The Ultimate Europe Trip Planner: Tips and Tricks for Planning Your Dream Vacation

The Ultimate Europe Trip Planner: Tips and Tricks for Planning Your Dream Vacation

Dreaming of a grand European adventure? So am I! Today, let's talk about how to plan the ultimate multi-country trip to Europe. Trust me; it's going to be life-changing!

Want to know how to plan the ultimate multi-country trip to Europe? As overwhelming as it seems, this is not a hard thing to do, just a lot of logistics and research. Sounds fun right? Thankfully, I have done all that for you in several places all over the world and more is being added all the time. Check out my FREE downloadable guides to get premade itineraries.

Now let’s get to your trip! If you want to visit several countries but are not sure how to make this possible, don’t worry! I got you!

First things first: Map out your dream destinations! From classic stops like Paris and Rome to hidden gems such as Ljubljana and Riga, Europe is brimming with unforgettable places. The key is to strike a balance between culture-rich cities, picturesque towns, and stunning landscapes to create a truly memorable journey.

Next up: Transportation! Want to know the best part about traveling in Europe? It’s how easy and convenient it is to get from one country to another! With top-notch rail networks, affordable flights, and well-connected bus routes, you’ll be hopping borders with ease. Just make sure to book your tickets in advance to save some serious money!

Now, let’s talk about accommodation. From quaint B&Bs to luxurious hotels, Europe offers endless options for every budget and taste. To fully immerse yourself in the local culture, consider staying at family-run establishments or even booking an Airbnb to live like a local. Plus, don’t forget to check reviews before making any reservations!

Last but not least: Plan activities and experiences unique to each destination! Attend a flamenco show in Spain, take a gondola ride in Venice, or explore ancient ruins in Greece – these are just a few examples of what awaits you on this epic European trip! And if you’re feeling adventurous, why not go off-the-beaten-path and uncover less-touristy spots? Trust me; they’re worth it!

Now, get ready, pack your bags, and embark on that once-in-a-lifetime European adventure you’ve always dreamed of! If you have any tips, questions, or stories from your own multi-country European odyssey, share them in the comments below. I’d love to hear about them!

Planning an european trip

Here are step-by-step directions on how to plan the ultimate multi-country trip to Europe

1. Determine what type of trip you want to take:

  • Beach – places like Ibiza, Majorca, the Greek islands, and Capri are great beach destinations
  • Christmas – Europe has the best Christmas Markets and really knows how to get you in the holiday mood. Check out my blog post on some of the best Christmas Markets in Europe.
  • City/Culture – Destinations such as Paris, Brussels, and Zurich are great options for art museums, history, and so much more.
  • Hiking – If you are an outdoorsy person who loves to get out and climb some incredible hills then consider the Dolomites, the Swiss Alps, and Bavaria in Germany, just to name a few.
  • Ski – Until I blew out my leg I loved skiing! Some of my favorite places are Mont Blanc in France and Zermatt in Switzerland. If you are more of an Après ski type person, that’s me now, these places have a lot of activities and shopping to enjoy.
  • Couple – Want a romantic getaway for just the two of you? There are so many places that are great for couples such as the KaysersbergGhentBruges, and Colmar.

If you want to use the FREE Ultimate European Travel Planner I have created, you will find the Type of Trip worksheet there. 

What type of European trip do you want to take

2. Decide how much you want to spend on the trip.

Budget for european trip

Making a budget for your European trip can be difficult but here are a few basic estimates to keep in mind:

  1. Flights $500-2000 round trip
  2. Hotels $80-200 per night
  3. Car Rental $45-100 per day
  4. Food $50-100 per day

If you want to use the FREE Ultimate European Travel Planner I have created, you will find the Budget worksheet there. 

Decide how long you want to stay in Europe

I know you want to stay forever but you will need to decide how long you want to stay in Europe. This can be decided later if you are flexible, but I would recommend no less than 10 days which gives you 8 days on the ground and two travel days. As seen on Travel and Leisure’s website, “According to research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, the ideal length of a vacation is exactly eight days. As the researchers noted, a vacationer will feel an increase of happiness over the first several days of vacation, with that feeling peaking on the eighth day, The Times-Picayune explained.” This is one difficult part about how to plan the ultimate multi-country trip to Europe

length of stay in europe

Remember that you will spend one whole day getting to Europe and one whole day getting back to the United States. You will need to keep that in mind when deciding how long your trip will be. I generally think about how many days I want to spend “in the country – on the ground” and then add one day on each end of that time. For example, if I know I have 20 days’ worth of places to visit then I will plan for 22 days, this includes travel on both ends.

If you want to use the FREE Ultimate European Travel Planner I have created, you will find the Vacation Days worksheet in there. 

how many days to spend in europe

What countries are interested in visiting?

Use Google, Pinterest, Instagram, TikTok, and other resources to gather ideas of where you might want to go based on the type of trip you are taking. Write down the country/countries you want to visit for the trip you want to take. For example, Christmas is lovely in Europe, the beaches are fabulous on the French and Italian Riveria, etc.

What are the best countries to visit in europe

Figure out if the countries you want to visit are in the Schengen area or outside of that. If they are outside the Schengen area then you might need a visa. Check the State Department website for the most up-to-date information. 

Schengen Area vs Non-Schengen Area

  1. The Schengen area is a certain group of European countries that allow you to travel across borders with no border control stops. There are 27 countries that make up the Schengen area: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. You can stay in this zone for 90 days out of 180 visa-free. Should you plan on staying longer, you will need to apply for a visa. Always use your own government’s website to obtain a visa and not a third party to apply for and pay for a visa.
  2. Countries that are not in the Schengen area: United Kingdom, Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, and others. Some of these might require a visa to visit so make sure you check the updated requirements for each country.

How to plan the ultimate multi-country trip to Europe? Use the FREE Ultimate European Travel Planner I have created, you will find the Countries worksheet there. 

European Countries List

What towns and attractions do you want to see in each country?

Now that all the boring stuff is out of the way, it is time to get down to the fun stuff! Make a list of the towns/attractions you want to visit in each country. Now, let’s just say, I’m a planner. I don’t like to waste time and want to be able to maximize my time in each place I am visiting. The worst feeling is leaving a town only to find out that there was something super cool that I would have loved to see but missed because I didn’t know about it.

I have gotten some “hate” from people telling me that I shouldn’t schedule everything in my trip and that I should just wing it. Well, I can tell you that I have done both and I feel like having a list of things I want to see is a better option. This doesn’t mean it has to be on a timed basis (e.g. 8:30 a.m. breakfast, 9:30 a.m. Louvre, 1 p.m. Montmartre, etc) First, that’s ridiculous. Second, you are going to be behind your timeline, and stressed, if you do that.

best towns to visit in europe

What I do is write a list of things I want to see in each town then add some fun facts and important information for each place. I decide what I want to see the most, and the others, if I have time, I will go see it, if not, that’s ok. Now let’s get into how to do this to make the most of your time.

If you want to use the FREE Ultimate European Travel Planner I have created, you will find the Towns worksheet in there.

Create List of Towns You Want to Visit
  1. Google Things to do in (town)
  2. Use Atlas Obscura for more unique things to do and to find hidden gems
  3. Use social media to look for things to do in each place, and type in the name of the town in the search bar.
  4. Write down each thing you want to do or see, the fee associated with it, hours of operation, address, and contact information.
  5. If you are headed to a country for a particular reason such as to see the northern lights or Christmas Markets, then google those events to obtain the most up-to-date information. Add these dates to your list to help determine when you want to visit.
  6. Continue researching each town/site you wrote down in #6. Decide if you are still interested in what this town has to offer and if not, then eliminate it. There are times I will initially add something to my list but after further research, I determine that it is not something I really care about.
  7. If you find points of interest in these places and want to visit them then copy and paste history, fun facts, address, hours of operation, and any fees associated with your visit into a Word document or into the travel planner I have provided.
  8. I use resources like Pinterest, travel blogs, Google, Trip Advisorand Atlas Obscura.
  9. Use Google Maps to input all the spots together so you can group them by neighborhood to more easily organize your time. If something is out of the way you will need to determine if it is worth the trouble getting out there or if you want to take it off your list.
  10. You can also download itineraries from my site with all the information you need for each city.

If you want to use the FREE Ultimate European Travel Planner I have created, you will find the City/Points of Interest worksheet there.

Points of Interest

Where to stay in Europe

Let’s book some accommodations!

Decide what your priority is in your stay. Do you want to splurge in a few places, is the location the most important thing to you, or do you just want to stay in a decent place at the cheapest price possible? I will say that in Europe I tend to stay in the city center or somewhere central where I can just walk out the door and meander to an attraction I can’t wait to see. Sometimes that comes at a price.

castle in the loire valley

Types of accommodations:

  • Hostels. If this word conjures up thoughts of horror movies, I get it. However, in Europe, there are a lot of nice hostels, some even in castles. If you are backpacking or just on a budget this is a good option. It is also a great way to meet other travelers, but this is not for everyone.
  • Guesthouses. These are known as different words in each country. For example, in Germany, they are known as pensionen and in Italy they are Pension. These are usually inns and bed and breakfasts style accommodations. I love the unique and local feel of these places and try to stay in these rooms as much as possible. A lot of them are run by families, sometimes for generations. Just keep in mind that a lot of these guesthouses demand you to check in during certain hours or make arrangements to pick up room keys after hours. This requires you to keep in contact with your hosts to assure you know where to go and how to check-in. Also, a lot of these structures do not have elevators because they are contained in old homes, castles, or other historic buildings. If you have a lot of luggage, this may not be your best bet.
  • Hotels. These are what most people go for when traveling abroad. There are some good reasons for this. Ease of use, similar amenities to your home country, and flexible check-ins make this a good option. Parking is almost always available, and you have staff on site 24 hours a day. I use Hotels.com and Booking.com for my stays. The other option to book is directly through the hotel’s website. Sometimes contacting the hotel and letting them know that you are thinking about booking through a third party might get you a discount or a room upgrade. However, I use Hotels.com a lot because, for every 10 hotel stays, I get one free. I have racked up quite a few free nights and they have come in handy. So, my advice would be to look at doing it both ways and decide which way is best for you.
  • Unique Stays. If you are looking for a unique stay then try Hipcamp, Airbnb, and Glamping Hub. I would only use Airbnb if you are planning on staying in one location for several days.

If you want to use the FREE Ultimate European Travel Planner I have created, you will find the Accommodations worksheet there.

European accommodations

There are two types of hotels in Europe: independent and chains (Hilton, IHG). If you have a rewards program with certain hotel chains, this might be a helpful way to keep costs down. However, I tend to try to stay in independent hotels which are usually more unique.

One thing to keep in mind about hotels in Europe is the star system. The more stars, the more amenities. The stars don’t mean that the hotel is of better quality, just that they have more “things”. So, a hotel that has 5 stars could be a dump but it offers a nasty pool, mushy breakfast, gross bathrooms, etc. On the other hand, the 2-star hotel might not have a pool or spa but the rooms are clean and spacious and the location is perfect.

Book your stay and write all pertinent information for each stay in the accommodation section of your planner. This includes the name of the accommodation, contact information, address, prices, what is included in your stay (breakfast, pool access, etc), and dates of stay.

If you are planning on driving, then make sure the accommodation offers parking.

Again, this is all part of how to plan the ultimate multi-country trip to Europe. Some parts of this will be easy to figure out, others might be more difficult.

Time to decide how many days you want to spend in each place.

who would want to leave here

Now decide how many days you want to spend in each town/location. Some cities, like Paris, require a bit more time like 2-5 days whereas a small village like Giverny is more of a day trip or one-night stopover.

Write this information down in your document. Lay out the dates in the printable calendar contained in my planner and decide what day you will be where.

If you want to use the FREE Ultimate European Travel Planner I have created, you will find the Calendar worksheet there.

how long do you want to spend in each place

Map it out!

Europe trip map

Now that you have edited your cities/countries list open Google Maps and begin plotting your route using all the stops/cities you previously wrote down. If you have more than 10 sites, then use this site to combine multiple Google Maps into one.

This will allow you to move the pins around to figure out the most time-efficient way to travel to the various locations.

You can also play with the airports to find one that might be cheaper; for example, if I want to travel through Germany and France and want to find the cheapest airport then look at all the airports close to my route to find the cheapest fare. I usually fly into one airport and out of another but you can do a round-trip fare.

This is how to plan the ultimate multi-country trip to Europe! You are almost done, can you taste the croissants?

Decide how you want to travel within Europe

how to travel around europe

I almost always rent a car. It provides me with the most flexibility. If you are renting a vehicle, then obtain an international driver’s license and check the costs for the rental. I use the following sites: Hotwire, Eurocar, and Avis. If you decide to rent a car, understand that if you are taking a car one way from an airport, it will be cheaper to go from east to west. For example, Poland to France, or Hungary to Germany.

However, if you would rather take public transport then verify that the train/bus stops at each of the places you want to see. Should you decide to use public transportation then head over to the OMIO website and app to plot your course. This website allows you to use trains, buses, and inter-European flights. Train travel is easy in Europe and offers a lot of flexibility.

Train Bus Booking

If you want to use the FREE Ultimate European Travel Planner I have created, you will find the Map and Transportation worksheet there.

Map and Transportation

Now, let's check flights to and from Europe

Now let’s check the flights to and from Europe. It probably sounds weird to look for flights so far into the planning process but there are reasons for that. I use Google Flights to get a good idea of what the cost might be and try different airports in or near the route I organized earlier.

flights to and from europe

You can set your departure airport and then put “Europe” as the destination. This will allow you to see flights all over the continent.

google flights to europe

As you scroll your list of options, look at each one to determine if you like the airlines, dates and times, and costs. Once you have chosen one, you can also click on the date grid to see if it might be cheaper to fly to that same destination on a different day. Repeat this action until you have found the flights that fit your vacation and budget the best.

europe flight calendar

If you are not married to specific dates, then on Google Flights you can look at the calendar to see what the cheapest date might be to leave from your airport. Do the same coming back from Europe. You can hit the “flexible dates” tab and choose your timeframe such as a week in the next six months etc. for the algorithm to show you the cheapest times and dates.

You can also set price alerts for flights that interest you.

flights to europe from the USA

Now Book! I always book through the airline’s website/app. This helps to ensure that if anything was to go wrong, you will receive the best customer support. Plus if you are a rewards / SkyMiles participant then you will automatically receive your benefits instead of having to add them later.

If you want to use the FREE Ultimate European Travel Planner I have created, you will find the Flights worksheet there. This will help you answer the question, how to plan the ultimate multi-country trip to Europe.

european flight planner

It's Food Time!

Use TravelAdvisor, Yelp, and Google to find some of the best restaurants in the areas you will be visiting. For example, I always eat the local cuisine of where I visit so I would look at TripAdvisor and select the filter of local cuisine and type in the city. 

food in europe

Make a note of several restaurants, notating the hours of operation, and address, and if they need reservations beforehand. If you want to make reservations ahead of time, this is a good time to do it. I generally do this a few days in advance or if it is a high-demand restaurant, then I will do it as soon as the trip is planned.

If you want to use the FREE Ultimate European Travel Planner I have created, you will find the Restaurants worksheet there.

Restaurants

Now, let's pack for your European trip

Depending on the season and the weather you will need different items. Don’t freak out. Packing for Europe is pretty much like packing for going anywhere in the United States. Most of what you pack will depend on what season you are visiting and what you plan on doing while there.

Let’s first talk about the volume of what you are bringing across the pond. I always pack in a carry-on size bag. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to have your bags delayed or lost.

Another reason I carry on is that I rarely stay in the place I land for very long. Sometimes just for the day, sometimes I land, grab a car and start driving elsewhere. That is going to make your life miserable if you have no clothes and toiletries. My rule of thumb is to pack for about a week and then find laundry facilities overseas. Some hotels also offer laundry service which makes it super easy to get clean clothes and repack them to continue your trip.

If you need more information and advice on how to do this, check out my blog post “The Ultimate Guide to Packing for Carryon Travel”.

packing for europe

What’s not popular in Europe is athleisure, so unless you are flying to and from the continent, they don’t have a place in your suitcase, so you can leave those items at home.

Not sure what type of clothes to pack? Check out my LTK page to see some ideas and links to some of my favorite travel outfits and accessories.

Comfortable shoes are a must! Leave the stilettos at home unless you need them for a night out. If you are traveling with a carry-on, try to keep as many unnecessary things out of your luggage as possible. Again, look at my LTK to see some of my favorite shoes to travel with.

Use packing cubes!! How have I ever lived without these? If you are going to be gone for several weeks, these things are invaluable. I even pack an empty one to put dirty clothes in.

Now that you have completed all these steps you are ready to experience Europe like a professional!!! You now know how to plan the ultimate multi-country trip to Europe! If you want a FREE downloadable step-by-step guide that you can refer to then grab the Ultimate Guide to Planning a European Adventure. It can be printed or just kept on your computer as an easy digital reminder of what to do. Hope this helps you have the best European trip possible!

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Kristal Ham

Hi fellow nomads!

Traveler and Photographer

My name is Kristal and I am so happy to have you visit my site! 

I hope that the travel guides, fun facts, and photography you find here will inspire you to explore new places!

Kristal

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