One of the most unique things about Europe is the fact that once you hold a Schengen Visa, you will be entitled to visit 26 countries at a time -fancy that-, needless to say how each country, and sometimes even each city offers a different flavor, having its own charm, people, culture, art, architectural style, cuisine, you name it! (Photo courtesy: Patrick & Preston Thomas).
Tip: Don’t be fooled by the statement that European countries are all alike, because that is absolutely not true.
Plan it smart
Given the fact that you will be having access to 26 countries at a time, which is totally crazy, you definitely don’t know from where to start, or where you should go. My advice is setting priorities; making a list of the cities, or countries that you want to start with, then take it from there. (Photo courtesy: Johannes Lundberg)
Personal Favorite Travel Resources: for reviews Tripadvisor.com & for ideas Viator.com
Tip: Don’t stress yourself thinking that you have to go everywhere so that you’d get the maximum out of your Schengen Visa, do not be tempted by the Eurotrip idea, meaning hopping from one city to another without really getting to enjoy each city at a time, believe me you can live a whole multicultural experience in one country.
Don’t waste too much time going from one city/country to another
Accordingly first thing to do is getting a detailed Europe Map, where you start to select neighboring countries, or cities so you wouldn’t waste too much time on the road traveling from a place to another. For instance you could pick parts of France – Switzerland – Italy, Spain – Portugal, Czech – Austria – Hungary, and not Spain – Austria – The Netherlands. (Photo courtesy: Jonas Ginter)
Tip: If you have already picked a country that has huge diversity like Switzerland, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, or else, it’s better to spend all your time there, so you’d get to discover the best out of the country, rather than hopping from one country to another.
Cut transportation costs by using car-sharing services
Europe never stops impressing us, other than introducing a versatile transportation system whether underground, buses, bikes, and even ferry boats, endless accommodation options, the new thing is car-sharing services (blablacar.com), using this service will allow you to find, and join someone -in return of a minimal cost- who would be traveling on your desired dates from city A to city B with their private car, which 1. would cut off up to 70% of the regular transportation cost, 2. will get you to meet a local who might show you around the city, and tell you about its hidden-gems, and, 3: you might end up friends. (Photo courtesy: Ben Abel)
Tip: Make sure that there isn’t a bad number of reviews about the person you will be riding with.
Hotels Star rating is not the same everywhere
Beware that hotels star rating around the world is not the same, and Europe is no exception, so when in Paris or Amsterdam for instance you can enjoy a basic stay, and good breakfast in a 3 star hotel, when in Prague your best deal would be 4, and so on. One thing that will help you make the right decision is reading hotel reviews (tripadvisor.com), to learn the good and the bad according to other fellow travelers, so you’d get a feeling of what you should be expecting.
Mix & match between expensive and inexpensive countries/cities
When making your plans do not select the most expensive European cities to be visited all at once -given that Europe is already expensive, and our doomed exchange rates give us the hardest time-, that’s why making a good research about your destination before making any bookings is a must.(Photo: Colosseum in Rome, Italy)
Tip: Multicity flights are not always more expensive than return tickets.
Get maps & travel guides
Always carry a map, and a travel guide, using a map and getting lost in Europe is one of the most pleasant feelings in the world.
Not all those who wander are lost. ~ J.R.R. Tolkien
Pack as light as you can specially if you’ll be flying on a low cost carrier* or staying at different cities
You will be moving a lot, going from one city to another, using different types of transportation, you will be packing and unpacking several times, pushing or lifting your luggage, so make yourself a favor and pack as light as you can, specially if you will be flying on low cost carriers that have a very strict baggage policy.
*Low cost carrier is known as a budget carrier or airline offering flights with lower fares, fewer comforts, and most of the time strict baggage allowance.
For low cost carriers; it’s cheaper to buy your tickets online, and for some companies you have to print your boarding pass not to pay extra fees.
Since budget airlines usually land in remote airports, do your counts to make sure that what you will be saving, will not be spent to reach the remote airport, or the city center.
Make sure to check the luggage policy of low cost carriers before booking, as a regular ticket will entitle you to one carry one -cabin size- and a laptop bag, so you’d pay for any extra piece of luggage -no joking, begging, or exceptions. If you already know that the luggage policy won’t work for you, you have two options; whether not to fly on a low cost carrier, or pay online for extra checked in luggage which is cheaper.
If you can’t help it with your heavy luggage, it might be smarter not to fly on budget airlines, as whatever you will be saving from buying inexpensive tickets, will be spent on getting extra luggage, so the key is always to “do your counts”.
Unless you will be paying for checked in luggage, make sure that you do not carry any liquids exceeding 100ml -basically nothing more than your deodorant- in your carry on as it will be directly thrown into the bin.
Check the photo: This is where you’d be asked to drop your bag inside this box before boarding the aircraft, if it fits in then you are good to go, if not you will have it checked in and will pay for extra luggage.
Shop from the country of departure
Another tip to keep your luggage light is to shop, buy gifts, and souvenirs from your country of departure, therefore it might be smart to make your city of departure a top shopping destination. (Las Arenas in Barcelona by Carlos Lorenzo)
Do not only visit big cities
Europe’s Small towns and villages are a must, some are famous, some are touristic and some are totally underrated. They are usually cozy, scenic, and authentic, offering you the ultimate travel experience, giving you a real sense of place, and most of the times cheaper than big cities. (Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina by Clark & Kim Kays)
Budget airlines can sometimes be the cheapest option to get from one city/country to another
Can you possibly believe it? They can be even cheaper than trains, and buses, however they do not offer the same comfort, or scenic experience. In Europe, they have developed scenic rail routes -a bit more expensive- that were designed so that the passenger would not only travel from a place to another, but would enjoy magical scenery along the ride -even if not specially designed for that, be sure that at some point you will see lush greenery, mountains, and breath-taking scenery. So maybe it would be smart if you’d mix and match your means of transport. Boats are also an option. (Photo courtesy: Ken Teegardin)
Some budget airlines are; Easyjet, Ryanair, Vueling, Transavia, Germanwings that can be booked through Travelstart Egypt.
The city center is usually located next to the central train station, and some cities have more than one city center
If you were unable to locate the city center, look for the name of the city’s central station which is usually located in the heart of the center, however in some cases the city can have more than one center, your best deal is checking google maps to see exactly which center do you prefer to stay in. (Photo: Prague in Czech Republic)
You’d better stay at the city center specially if traveling alone
Though staying in the center might be more costly than anywhere else, however it’s totally worth it specially if you are traveling alone, it’d be easy to get around and find lots of means of transport to reach your accommodation hassle-free. (Photo: Bratislava in Slovakia)
Tip: Though Europe is usually safe, you always have to stay cautious. Avoid remote areas at all cost specially at night, and when you are alone.
As for accommodation
Hostels are your best deal, in Europe they are quiet clean, safe, and enjoyable to stay in -no matter how old you are- as you will get to meet, and maybe hang out with people from all over the world, but if you are traveling with a group an apartment might be a more convenient and cheaper option, and hotels could be cheaper, and give you more privacy as well. Check out our complete guide to affordable accommodation. (Photo courtesy: Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau)
Hop-On Hop-Off Buses are ideal to get you started
The best way to get a glance of the city you are visiting is taking a hop-on hop-off bus, you could take it for a day, or two, so you’d get to decide which places are your favorite, and where you’d like to spend most of your time. (Photo courtesy: York Berlin)
Avoid taxis, and enjoy public transports
If you are traveling alone, avoid taxis at all cost as in Europe they come pricey, however if you are traveling with a group, it could be cheaper to use taxis as you will be splitting the bill. (Photo courtesy: Daniel Horacio Agostini)
Tip: Riding public transports in Europe is a pleasure in itself, so make sure if you do not use it along your stay, don’t leave without at least trying it.
Get railways & transportation passes
If you will need access to transports all the time, your best deal would be buying a day, a week, or a month pass, and in some cases a family ticket, a student, or an over 60 pass that is usually price reduced, however each city/country has its own regulations regarding this; so some would offer a combination of paid and free tickets if your dates of use will coincide with a weekend, or a public holiday, some will give you unlimited, and some will give you limited use. Make sure to check the policy and to benefit of the discounts. (Photo courtesy: Roel Hemkes)
Get sightseeing passes
In most European countries sightseeing passes are sold everywhere, which give you unlimited access to a number of attractions, and museums, but only buy them after calculating the cost of getting individual or group tickets versus a pass to make sure that it will save you, not the other way round. (Photo: Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany)
Tip: Any city guide, city map or brochure that is available for free at the airport, in train stations, or any information desk might have coupons for discounts.
Nearly everything can be booked online in the most secured way
Europe offers the optimum traveler experience when it comes to online booking, as everything could be booked online from museums, concerts, and festivals tickets to day tours, railway passes, and taxis.
Some tourist traps are really worth visiting
No matter how cliché you think The Eiffel Tower, The Pisa Tower, or The Sagrada Familia is, your visit will be so incomplete if you do not stop by these major attractions, however some tourist traps are a total waste of time, that’s why reviews can help you big time in choosing the right tourist trap. (Cliched tourist photo next to Pisa Tower by Fugu Tabetal)
Check upcoming festivals
Europe hosts yearly music, dance, food, flowers, and chocolate festivals -that they make announcements about at least a year in advance- you’d be really lucky to attend one, accordingly your options are; to plan your trip according to a must-attend festival, to google what’s going on during your visit dates, or to leave it open to the circumstances. (Photo courtesy: Yann Caradec)
Take night buses/trains specially on long hauls
If you are the kind of travelers who could sleep on trains then take a night bus, or train; 1. you’ll save time that could have been wasted during the day to be transferred from a place to another, 2. you’ll save a one night sleep in a hotel, or a hostel, 3. you’ll wake up in a new place, and 4. you’ll start your day early, so zero time wasted. (Photo courtesy: Mac H)
Look for free city tours
Keep an eye on free city tours (neweuropetours.eu) that are nearly in all of Europe’s major cities. (Photo from Sandeman’s New Europe)
Look for free admission to major attractions
Note that in some major European cities free admission is offered to major attractions, sometimes on the first Sunday of the month, on public holidays, or else. Keep looking! (Stam Museum in Ghent – Belgium by VisitFlanders)
Keep an eye on discounts for students, tourists under 25-26, or 60+
That’s why Europe rocks, and sucks in the same time. Rocks; as you’d get to benefit from significant discounts if you belong to any of the sets of age ranges defined by your city/country of destination, and sucks; if you just don’t belong to them. Don’t be shy to ask about these discounts while buying your tickets, or at information desks. (Photo coustesy: Garry Knight)
So now that you have all it takes to visit Europe, isn’t about time to book a ticket, and fly?
Do you have any other tips to plan the perfect Eurotrip? Please mention them in the comments below.