Deciding the itinerary of your first trip to Europe is something exciting. The continent is not too big, but is, for sure, full of different countries, cultures, history and amazing landscapes. Organizing a trip to a place that you’ve never been before might be overwhelming. So many options! So, where to get start with? When is the best season to travel? What countries should I include in my itinerary? Let me try to make your life easier by telling you what works for me when I have to plan a trip around Europe (or anywhere else).
Know the seasons
Of course, the decision depends on the destination you are heading to. If the plan is to see snowy cities, then winter is the time to go. If you want to go to beach spots, then summer it is. Also, if you choose to travel during the low season, you might find great deals because everything gets cheaper out of season.
Summing up: To make a decision about when to travel, know what you want first. Cold, warm or so-so weather.
One country or as many as you can?
That’s a question that only you can answer. Think about it, it’s your first time in the old continent, would you rather see as many countries as you can or focus deeply in one or two countries? There is no right or wrong here; it’s all about what is more interesting to you. I’ve done both types of travel, the crazy one when you try to visit as many places as you can, and also the “one country trip.”
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There are good things on both of them. When you choose to visit one country only, you can check out several cities – some of them you’d never visit on another occasion -, and it’s easier to move from one city to another (you can take trains, buses).
On the other hand, when you put a lot of countries on your itinerary you can compare cultures, which is really nice. It’s a crazy mixture of new languages, mores, gastronomy and so on. And that changes all the time because you are always on the move, heading to a new country and discoveries.
Be aware that when you choose to visit several countries at once, you have to plan everything more carefully. The currency might change, it’s not always euro (in England, for example, is pound, in Denmark is the Danish krone). You might also have to take extra flights to head to your next country.
Summing up: Visiting several countries in the same trip is a nice way to see the big mix that Europe is, but visiting only one country is great to experience deeper a specific culture.
Deciding the final itinerary
If you’ve never been to Europe before, you might have on your mind the dreamy destinations you want to head. There are the classics, Paris, London, Barcelona, Lisbon, Rome, Venice, Copenhagen, Berlin. And there are those cities/countries that you put on your list because they are in the middle of those that you truly want to go. So, how to decide?
The easiest way for me is to open a map and see what is close to what. When a city is way too far from the rest of the places that I want to go, I simply cut it out of the list and choose another one. The true is: You won’t be able to visit all the places on your bucket list at once, keep that in mind. If you have 15 days to travel but your destination list has more cities/countries than available days, it’s pretty obvious that you can’t make all of them. You’ll have to make choices.
Try to stay at least two or three entire days in the same city, to be able to cover the primary attractions of that new place – also, changing hotels every day is exhausting. If you have 15 days to travel, think about including 3 or 4 countries on your itinerary (in case you don’t want to do only one), more than that can be very rush. For example, Italy, Portugal and Spain, or France, Belgium, Netherlands, and Germany.
Take advantage of the low-cost flights, trains and buses. If you want to travel on a budget, it’s important to consider the transportation that connects the cities/countries you want to visit. For example, Belgium may not be on your ideal first trip itinerary, but you can find a train from Paris do Brussels from €10. So, why not? Let the wind cheapest transportation take you.
I love to open Skyscanner and check the cheapest destinations with flights departing from the closest airport from me. I always feel tempted to buy any flight for €10 or less. Every city has something good to offer, and every destination counts for a curious traveler, seeking for something new and different.
Summing up: If you have in mind the countries you want to visit, make sure the transportation between them will not crush your budget. If you are open to new proposals, open the map to see what is close to what or check the low-cost flights, trains, and buses to see which cities they connect.
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What about you? How do you decide the itinerary of your trips?