Oh, plan a trip to Europe! * Sigh * It’s the dream that almost everyone has when we want to cross the pond for the first time, right?
Visiting the old world was my dream for a long time until I finally fulfilled it, today it is the continent that I know the most and that’s why I know how cumbersome it can be to plan a trip to Europe for the first time.
To make this post practical, I have selected 11 essential steps that you must take into account when organizing this trip and not screw it up.
Are you ready?
How to plan a trip to Europe for the first time in 11 steps
Step 1: Choose the time of the trip well
The first point with many nuances. Let’s see, do you like cold and snow? If yes, your ideal time to travel to Europe is in winter not because it is obvious that it is cold in winter but because …
Traveling to Europe in winter is very cheap and almost all tourist places are empty.
Ah, you don’t like the cold? -as is my case- then I recommend you go in spring or autumn because if you sign up for summer you have to take into account two things:
Everything will be much more expensive and also the number of people is not normal. Be careful, this does not apply to cities like Paris, Prague or Venice, whatever the time they are always full of people.
In summary on what is the best time of year to plan a trip to Europe:
Spring: (March-May) and Autumn: (September-November): the climate is ideal, there are not so many tourists and the prices are friendly.
Cheaper months – generally empty places:
Most expensive months -full places everywhere:
Step 2: Investigate visa and document requirements
This is step two because it is useless to plan a trip to London and it turns out that later you find out that you needed a visa.
Therefore my recommendation is that before choosing the route you take into account the difference between: What is the European Union and what is the Schengen Space?
I’ll try to explain it quickly:
Of the 50 countries that are part of Europe, only 28 belong to the European Union and 26 to the Schengen Area.
Schengen is a free border transit treaty and most of the famous countries like Spain, France, Germany, and Italy are part of it but others like the United Kingdom and Ireland are not.
Important: To enter Europe, your passport must be valid for a minimum of 6 months, have Travel Insurance, an exit ticket from the Schengen space, reservation of accommodation and funds, or cash that shows economic solvency.
Step 3: Check the costs of each European country
Not all countries in Europe handle the euro as their currency and not all have the same cost of living.
Some are more expensive like England, Switzerland and Norway and others are cheaper like Spain, Portugal, and Turkey.
So for you to calculate your budget well, compare which places are more expensive than others, what is the type of currency, etc., enter Numbeo.
There you enter the ones you have in mind and the page will be in charge of showing how much is the average cost of food, accommodation e.g renting a chalet or apartment, transportation, among others.
Step 4: Organize the tour according to the time you have
Time. I have put this as a fourth step to plan the trip well because many overlook it but it turns out that it is super important.
Before defining the route you must establish how much time you have to dedicate to each place you go.
When you are going to travel to Europe for the first time, it is almost inevitable not to want to cover the largest number of countries and cities, but beware, don’t fall for it.
Yes, yes, I know it is difficult but my suggestion is that you do not spend less than 2 nights in each city and if there are 3, even better.
For example, if your trip is 15 days, try not to visit more than 3 countries and 2 cities in each one.
If you have time to spare it is great because you can give way to spontaneous plans.
Keep in mind that the first day you arrive at a place is almost null since it involves transfers, unforeseen events, locating the accommodation, etc. and hardly the second day is that you can enjoy the site as such.
Step 5: Choose the route wisely
Done, you have seen which countries suit you best based on your budget and you have defined the time you will dedicate to each one, now what you have to do is download a map of Europe and mark the places.
When I mention the word “wisely” I do so because I have seen cases of people going to Europe for the first time and intending to visit England, Italy, and Norway in a week.
Let’s see, I am not saying that they cannot do it but it will be more expensive than normal because they can only travel by plane, they are countries that are not so close to each other and a week is very little time.
So my recommendation is that you choose the places by zones. On your first trip to Europe, you could visit three countries in the south, the north, the center, or the United Kingdom.
Some classics are:
* Spain, France, and Italy.
* Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.
* Ireland, England and Scotland (the latter two belong to the United Kingdom).
Countries that are very close to each other so that the time and cost of the transfers play in your favor.
Step 6: Buy the plane ticket
Great, we come to the fact that everyone knows and that they generally do at once without taking into account all the above that I have mentioned.
Buying a flight to the old continent at a decent price and with the dates you have in mind, is an art!
Now, one of the good things about traveling to Europe is that wherever you get to mobilize from that point it will be very easy, the continent is very well connected and I explain this in the next point.
Tip: Main arrival airports in Europe
When you buy the ticket try to get to some of these cities even if they are not the final destination of your trip:
Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, London, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt. These connect with almost the entire continent.
Step 7: Evaluate internal transportation
If there is a place where you can move in a low-cost way between countries is Europe, there are cheap planes, buses, and trains.
The first option is low-cost airlines, many times a plane ticket can be cheaper than a bus ticket.
The most popular low-cost airlines in Europe are Vueling, Ryanair, and EasyJet.
The queen of bus lines for traveling around Europe cheaply is Flixbus. It has multiple destinations, hours, and affordable prices.
Touring Europe by train is magical but it is usually more expensive than traveling by plane or bus.
What you can do is buy a pass that includes several trips, and that’s how much you can save.
Step 8: Reserve the accommodations in time
In time for you to have more cheap options to choose from, but it is not a rule to do it so far in advance unless you travel in high season.
Step 9: Organize the itinerary well
Well well, you already have the tickets and the accommodation, now it’s time for you to sit down to organize the activities itinerary.
Tip: If you write everything in an excel table from the beginning, much better.
In the main European cities, there is a lot to do, so you must set priorities according to the time and budget you have.
Here are my recommendations for itineraries when planning a trip to Europe:
Enter the official website of each city and see what activities there are for that month, read many travel blogs, forums and if possible buy a digital or physical guide
Take a Free Walking Tour (free tours where you just have to leave a tip at will) and if the city has an extremely interesting history do not miss a guided tour.
Step 10: Travel light luggage
Spoiler: Everything you are going to pack “Just in case you need it …” will be extra, you will not use it.
Traveler, if it is the first time that you are going to travel outside your country, accept a tip: Do not pack more than you really need.
I know it is difficult, but in travel, less is more. The reason? Because the less the luggage weighs the cheaper the transfers will be and you will be more comfortable.
Keep in mind that most low-cost airlines accept a suitcase between 7 and 10 kilos, nothing more.
You go to Europe, not to the jungle, in case something is missing you buy it on the way.
Step 11: Bring a decent camera
This more than a step to follow to travel to Europe for the first time is a whimsical piece of advice that I will allow myself to give.
You go to the cradle of art, to the old continent endowed with beauty, fascinating history, and fairytale landscapes, the least you will want to take is about 500 photos, that’s for sure.
So, since it has been difficult for you to make the trip and you have been dreaming of it for a while, make a little more effort and buy yourself mobile with a good camera or a reflex, even if it is not cheap.
Well, up to here the post, I hope that with all this info you will be able to plan the trip well.
Author Bio: Julien is the founder of Julius Homes. His interest in hiking, skiing, and adventure holidays made him bring together the choicest accommodations around the globe to make holidays relaxing and comfortable.