There are so many things to experience and see in Europe it's often difficult to know where to start when planning a Europe trip. Moreover, as time and resources are limited, a well-planned travel itinerary is essential to making the most of your traveling experience in Europe. While figuring out how to plan a Europe trip is a complex process with lots of variables to consider, GoEuro has got you covered with our step-by-step guide to planning a multi-city Europe trip. From finding cheap flights to Europe to providing some Europe trip itinerary suggestions, GoEuro helps you find the cheapest way to travel in Europe.
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How to Plan the Perfect Europe Trip in 10 Easy Steps
Europe is so full of amazing places and experiences that you could travel for years and still feel like you've missed something essential. It is often extremely difficult to decide what it is that you really want to see and do with your limited time and resources while traveling in Europe. As such, it is essential to have a well-planned travel itinerary. Figuring out how to plan a trip to Europe is a complex multi-step process that often requires a lot of trial and error. It is usually easiest to start with your arrival and departure dates and then plan out your European itinerary from there. Planning an itinerary takes a lot of time and effort, but we've got you covered with a 10 step guide for making the most of your Europe trip.
1. What time of year do you want to travel to Europe?
Decide on the time of year you want to travel. There are 3 main seasons for traveling in Europe- High, Low and Shoulder. Each travel season has advantages and disadvantages and will affect your experience traveling in Europe.
High season in Europe is from June to August. Although you’ll enjoy the height of summer and heat at this time you’ll also be stung by inflated seasonal prices and swarms of seasonal travelers at all of the hot spot destinations and attractions. If you’re set on traveling in high season, consider heading to some of the less popular European destinations that still provide you with a unique experience while traveling Europe. Off-the-beaten-path destinations include areas outside of capital cities and destinations in Central Europe such as Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.
- Nice Weather: Europe often doesn’t get much rain during this time of year. Warm temperatures make eating outside and people-watching highly popular. The nights are often warm enough to make staying outside late a viable option.
- Long Days: The sun doesn’t set until quite late at night especially in Northern Europe. You can often cram in a lot of sightseeing before taking a late dinner and watching the sunset on a European patio.
- Open Attractions: Most popular tourist attractions are open throughout high-season.
- Music Festivals: Europe hosts hundreds of outdoor music festivals during the summer while the weather is nice.
- Crowds: Europe is full of tourists during the summer. This means wait times at museums and art galleries and crowded trains. You should prepare to spend significant time waiting in lines during high season. Train reservations may also be required in order to guarantee yourself a seat.
- Heat: Europe can become very hot in the summer especially in July and August in countries like Spain and Italy. 90°F+ temperatures are not uncommon.
- High Costs: Prices go up significantly during high season. Expect to pay top price for everything from flights to hostels during peak season.
- Closed Shops: Since many Europeans often go on vacation during the summer many restaurants and shops will be closed. Specifically, many businesses in Europe are closed for the entire month of August.
- Lack of Crowds: There aren’t nearly as many tourists during the winter months making it far easier to see the attractions. You can often visit museums and art galleries without waiting in line at all during low season. This (relative) lack of tourists also makes it a bit easier to meet locals while in Europe.
- Lower Prices: Both flights and hostels are considerably cheaper during low season.
- Winter Sports: Europe has a lot of great locations for winter sports and activities. Why not ski or snowboard the Alps while in Europe?
- (Relatively) Mild Winters: While it can get quite cold, European winters are usually quite mild compared to winter in the northern United States and Canada. Most European cities have average temperatures between 40-60°F during the winter.
- Short Days: It will start getting dark quite early (often around 4:00 p.m. in northern Europe) so make sure to plan your day and sightseeing accordingly.
- Bad Weather: While European winters are usually mild, they are also quite rainy, gray and dreary. Be sure to pack accordingly for both rain and cold if you intend on visiting Europe during low season.
- Reduced Hours of Attractions: Many European attractions have reduced hours during the low season. Some may even be closed during the winter due to the lack of tourists. Be sure to check ahead to avoid disappointment.
Some the best months to travel in Europe are from April to June when spring is in full swing and the onslaught of seasonal travelers haven’t arrived yet, or between September to November when the weather is cooling a little along with the number of tourists at the most popular European attractions.
- (Generally) Nice Weather: Europe’s weather during shoulder season is usually quite temperate and nice.
- Relatively Few Tourists: While lines will likely be longer than in winter, travelers can still visit many attractions without having to wait at all. Similarly, hostels are usually not completely booked or completely empty during shoulder season.
- Gardens & Parks: Many parks and gardens in Europe will be in bloom during spring shoulder season or full of colorful leaves during fall shoulders season.
- Lower Prices: Prices often remain low during shoulder season.
- Some Attractions Closed/Shortened Hours: The vast majority of attractions will be open; however, some may still be maintaining winter hours of operation.
- Inconsistent Weather: The weather in Europe can be quite variable during shoulder season. Make sure you pack layers and a rain jacket/umbrella to be prepared for anything.
2. Decide on trip length and travel dates
Travel dates are usually determined by a combination of available vacation time and budget. Usually, shorter trips require more planning than long trips.
“Decide on your budget for the trip- do you want to live it up in five star hotels for two weeks, or hostels for two months? Make sure you save time for that cheeky impromptu bottle of wine on the beach. Budget and time frame are linked, but how much fun you can have depends on you!” - Colleen, globalgals.com
3. Start by planning your itinerary around unmovable dates/events
List any events that have dates that can’t be changed. For example, maybe you’re attending a music festival while in Europe or meeting up with friends somewhere on a specific date. You’ll have to plan the rest of your travel itinerary around these events and their dates- so be sure to keep them in mind as you select a route.
4. Get inspired!
Start brainstorming what you’d like to see while in Europe. What does your ideal Europe trip look like? Are you more interested in historical sights or the best cities to party in? Would you rather spend your time in nature or in art galleries and museums? Be sure to check out some travel guides and look at some travel blogs before you write down everything you’re interested in seeing or doing.
“I check what the transportation costs and journey times are like between destinations and then reference Lonely Planet for information on specific cities or Pinterest for articles and photographs. How much there is to see or do in a particular location and how much accommodation costs determines how many nights I factor into my itinerary.”
- Kiara, galloparoundtheglobe.com