12 Insider Secrets to Plan Your Dream European Vacation

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Elizabeth is an experienced traveler and writer with bylines in several popular travel publications. She currently co-owns a small digital travel publication and spends her free time writing, taking photos, and traveling.

If you’ve logged on to social media at least once this summer, then it might feel like everybody is currently traveling through Europe. If you dream of joining them next summer, it’s helpful to know where to start, what to avoid, and how to snag the best prices on everything from hotels to tours.

Click through for 12 expert tips to ensure your trip-planning process is smooth sailing.

Plan Your Budget

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One of the most important steps in planning a European vacation is setting a realistic budget. How much are you willing to spend on accommodation, food, and activities? Do you want to splurge on a fancy hotel or save money by staying in a hostel? It’s important to figure out your priorities before booking anything or even researching your dream destinations.

Book in Advance

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Booking flights and accommodations in advance can save you a lot of money and stress. Flights tend to increase in price as the travel date approaches, and cheaper accommodations fill up fast. Book both about five to six months in advance if you can.

Apply for Visas

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Americans will need a “visa” to enter Europe starting in 2024, and it can take up to 96 hours to get approved online. Other visa requirements vary depending on your nationality and the countries you plan to visit. Research the visa requirements for each destination you’ll be visiting and apply early if necessary.

Pack Smart

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Packing light is essential for a stress-free in European vacation. It’s important to bring a versatile wardrobe that you can mix and match. Consider choosing clothing items that can be easily layered for changing weather conditions. Just don’t forget to leave some room in your suitcase for souvenirs!

Learn the Language

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Learning a few basic phrases in the local language can make a big difference in your interactions with locals. While most people in Europe speak English, learning the local language shows that you’re making an effort to assimilate into the culture, which can lead to more meaningful experiences. 

Research Transportation Options

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Public transportation in Europe is a cost-effective and efficient way to get around. Many cities offer unlimited travel passes that can save you money on transportation expenses. However, if you’re feeling adventurous, consider renting a bike or walking to explore the city.

Make a List of Must-See Attractions

Roman Colosseum
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Europe is full of iconic landmarks and attractions. However, trying to see and do everything can lead to exhaustion and more stress (some of them are even huge let-downs). Prioritize your must-see attractions and plan accordingly. Remember, it’s okay to skip the tourist traps and find hidden gems off the beaten path.

Try the Local Cuisine

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Even if you’re not a foodie, research popular regional dishes and drinks and make an effort to try them wherever you go. You never know; you might discover a new favorite dish.

Pack Comfortable Shoes

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Europe is massive, so it’s impossible to talk about every single city on the continent, but most areas where tourists go are incredibly walkable, so it’s essential to wear comfortable shoes for sightseeing. Choose shoes that provide good support and won’t cause blisters (and break them in before your trip).

Consider City Passes

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Many European cities offer city passes that give you discounts on popular attractions. It’s a great way to save money and ensure you don’t miss out on any must-see sights. Do some research to see if your destination offers a city pass and whether or not you’d save money bundling everything together.

Be Open to Unexpected Experiences

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It’s important to plan your trip to Europe diligently. However, don’t get too lost in the planning that you lose sight of the experience as a whole. Talk to locals, try new foods, and embrace different perspectives. Some of the best memories come from unexpected adventures.

Create a Rough Itinerary

European Street
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Do your research and consider your priorities. Are you drawn to Rome’s history? Barcelona’s nightlife? Amsterdam’s art scene? Based on your answers, create a loose itinerary for each day but leave time for exploration and the unexpected. Remember, traveling is about the journey, not the destination.

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