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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 need to figure out 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 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 a frustration. Our outlined Planning a Trip to Europe process shows the steps that we personally take while preparing for trips abroad. Additionally, we outline sample Europe itineraries and divulge our top travel hacks for Europe.
Save, Pin or Bookmark our Travel to Europe guide so that you can access it while planning your trip to Europe!
European Vacation Planning: Where To Go
The first step in how to plan a trip to Europe is deciding 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 impossible (and 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 trip 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 more fully, 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 day trips 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 understandably travelers 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 a few helpful tips that will help maximize your time and enjoyment.
Multi City or Multi Country Trip to Europe
With a single common currency among many nations and border-free crossings within the Schengen Area, figuring out how to travel through Europe to multiple countries is easier than ever.
You can plan your trip to Europe to see multiple cities within one country (like a One Week Spain Trip) or plan a trip around Europe to cities in different countries (for example, take a Two Week Trip to 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 the cities. And, just like staying in 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 different languages and cultures on a single trip to Europe.
Again, the best way to plan a trip through Europe does comes down to your style and budget – but also your comfort level.
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. Including too many places in your trip plan can be exhausting. 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 cities you include in your trip 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 trip plan. While Europe is a relatively small continent, it can still take significant time to travel between destinations. You don’t want to spend your entire vacation in transit. Therefore, it is best to choose destinations that are in close proximity.
Furthermore, before settling on specific cities, research travel 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 Travel Tips: Investigate how you could make the journey part of trip. For example, 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 during your trip can sound like an exciting way to experience Europe, it can be a real undertaking to change destinations. Each time you travel to a new location, you will need to pack up your belongings, check out of your accommodations, transit to the next city, check into your hotel and unpack your belongings.
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 tips for how to do that later on.
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 to picture-perfect places can be a highlight of a trip, consider the transit time required to reach far flung spots.
If your travel plans do include off the beaten path destinations – like obscure towns, lonesome castles or distant national parks – be prepared to make the effort to get to them.
Budget Your Planned Trip to Europe
We cover the cost of a trip to Europe later on in the article, but it’s of the utmost importance to keep your budget in mind when deciding what cities to include in your trip plan.
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, travelers looking for an affordable European vacation will need to consider how much they want to spend on their trip when selecting which locations to visit.
For example, budget travelers might find it cost prohibitive to plan a trip to London, Edinburgh and Dublin. Planning a trip to Lisbon and Porto or Eastern European countries, like Poland or Hungary, is often more affordable.
How Many Days in 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 tourist sights and visit Colmar in just two days’ time and see everything.
What it really boils down to is your energy level and desired pace of travel. When I was traveling Europe in my 20s, I moved at a much faster pace than I do now.
One Week Trip to Europe: How Many Destinations
Ideally, on a 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 place 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. It is easy to see three destinations – and possible to see four places with the right trip 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 travelers plan a 2 week European vacation – especially when coming from the United States. With 2 weeks in Europe, it is possible to stay in 4 different places. In fact, ambitious sightseers could stay in 5 destinations, but only if the 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 place more thoroughly by staying in only 3 destinations.
2 Week Europe Trip Plan Formula
- 5 Days in City + 4 Days in City + 5 Days in City
- 4 Days in City + 3 Days in City + 3 Days in City + 4 Days in City
- 4 Days in City + 2 Days in Smaller City + 3 Days in City + 2 Days in Smaller City + 3 Days in City
Plan a Month Long Trip to Europe
Visitors who are planning a month trip to Europe will want to carefully consider their travel plan. Although longer trips allow for more destinations, long term travelers can experience burn out – so avoid packing your trip plan with too many locations.
In fact, one of the joys of a longer trip is that you have more time to experience each place. Pace yourself and avoid rushing through places. Instead, settle into one spot and plan day trips.
One Month Europe Itinerary Formula
- 7 Days in City + 7 Days in City + 7 Days in City + 7 Days in City
- 7 Days in City + 5 Days in City + 5 Days in City + 5 Days in City + 6 Days in City
- 5 Days in City + 5 Days in City + 3 Days in City + 5 Days in City + 5 Days in City + 5 Days in City
Trip Planner Europe: How to Plan your Itinerary
Now that you 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 trip itinerary.
Before selecting your destinations, figure out how you will travel between the those destinations – and book the transit in advance if possible.
We recommend transiting between destinations in mid-morning. This allows for enough time to eat breakfast and pack – and should allow for late afternoon exploration in your next destination.
Allow at least 3 days in your first destination; you will need time to adjust to the time zone and foreign 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.
If you need inspiration, use our Travel Destination Guides.
Sample Itineraries for a 2 Week Trip to Europe
Because choosing where to travel to is the necessary 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 each with heaps of attractions, seeing these three top European destinations on a single trip is relatively easy to plan.
Budapest, Vienna, Prague
Fascinating, historic and architecturally stunning, visiting Vienna, Prague and Budapest in Eastern and Central Europe 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 itinerary would also allow for day trips to Bratislava, Cesky Krumlov and/or Dresden.
European travelers eager to see more places could condense this trip plan and add Krakow as a fourth destination.
Barcelona, Madrid, Porto, Lisbon
Berlin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich
Germany is a classic example of how to plan a trip around Europe within one country. What we love about a Germany trip is that the cities are steeped in history and traditions, yet each one is truly unique.
An ideal Germany trip would include staying in Berlin for 4 days, seeing Dusseldorf in 3 days, exploring Frankfurt for 3 days (with a possible day trip to nearby Heidelberg) and ending the trip with 4 days in Munich.
Alternatively, shorten up the trip plan and 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.
Start the trip with 3 days in London, then spend 3 days in Amsterdam (with a day trip to Haarlem), followed by 2 days in Brussels (or Ghent) and 2 days in Bruges – then end the trip with 3 days in Paris.
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 – but making a succinct trip plan can be complicated. The country is long and narrow, with intriguing destinations just across the border and reachable on day trips.
To plan a 2 week trip to Croatia, you could start in Dubrovnik – spend 4 days there with 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, BiH and additional island exploration. Travel from Split to Zagreb – stopping at the famous Plitvice Lakes National Park along the route for 1 night – and spend the last 2 nights of your trip in lovely Zagreb.
We share more details in our blog post: How To Plan a Trip to Croatia.
Plan Trip to Europe: What Type of Vacation
Before we dig 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 sightseeing or local experiences? History and art? Architecture and culture? Beaches and partying?
The type of trip you want should dictate where you choose to go and how to plan a trip through Europe. If you want a fast-paced trip with lots of sightseeing, big cities are likely where you will want to spend your time. If a leisurely trip is more your style, smaller cities and resort towns might be a better fit.
Personally, we like to balance our trips with a little bit of everything. We schedule some days of seeing the major sights and other days for immersing ourselves in the local culture. We go on long walking tours and plan days of relaxation.
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 trip with friends or designing a once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon trip to 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 trip, seek out optional ideas for group trips and plan special experiences for your romantic trip to Europe.
How To 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 your own trip to Europe or if you want a guide to lead the way.
Throughout this travel guide to Europe Trip Planning, we are sharing the steps you need to take so that you can plan the best way to travel in Europe on your own – but we just want to mention a few of the benefits of hiring a guide to do the trip planning.
Traveling on a guided trip is quite a bit more expensive, but it alleviates the stress and hassle of making all the 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.
How To Plan European Trip that is Partially Guided
Travelers can opt to join a tour of Europe for the entire trip – or plan part of their vacation on their own and join a guided tour for just a few days. For example, plan your own time in London and Edinburgh, then take a multiday Highlands tour. Plan your trip to Athens, then set off to see other parts of Greece on a 4-day guided tour before sailing for the Geek Islands on a ferry.
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, however, we have tips that will save you money and time!
Round Trip to Europe
Traditional round trip tickets to Europe depart from City A and arrive in City B – and the return trip is from City B back to City A. So, for example, a round trip ticket to Europe could be booked from the JFK New York Airport to London Heathrow Airport – and the return trip would be from London Heathrow back to JFK.
The problem with traditional Europe round trip tickets is that it requires that travelers depart Europe from the same city in which they arrived. In the case of visiting multiple cities and countries, travelers will need to spend the precious time on their vacation backtracking to their European gateway city.
One Way Flights
Purchasing one way tickets to and from Europe can solve that problem. Instead of flying round trip, buy a one way ticket from City A to City B, then a second one way ticket from City C to City A. In this example, fly from New York JFK to London Heathrow, then return to the United States on a flight from Paris Charles de Gaulle to New York JFK.
Travelers who opt to buy one way tickets in and out of Europe 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 as much as the round trip route). However, that is not always true, so pricing out the different flight options is always the best idea.
Open Jaw Flight Tickets
Open Jaw tickets are a type of ticket that many 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. For example, you can book your flight from NYC to London, then London to Paris and Paris back to NYC on the same ticket.
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
When it comes to how to plan a vacation to Europe, one of the biggest concerns is the cost of the flight – and rightly so! Plane tickets to Europe can be very expensive.
We think it is best to price out different flights by different carriers to different destinations before booking a flight. Skyscanner is the search engine that we use to find flights.
You can also use our insider tips on How to Find Cheap Flights to make sure you are getting the best deal.
Pro Travel Tip: Surviving the Long Flight
The plane trip to Europe is a long, overnight flight. You want to be as comfortable as possible on the journey 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 best advice in our blog post, 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 and comfort. As you plan to travel Europe, also think about overall experience.
Transit between Destinations
One of the great things about Europe is that there are several ways to get between cities. 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 traveling within the Schengen Zone, 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 and Wizz Air – offer inexpensive flights (but they do charge a bundle for extras, like baggage and seat assignments, so don’t just look at the base fare).
Train Trip Europe
When many travelers think about how to travel around Europe, they think of travel by train – and it can be an excellent way to get around the continent.
In many ways, we prefer train travel to flying in Europe – as it can be less time consuming. Train stations tend to in the city center and there is no need to be there 2 hours before departure time like for flights. Plus, there is no extra fee for bags!
Because there are fast trains, slow trains and scenic trains, travelers will need to look at their specific route to determine if traveling by train in Europe is the best option for them.
Travelers should compare prices between taking a flight or taking a train to see what the fare difference is. Furthermore, travelers opting for train travel should price out the benefits of purchasing a Eurail Pass.
Travel by Bus
Traveling by bus in Europe can be an easy 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 romantic as train travel, it is often the most affordable method of getting from one destination in Europe to another.
FlixBus is our preferred bus company – as they offer exceptionally low early-bird fares between major cities. Plus, their buses tend to be comfortable, clean and usually have a toilet (and free WiFi) on board.
Car Rental in Europe
Although we like to travel car-free in Europe, renting a car might be the best way to plan a Europe trip – especially if traveling to smaller towns or through picturesque regions.
Travelers 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 towns and travel times are often longer than anticipated. If you plan to drive in Europe, you may need to get an International Driving Permit.
How To Get Around European Cities: Use Public Transit
Most cities in Europe offer an extensive array of public transportation options – from underground subways to city buses to electric trams – which makes it easy to get around. Even better, it is usually at a fairly affordable price.
Tickets vary by city and country, of course. Sometimes single tickets are purchased on board, while other systems require pre-loaded transit cards. Unlimited travel passes and tourist cards might save money on transportation, too.
If you plan on using public transit (and we highly recommend that you do!), research how to buy tickets in advance or make an inquiry on arrival at the tourist information center.
How To Plan Europe Trip: Where To Stay
Figuring out 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 in 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.
Just keep in mind that hotel rooms in Europe tend to be small (at least in comparison to most US hotel rooms). Bathrooms can be especially cramped. It’s all part of the experience!
Our tips for Finding the Best Hotels at the Best Prices can help you find the hotel 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 fellow travelers…and are great for keeping your budget in check.
Most hostels these days have a wide choice of room types. Hostel guests can choose to stay in bunkbed dorm rooms (the cheapest), a private room with a shared bathroom (slightly more) or a private room with ensuite bathroom (the most expensive).
Just keep in mind that most hostels charge per guest (not per room). In some cities, we have found it more economical to book a short-term apartment than to stay in a hostel when traveling as a couple.
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 make simple meals and a washer for doing laundry.
On shorter stays – when we are staying for 3 days or less – however, vacation apartments are not the best choice. Not only can extra fees dramatically increase the price-per-night, but the kitchen will likely go without being used.
Use our Top Tips for Airbnb Guests for more advice before you book one.
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.
Tips for Where To Stay in Europe
Choosing what type of accommodation you stay in during your trip is just one facet of planning where to stay. We have a few more tips to help in your trip planning – and you can find more tips in our Guide to Booking Hotels.
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 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 a city 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 sights and districts, but you will also have better access for getting to and from the airport, train station or bus station when you arrive and depart.
Book in Advance
Typically, the best places at the best prices get snapped up in a hurry – especially in the high season! The earlier you start looking for a place to stay, the more likely you will find the best accommodations for your Europe trip.
European Trip Planner: 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 to Europe. There are pros and cons to traveling to Europe in every season. Knowing what to expect may help you decide when to go.
Of course, these are just generalizations for an entire continent – so you will need to do specific research for the destinations you want to visit.
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.
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 (with the exception of some beach and island destinations).
That said, fall travel is becoming increasingly popular every year – prices can still be near the peak, so still plan ahead.
Winter in Europe
European winters can be cold, but there are several reasons to go to Europe in wintertime. Namely, the European Christmas Markets!
That said, Europe is somewhat of a mixed bag in winter; cities with popular holiday markets actually see an increase in tourism (and prices), while other destinations are void of tourists (and, thus, many tourist attractions are closed).
Still, winter can be a great time to travel to Europe. Our trip to Iceland in winter was amazing – and even the chilly temperatures during winter 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.
Trip to Europe in Spring
Springtime can bring unpredictable weather, but it can still be a wonderful time to go to Europe. Flowers are in bloom (like the tulips in the Netherlands) and there is a sense of a renewed spirit for the upcoming summer season.
Prices are usually still affordable having not yet reached the height of summer pricing and there are minimal crowds. Just bring an umbrella and raincoat!
Trip to Europe Cost
One of the most common questions asked about planning travel overseas is “How much does a trip to Europe cost?” Unfortunately, there are far too many factors to consider for us to provide a clear-cut answer.
Generally speaking, your flight and accommodations will account for the biggest portion of your Europe trip cost. However, travelers can easily spend a bundle on dining out and activities, too.
Where you travel to and the season you travel in will also have a big impact on your overall Europe trip budget.
How Much is a Trip to Europe: Example
Travelers 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, souvenirs and miscellaneous spending.
For an example of what a 2-week trip to Europe in the summer might cost, we are providing some figures (in USD) based on recent 2022 research.
- Flight: $750
- Transport: $200
- Accommodations: $1000
- Activities: $450
- Meals: $500
- Souvenirs: $75
- Miscellaneous: $25
- TOTAL: $3000
Tips for How To Plan a Europe Trip on a Budget
In our experience, if you do your research, price out your options, plan ahead and make conscious decisions about your spending, you can easily plan a budget trip to Europe.
When planning a trip to Europe on a budget, it’s 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 is dirty, noisy 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 market and eating it with a view of the Eiffel Tower will likely 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
Many travelers considering how to travel Europe on a budget envision taking the backpacker route. Staying in hostels, making homemade spaghetti meals, drinking cheap beer and taking free walking tours are signature moves of a classic backpacker trip to Europe.
For many tourists – especially young travelers – it’s a fantastic way to travel.
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. Also, there is so much amazing wine and delicious craft beer in Europe, it would surely be a shame to deny yourself any of it! Do research and find a balance that will fit your budget.
Plan a European Vacation: Preparation
While it is easy to get caught up in deciding where to go and what to see on your trip, a little detailed preparation is required for planning a European vacation.
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 intended trip is soon approaching).
Before you pay for flights and book accommodations, check the expiration of your passport, which needs to be valid at least 3 months after the end of your European trip.
Currently there are no visa requirements for US travelers to Europe. However, in 2023, US travelers will need to obtain the ETIAS travel authorization to enter European countries within the Schengen Zone. The application process includes completing an online form and paying a small fee (less than $10).
For current European entry requirements, immigration details and customs information, always check your home country’s state department website before making travel plans.
Vacation Time, Home Care and Pet Care
It is always a good idea to have confirmation of your time off work before booking any non-refundable part of your trip. Depending on what type of job you have, you may need to do a little prep for the time you will be out of the office.
Another major consideration before making plans for a European trip is home and pet care. Arrange for a housesitter – or at the very least, someone to pick up your mail and keep an eye on your home while you are gone. Don’t spend your European vacation staring at that security camera app on your phone! If you have pets, consider getting an in-home petsitter so that your pets can stay comfortable while you are away.
The Need To Know of How To Plan Trip to Europe
Part of making travel plans to Europe or any other international destination is dealing with foreign currency and foreign language. We are sharing a few top tips on these Need To Know details.
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, they use the GBP, commonly called the Pound and in Switzerland they use the Swiss franc – and those are just two common examples.
That said, many restaurants and tour companies will still quote prices in Euros (and may even let you pay in Euros) – but it is likely a better rate to pay in the local currency.
Exchanging Cash, ATMs and Credit Cards
To obtain the local currency, rather than exchanging cash on arrival, we recommend taking cash out of a 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. We use the Chase Sapphire Card – which is excellent for world travelers! Not only do they waive foreign transaction fees, but you also earn extra points when using the card to book travel. Find out more – and get extra bonus points – when you sign-up using this link.
Visiting a foreign country can be intimidating when 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 and thank you is a good place to start.
Some 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 always a good idea to pick up a phrase book before you go on your trip.
Understand the Schengen Zone
We have referred to the Schengen Zone (or Schengen Area) a few times throughout this guide for how to start planning a trip to Europe – 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.
Travel between Schengen countries is as seamless as traveling in the United States from one state to the next.
There are a maximum number of days travelers can stay within the Schengen Zone; but tourists can stay a combined 90 days within a 180 day time period.
How To Plan for a Trip to Europe: Top Travel Tips
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 plan your best Europe trip!
Organization is Key
There are a lot of things to think about when planning a trip – especially if you are deciding how to plan your first trip to Europe. Staying organized will ensure your trip goes off without a hitch.
We make it easy to keep track of details and trip notes with our Trip Planning Printables!
Plan Down Time
One downfall of many Europe trip plans is not planning down time. It is all too easy to fill every time slot of your Europe trip itinerary with sights, attractions and activities.
Be sure to schedule in time for relaxation. Plan to spend time sitting in 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! Depending on where you’re traveling to Europe from in 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 on the plane 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. Limiting alcohol and caffeine – as well as taking melatonin, No Jet Lag, or meds prescribed by your doctor – can help, as well.
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, we highly recommend reviewing what sights are included and if there are any special instructions for use. Compare different passes to find that 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 love joining local tours – like walking tours and food tours. On a guided tour, participants can get a local perspective, get insider tips and meet fellow travelers.
We typically use Viator to find tours, but Airbnb Experiences and Uber are two other resources.
Hop On Hop Off Buses
Although we have always thought the big red, double-decker, open air tourist buses are slightly tacky, they are useful for getting acquainted with a new destination – or for getting around to the top tourist spots in a short period of time.
Look beyond Tourist Sights
Seeing the top tourist sights when visiting a new city is essential – but, if time permits, seek out attractions beyond the typical touristic sights.
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.
Always Carry Small Change…and Tissues
In many European cities, public restrooms are few and far between. The cities that do have public restrooms often charge – usually about .50c to 1 Euro. Sometimes you feed the coins into a slot like a vending machine, while other bathrooms have attendants that take credit cards or make change.
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 5-10% is considered a decent tip. Before tipping, however, check the bill to see if a tip (or service charge) has already been included.
At a café where you only have coffee or wine, you can just leave the small change. If there wasn’t any, don’t worry about it.
Tipping guides and hotel staff is considered nice – especially if they did an excellent job. Consider leaving 2 to 5 Euros, depending on the situation.
Often when paying with a credit card, there is no line for a tip. Either remember to carry small monetary denominations with you or request a tip be included before they run your credit card (just tell them the total you want charged).
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 Dice 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 quickly identify a bad situation.
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 trip!
Remember not to panic and 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, your fellow travelers, hotel staff, waitstaff and tour guides.
Not everything will go exactly as planned. Expect things to go awry and roll with it.
Fingers crossed, nothing major goes wrong on your trip in Europe…but if it does, travel insurance can help. Not only does it protect in the case of delayed flights and lost luggage, but it is a true safeguard if you get sick or injured abroad.
Check the affordable plans and coverage with a trusted travel insurance provider – we always use World Nomads.
What To Pack for Europe Trip
Deciding what to pack for trip to Europe can be a real conundrum. In addition to choosing what clothes to pack, travelers will need a few specific accessories for a trip abroad. We have just a few pieces of advice about what to pack for a trip to Europe – you can find our complete packing list and other packing hacks on our Travel Packing blog page.
Best Luggage for a Trip in Europe
When traveling in Europe, we prefer carrying backpacks instead of roller suitcases. Dragging a rollaboard over cobblestone streets and up flights of stairs is never fun! Get more tips in our discussion on Suitcase vs Backpack.
Packing cubes make packing so much easier. When planning a trip to Europe to multiple cities, you will be packing and unpacking more than once, so the easier the better. Find out why Packing Cubes are little traveling all-stars.
Passport and Document Holder
International travel requires additional documents – and keeping those documents organized and easy to reach is essential! I keep everything neat and accessible in my zippered document holder.
Digital Copies of Important Documents
Making digital copies of your most important documents (like your passport and drivers’ license), as well as your travel plans (like flight info and hotel reservations) is always a good idea. We store a backup our documents on a flash drive and in the cloud.
There is no doubt that an adapter needs to be on your list of what to bring on a trip to Europe. Most of Europe uses a 2-prong outlet, but in the UK and Ireland, the outlets are a flat 3-prong style. Therefore, we travel with a universal adapter.
Google Maps and paperless tickets make exploring cities easier than ever…but it also can drain your phone battery fast. Bring a portable charger to make sure you are up and running on long days of sightseeing.
You will need WiFi when traveling in Europe. For far too long we tried to get by with public networks – and it was both frustrating and a waste of time. Instead, we now use a GlocalMe WiFi hotspot. We can connect multiple devices and buy inexpensive plans online (no SIM card required!) – plus it acts as a portable charger. Find out the other Benefits of Traveling with Pocket WiFi.
City exploring on cobblestone streets requires a good pair of comfortable walking shoes. We have three requirements for the best travel shoes – they must me lightweight, comfortable and versatile. I wear sneakers that go with everything, and Kris is most comfortable in Merrell trail shoes.
Europe is incredibly beautiful – so 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 beginners. Use our tips to decide what camera to bring on your trip to Europe.
The water is safe to drink in Europe, so be sure to bring a refillable water bottle. We like the collapsible bottles that are great for travelers.
Make sure to bring a day bag for your trip. We typically carry small backpacks – as they are perfect for stowing our essentials (like wallet, keys, hand sanitizer and lip balm), but also our water bottles, travel umbrella and guidebook. Travelers going to crowded cities might also want to wear a money belt (or bra stash) to keep money and valuables concealed.
We Want To Know: What are your top tips for planning a trip in Europe?
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