating yourself about the local currency and language. We are sharing a few tips that work for us!
European Currency and Exchange Rate
Before setting off on your journey to Europe, make sure you know what currency is used in the countries you plan on visiting. Also check the current exchange rates – and then do a little math so that you have a rough idea of how much things should cost.
The Euro is the form of currency used by many European nations – but not all. In the United Kingdom, it’s GBP, commonly called the Pound and in Switzerland they use the Franc – and those are just two common examples.
Pro Tip: Prices in non-euro countries are sometimes quoted in euros and they may even accept euros, but it’s always better to pay in the local currency.
Exchanging Cash, ATMs and Credit Cards
To obtain the local currency in Europe, we recommend taking cash out of an official Bank ATM (not EuroNet or any other non-bank ATM machine). Check with your own bank about fees associated with withdrawing cash from a foreign ATM and if they want notification of your travel plans.
Possibly consider exchanging a small amount of money ($100 or less) at your own bank before you leave for your trip. They may offer a decent exchange rate – and this way you will have a little money when you arrive and can avoid using high-priced airport ATMs.
In most cases, the best way to pay for things during your trip is with a credit card. In fact, a lot of Europe is largely cashless now. We use this Chase Sapphire Card – which is excellent for world travelers! Not only do they waive foreign transaction fees and offer consistently good rates, you also earn extra points when using the card to book travel!
Visiting a foreign country can be intimidating if you don’t speak the local language – but there are ways you can confidently travel without being fluent in a second language.
First, learn a few basic words. Hello, goodbye, please and thank you are a good place to start. Some additional phrases that are good to know in the local language are: Do you speak English? How much is it? Can you help me? Also, keep in mind that smiles are universal and can go a long way!
English is widely spoken in Europe – especially by those in the travel industry. However, it’s a good idea to pick up a phrase book before you go!
Understand the Schengen Zone
We have referred to the Schengen Zone (or Schengen Area) a few times throughout this guide – but what exactly is it?
In Europe, more than 20 countries have banded together to create the Schengen Area. The zone allows travelers to Europe to cross borders from one Schengen country to another without going through immigration and customs. Travel between Schengen countries is typically as seamless as traveling from one state to the next in the US.
There are a maximum number of days travelers can stay within the Schengen Zone; but tourists from many countries (including US citizens) can stay 90 days within a 180 day period.
Final Travel Tips for a Trip to Europe
We have covered the major aspects of how to plan a trip across Europe, but there are some general travel tips that will help you have your best Europe trip!
Euro Trip Organization
There are a lot of things to think about – especially if you are deciding how to plan your first trip to Europe. Staying organized is key. We make it easy to keep track of all the details with our Travel Planning Printables!
Plan Down Time
One downfall of many Europe trip plans is not allowing for some down time. It is all too tempting to fill every single minute of your Europe trip itinerary with sights, attractions and activities. We highly recommend leaving some space for relaxation. Plan to spend time sitting at a café on a square or wandering through a park.
Research Local Culture
Once you choose your destinations, spend a few hours researching not just sights to see, but the local culture. Understanding a little more about the people that live in the place you are visiting will make your trip more meaningful.
Plus, you may learn about local intricacies (like that some shops in Italy close mid-afternoon for lunch or that in Barcelona they eat dinner very late) – and then you can adjust your Euro trip plan accordingly.
Starting a trip with jet lag is no fun! If you’re traveling to Europe from the US, the time change will be anywhere from 5 to 11 hours later. Travelers can do their best to avoid jet lag by adjusting sleep patterns prior to the trip, staying hydrated and trying to sleep on the plane (ear plugs and an eye patch can help).
However, if you are feeling the drag of jet lag when you arrive, have a plan to conquer it. Do your best to stay active during day light hours and try to acclimate to the new sleeping schedule as quickly as possible. Limit alcohol and caffeine and see if taking melatonin, No Jet Lag, or other meds prescribed by your doctor is right for you.
European City Passes
When sightseeing on a short trip to a city, we love to take advantage of money saving passes. We usually opt for the multiple day, all-sights-included passes – and it is even better if the card provides skip-the-line access and public transportation.
Before buying a pass, however, review what sights are included and if there are any special requirements for use. Compare different passes to find one that will be most useful and cost efficient. We prefer to search on Viator to find tourist passes in European cities.
We are fiercely independent travelers, but we do enjoy joining excursions – like free walking tours and affordable food groups – on occasion. On a guided tour, participants can get a local perspective, insider tips and meet fellow travelers in Europe!
Hop On Hop Off Buses
There’s much debate about these massive, double-decker, open air tourist buses, but we have found them occasionally useful for getting quickly acquainted with a new destination. They can also be helpful in traveling to the top tourist spots in a short period of time and the onboard commentary, while corny, is insightful.
Look Beyond Tourist Sights
Seeing the top tourist sights when visiting Europe is essential – but, if time permits, seek out attractions beyond the typical track. For example, theater tickets in some destinations are incredibly cheap. Check to see what is playing and you might be able to catch a great production inside an epic theater!
Finding a local farmers or flee market can be insightful and fascinating. Likewise, you can learn a lot by just sitting at a corner cafe in a typical neighborhood and observing the life of the community.
Always Carry Small Change…and Tissues
In many European cities, public toilets are few and far between. Those that do have public restrooms often charge – usually about .50c to 1 Euro. Sometimes you can pay with a credit card, otherwise you’ll need to feed the coins into a machine or pay an attendant directly. Regardless, it’s always a good idea to carry small change for bathrooms – and carry tissues just in case there is no toilet paper!
Tipping in Europe
The tipping etiquette in Europe is very different than in the United States. For sit down meals with good service, tipping 10% is considered a decent tip. Before adding at tip, check the bill to see if a service charge has already been included. If you wish to tip, you may have to ask to have the amount added on before tapping your credit card.
At a café where you only have a coffee or glass of wine, you can just leave the small change. If there wasn’t any, or you paid with card, don’t worry about it. Tipping guides and hotel staff is considered nice – especially if they did an excellent job. Consider leaving 5 to 10 Euros per person, depending on the situation.
In order to make the most of your time at each destination, it may be necessary on your travel days to store your luggage. Depending on where you stay, you may be able to store luggage at your accommodations – so always ask. Otherwise, there is usually luggage storage at train stations and you can also use luggage apps (like Nanny Bag or Luggage Hero).
Be Aware of Common Scams
Unaware tourists are prime targets for pickpockets and scammers. In our travels, we have been approached with the Ring Scam, the Bracelet Scam, the Petition Scam, the Cup and Ball Scam and the Distraction Scam – just to note a few! Before your Europe trip, do a quick search of common scams so that you can identify one immediately.
While traveling in Europe is generally safe, pickpockets are common. Keep wallets, phones and cameras zipped up in your day bag and out of reach of sticky-fingered thieves.
Most People are Nice
While there are plenty of scammers in cities around the world, there are also an incredible number of kind people – and you will hopefully meet many of them on your Europe trip! If you don’t understand something, don’t panic. Speak slowly, clearly and politely.
Trying to figure out the nuances and how things work in another country can feel overwhelming. Remember to be patient – with yourself and everyone else. Not everything will go exactly as planned. Be prepared for things to go awry and roll with it, you are on vacation after all!
European Trip Insurance
While it’s unlikely something major will go wrong on your trip in Europe, but if it does, travel insurance may help. Not only can it reimburse for cancelled flights and lost luggage, but could assist if you get sick or injured abroad. Check the affordable plans and coverage with a trusted travel insurance provider – we use World Nomads.
What To Pack for Europe
Deciding what to pack for trip to Europe can be a real conundrum. In addition to choosing what clothes, travelers will need a few specific accessories for a trip abroad. We’ll share some advice about what to pack for a trip to Europe, but you can find our complete Packing List along with other Packing Hacks on our dedicated Travel Packing page.
Best Luggage for a Trip in Europe
We prefer carrying backpacks instead of roller suitcases. Dragging a rollaboard over uneven streets and up flights of stairs is never fun, and there are loads of cobblestones and very view elevators in Europe! Read more in our breakdown of the Suitcase vs Backpack debate.
Packing cubes make traveling so much easier! When planning a trip to Europe to multiple cities, you will be packing and unpacking several times. Find out why Packing Cubes are our little traveling all-stars.
Passport Document Holder and Digital Copies
International travel requires additional documents – and keeping those precious items organized and easy to reach is essential. We keep everything neat and accessible in a zippered document holder.
Making digital copies of your most important documents, as well as your travel confirmations, is always a good idea. In fact, we store a backup on a flash drive and in the cloud!
There is no doubt that an universal adapter needs to be on your list of what to bring to Europe. Most of Europe uses a 2-prong outlet, but in the UK and Ireland, the outlets are a flat 3-prong style.
Google Maps, Apple Pay, QR codes and paperless tickets make exploring Europe easier than ever…but it also can drain your phone battery fast. Bring a reliable portable charger to top up your devices during long days of sightseeing.
We know, it’s a vacation, but you will need connectivity when traveling in Europe. For far too long we tried to get by with public Wi-Fi networks – and it was both unsecure and frustrating. Instead, we now use a GlocalMe WiFi Hotspot. We can connect multiple devices and buy inexpensive plans online so no SIM card required. If your phone is locked, read about the other Benefits of Traveling with Pocket WiFi.
We absolutely love walking in Europe! Exploring atmospheric streets and lush landscapes requires a good pair of durable shoes. We have three basic requirements for the best travel shoes – they must me lightweight, comfortable and versatile. I wear sneakers that go with everything, Kris prefers Merrell Trail Shoes.
Europe is incredibly photogenic and you will want to capture the sights with a real camera. We carry a DSLR Canon Rebel, as it takes high quality photos and is great for all conditions. Use our tips to help you decide what camera to bring on your trip to Europe.
While it may taste different than at home, the water is safe to drink nearly everywhere in Europe. Be sure to bring a refillable bottle, like these collapsible bottles that are great for travelers.
Hand Sanitizer and Wipes
Make sure to bring a day bag for exploring Europe. We typically carry small backpacks – as they are perfect for stowing our essentials. Travelers going to crowded cities might also want to wear a money belt (or bra stash) to keep your valuables concealed.
We Want To Know: What are your top tips in preparing for a trip to Europe this year? Share with us in the comments!
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