There is a tendency that people who suddenly get a lot of free time – like college graduates and people who’ve just retired, desire to see the world. Touring around Europe seems to be the most popular plan for free time, but the percent of people who actually accomplished this dream is smaller than the people who wanted it. The main reason of that is the fact that planning Eurotrip seems to be quite a hard thing to do. Yet, today it is a lot easier with travel guides available on the Internet, and numerous websites that were designed specifically for the purpose of planning the route, budget and any other details for such trips.
There are a lot of reasons why people choose Europe as their dream destination, and no matter which ones do you have, the following article will help you have a really stress-free and joyful experience when visiting the great old continent.
- Getting Started
After you’ve made a decision to go to Europe, commit to it and start putting away money. Though you will not know your exact budget, the airfare will range from $500 to $1000 depending on where in US you live. You have some options here – flights from US to London are far cheaper than to any other cities of the European continent, and if you book tickets in good advance and during the off-season, you can end up with paying only $500 for round trip.
Decide where you desire to go – focusing on your main wishes is the best strategy if you have a limited time and budget for travelling. Make a list of the must-see sights and places and arrange them in the top according to the level of your interest in them. This can be cities, specific monuments or countries, open-air concerts or any other types of destinations. After you’ve done it, try to map up the most logic and reasonable plan in terms of time and finances. To do this you can use Google Maps or any other map app.
Figure out how long you want to stay at this or that place on your list. This may later be regulated by your budget, but at least you should decide how much it would take to really see and enjoy the sight. For instance, spending only a day in Paris or London is a shame for anyone who claims to be a tourist.
One the other hand, thought, don’t make your travel plan too rigid – give yourself couple days atop just in case you meet someone in your trip and want to get with them to some other destination that wasn’t on your list before. Use travel days to see sights en-route.
- Organizing Your Budget
Ad up the price of your airfare, Eurail Pass or any other transportations that you’ve chosen, the cost of your lodging and food, and the prices for your main attractions (you may find them online just to be aware).
Get an ATM card instead of cash and withdraw enough cash for few days in each of your destinations. Keep most of the cash you have in a money belt underneath your clothes, but have a little change somewhere in the pocket so you can get it faster if you need to. It advisable to bring additional ATM card is anything happens to the main one.
Keep in mind that in Europe most credit cards will charge additional transaction fees (which are about 2% – 4%). Make sure you bring enough cash that would last until your first trip to the bank.
- Pack Light
Under-pack – opt for smaller things, as less is more. Thus, choose collapsible umbrella instead of raincoat, comfy walking shoes instead of fancy ones, and small Spy Glass instead of binoculars. Socks and undergarments are easily washed with hotel soap, so don’t get crazy on shampoos and other chemicals. Moreover, there are usually Laundromats nearby the hostels, so you can make use of these instead of bringing detergent with you.
Keep in mind that you will have to carry your backpack or suitcase for miles, so making it heavy is not the best idea. Make sure you have enough place there to put the souvenirs you will get later.
Research for travel packing lists and adjust them to the place you are going to. And remember that you can always buy the stuff you need when you get to your destination – toiletries in Europe are just the same as you would buy in US.
And the last but not the least – get a good backpack and make sure it is comfortable.
- Decide On Your Lodging
You should always make a reservation for accommodation for your first couple nights and the last one before you leave home.
Search lodging in the cities you come to. The most obvious would be booking hotels, but if you are going on a tight budget, opt for hostels instead. Look through the ratings for local hostels (you can even find special ones for students, seniors, or even women-only ones), and use your common sense to choose the optimal one for you. Keep in mind that the best are booked the fastest, so reserve in advance. Night in hostel usually costs about 20-40 euros, and the place is the friendliest and the most convenient for budget travelers. With pubs and meeting places some of these have hostels are great places for social interaction, and here you can meet other tourists with whom you can continue your travel.
Another option is “couch surfing,” which basically means staying at someone’s home. Again, it seems sketchy, but there are verification processes, reviews, and you have your common sense! Not only is it free, it is a wonderful way to experience the city you’re staying in; many hosts are willing to show you around and take you to the non-touristy parts.
You can also rent a place from locals that can be much cheaper than hotels. Many people post ads offering a place on local classifieds websites; you can check some here.
Take into consideration the travel fatigue which is pretty common, especially if you pack your trip too tightly. Being tired you will not be able to enjoy the places you are coming to, plus in such state you will spend more.
Make sure you get to your next over-night before the dark falls.
Vary your travel experience from to place to place and from one type of transport to another – market, museum, theatre, local diners, bike, hiking, ferry, tram. Don’t be afraid of trying something new.
You may ask your host, hotel or hostel to make a reservation at your next destination – it is usually free and pretty convenient. And don’t hurry too much – stop for a cup of coffee or glass of beer and enjoy the atmosphere of the sight before you leave.
- Choose a Mode of Travelling
Each mode of travel has the advantages and disadvantages, and the final decision should be based on your plans, your budget and personal preferences.
Travelling by rail (which is well-known and familiar train) works well for major European cities, but to smaller towns you may have to use a bus. It may seem that train is slower than plane, but taking into consideration the check-in-time and crowds of people in lines one can see the positives of trains.
Trains are better for short distances, and you will have more chances to enjoy the scenery out of the window of the train.
Eurail/Interail Pass is a great purchase to consider if you want to save a good dime on transportation. Mostly this pass is valid for 30 days and includes even small local trains. Paying your travel expenses beforehand is a nice way to get rid of one more worry during the trip.
It may cheaper just to buy the train tickets. European Rail Companies have websites that offer special one-way off peak tickets. Some are ‘domestic’ and some ‘international’.
Fly – take advantage of the cheap flights between the main European cities, as the trip may cost you about 30-40 euros. For long distances choose the cheapest local airline and go ahead (keep in mind some baggage charges to pay).
Rent a car. This will help you enjoy the scenery and give you a freedom to stop wherever you like, take photos, visit local villages and eateries, or find less expensive accommodations. Carrying your baggage for you is another good thing that goes into pros of the idea of renting a car.
Major Car Rental Companies in Europe allow you free one-way rental without fees for drop-off if you go within one country, and come even allow you to bring car to adjoining countries. You can download the European Map onto your portable GPS system so that you will easily find your destinations. Driving is pretty the same except for UK and Ireland where they drive on the left.
If you arrive to the large city right away, it is highly recommended that you pick-up your car on departure. By picking up cars in the city itself and not at the station (train stations and airports usually carry surcharges for that) you will save money (dropping off at airports does not cost extra and is very convenient) and the hassle of city parking is avoided. Keep in mind that if you only travel around large cities, renting car is not the best idea, and you should opt for public transportation.
You can as well take local and long-distance couches/buses. Or get a combination of all mentioned above.
- Make friends with local people. Being open for communication, you will shortly see that most locals are friendly and more than willing to show you the city or town. You may forget the sights in some time, but you will never forget people you’ve met and became friends with while being away from your dearest and nearest.
- If you are a student, consider this – International Student Insurance Card (ISIC) offers travel insurance, discounts all over the world, and a cheap calling card, all for around $22. Get more information and make the best use of your age.
- Buy water in supermarkets and refill wherever you can. The tap water is usually safe to drink unless there is a sign saying it is not. Empty bottles can even be taken to airplanes, so make the use of these as well.
- As you will have to deal with several languages, learning some useful phrases or getting a simple slim phrase book would be a good thing to do, especially if you are planning to go farther from traditional sights. Even knowing the basic phrases like “hello” or “how much does it cost” may please the locals as it will show the effort you’ve made.
- If you are in a trip with partner or partners, each of you should make a top-ten “must-see” list without the influence of other people! Then, negotiate using your top three or top five.
- Try local food and make sure you’ve eaten something new. Another shame for someone claiming to be a tourist is coming to Italy or France and eating out at McDonald’s.
- Get extra batteries and memory cards for your camera, and learn how to charge them. Most trains have the outlets at the seats or in the bathroom, but you may need an adapter for these. Just go to your local electronic store and ask for one.
- There are so many great destinations in Europe that are often overlooked, so take the serious look at southern Italy, Scandinavia or Portugal. Research well and don’t stick just to Paris and Rome.
- If you are a student, under 26, or senior – ask about discounts and make use of them. For students having school ID is crucial.