Steps for Planning a European Trip for Dummies (from One Dummy to Another)

Written by Kevin February 10, 2016

View from the Castle

Changing of the Guard Prague

Cologne, Germany


Cologne Germany

John Lennon Wall

I have been in Europe for almost a month now which is so weird to say because I feel like I just got here yesterday, but since I have gotten here I have been on a few trips and I think they have all been pretty successful. However I am by no means an expert, every trip is a learning experience but planning has gotten easier. Here are a few steps and tips for when you start to plan your trips!

  • Where to go?

Ok well this might be obvious, but it is often the most time consuming part of this process, there are so many places in Europe to go, and so much to do in all of those places. The key is to have a plan of places you definitely want to go and make the most of your time once you are there. It is important to know how many days it takes to see what you want to see. For example I was in Cologne, Germany and Prague each for two days this weekend. I thought I could see all I needed to and more for Cologne in two days, but I think I could have spent another month in Prague there was so much to do. We still got to see everything I wanted to see which was great (a must-have city on your list) but I would have loved more time there.

  • Where to stay?

This is this easy part, my recommendation is pick based off location. Either an Airbnb or a hostel (or a hotel if you have that kind of budget) in the main center of where you want to go. Even if it is a little more expensive, it saves time and money that you would spend on cabs or ubers anyways. I had friends stay outside of London thinking that would save money, but ended up spending hundreds on cabs. I stayed in Venice two weeks ago right around the corner from Saint Michael’s square, and even though it was more expensive than a place a few blocks away, we saved so much time and money because we didn’t have to get a water taxi every morning and night to go anywhere.

  • How to get there?

This is the tricky part, again with time and money because balancing your budget and time is what studying abroad is all about. This weekend I am taking a train to Florence rather than flying because it balances time and money, but that is because it is a relatively short ride and gets me close to where I am staying. Deciding between train, bus, cab, or plane almost figures itself out funny enough, but if you book far enough ahead of time planes can be less than trains. The biggest part of this is understanding how to get to where you are staying from the station or airport and having a plan ahead of time is smart because it is often difficult with language barriers and pressure from cab drivers swarming you outside the airport. My best advice is to double and triple check where you are going, jumping on the train the wrong way can be a problem, as it was for us last weekend on our way to Prague. Like I said, traveling is a learning experience.

  • What to do there?

Ok now this is the easiest part, if you have planned correctly this should be simple. The only real questions to ask are if you want to do a guided tour, spend money on museums and tourist attractions or just walk around. It really all depends on the city. For example in Venice and Cologne I really just explored the cities because they were very interesting, but we did a guided tour in Prague which was expensive, but really was efficient to see an entire city in two days and really learn a lot. My best advice is to buy a travel book and read reviews online beforehand so you know what to expect like how much time to take, how much to pay, and where everything is. A tip for Venice: do not spend 80 euro on a gondola ride like their asking price says. The drivers will take a group of 6 for a bargained price of whatever you ask – we did it for 50.

Even though it may seem difficult after a long day of planning routes and locations, planning where to go saves so much time. I thought winging it would be fine too, but having a plan saves a lot of time and when you travel for a weekend, every minute counts!