Europe is so full of amazing places and experiences that you could travel for years and still feel like you've missed something essential. Click on the numbered steps below for detailed information about each step of planning the perfect trip to Europe!
All countries in Europe require travelers to have a valid passport– no matter your country of origin. If you don't have a passport or your passport has expired, it can take between 4-6 weeks to receive one from your time of application. Some countries have rush or emergency passport services; however, this service can be quite expensive so it's best to take care of all of your documentation as far ahead of time as possible. Travelers who have a valid passport should check the expiry date before they purchase any flights as some countries can deny you entry if it expires within 6 months of when you arrive.
If you're planning on renting a car while in Europe be sure to have a valid driver's license. Some car rental companies also require travelers to have an international driver's license in addition to their driver's license from their country of origin. International driver's licenses can be obtained through the American Auto Association (AAA) in the United States and the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) in Canada.
Most foreign nationals (American and Canadian travelers included) require a travel visa as well as a valid passport to visit Russia. Receiving a Russian traveler's visa is a complicated process which can take weeks to complete. Be sure to plan ahead and get your documentation in order if you're planning on visiting Russia while on your Europe trip.
Decide on the best time of year for you to travel to Europe. Several factors can help guide you in when it comes to setting a travel date. For most travelers, time and money are the biggest constraints. Planning your trip early in advance will help you find some bargains and cheaper flights to Europe. After having a thorough look at your calendar, and a look at the balance on your bank account, reevaluate your options.
Think about what you want to do during your Europe trip. Are you content spending your days wandering around museums, or do you prefer to be outdoors? Weather is a major aspect that you should consider while planning your trip to Europe. If you are willing to brace the cold winter temperatures you are sure to save a few bucks and enjoy less crowded sights. For travelers looking to soak up the sun, bear in mind that most Europeans are off for the month of August. Don’t forget that the temperatures in Europe can vary drastically and be sure to pack accordingly.
Unlike the weather, there are 3 main seasons for traveling in Europe— High, Low, and Shoulder. Each travel season has its advantages and disadvantages and will affect your experience traveling in Europe. Have a deeper look at the pros and cons of each season plus expert travel blogger advice below.
Travel dates are usually determined by a combination of available vacation time and budget. Usually, shorter trips require more planning than long trips.
“Decide on your budget for the trip— do you want to live it up in five star hotels for two weeks, or hostels for two months? Make sure you save time for that cheeky impromptu bottle of wine on the beach. Budget and time frame are linked, but how much fun you can have depends on you!”
Colleen, Global Gals
List any events that have dates that can’t be changed. For example, maybe you’re attending a music festival while in Europe or meeting up with friends somewhere on a specific date. You’ll have to plan the rest of your travel itinerary around these events and their dates— so be sure to keep them in mind as you select a European route.
Start brainstorming what you’d like to see while in Europe. What does your ideal Europe trip look like? Are you more interested in historical sights or the best cities to party in? Would you rather spend your time in nature or in art galleries and museums? Be sure to check out the Omio travel magazine The Window Seat for inspiration for your Europe trip as well as some travel guides and travel blogs before you write down everything you’re interested in seeing or doing.
"I check what the transportation costs and journey times are like between destinations and then reference Lonely Planet for information on specific cities or Pinterest for articles and photographs. How much there is to see or do in a particular location and how much accommodation costs determines how many nights I factor into my itinerary."
Kiara, Gallop Around The Globe
Now for the hard part. It’s time to start narrowing down your ideal Europe trip list. It’s often a good idea to triage your original list- 1) Places you absolutely NEED to see, 2) Places you really want to see, 3) things that would be nice but you can live without. This is just a way of refining your thinking and desires to find out what you care most about seeing while in Europe.
Budgeting Tip: You’ll have a wish list of popular European destinations ready before you leave but don’t shy away from the cheaper countries in central and eastern Europe. Countries like Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic feature some of the best historical sites, nature, and cultural experiences in Europe while being considerably cheaper than most countries in Western Europe. You can potentially extend the length of your Europe trip by spending a fraction of what you normally would while in France, the United Kingdom, and Scandinavia.
Start thinking about how much time you’d like to spend in each city on your itinerary. We recommend at least 3 days to see major European cities like London, Paris, and Rome. You could easily spend a week in any of these locations without getting bored. Remember there are also tons of interesting day trips from major cities in Europe.
Protip #1: Slow down! By trying to see everything a lot of travelers fail to enjoy anything. Remember that traveling is stressful and nothing increases this stress like trying to do too much in too little time. Taking shorter regional trips while traveling around Europe also costs less, plus you get to see more of your destination. Make sure you give yourself enough time to relax, enjoy Europe, and avoid travel burn out!
Protip #2: Remember to account for travel time between European cities! Think about how much you’re actually going to want to see or do in a new city after traveling all day or night between destinations on your Europe trip itinerary.
"While it’s great to be able to have more time and really immerse yourself in a destination, sometimes it’s better to sample first and go back later. See the top attractions, start to get a feel for the city, and then decide which city you’d love to go back and explore more in-depth some day. It’s really about finding the right fit for you, and shorter stays before a longer visit if you have limited vacation time can help you figure that out."
Gina, One Day in a City
After roughly figuring out where you want to visit, it’s time to start planning your flights to/from Europe. There are generally 2 options when it comes to purchasing flights to Europe:
Purchasing a flight from a discount airline within Europe back to your arrival city for your return flight to North America is often cheaper than purchasing 2 one-way tickets to/from different European cities. There are no absolute rules, so make sure to do some research to guarantee yourself the best price. Check out Omio's guide for finding cheap flights to Europe!
Once you’ve decided on the destinations you want to visit and where you’re starting and ending your Europe trip, you can determine the best route for your itinerary. Look at a map of Europe to avoid backtracking on your route- it wastes both time and money.
Your itinerary may change after deciding on a particular route. For example, you may decide that one of your destinations is too far out of the way or that there is an interesting city to visit between distant locations that can break up the required travel time.
"Focus on visiting countries which are near the other, this way you save time and money. Always think about how you are going to get around cities and get from one place to the other, this way you optimize your time and get to see as much as you can in each place."
Allane, Packing my Suitcase
Price out the cost of traveling between cities in Europe to get a rough idea of its impact on your travel budget. If the costs are too high you may want to reduce the number of cities you visit on your trip. Using Omio, you can compare the cost and travel time of trains, buses and flights all on a single page. If you’re really organized and know the exact dates you’ll be traveling between cities you can book your tickets up to 3 months in advance. Based on this research you can determine if it is cheaper to buy point-to-point tickets for your route or if makes more sense to purchase a Eurail Pass.
Budgeting Tip: Taking a night train or bus is a good way to save money while avoiding paying for accommodation. Night trains and buses are usually cheaper than traveling during the day and provide you with a night’s sleep that has you rested and ready to explore upon arriving at your new destination.
"Always give yourself more time than you think you will need. People tend to underestimate the amount of time they will take to travel from point A to B, and if you plan everything down to the minute, a slight delay could cause a major disruption in your plans. To minimize the effects of delays give yourself a buffer when planning your itinerary."
Your priorities, mind, and budget may change throughout this process. These steps are just a guideline to get you thinking about things to consider while making travel plans. Planning the ultimate Europe trip is a lot of work but you’ll save yourself a lot of time and frustration if you do some research before you arrive!
Jet lag: Most flights from North America are red-eyes departing at night and arriving in Europe in the morning. You’ll want to get started and make the most of your first day in Europe but beware of jet lag tiring you out if you push yourself too hard.
Language/culture shock: Consider starting your trip in London or the United Kingdom if it is your first time visiting Europe. The UK is still way different from North America but you won’t need to worry about navigating a new country in an unfamiliar language at the very beginning of your Europe trip.
"When planning a Europe trip most people (especially those coming from other continents) want to pack in as much as they can. However, I always recommend to stay in each place as long as possible to experience the local culture and see more than just the tourist attractions.... If time is limited, then I recommend focusing on less places and exploring them without stress."
Allane, Packing my Suitcase
Whether you're looking to get the most out of your Europe trip or are just looking for some travel itinerary ideas, Omio's got you covered with a variety of itineraries and tours. From the month-long odyssey of 'The Grand Tour' which combines 13 European destinations in 7 countries, to the more focused 2-week routes in Italy and Spain, Omio has a route for every type of European traveler.
In addition to providing more flexibility in your travel arrangements, buying point-to-point tickets during your Europe trip is often cheaper than buying a rail pass ahead of time. Additionally, ticket resellers like RailEurope often only offer specific fares and routes, while also requiring paper tickets that you must receive by mail. With the free Omio App, you can find the best transport option, at the cheapest prices, at the click of a button. You can book your train or bus ticket in the Omio app and travel through Europe. No printing paper tickets or mailing address required!
No matter whether you're taking the train, bus or flying, Omio helps you plan the perfect Europe trip.
Europe's train network is quite complex and difficult to navigate, which makes purchasing a Eurail pass often seem like the best way to travel around while on a Europe trip. However, purchasing multiple point-to-point train tickets is often the cheaper option for traveling in Europe. So how can you guarantee you're selecting the best option? How should you decide which Eurail pass to buy? How can you tell when multiple train tickets are cheaper than a rail pass? Omio's ultimate guide to European rail passes has got you covered with a step-by-step plan for deciding how to travel around Europe.
Eurail's Global pass allows you to travel between 28 European countries and simplifies the planning a multi-city Europe trip requires. Prices vary depending on the number of days you wish to travel. The Eurail Global pass is perfect for travelers who don't want to plan out their itinerary in minute detail or intend to journey between a number of European cities in a short amount of time. The flexibility of a Eurail Global pass allows you to follow your inspiration and travel anywhere in Europe.Buy Eurail Global Passes Here
Planning on traveling Europe this summer but running low on time? Europe has so many things to see and do, it is often difficult to decide how to spend your valuable time and money. We've come up with some suggestions for the ultimate 2-week Europe trip. From Lisbon's relaxed cafe culture to Berlin's nightlife and clubbing scene, this travel itinerary allows you to explore a variety of European cultures. It is highly recommended to take your time while traveling in Europe; consider spending 2-3 days in each city in order to really experience everything each destination has to offer. You should end your trip on the weekend so you can visit some of Berlin's legendary nightclubs.
Visit 7 cities while traveling across 6 European countries for as little as $431 with Eurail's Global pass. Doing this itinerary with the Eurail Global pass will save you 9% over purchasing the equivalent set of point-to-point train tickets.
Eurail Select Passes let you travel between 2, 3 or 4 bordering countries in Europe. Prices vary based upon both the specific countries selected and number of days you intend to travel. The Eurail Select pass is perfect for exploring multiple countries in a particular part of Europe. The Eurail Select pass allows you the flexibility to plan your Europe trip itinerary whether you're traveling through Eastern Europe or exploring the most popular cities in France and Italy.
A Europe trip through France and Italy is a dream come true for travelers looking for majestic sights and delicious food. Paris is a popular destination for American airlines, making it a perfect city to start your tour. After Paris you'll take in beaches of Nice, the canals of Venice and Rome's Colosseum before ending your trip in Sicily. You'll probably need to take a cheap flight on a budget airline from Palermo to Paris or Rome in order to fly back to the United States.
Visit 5 cities while traveling through France and Italy for as little as $246. Doing this itinerary with Eurail's Select pass will save you 26% over purchasing the equivalent set of point-to-point tickets.
The Eurail One-Country pass lets you travel by train within a single European country. One-Country passes range in cost between $70 to $500 depending on both the country selected and the number of travel days included in the pass. Eurail's One-Country pass is perfect for travelers looking to explore a country in greater depth beyond the capital city. Choose to travel in one of 20 different European countries with the Eurail One-Country pass!
From Gaudi's architecture to Goya's art, Spain's culture and history make it a popular destination for all European travelers. Spain is world-famous for its sandy beaches and relaxed lifestyle, while history buffs will marvel at the geometric perfection of Moorish mosques and the decadence of Catholic cathedrals. No matter if your interests are artistic, architectural, culinary or cultural, Spain offers the perfect blend of modernity and tradition for travelers to discover.
Travel between 5 Spanish cities with Eurail's One-Country pass for as little as $179.
Get some travel inspiration for your Europe trip! No matter if you're interested in artistic masterpieces and museums or Europe's best places to party, there are unique sights, sounds and experiences in Europe for all types of travelers. Follow your passion and let Omio take you there!
Are you planning to visit multiple destinations on your Europe trip? If so, check out the interactive map below with the best day trips and weekend getaways from Europe's most popular cities. What's more, they're all cheap!
The journey prices were taken on Omio.com on the 7th November 2017 for a one way ticket one month in advance of the trip. The prices may be subject to change.
The prices were taken on the 21st November 2017 originally in euros and converted into the applicable currencies for each country.