Europe is so full of amazing places and experiences that you could travel for years and still feel like you've missed something essential. Click on the numbered steps below for detailed information about each step of planning the perfect trip to Europe!
- Assemble your travel documents
- Decide what time of year you want to travel to Europe
- Decide on how long you want to travel for and your approximate travel dates
- Start by planning your itinerary around unmovable dates and events
- Get inspired!
- Refine your travel itinerary
- Decide how to allocate your time
- Start researching your flight to Europe
- Find the best route for your trip
- Determine the best way to travel between cities
1.Assemble your travel documents
All countries in Europe require travelers to have a valid passport– no matter your country of origin. If you don't have a passport or your passport has expired, it can take between 4-6 weeks to receive one from your time of application. Some countries have rush or emergency passport services; however, this service can be quite expensive so it's best to take care of all of your documentation as far ahead of time as possible. Travelers who have a valid passport should check the expiry date before they purchase any flights as some countries can deny you entry if it expires within 6 months of when you arrive.
If you're planning on renting a car while in Europe be sure to have a valid driver's license. Some car rental companies also require travelers to have an international driver's license in addition to their driver's license from their country of origin. International driver's licenses can be obtained through the American Auto Association (AAA) in the United States and the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) in Canada.
Most foreign nationals (American and Canadian travelers included) require a travel visa as well as a valid passport to visit Russia. Receiving a Russian traveler's visa is a complicated process which can take weeks to complete. Be sure to plan ahead and get your documentation in order if you're planning on visiting Russia while on your Europe trip.
2.What time of year do you want to travel to Europe?
Decide on the best time of year for you to travel to Europe. Several factors can help guide you in when it comes to setting a travel date. For most travelers, time and money are the biggest constraints. Planning your trip early in advance will help you find some bargains and cheaper flights to Europe. After having a thorough look at your calendar, and a look at the balance on your bank account, reevaluate your options.
Think about what you want to do during your Europe trip. Are you content spending your days wandering around museums, or do you prefer to be outdoors? Weather is a major aspect that you should consider while planning your trip to Europe. If you are willing to brace the cold winter temperatures you are sure to save a few bucks and enjoy less crowded sights. For travelers looking to soak up the sun, bear in mind that most Europeans are off for the month of August. Don’t forget that the temperatures in Europe can vary drastically and be sure to pack accordingly.
Unlike the weather, there are 3 main seasons for traveling in Europe— High, Low, and Shoulder. Each travel season has its advantages and disadvantages and will affect your experience traveling in Europe. Have a deeper look at the pros and cons of each season plus expert travel blogger advice below.
High Season (June - August) →
- 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.
Low Season (November - April) →
- 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.
Shoulder Season (April - June and September - November) →
- (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.
3. 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, Global Gals
4. 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 European route.
5. 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, Gallop Around The Globe
6. Start refining your list
Now for the hard part. It’s time to start narrowing down your ideal Europe trip list. It’s often a good idea to triage your original list- 1) Places you absolutely NEED to see, 2) Places you really want to see, 3) things that would be nice but you can live without. This is just a way of refining your thinking and desires to find out what you care most about seeing while in Europe.
Budgeting Tip: You’ll have a wish list of popular European destinations ready before you leave but don’t shy away from the cheaper countries in central and eastern Europe. Countries like Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic feature some of the best historical sites, nature, and cultural experiences in Europe while being considerably cheaper than most countries in Western Europe. You can potentially extend the length of your Europe trip by spending a fraction of what you normally would while in France, the United Kingdom, and Scandinavia.
7. Figure out how many days you want to spend in each location
Start thinking about how much time you’d like to spend in each city on your itinerary. We recommend at least 3 days to see major European cities like London, Paris, and Rome. You could easily spend a week in any of these locations without getting bored. Remember there are also tons of interesting day trips from major cities in Europe.
Protip #1: Slow down! By trying to see everything a lot of travelers fail to enjoy anything. Remember that traveling is stressful and nothing increases this stress like trying to do too much in too little time. Taking shorter regional trips while traveling around Europe also costs less, plus you get to see more of your destination. Make sure you give yourself enough time to relax, enjoy Europe, and avoid travel burn out!
Protip #2: Remember to account for travel time between European cities! Think about how much you’re actually going to want to see or do in a new city after traveling all day or night between destinations on your Europe trip itinerary.
"While it’s great to be able to have more time and really immerse yourself in a destination, sometimes it’s better to sample first and go back later. See the top attractions, start to get a feel for the city, and then decide which city you’d love to go back and explore more in-depth some day. It’s really about finding the right fit for you, and shorter stays before a longer visit if you have limited vacation time can help you figure that out."
Gina, One Day in a City
8. Research flights to Europe
After roughly figuring out where you want to visit, it’s time to start planning your flights to/from Europe. There are generally 2 options when it comes to purchasing flights to Europe:
- Standard Round-Trip Flight: These flights arrive and depart from the same airport. These flights are perfect if your itinerary forms a loop allowing you to start and finish your Europe trip in the same city.
- One-Way Flights: Buying 2 one-way flights are usually more expensive but also allow you more flexibility in planning an itinerary since you won’t need to travel back to the city you arrived in.
9. Figure out the best route for your Europe trip itinerary
Once you’ve decided on the destinations you want to visit and where you’re starting and ending your Europe trip, you can determine the best route for your itinerary. Look at a map of Europe to avoid backtracking on your route- it wastes both time and money.
Your itinerary may change after deciding on a particular route. For example, you may decide that one of your destinations is too far out of the way or that there is an interesting city to visit between distant locations that can break up the required travel time.
"Focus on visiting countries which are near the other, this way you save time and money. Always think about how you are going to get around cities and get from one place to the other, this way you optimize your time and get to see as much as you can in each place."
Allane, Packing my Suitcase
10. Figure out how to travel between the cities on your Europe trip route
Price out the cost of traveling between cities in Europe to get a rough idea of its impact on your travel budget. If the costs are too high you may want to reduce the number of cities you visit on your trip. Using GoEuro, you can compare the cost and travel time of trains, buses and flights all on a single page. If you’re really organized and know the exact dates you’ll be traveling between cities you can book your tickets up to 3 months in advance. Based on this research you can determine if it is cheaper to buy point-to-point tickets for your route or if makes more sense to purchase a Eurail Pass.
- Budget Airlines: Budget airlines allow people to travel around Europe both quickly and cheaply. Budget airlines have become incredibly popular in Europe with airlines like RyanAir, EasyJet, and Eurowings offering flights to hundreds of cities in Europe. The cost of flying with a budget airline increases significantly if you need to check any baggage as this is not factored into the ticket price on budget airlines. Learn more about flights in Europe.
- Traveling by Bus: Buses in Europe are experiencing something of a Renaissance currently, with many companies offering luxury services. Traveling by bus is usually by far the cheapest way to travel in Europe, plus extra leg room and WiFi are becoming standard amenities for most bus companies.
- Ridesharing: Ridesharing, the new and improved version of hitchhiking, is an easy, safe, and cheap way to travel across Europe. BlaBlaCar is the most trusted rideshare company in Europe. You can jump in a car with a driver and pay pennies to travel between European destinations while meeting other travelers on the trip.
Budgeting Tip: Taking a night train or bus is a good way to save money while avoiding paying for accommodation. Night trains and buses are usually cheaper than traveling during the day and provide you with a night’s sleep that has you rested and ready to explore upon arriving at your new destination.
"Always give yourself more time than you think you will need. People tend to underestimate the amount of time they will take to travel from point A to B, and if you plan everything down to the minute, a slight delay could cause a major disruption in your plans. To minimize the effects of delays give yourself a buffer when planning your itinerary."
Revisit these 10 steps as needed to iron out your itinerary and travel plans
Your priorities, mind, and budget may change throughout this process. These steps are just a guideline to get you thinking about things to consider while making travel plans. Planning the ultimate Europe trip is a lot of work but you’ll save yourself a lot of time and frustration if you do some research before you arrive!
Jet lag: Most flights from North America are red-eyes departing at night and arriving in Europe in the morning. You’ll want to get started and make the most of your first day in Europe but beware of jet lag tiring you out if you push yourself too hard. You can read more about the causes of jet lag and possible travel remedies on the GoEuro blog.
Language/culture shock: Consider starting your trip in London or the United Kingdom if it is your first time visiting Europe. The UK is still way different from North America but you won’t need to worry about navigating a new country in an unfamiliar language at the very beginning of your Europe trip.
"When planning a Europe trip most people (especially those coming from other continents) want to pack in as much as they can. However, I always recommend to stay in each place as long as possible to experience the local culture and see more than just the tourist attractions.... If time is limited, then I recommend focusing on less places and exploring them without stress."
Allane, Packing my Suitcase
When You Arrive in Europe:
What to Pack for a Europe Trip
- Dress like a Local: Before packing for your trip take a look at the local fashion. People dress well in Europe and there are many occasions that may call for a slick dress code. A great way to do this is to skim through Instagram pictures from your destination and see what people are wearing. This will allow you to feel more comfortable when you arrive.
- Essentials: Pack a few plain essentials, such as t-shirts, jeans, and shorts that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. Be sure to pack plenty of underwear.
- Pack Light: If you can, pack light. Even for a long trip. You’ll be able to do regular washing along the way, plus you’ll be able to travel cheaper with no checked in baggage. Save room for shopping! Europe has incredible fashion, crafts, trinkets and artworks that you will find yourself longing to bring home.
- Luggage: When choosing a backpack, make sure you select one with an unzippable front, rather than a top loading option. This makes for much easier access to your packed items. Try to avoid checking a bag if possible, you will save money on budget airline flights in Europe. If you’re choosing a suitcase find one with wheels and don’t go too large. Lugging oversized baggage up and down the Paris subway stairs is no fun at all.
- Use Packing Cells: These keep the contents of even the most unorganized traveler’s bag in order. You can have one for t-shirts, one for underwear, one for pants and so on, saving you digging through everything to find that one top you want to wear.
- Toiletries: Make sure you pack liquids into under 100ml bottles to allow for checked in baggage. It also saves on packing space, plus you’ll easily be able to pick up more in Europe if you run out. Plus, it’s handy to have a few spare plastic zip lock bags for any additional liquid carry-ons.
- Comfort Items: A neck rest, along with earplugs and an eye mask make those long transits and noisy nights of sleep all the easier.
Accommodation during a Europe Trip
- AirBnB: If you’re looking to live like a local in your destination and pick up some of the cheapest accommodation options when you travel then AirBnB is fast becoming the best option.
- Luxury Hostels: Dirty, low grade hostels are fast becoming a thing of the past. There are plenty of luxury hostels throughout Europe that provide you with hotel like comfort, while also giving you the wonderful social experience of a hostel, for a budget price.
- Hotels: There are many great deal sites such as Booking.com for booking cheap hotel accommodation. Often you’ll pick up the best deals here, although it’s best to book early or last minute to enjoy the savings.
- Couchsurfing: If you’re traveling backpacker style and don’t mind putting in a bit more effort to receive cheap accommodation then couchsurfing is for you. You’ll get to meet a local, perhaps be shown around a bit of your destination, and sleep for free!
Money in Europe
- Multi-Cash Currency Card: This is by far one of the cheapest and easiest ways to handle your money when traveling in Europe. Simply preload it with the local currency of your destination and use it like a normal debit card with no exchange or transaction fees.
- Credit Cards: Don’t use them to withdraw cash. You’ll get hit by both the exchange rate and hefty transaction fees. Not all places in Europe accept credit cards, so be sure to also have some cash on hand.
- Airport Money Exchanges: Airports always have the worst exchange rates and fees. You’ll get ripped off. Exchange your money before leaving or keep an eye out for a good exchange rate while traveling around!
Eating and Drinking during a Europe Trip
- Eat Like a Local: Find the cheapest eateries and hot spots. Avoid eating near popular tourist locations. Be sure to explore side streets, look up local food blog websites, or simply ask a local!
- Food Markets: Europe is abundant in delicious local produce markets. Venture along and make the most of the cultural experience and local cuisine and cheap produce at the local markets.
- Cook at Home and Pack a Lunch: Cook up something with all of that delicious market produce you picked up. Plus it’s always fun enjoying a picnic in the park.
- Cheap Drinks: You’ll be amazed by how cheap fine wines are in Italy and France. For beer drinkers, we have also compiled a list of the cheapest places to pick up a glass in our annual Beer Price Index.
Things to do while on a Europe Trip
- City Event Passes: Most major cities provide inclusive passes for tourists. These include access to museums, sites, and events, along with public transport. Head to the tourist center upon arrival and see what great deals you can pick up to save cash.
- Live Like a Local: Catch public transport, walk, bike, find spots for cheap eats, seek out happy hour, and picnic in the park.
- Free Attractions: Research all of the free attractions in your destination. Many of these may be more exciting than the big ticket items and involve less crowds.
- Internet Access: Purchase a Europe wide SIM card for easy, cheap access to data on your trip. Also scope out the free wifi areas in big cities. There are normally many situated around the city center and many cafes.
Popular Europe Trip Itineraries
Whether you're looking to get the most out of your Europe trip or are just looking for some travel itinerary ideas, GoEuro's got you covered with a variety of itineraries and tours. From the month-long odyssey of 'The Grand Tour' which combines 13 European destinations in 7 countries, to the more focused 2-week routes in Italy and Spain, GoEuro has a route for every type of European traveler.
In addition to providing more flexibility in your travel arrangements, buying point-to-point tickets during your Europe trip is often cheaper than buying a rail pass ahead of time. Additionally, ticket resellers like RailEurope often only offer specific fares and routes, while also requiring paper tickets that you must receive by mail. With the free GoEuro App, you can find the best transport option, at the cheapest prices, at the click of a button. You can book your train or bus ticket in the GoEuro app and travel through Europe. No printing paper tickets or mailing address required!
No matter whether you're taking the train, bus or flying, GoEuro helps you plan the perfect Europe trip.
Using a Eurail pass on your Europe trip
Europe's train network is quite complex and difficult to navigate, which makes purchasing a Eurail pass often seem like the best way to travel around while on a Europe trip. However, purchasing multiple point-to-point train tickets is often the cheaper option for traveling in Europe. So how can you guarantee you're selecting the best option? How should you decide which Eurail pass to buy? How can you tell when multiple train tickets are cheaper than a rail pass? GoEuro's ultimate guide to European rail passes has got you covered with a step-by-step plan for deciding how to travel around Europe.
Eurail Global Pass
Eurail's Global pass allows you to travel between 28 European countries and simplifies the planning a multi-city Europe trip requires. Prices vary depending on the number of days you wish to travel. The Eurail Global pass is perfect for travelers who don't want to plan out their itinerary in minute detail or intend to journey between a number of European cities in a short amount of time. The flexibility of a Eurail Global pass allows you to follow your inspiration and travel anywhere in Europe.Buy Eurail Global Passes Here
Europe Trip Suggestion: 2 Weeks in Europe
Planning on traveling Europe this summer but running low on time? Europe has so many things to see and do, it is often difficult to decide how to spend your valuable time and money. We've come up with some suggestions for the ultimate 2-week Europe trip. From Lisbon's relaxed cafe culture to Berlin's nightlife and clubbing scene, this travel itinerary allows you to explore a variety of European cultures. It is highly recommended to take your time while traveling in Europe; consider spending 2-3 days in each city in order to really experience everything each destination has to offer. You should end your trip on the weekend so you can visit some of Berlin's legendary nightclubs.
Visit 7 cities while traveling across 6 European countries for as little as $431 with Eurail's Global pass. Doing this itinerary with the Eurail Global pass will save you 9% over purchasing the equivalent set of point-to-point train tickets.
Eurail Select Pass
Eurail Select Passes let you travel between 2, 3 or 4 bordering countries in Europe. Prices vary based upon both the specific countries selected and number of days you intend to travel. The Eurail Select pass is perfect for exploring multiple countries in a particular part of Europe. The Eurail Select pass allows you the flexibility to plan your Europe trip itinerary whether you're traveling through Eastern Europe or exploring the most popular cities in France and Italy.Buy Eurail Select Passes Here
Europe Trip Suggestion: France & Italy
A Europe trip through France and Italy is a dream come true for travelers looking for majestic sights and delicious food. Paris is a popular destination for American airlines, making it a perfect city to start your tour. After Paris you'll take in beaches of Nice, the canals of Venice and Rome's Colosseum before ending your trip in Sicily. You'll probably need to take a cheap flight on a budget airline from Palermo to Paris or Rome in order to fly back to the United States.
Visit 5 cities while traveling through France and Italy for as little as $246. Doing this itinerary with Eurail's Select pass will save you 26% over purchasing the equivalent set of point-to-point tickets.
Eurail One-Country Pass
The Eurail One-Country pass lets you travel by train within a single European country. One-Country passes range in cost between $70 to $500 depending on both the country selected and the number of travel days included in the pass. Eurail's One-Country pass is perfect for travelers looking to explore a country in greater depth beyond the capital city. Choose to travel in one of 20 different European countries with the Eurail One-Country pass!Buy One-Country Passes Here
Europe Trip Suggestion: 2 Weeks in Spain
From Gaudi's architecture to Goya's art, Spain's culture and history make it a popular destination for all European travelers. Spain is world-famous for its sandy beaches and relaxed lifestyle, while history buffs will marvel at the geometric perfection of Moorish mosques and the decadence of Catholic cathedrals. No matter if your interests are artistic, architectural, culinary or cultural, Spain offers the perfect blend of modernity and tradition for travelers to discover.
Travel between 5 Spanish cities with Eurail's One-Country pass for as little as $179.
Travel inspiration for planning a Europe trip
Get some travel inspiration for your Europe trip! No matter if you're interested in artistic masterpieces and museums or Europe's best places to party, there are unique sights, sounds and experiences in Europe for all types of travelers. Follow your passion and let GoEuro take you there!
Where to travel during your Europe trip
Are you planning to visit multiple destinations on your Europe trip? If so, check out the interactive map below with the best day trips and weekend getaways from Europe's most popular cities. What's more, they're all cheap!
The journey prices were taken on GoEuro.com on the 7th November 2017 for a one way ticket one month in advance of the trip. The prices may be subject to change.
The prices were taken on the 21st November 2017 originally in euros and converted into the applicable currencies for each country.
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