Is there a way to plan trips easily and quickly without wasting too much time? In this post I share my own tips and tricks on how to plan a trip to Europe.
UPDATED: February 2019
Planning a trip is definitely exciting, but more often than not there’s too much stress mixed with that excitement.
I plan a trip to Europe every year, and every time I sit down to plan my next trip, I’m overwhelmed by the amount of information online and by how long it takes to make a trip plan.
Too many decisions to make, too many sites to check, too much responsibility and so many details to pay attention to.
I travel around Europe a lot and have found ways to make the trip planning process simpler, mostly by using sites and apps that save me a lot of time.
Here’s how you can plan a trip to Europe and around Europe on your own with the best user-friendly online tools.
Find the best flights to Europe
The easiest way to find flights online when you plan a trip to Europe or anywhere else, is by using price comparison search engines.
They scan multiple airlines and dates for you in one go.
Enter a destination and a date (or a month) and see all the flights on the screen within moments. It saves a lot of time and hassle.
SkyScanner is my favourite flight search engine, because I find it so very easy to use.
Read more about the best ways to find flights.
How to get around Europe: Trains, buses, cars and flights
Getting around Europe isn’t hard, but does require quite a bit of planning.
Some countries have excellent rail networks, while in others it’s better to rely on buses.
Flights within Europe can be very cheap, with many low-cost airlines operating in most European countries.
You can also rent a car or use car-sharing services.
So how do you know what to choose?
Trip planning, especially if you’re going to multiple destinations, is time consuming. Whenever I plan a trip to Europe, I spend quite a bit of time on figuring out the best get from one place to another.
You need to gather all the information, compare prices, calculate distances, work out all the small details…
I’m always looking for new ways to simplify the trip planning process.
That’s why I now use an online trip planning tool called GoEuro to do all the work for me.
GoEuro searches train, buses and flights within Europe all at the same time. It’s fast, easy to use and saves you both time and money.
The results for buses, trains and flights are displayed in a way that lets you compare prices very easily.
You can then make a booking from within the GoEuro site or app and keep the e-ticket on your phone.
What’s the difference between Eurail and InterRail? Eurail is for non-Europeans and InterRail is for Europeans, so only buy it if you reside in Europe.
Get a European City Pass
One of the best ways to experience a new city and save money is by getting the local city pass.
A city pass gives you discounts on the main attractions in the city and often free entrance to many of them.
It’s a great way to do your sightseeing for free or at a reduced price, but it’s also a handy trip planning trick: Reading about what’s included in the card might also give you ideas of new things to see and do in the city. It’s like a mini city guide that highlights all the main attractions for you.
City cards or city passes sometimes also include a public transport pass and airport transfers, which makes them extra useful and in some cities also very good value for money.
When you plan a trip to Europe and decide on the cities you want to visit, check what their city passes include and see if it’s going to save you money on things you want to see in that city.
City passes in major cities in Europe
Tips on packing for Europe
Packing light is the best thing you can do for yourself when you travel, especially on a multicity trip.
If you’re planing on flying within Europe or using buses or trains, luggage space may be limited, so packing light will be super helpful.
Try to limit any huge shopping sprees to your last destination, so you don’t have to carry too much around with you when you move from country to country.
When you plan a trip to Europe, bear in mind that Europe has many different climates and you want to do your research before you go about each destination. Install a weather app on your phone if you don’t have one already.
However, remember that whatever you didn’t pack you can always buy at your destination. Many big cities in Europe have a Decathlon branch, that’s super handy for inexpensive travel clothing and gear.
When you pack for Europe, remember the limit on liquids and creams in your carry on applies on flights within Europe. They cannot exceed 100ml (or 3.38 oz).
The best way around it is to take small travel bottles on board with you, and buy whatever you need after you land.
Another important point about packing for Europe: Bring a
universal USB power adapter that also converts electrical currencies.
Most European counties use the same plug (type C), but the UK, Ireland and Cyprus have different sockets and use type G. A universal adaptor will cover you for all plugs and will also be useful on other trips around the world.
One more tip about planing a trip to Europe: Avoid bringing food into Europe if it’s restricted.
In particular, do not bring any meat and dairy products from a non-EU country into the EU. It’s best to check the up-to-date restrictions for each destination before you go.
Booking accommodation for your trip in Europe
You want to book a place to stay at least for your first destination in Europe. This will give you peace of mind when you land.
If you plan a trip to Europe in high season, it’s best to book accommodation in advance wherever you can, as big touristy places like London, Rome and Barcelona tend to get seriously crowded.
If you book in advance you won’t have to compromise too much. Here are my trip planning tips on booking a place to stay in Europe:
Airbnb – Live like a local in Europe
I’ve found some amazing apartments on Airbnb on my own trips around Europe.
Airbnb is immensely popular in many European cities and towns.
You can rent a room in somebody’s house, and if it’s a friendly host they’ll give you all the local tips you need.
If you want some privacy, rent a whole apartment and experience living like a local.
TripAdvisor – Compare prices easily
The best thing about TripAdvisor when you search for accommodation, is that it does a lot of the work for you when it comes to comparing prices and finding deals.
Booking.com – A massive selection
With a huge database of hotels, hostels, apartments, resorts, villas, guest houses and B&Bs, Booking.com is a great place to look for accommodation for your trip to Europe.
HotelsCombined – Fast and user-friendly
If you don’t have much time to search for hotels and compare prices, use HotelsCombined. It is very easy to use and will compare all the top travel sites for you from one user-friendly interface. Also, check out the deals page to spark your wanderlust 😉
Foreign currency and credit cards on a trip to Europe
The Euro makes travel in Europe very easy, as you can use the same currency in many different countries.
While the Euro is used in most EU countries, some EU countries, as well as all non-EU countries, use their own currency.
Before you travel, check what currency is in use in the countries you want to visit.
Decide if you want to buy some Euros and other local currencies in advance or take money out at cash machines when you get there.
I’ve done both and it’s far easier to have the currency with you when you land. No need to go looking for cash machines at the airport and hoping they’re not charging you unusual fees.
On the other hand, if you’re going to several countries with different currencies, perhaps carrying all that money with you throughout the trip isn’t such a good idea…
If that’s the case. I suggest for your peace of mind that you withdraw the money instead.
You can also find out quite easily which credit cards are accepted at your destinations, just by Googling the question.
It’s always a good idea to have cash on you wherever you go, in case your card doesn’t work for some reason.
Plan my trip to Europe for me!
Not into DIY travel planning? Still not sure where to begin? Trip planners will make your life so much easier by planning a trip for you.
It will cost you, but not too much, and if you’re really short on time this can be a perfect solution.
You can find trip planners on Fiverr quite easily. They offer a super affordable service. Check reviews to find the best planners.
Also check out TripUniq, a cool service where you get your tailor made city guide on with a map on your phone.