I had the great privilege of traveling to 11 different countries before I even turned 21, and most of these countries are in Europe. Getting a French degree and running a travel blog, I love traveling to Europe. This May, I’ll be headed to France for the fourth time!
One of the questions I get most is about planning trips to Europe. How do I plan a trip to Europe? What do I need to know? How do I get there? What do I pack? You might’ve taken plenty of domestic trips, but planning a trip to Europe can seem daunting.
First things first, take a deep breath. Opting to travel to Europe with a tour group often makes life easier. Maybe you’re looking to go on your own for financial reasons or just because you hate following someone else’s schedules. Regardless of what type of trip to Europe you’re taking, this beginner’s guide for you. Here are my 7 steps to walk you through planning a trip to Europe. (Stick around till the end to get my free ebook on this very topic!)
1 . Start researching where you’d like to go.
The No. 1 step to planning a trip to Europe (other than taking a deep breath) is choosing your itinerary. Pull out a map of Europe and drool over the fact that all these countries are so close together. You might already have an idea of what country you’d like to visit. Great, pat yourself on the back!
Now point to that country on a map, and take a peek at the surrounding countries. Could you add another stop or two to your trip? You’ve already paid to get to Europe, might as well see as much of it as you can.
My favorite tool for planning trips is Pinterest. Set aside an hour or two to dig through Pinterest with your travel companions. Make a shared board or a even a Google Doc to start listing out your dream vacation with all the places you’d like to visit. The sky is the limit — we’ll get to the budget later.
2 . Scout flight prices.
It’s no secret that airplane tickets will be one of your biggest expenses getting to Europe, but with the right amount of planning and research, you can knock that number down.
Use an incognito tab to browse flight prices, and be sure to look at sites such as Kayak and Skyscanner. Some apps that I like to use to track flight prices are Hopper and Rome2Rio. I get notifications from Hopper when flight prices jump and decrease, and it lets me know if I should wait to book it or grab that deal now.
3 . Make a budget and rack up those travel points.
Once you see a 4-digit number, it can feel paralyzing. It costs how much?! Take that deep breath again. One easy way to calm down is making a plan. (If you download my free ebook, you’ll get a free budget planner.) Looking at the websites and apps above to find lower flight prices is a great way to start, but the buck doesn’t stop there.
My biggest piece of travel advice is to get a travel rewards credit card. With the introductory offer and a bit of spending, I was able to book a round-trip flight to New York City to see my best friend, thanks to the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card.
Getting a travel rewards credit card, whether it’s for a specific hotel chain or cash back, is a game changer because it can knock that flight price in half really quickly.
I’m passionate about making travel more accessible and affordable, which is why I made my free 30-minute workshop on travel budgeting. In this self-paced workshop, we walk through concrete ways to save money, earn more, stretch your budget and assess your travel values. Join thousands of students who have already enrolled!
4 . Take care of the phone situation before departure.
Because nobody likes those crazy roaming charges. The answer to the question of what to do with your phone really depends on who your carrier is, how long you’ll be gone and where you’re going.
My biggest piece of advice when it comes to dealing with your phone while in Europe is to go to your cell phone carrier in person to talk about it. Every carrier is different, and although they have some info online, I’ve found it easier just to go into the store to talk about it.
My carrier is Sprint, who has decent international rates on my current plan. When I studied abroad for three weeks, I stayed on my regular plan. When I lived in France for three months, I bought a French SIM card and got a French phone number but kept my same iPhone.
If you’re visiting multiple countries, buying a SIM card in the host country probably won’t make sense. The bottom line is it’s important to talk to your phone carrier so that you’ll be able to weigh the options.
5 . Talk to your bank
Okay, we’re back to the topic of money 🙂 I cannot stress how important it is to touch base with your bank before you leave on these two items of business: letting them know you’ll be out of the country and getting foreign currency.
The last thing you want is your account to get flagged for suspicious activity (who just made a $200 purchase at Louis Vuitton in France?) that is actually just your activity. On my banking app, I’m able to select the dates I’ll be abroad and where I’m going so that my card doesn’t get declined.
I also like to leave for my trip with $100 to $200 worth of foreign currency so that I’m not ripped off and just so that I have it on hand the moment I land. One easy way to get this done is ordering foreign currency through your bank.
6 . Apply for Global Entry
This is one of the best, most practical birthday gifts I’ve ever received. It’s the Fast Pass of airports and customs. With TSA Precheck and Global Entry, you get to go through the priority security line, which is much faster, and not take out liquids, remove shoes or belts. The Global Entry portion means you don’t have to fill out the customs forms or wait in long customs lines.
I wrote a blog post on how to apply and how TSA Precheck and Global Entry works, but seriously, it makes life way easier and membership lasts five years.
In my free ebook Europe Travel 101, I go into more detail and share what you need to pack specifically for a trip to Europe, give you free packing lists and a budget planner and discuss how to travel around Europe once there.
Did I mention it’s free?
There you have it — you really are on your way to Europe. With a bit of planning, your trip to Europe will be a breeze. Tell me where you’re headed in the comments and what you’re looking forward to.