If you’re travelling to Europe for the first time or are looking for ways to make your trip planning quicker and easier, then we hope you find this guide on ‘How To Plan A Trip To Europe’ helpful!
We’ll walk you through the steps we take when planning all our trips and we’ll also throw in a healthy dose of travel inspiration along the way too.
No matter what your budget is, what your travel style is, what kind of trip you’re looking for or how many days you want to spend travelling, there are so many incredible places to visit in Europe. Let’s get planning!
FYI: This blog post was sponsored by Omio, but all photos, thoughts, opinions and Europe travel tips are our own (just like always!)
How To Plan A Trip To Europe
1. Set a rough budget
Do you want to backpack across Europe and sleep in hostels? Are three-star hotels more to your liking? Or do you want to lap up five-star luxury?
There are so many different kinds of destinations in Europe, so drafting up a rough budget before you start planning your trip will help you to narrow down your search and will determine how you’ll get around Europe during your trip.
More on this later. But for now, we wanted to call out a few European destinations that spring to mind when we think about particular budgets.
Europe On A Budget
Generally speaking, the further east you go in Europe, the cheaper your trip will usually be.
Places like Prague in the Czech Republic, Bucharest or Sibiu in Romania, Warsaw in Poland and Tallinn in Estonia are all great options to see some of Europe on a budget. And perhaps surprisingly, we found Croatia (despite its vast popularity!) to also be cheaper than a lot of other European destinations.
You’ll also save money by going to places that are lesser-known rather than major cities in Europe.
However, you’ll need to plan your transport carefully to make sure that you’re not spending more money to actually go off-grid.
Omio is a great way to check transport routes around Europe as you can sort the routes by “Cheapest” or “Cheapest & Fastest” while seeing average costs at-a-glance.
Affordable European Destinations
Once you start heading west, the average costs of hotels, food and tourist attractions start rising in costs compared with eastern Europe.
However, if you stick to mainland Europe and two- or three-star hotels or even Airbnbs, you can still find some affordable places to visit on a mid-range budget.
This is our preferred way to travel and has seen us enjoying short city breaks in places like Paris, Vienna, Berlin and Florence for roughly a couple of hundred pounds per trip, as well as a week-long road trip around Cyprus for cheaper than you think!
Luxury European Destinations
Although you can enjoy luxury throughout Europe, we’ve found the Nordic countries (such as Finland, Norway and Iceland) to be some of the most expensive places we’ve ever visited. So you should expect to put aside a larger budget to visit countries like this.
Personally, I’ll never forget paying the equivalent of £7 for a packet of pre-made sandwiches in Norway. The look on my face must have been priceless!
2. Decide what kind of trip you want and when you want to go
Where you decide to go to in Europe will also be determined by the type of trip you want and when you want to go.
Knowing this will greatly narrow down your search of where to go in Europe and what you’ll do once you get there.
But you’ll also need to decide what time of year you want to travel.
Summer in Europe: Where To Go
Naturally, summer-time is one of the busiest (and more expensive) times of year to travel around Europe as prices rise when children are on their school holidays.
That said, you might want to travel in the summer months anyway in search of sunshine-filled beach days.
Also, various places in Italy are always a safe bet during the summer months. My personal favourite is Lake Garda in the north of Italy.
Winter in Europe: Where To Go
Winter is also a popular time of year to travel around Europe as cities like Paris in France, Cologne in Germany and Brussels in Belgium (and others all throughout the continent) sparkle with Christmas decorations and fairy lights and are laden with Christmas markets.
Or maybe you want to find some snow in winter? There are some fantastic ski resorts throughout Europe (particularly around the Alps), while snowmobiling and husky sledding in Finland also await!
Spring & Autumn in Europe: Where To Go
But you mustn’t forget the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn! It’s often cheaper (and quieter!) to travel at these times within Europe.
Visiting the UK in spring is our first recommendation as the weather is often better in spring than in the summer here.
While the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira is nicknamed the ‘Island of Eternal Spring’, so what could be more fitting than visiting this beautiful little island in the spring months?
As for autumn, this is a great time for a short city break where temperatures are a little cooler (ideal for sightseeing) and also quieter, so there are fewer queues eating into your sightseeing time.
3. Choose where to go
So you’ve set a budget, decided on the type of trip you’d prefer and when you want to travel. Now it’s time to finalise where you want to go (if you haven’t already fallen in love with somewhere, of course!)
If you’re planning your trip as a couple, why not both create a shortlist and see if any destinations appear on both of your lists? This is a surefire way to narrow down your search!
And finally, planning a trip in 2020 (and possibly also 2021) is obviously proving a little tricky for most of us right now. To help, check out this really useful guide from Omio, which shows you which destinations are open to international visitors and the rules you need to know. You can also use it to see various travel companies’ cancellation policies at-a-glance too.
4. Decide how you’ll get around
Once you know where you’re going, you’ll also need to decide how you’re going to get around Europe – and it’s likely to be different across the continent.
As an example, trains in the UK are very expensive so you might prefer to hire a car or use coaches to get around. Whereas trains in Italy are fantastic – they’re cheap, reliable and fast!
Take the guesswork out of planning how you’ll get around Europe with Omio (and their app), which as I’ve mentioned, shows you various journey options and costs at-a-glance based on where you’re going to and from and when.
5. Plan a rough itinerary
Before we book our trips, we like to plot out a rough itinerary of where we’re going and what we’ll do once we’re there.
You could use Trello for this or even a spreadsheet, but we like to use Google My Maps as it’s often easier to plan activities when you can see where they are on a map at the same time.
Don’t try to plan too much in, though! Aim for two or three activities per day, and then keep a ‘bonus’ list for when you’ve got some time spare and want to fit something else in.
We’ve got lots of ready-made Europe itineraries you can steal here, or check out some of our favourites below:
- 2 Days in Brussels, Belgium: The Perfect Weekend Itinerary
- 2 Day Amsterdam Itinerary For First Time Visitors
- Fabulous 4 Days in Paris Itinerary For First Time Visitors
- 4 Days in Madeira Itinerary For First Time Visitors
- Easy 5 Day Iceland Road Trip Itinerary For First Time Visitors
- Cyprus Itinerary: 7 Day Cyprus Road Trip Itinerary
We also offer custom travel planning services in case you don’t have time to plan the trip of your dreams… we can definitely help you with that!
6. Sort your travel documents, paperwork and insurance
While there are a lot of similarities throughout Europe regarding visas, passports and other important paperwork you’ll need for your trip, it’s still worth checking each location just in case. You can do this by looking at the official government websites for the countries you’re travelling to.
One of the biggest “red flags” I want to draw your attention to is that your passport usually needs to have at least six months validity left on it to travel to Europe. That’s one travel fail you don’t want to make!
Also, don’t forget that the rules may change in 2021 if you’re travelling from the UK to the EU. This page should tell you all you need to know.
And finally, don’t even think about travelling anywhere without decent travel insurance. Trust us, you never know when you’ll need it.
Our nightmare trip to Iceland and New York saw us facing multiple flight delays, cancellations and even lost luggage. You can be sure we got a lot of money back to help us with those inconveniences – but only because we had decent travel insurance!
7. Book your trip to Europe
Woohoo, it’s now time to book your trip to Europe! Check out our resources page here for all the travel companies we personally recommend (a few discounts are also included!)
8. Finalise your Europe itinerary
Once you know exactly which trains, buses or flights you’re getting and where you’re staying, add this info to your itinerary and finalise your plan for your trip.
Now go and pack and have some fun! Send us a postcard, won’t you?
Need more advice on planning your trip to Europe? Check out our couples travel planning guide here or contact us about our custom travel planning services.