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Have you been dreaming of going on a Euro Trip but don’t know where to start? Having trouble narrowing down the countries, or not finding good flight ticket deals, or not able to figure out the logistics? Well, I’ve been there too! There are so many things to do while planning a Euro Trip on your own, that it can get overwhelming pretty soon. Due to one reason or the other, for the past couple of years, my Euro trip was still only a dream for me!
Applying for Schengen Italy visa from India? Check out this monster post now!
Europe Trip Planner
It finally materialized early this year when I traveled to Italy, Zurich, Prague, and Vienna for about 20 days. Having traveled mostly in Asia, it’s only when I applied for a Schengen visa that I realized the amount of paperwork AND headache involved when it comes to applying from countries with a weak passport. Add to that, there is an umpteen number of things to do as well. I had to choose which countries in the Schengen area I would like to cover and for how long, book stays and insurance accordingly, figure out internal transportation in the region, exchange currencies, and so on. Unsurprisingly, things started getting complicated soon enough.
Additional Read: 15 Day Europe Itinerary in Winters.
After hours of reading up from different sites, and talking to people who have been there before, it finally started to make sense to me.
I am a meticulous planner, and I like to know all about the place ranging from food, places, political, economic situation, and so on to get the hang of it. But the times I get bored with planning, I like to go on impulsive trips too. So, usually, I have my share of both impulsive travel and well-planned trips, depending on the location, and my mood of course!
Consequently, here I am laying out a Europe trip planner for your benefit to get you started on that DREAM vacation.
Decide WHEN you want to go
Now that you have decided to explore a new continent, list out all the places you want to go to. It could be a long pending bucket list destination at a particular season say watching northern lights in Svalbard, Norway between September to April, or it could be around an event like a music festival in Amsterdam in August or visiting Christmas markets in Vienna in December or Venice Carnival in February or skydiving in Europe. Also, find out if there are any other events going on around the time that you’d like to attend. This would fix your dates and location. And, you can plan your dates around it.
The main season months are from June to August. If you prefer to avoid the crowd and go a bit easy on the pocket, and ready to bear cold weather, then plan to visit during offseason (October to April) when the crowd is significantly lesser. The fringe months – October and May has relatively good weather and don’t attract much crowd either. However, during the offseason, keep in mind that some attractions might be closed for maintenance or other reasons.
Depending on the season you plan to visit Europe, pack accordingly. Here’s a packing guide for Italy in spring for reference.
Decide WHERE you want to go
Once you have decided WHEN you want to go, finalize on WHERE you want to go. And, how many days at a particular location? What’s your total budget? Do you want to visit the more popular but expensive Western Europe or Eastern Europe which is relatively cheaper or do a mix of both?
If you are planning a two-week trip, then I would suggest visiting a max of 4-5 destinations, so as to spend a decent amount of time at each one. Again, it depends on the locations you are visiting and your areas of interest.
If you are looking to visit historical attractions, then Rome and Florence in Italy could be a good place to start. If you like natural landscapes, then maybe explore Zermatt, Lucerne, or Montreux in Switzerland. Or if you are a huge Game of Thrones fan, perhaps you’re dying to visit Dubrovnik, Split and Trsteno in Croatia. Or if you’re into classical music, then there’s nothing like Vienna. So choose your destinations, and choose how long would you like to spend there.
You can follow my Europe itinerary in winter if you’d like to witness Europe in all its magical glory!
Additional Read: Prague in 2 Days
In general, start with at least 3 days at a particular destination. Once you have ironed out the locations, based on your interests, you can then either add up or cut down the number of days at a destination.
Booking flight tickets
Once you have figured out when and where you want to go, it’s time to take the leap!
Google Flights and Skyscanner are what I go by while looking for affordable flights around the world. Skyscanner has this option of choosing your destination as “Everywhere” which has to be my favorite way of booking fight tickets! Also, if you are flexible on your dates, then you can choose the cheapest months, and compare against whole months for best flight deals. This is especially useful if you are looking for ideas to plan your next trip, and are flexible on your dates and destination. Additionally, you can even set a price alert in Skyscanner when the price drops below a specified price.
Furthermore, while purchasing flight tickets to Europe, there are two options to choose from:
Round trip flights
Round trip flights start and end at the same airport. If you are planning to travel in a loop, and end up in the same destination you started from, then round-trip flights would be ideal.
One way flights
On the other hand, if you’d like to start from one destination, and end in another destination, then prefer one-way flights. This can save some time of travel to the origin port of entry, but it comes with an additional cost. One way flights tend to be more expensive than round-trip flights.
Moreover, register to a flight deals e-mail subscription service based on your home location like Scott’s Cheap Flights which has been instrumental in helping me find a good deal for return flights to Rome from Bangalore. I got a flight deal for Rs. 31,000 (USD 440). It’s usually at least Rs. 6000 – Rs. 10,000 (USD 100 – USD 150), otherwise. I would have probably missed out on this good deal, if not for Scott’s Cheap Flights.
Generally, it’s better to book flight tickets at least 3-4 months in advance so that you’ve enough time to apply for Schengen visa (if you need one before traveling).
Europe Trip Planner – Day Trips vs Stay
Depending on your preference, you can either choose to stay at each destination you have finalized on, or try to club few destinations if they are close enough, and do day trips to others, if possible. I usually prefer the latter, as this means I can make my base at one location, without lugging around my baggage more than usually necessary. Like, I was staying at Zagarolo near Rome doing work away for a week, and I visited a beautiful town Tivoli on a day trip. And went on another day trip from to Lucerne while basing myself at Zurich.
For booking hotels in Europe, I used Booking.com which even offers free cancellation. This was especially useful while applying for a Schengen visa from India, as I had not finalized my itinerary then, and wanted to have the option to cancel hotels free of cost once I received my visa.
Without further ado, once I procured by the Schengen visa, I promptly canceled my booking.com hotel stays and booked accommodation at hostels at HostelWorld. Since it charges a booking fee, I didn’t want to book at the site before procuring the visa.
Also, you can opt for stays at Airbnb, for a more immersive experience at a new location. Get Rs. 2200 ($30) in travel credits when you sign up through this link. (Even Airbnb charges a convenience fee for cancellation, so better to book when you’re sure).
To dig more into the new culture, you can even try Workaway or Couchsurfing.
I had a Workaway experience in the Italian countryside near Rome, and I met so many wonderful people while living life the Italian way. I was helping a local B&B with social media and blogging. The warm hospitality of the Italians and devouring of authentic Italian food is something I’ll remember for a long time to come! It’s a great way to get deep into the local culture, and I highly recommend it. I’ve detailed my first Workaway experience in Italy here.
Read: How to be a blogger – Getting started with Blogging
Once you have an idea of the number of days in each location, you can start planning your itinerary. If you are going during the peak season time, or if you are planning to visit peak attractions, it’s always a good idea to pre-book activities.
GetYourGuide is one of the top websites offering unique experiences around the world. They have a great collection of inventory for Europe, so most of the tours that you are looking forward to, you’ll find it there. There are other websites like Viator, Expedia as well which might come in handy.
Book your unique experiences now
Right after I book my flight tickets, I usually keep an eye on the local currency prices at the destination location. There’s no hard and fast rule on when to buy currencies, but it’s usually better to buy on Mondays or Tuesdays, as the prices are comparatively lower than on Fridays or weekends.
Centrum Forex is my go-to currency exchange portal while traveling abroad. They offer cash and cards for a lot of popular currencies, usually at a better price than the banks, and the best part is that they have free doorstep delivery services. Usually, I end up booking currency a week prior to my travels. Having to wind up a lot of things at this particular stage before my travels, Centrum Forex makes the whole process hassle free for me. Moreover, they have a store at the most popular airports in India. So, even if it’s a last minute booking, and delivery is not possible, I can collect it at the airport before flying off to my destination. So, it’s always been convenient enough for me.
When you are traveling abroad, make sure you have travel insurance in place. Sometimes, a visa stipulates the minimum coverage required by the travel insurance, so adhere to it accordingly.
If you need tips on how to choose the right travel insurance, this guide might come in handy.
Check out World Nomads Travel Insurance. They are the global travel insurance providers, and they provide the flexibility of choosing the right travel insurance based on your travel type. They provide insurance against adventures as well.
Learn more and book travel insurance now
Applying for a Schengen visa for the first time all by yourself can be an overwhelming experience if you are from countries with a weak passport. This is why I wrote up a massive post covering all aspects from documents to booking stays to the appointment process while applying for Schengen Italy Visa for Indians. Check it out, and comment on the post, if you have any questions!
Rome2Rio – An Essential Tool your Europe Trip Planner
The best part about Europe is that once you are equipped with a Schengen Visa, it’s as easy as traveling domestically. There are no additional stamps on your passport when you are flying across countries or crossing borders.
However, owing to multiple transport options in Europe, it can get quite tricky to find out the cheapest and best mode of transportation. That’s when I stumbled across Rome2Rio. It made my life much easier in this regard by having it all in one place.
When you are at a juncture where you have pinpointed the destinations you want to go to and want to figure out the logistics, then head to Rome2Rio. It shows you a variety of modes of transportation from buses, trains, flights, ferry or a drive with a rough price estimate on each of the available options.
If you are opting to go by car, then check out car rentals or shared car rental services like BlaBlaCar. Although I haven’t had the chance to carpool with BlaBlaCar yet, many of my friends have had a great experience. And they highly recommended it to me. It can be cheaper and convenient as well. So, check it out and do give it a shot when you are there!
Booking Internal Transportation
Once you have figured out the modes of transportation, then head to Rome2Rio to check the exact fares for your dates. It’s a transport aggregator site displaying transport options around Europe through flights, trains, and buses.
If time is of the essence, you can find budget airlines with usually carry-on baggage (check-in baggage costs extra) while traveling within Europe. Airlines such as RyanAir, Eurowings, Easyjet offers hundreds of connections to destinations around Europe. I traveled through Eurowings from Vienna to Rome with only carry-on baggage, and I was surprised to realize that no one ever checked my passport while I was crossing the country. This is when I truly understood the beauty of the Schengen region!
Or if you’d like to have the convenience and flexibility while choosing destinations, then Eurail is perfect for you. It is quite popular in Europe and provides great connectivity as well. You can buy a single country pass, 2-4 neighboring country pass or a pass covering up to 28 countries in Europe. Prices generally start at around 50 Eur and 300 Eur depending on the pass.
On the other hand, if you incline more towards a pocket-friendly transport between countries, then buses like Flixbus are great as it’s much cheaper, yet convenient enough, and it has good connectivity in Europe as well.
When it comes to traveling within a country, it’s quite easy to do so in Europe as most of the countries have regular public transport – be it trams, or metro, or trains. So, traveling within a country is quite easy and fast as well.
There are tons of tourist SIM Cards offered depending on the locations you are traveling to, and the duration of travel. I was in Italy for over 10 days during my 20-day trip, so I ended up buying a Vodafone SIM card in Italy, which I was able to use in the neighboring countries as well. I was able to place local and international calls, and also browse data and book tickets. However, the only problem I found was that Wifi Hotspot wasn’t working outside of Italy in this Vodafone SIM Card which was a bit strange. So couldn’t share mobile data with anyone else.
If you are going to be in Italy for the majority of the time, then you can also check out TIM which offers great rates as well.
Usually, the costs of SIM cards vary from 20 EUR to 30 EUR depending on the package for a month or so. You can buy it at one of the local network operator stores at your destination. I found only expensive SIM cards available at the airport, so I would steer clear from there!
Additionally, buying a SIM card depends on the country as well, so check out this post for choosing the best SIM cards for Europe.
When might you need a SIM Card?
- While booking BlaBlaCar or Uber, mobile data and having a local SIM card is pretty vital.
- If you want to get in touch with your localhost or tour operator, then the SIM card comes in pretty handy.
- If you are traveling solo, and don’t know the local language, having mobile data can help you in more ways than one!
Also, when in unreliable Open Wifi Networks, I would suggest using a VPN service like Private Internet Access to protect your privacy and while doing financial transactions. I’ve been using Private Internet Access for over a year now with no complaints!
So, do you have any questions about planning your maiden trip to Europe? And, is there anything else you’d like to add to this list? Let me know in the comments below.
SarahJul 5, 2018
This is such great advice! I’ve definitely found SIM cards come in handy! detourswithdaisey.com
Mayuri PatelJul 14, 2018
this is very helpful guide for first time traveler to europe
thnk you for sharing it!!
JessJul 14, 2018
Kudos to you for planning this trip on your own! We were so overwhelmed that we decided to go with Contiki instead. Thanks for the SIM card info! We just used our phones on wifi only when we traveled, which probably wasn’t the safest idea.
KarinaJul 17, 2018
For travellers, vpn is a must not only for protecting data while using public wifi, but some restricted countries are blocking sites like google, facebook, instagram, etc. in this case, the only solution is to purchase a VPN, so have that in mind.