Between July and August 2023, my family took a three-week vacation across Europe. We traveled to six cities in five countries and had an amazing time. I started planning the trip, but the pandemic hit and stopped us from going.
In 2022, I picked up planning again. I was able to plan everything successfully and without major issues. However, the planning process did not always go as planned. Here are my three top tips for you if you are interested in planning a major vacation across Europe in the near future!
1. Use Spreadsheets to Plan Costs
When it comes to planning a vacation across Europe, one of the most important aspects is managing your finances effectively. That’s where spreadsheets come in handy. Creating a spreadsheet can help you keep track of all your expenses and ensure that you stay within budget.
Start by listing all the potential costs you may incur during your trip. This includes accommodation, transportation, meals, activities, and any other miscellaneous expenses. Be as detailed as possible to get an accurate estimate.
Next, allocate a specific budget for each category. Researching average prices in different European cities can give you an idea of what to expect. Don’t forget to factor in exchange rates and fluctuations in currency values.
Add the actual costs to your spreadsheet as you book accommodations and plan activities. This will give you a real-time view of how much money has been allocated and spent so far.
Spreadsheets are also great for comparing prices between different options. For example, if you’re deciding between two hotels or modes of transportation, input their respective costs side by side on the sheet. This way, it becomes easier to make an informed decision that aligns with your budgetary constraints.
By utilizing spreadsheets to plan your costs ahead of time, you’ll have better control over your spending while traveling across Europe. It allows for flexibility and adjustments along the way while keeping tabs on every penny spent. This goes a long way when it comes to ensuring that financial stress doesn’t overshadow the joyous experiences awaiting you on this incredible journey.
It is ALWAYS in your best interest to over-save for your vacation. You do not know what you will encounter during your trip and you can never have too much money set aside for your vacation. If you do not use it all, you can use the remaining money to tackle a home project or start planning your next family vacation (I did both!)
2. Buy Tickets for Travel Early
One of the key tips for preparing for a vacation across Europe is to buy your tickets for travel early. This not only helps you secure your preferred dates and times, but it can also save you money in the long run. I booked out tickets several months in advance. If I waited another week, I would have ended up spending at least $1500 more for our five tickets. Not only did I book our plane tickets early (and we have four flights to take), but I also booked bus tickets early as well to ensure we had good seat selections.
Aside from saving money, buying tickets in advance allows you to plan out your itinerary more effectively. It provides a solid foundation upon which you can build the rest of your travel arrangements. Once your transportation is sorted, it becomes easier to coordinate accommodations and activities around those fixed dates.
Additionally, purchasing travel tickets early gives you peace of mind, knowing that one major aspect of your trip has been taken care of. If certain flights or trains are fully booked, you don’t have to worry about last-minute availability or scrambling to find alternative routes.
Unfortunately, things can happen. A week before our first flight was to take off, one of our flights was canceled. I ended up having to spend $500 extra for new tickets and was not happy. Thankfully, this was our only major issue (aside from a two-hour delay on one departing train).
3. Research the Area Where You Stay
Finding and booking accommodations for your European vacation is just the first step. Before booking a place to stay, it’s important to take some time to research the area where you’ll be residing during your trip. This will ensure that you select a safe and convenient location that will allow you to make the most of your experience and have all the necessary information at hand.
One of the key aspects to consider when researching your accommodation location is its proximity to major attractions, transportation options, and local amenities. Is it within walking distance or easily accessible by public transport? Having a convenient location can save you valuable time and energy during your trip.
Additionally, familiarize yourself with the neighborhood’s safety level. While Europe generally offers safe travel experiences, it’s always wise to know if there are any areas or specific times where caution should be exercised. Reading reviews from previous guests who stayed in that area can provide helpful insight into this matter.
Another critical factor is understanding the local culture and customs of the area where you will stay. Each country has its own unique traditions and etiquette that may differ significantly from what you’re accustomed to back home. Learning about these cultural nuances beforehand can help avoid any unintentional misunderstandings or discomfort during your stay.
Don’t forget to research nearby restaurants, cafes, supermarkets, and other essential services like pharmacies or hospitals. Knowing where these are located can come in handy if you need quick access to food or medical assistance while on your vacation.
Make the Most Out of Your Adventures!
Using spreadsheets to plan costs is essential for keeping track of your expenses. It allows you to set a budget, prioritize spending, and avoid unexpected financial surprises. Remember to include everything from accommodation and transportation to meals and activities.
Buying tickets for travel early saves you money and ensures you have reserved seats on popular routes or attractions. Take advantage of many airlines and tour companies’ discounted fares or early bird offers. Plus, booking in advance gives you more time to plan other aspects of your trip with peace of mind.
Researching the area where you will be staying is crucial for a successful European adventure. This includes learning about local customs, traditions, transportation options, safety precautions, as well as nearby attractions worth visiting. Having this knowledge beforehand will help you navigate unfamiliar surroundings confidently.
Remember that while planning is key to a great vacation experience across Europe, it’s important to stay flexible, too! Leave room for spontaneous adventures and allow yourself some downtime during the trip. As we spent three weeks walking nearly ten miles on most days, I made sure to set up some time each day where we could rest. This helped us not to get overwhelmed so that we could enjoy the trip more!