What do you do when a trip to Europe suddenly presents itself? You grab the brass ring, of course!! Here’s how to plan a trip to Europe with a customized itinerary.
That’s what happened to us. I’m excited to be able to tell you why you haven’t heard from me in a while – we were planning and taking a trip to Europe!
Our daughter was scheduled to attend a meeting for her company in Berlin, Germany. She decided to build a family trip around it and began to talk to us about going with her family. At first it just seemed like a far-fetched dream, but by New Year’s Eve, I had decided that I might never get another chance like this. So I booked my airfare that very night – on New Year’s Eve! A week later, my husband decided he didn’t want to be left out, so we booked his flight as well. Shortly afterward, our other daughter and her family decided to join us in Venice and Bavaria for part of the trip! We were ready to discover just how to plan a trip to Europe!
As our trip evolved, my daughter and I found ourselves in the role of travel agent, booking hotels, rental cars and trains from one European city to the next. It was so much fun, but lots of work. So if you’re short on time, you might need to go with a pre-booked tour. In our case, it worked – and we were able to find some very interesting and even posh accommodations for great rates.
How to Plan a Trip to Europe –
Customizing a European Itinerary
- Decide Where you want to go and how you will get there. Maybe you’ve always wanted to see France. Or the coast of Croatia. Whatever your destination, choose it first, and begin to build your itinerary around that. Get maps to your desired locations and determine distances to your chosen locales. You must take into account travel times for getting to and from your destinations. Keep in mind that you can fly into one location, and return from another. For instance, we flew into Venice by way of a day and night in London, and flew out of Berlin, stopping for a long layover in Paris. Make the flight routes work in your favor – there is no rule that says you have to book your return flight from the same city you fly into!
- Decide whether to go in peak season or in off season. Because of our daughter’s meeting, the time of year was determined for us. And it turned out to be a great time to go. Most of the places we went weren’t bitterly cold, and the rates for hotels, etc. were at their lowest. We also had no trouble with pick-pockets and potential thieves, probably because they come out mostly in peak season and with the crowds. More about security later in this travel series.
- Try to spend more that one night in each location. You will be on the move so much that to hit a location for one night will be very tiring, and with very little time to see what you came to see. Your body will thank you when you can spend a couple of nights or more in the same place.
- Determine to Pack Light. I can’t emphasize this enough. As much as you think you need all those pairs of shoes, you will get very tired of lugging them around! Packing light enables you to carry on your bags, saving time when you arrive at your destinations. It is surprisingly freeing when you are able to put all your things into a couple of small bags. I will get into the packing part in more detail in a future post. It’s amazing what can be done with a little creativity!!
- Be flexible. On one of the last legs of our trip, we went to buy train tickets from Vienna to Berlin. When we discovered that the train would be close to €500 for all of us, we decided to look into flying from Vienna to Berlin. The price was a bit less to fly, and flight time only about an hour, compared to 10 hours on the train, so we opted to fly. We were able to see the Schonbrunn Palace (childhood home of Marie Antoinette) on our last morning in Vienna, instead of being on a train bright and early that morning!
- Flesh out the itinerary in calendar form. Once we had a good idea of the places we wanted to see, it was time to put it down in black and white, so adjustments could be made if needed. By now we knew where we wanted to be, and when, and could look at nailing down transportation and accommodations. Having the itinerary in calendar form let us see at-a-glance what holes in our planning were left to fill. Your goal is to nail down as much as you can before you leave home. Unless you are super adventurous, and traveling in a small group, you really need to have accommodations and transportation booked before you begin the trip. Here’s what our completed calendar itinerary looked like:
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I hope these planning tips help you in planning a European trip of your own. And these tips can be used for general trip planning, as well – to anywhere! I’ll be sharing more about our travels in the days to come, so stay tuned!