Something that I often get asked is whether I could share some tips on planning a long holiday in Europe. Big holidays like these often take months of planning beforehand and when it’s your first time planning a big holiday, it can seem like an overwhelming task. Here are some tips and bits of advice I’ve picked up along the way which I think would be good to know, especially for the first time Europe traveller. I’ve broken this post up into two parts as there was so much to write about & I hope you find this useful when you plan your next trip to Europe!
1) PLANNING THE DESTINATIONS
Where to head? The way I see it is that there are two ways in attempting to narrow down where to visit in Europe. Whilst the geographical area of Europe is relatively small, it is one jam packed continent with so many countries and things to do within each country. So the first method of tackling Europe would be to visit the main attractions of multiple countries within a short period of time. This is kinda what we did when Tom and I went to Europe together the first time. The only city we visited in France was Paris, the only city we visited in Switzerland was Lucerne, etc. We did this because we wanted to get a taste of a wide variety of cultures and countries in Europe so that if we ever returned, we would be able to revisit the places we loved most. So planning a whole heap of different places to visit could be a good first time itinerary.
The second method of narrowing down where to head in Europe would be to focus on specific areas you want to visit and just spend your entire time there. You could easily do three weeks and more in Italy visiting Rome, Florence, Venice, Cinque Terre, Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast before heading to Croatia for three weeks (or more) to get in and amongst the beautiful Mediterranean coast (think Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar and the islands) before heading inland to see Plitvice Lakes, Zagreb and other little stops along the way. I suppose it all comes down to where you want to visit most.
Looking out at Gruz Harbour from our AirBnB apartment balcony (full post here)
When it comes to booking accommodation, this is generally where the large majority of your money goes. As Europe is such a great place to be outdoors and explore the surrounds, we often look for budget (but still nice!) apartment accommodation via AirBnB. To date we’ve booked 15 different apartments on AirBnB and they have all been great experiences. We always filter our AirBnB searches to apartments with washers, kitchens and wifi – all super crucial things for us when we’re on a long trip abroad.
The scenic drive from Dubrovnik to Split (see more of Croatia here)
3) TAKE TRAINS, SKIP THE PLANES
As Europe is a relatively small area, if you’re simply heading to adjacent countries or nearby cities, trains (& buses) are often the most convenient method of transportation. There’s no check-in lines, no hand baggage requirements to adhere to and no need to stay strapped into a plane seat. Most trains have toilets on board, some have food bars and flip-out tables as well for working on the go. The journeys are super scenic too which is an added bonus.
If you’re starting in London, there is the Eurostar service that connects London to Brussels, Paris, Disneyland Paris (!) and a few other places in order to get you across the sea. Then from the mainland, there are a heap of different train services that basically connect every town and country. You can either buy these tickets via each country’s train operator’s website / in person at the stations or you can purchase a Eurail pass beforehand which is one big package that covers train travel within the countries you select.
Little grocery store on the main street of Riomaggiore. (More Cinque Terre posts here)
Aside from a little cash, take a good travelling credit card with you. I use a Citibank card which doesn’t charge any overseas ATM withdrawal or EFTPOS fees when you use it overseas. It’s hugely popular for travelling – almost everyone I know has one. Another popular card for overseas travel is also the 28 degrees one though I have no experience using this one!
Leaving our apartment in Riomaggiore (more Cinque Terre posts here)
5) TRAVEL INSURANCE
Always, always travel with travel insurance. When you’re overseas, the last thing you want is something to go wrong and to be hit with a massive medical bill, get injured, fall into difficulties or lose your stuff. To aid with any claims you might need to make, take photos of the valuables you are taking with you and also record serial numbers of any electronic devices. Speaking of taking photos, take a photo of your passport and email it to yourself so that in the unlikely event that you do lose it, you’ll have all the important details with you to aid you in the process of sorting it all out!
Part 2 coming next..