Map it Out
- Paris and Prague are two cities that require at least a few days of exploration.
The key is time management. Given the size of the nations and their close proximity to one another, visiting multiple countries on a trip to Europe is ideal. How many places can be visited depends on the length of the trip, but time management is optimal when planning prioritizes geography. Keep in mind that one trip won't allow a view of everything (not even multiple trips will), but listing all the places you'd most like to see will help map out the possible geographical itineraries. Plan by region--Spain, Portugal, Germany and France are all part of Western Europe, and it is relatively quick and easy to travel and explore all of these countries during one vacation. If a few destinations are desirable in one or more of the Scandinavian countries, plan the bulk of your itinerary in northern Europe, between Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, and try to include nearby places such as Netherlands, and United Kingdom. If Italy and Greece are desirable, map out the itinerary based on Mediterranean locations. Likewise, consider the layout of Central and Eastern Europe, if destinations like Prague, or, even farther East, like Transylvania, are desirable.
Heavily Consider Location Duration
- Be sure not to over-or-underestimate the nearness of two European destination.
A common mistake that detracts from genuine cultural enrichment on a European vacation is trying to incorporate too many destinations into a compact amount of time. Some destinations require lengthier stay durations in order to fully experience all the location and culture has to offer. Creating tight intervals might add stress and a feeling that the vacation is being rushed from one place to another (and feeling rushed in the antithesis of the European lifestyle!). Take a day or two to explore, for instance, the tourist attractions of Paris; take a few days to relax on the beaches of South of France or Italy. For countries with great regional variation, extend stays to absorb as much as possible. Planning daylong excursions and thereafter immediately hopping on a plane or train to the next destination will result in exhaustion.
Compare Transportation Methods
- Taking the train through Europe is a relaxing way to view the countryside.
Airfare to major destinations will obviously be purchased in advance, but it's best not to purchase every leg of the trip until arriving in Europe. Once there, you'll see that airlines such as SkyEurope and EasyJet often offer weekend and last-minute deals that will beat fares found from outside of the continent. Because of proximity, purchasing airline tickets from one nation to another is easy, and doesn't usually require the notice and funds required of the Americas. A flight to Paris from Prague, for example, can sometimes be purchased just a few days in advance for 70 Euros. Also consider travel by train. Americans are known to favor train transportation while in Europe, since train rides offer views of countrysides and villages outside of the major cities, and are sometimes less expensive than flights (though this is not always true). It is strongly recommended that train tickets for European destinations are purchased while in Europe and not online. Ticket fares vary, and not necessarily by distance. For example, train travel from Prague to Berlin is fairly inexpensive, while any train travel within France is pricey.
- Whether you'll stay in hostels or hotels, this aspect of planning should be done before arriving in Europe. Hostels must be researched and contacted, as they are often heavily booked. If a destination includes a multiple night's stay, book a room for one or two nights, just to see if a more ideal price or location can be found upon arrival (if not, you can always add another night's stay at the original hotel). Apartment rentals are also a good idea, especially for cities like Barcelona, where one large shared apartment can be rented at an inexpensive rate. Check WorldHostel.com for more information and rates on hostels, apartments, and hotels in many different European destinations.
Prepare Travel Documents
- The flag of the European Union waves in most European cities, alongside national flags.
Any non-EU citizen requires a passport when traveling through Europe. For safety, make a copy of your passport before departing, and keep it in a safe place separate from your passport. Also bring other forms of identification, such as a driver's license and birth certificate. This way, should you lose your passport, retrieving temporary documentation from the closest embassy will be a smoother process. Remember, too, that upon entering Europe, your passport will be stamped with the date that marks the first of your 90-day visa. This 90-day visa applies to all countries within the Shenghen Group (which includes most EU countries, except for the UK and Croatia). If you plan to stay in Europe for longer than 90 days, contact your nearest embassy for visa information. Any European official is permitted to request your travel documentation at any time.
Situate Your Money
- Contact your bank and explain that you will be traveling internationally, just to be sure no blocks are put on your credit or debit cards while in Europe, on sight of "suspicious activity" or the like. Not all European countries use the Euro currency, but because many do, it's best to research the exchange rates before departure. Sometimes the best exchange rates are offered by your bank, versus the less advantageous rates of small currency exchange shops in European city centers.