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How to decide the itinerary of your first trip to Europe

Travel book, notebook, sunglasses, camera and map

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, and amazing landscapes. Organizing a trip to a place that you’ve never been before might be overwhelming. So many options! Where to get started 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 to Europe, or anywhere else.


Know the seasons

Vondelpark in Amsterdam during the fall

Amsterdam during the fall, not too cold, not too warm

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 the beach, 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!

Read more: Summer in Europe: Pros and cons of traveling during the season


One country or as many as you can?

Piazza Nanova in Rome during the summer

Rome, during a 15-day trip through Italy

That’s a question that only you can answer. Think about it, it’s your first time on the old continent, would you rather see as many countries as you can or focus in one or two countries? There is no wrong answer 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.”

Read more: Travel Planning: 15 days in Italy

There are good things about 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. Also, it’s easier to move from one city to another (you can take trains, buses, or rent a car).

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, gastronomy and so on. And that changes all the time because you are always on the move, heading to a new place.

Be aware that when you choose to visit several countries at once, you have to plan everything more carefully. The currency might change, it may not be always euro. In England, for example, they use Pound, in Denmark they use Danish krone. You might also have to take extra flights to head to your next country.

Summing up: Visiting several countries on the same trip is a nice way to see the big mixture that Europe is. But, visiting only one country is great to experience a specific culture in a deeper way.


Deciding the final itinerary

Elétrico on a street in Lisbon

Lisbon, one of the main destination in Europe

If you’ve never been to Europe before, you might have on your mind the dreamy destinations you want to visit. There are the classics, such as Paris, London, Barcelona, Rome, Venice, Copenhagen, Berlin. And there are those cities/countries that you put on your itinerary 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/country 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. If you have 15 days to travel but your list has more cities/countries than available days, you’ll have to make some cuts.

Try to stay at least two or three entire days in the same city, to be able to cover the main attractions. Also, changing hotels every day is exhausting. If you have 15 days to travel, think about including two or three 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 + Spain, or France + Netherlands + 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 to Brussels from €10. So, why not?

Read more: Travel guide for your first time in Belgium

I like to open Skyscanner or Google Flights and see the cheapest flights departing from where I live. I always feel tempted to buy any flight for €20 or less, no matter the destination. Every city has something good to offer. Every destination counts for a curious traveler, seeking for some new place to explore.

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 options, 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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  • Reply
    Daniele Merkov
    November 21, 2017 at 10:19 am

    My wife and I are excited for the vacation we’ve booked in Europe to Spain and definitely we will go to the Canary. Tenerife is one of our eyeing place for our 1st stop 🙂 There so many thing we want to do from a page we’ve read https://www.canaryislandsinfo.co.uk/la-gomera/places/.

    • Reply
      Let's Cross The World
      November 23, 2017 at 9:34 am

      Hi Daniele,
      The Canary Islands seem to be a beautiful place to explore!
      It can be overwhelming trying to do or see everything in a few days, try to prioritize what interests you the most. Enjoy your trip! 🙂

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