A trip around Europe is a dream for a lot of people, and it’s not too difficult to do if you live in the UK. You don’t need to get a long-haul flight just to get on the continent, and you can travel fairly cheaply if you’re sticking to a budget. If you’ve always wanted to travel around Europe, you might be able to find the freedom to do it. There are various things you might do, whether it’s taking a sabbatical from work, take a trip once you retire or even take your whole family on the road. Of course, you can see Europe on multiple trips, but there’s something to be said for enjoying one long, eye-opening journey.
The question is, where do you start if you want to plan a trip around the whole continent? There’s a lot to see, with around 50 countries to visit – depending on what you define as Europe and what you define as a country! There are so many possibilities, so the first thing to do is think about where you want to go.
Touring Europe means different things to different people. With lots of countries to choose from, you might aim to see them all, or perhaps just a handful of them in one go. You should start by thinking about which countries you’re most interested in visiting. You can then start to think about what route you might take to see them all. If you’re starting in the UK, it makes sense to go west to east. But then you might want to start in the east and make your way back to the UK, or perhaps even do a circle through the northern parts of Europe and then back through the southern parts.
You don’t necessarily have to pin down a solid plan right away. However, it makes sense to decide where you want to go and perhaps start thinking about how long you might stay in each place. It will help you to plan a route that might work for you.
Another big question to ask yourself is whether you want to pre-book your whole journey or if you just want to make decisions on the fly. What if you stop in one place and want to stay longer, but you’ve already booked a hotel in your next destination? Then again, there is something to be said for having everything booked and ready for when you arrive. You might compromise and book a few things, but leave plenty of space in between to decide how you want to use your time as you’re travelling.
What you decide to do might depend on what type of traveller you are. Some people like to have it all planned out, while others much prefer to wing it and see how they feel.
How you’re going to travel on your trip around Europe is another major thing to nail down. There are various ways to see the continent, which might be suited to different types of traveller and how much time you have. Flying is usually the fastest option, and you can find options at different price ranges to suit your needs. There are plenty of budget options, although many budget airlines won’t get you directly to the city where you want to be. Flying has its advantages, but can also be annoying. You’re stuck on someone else’s timeline, and not many people enjoy going through airports.
Trains are another option, which are pretty good for getting around Europe. One thing to keep in mind is that some countries have better train networks and connections than others. However, Interrail is great if you’re planning to get around by train, particularly if you’re a meticulous planner. By booking a few months in advance, you can get the best deals on individual tickets, and there are passes available for longer trips too. Trains can get you around very quickly too, with high-speed trains helping you to travel longer distances. Many cities have great train systems to help you get around too.
If you’re thinking of travelling by road, it can put you in control. One option is to take buses, especially if you don’t have much of a budget. However, there’s also the option of having your own vehicle. Now could be the time to check out new motorhomes for sale if you’re thinking of stopping at campsites during your tour. You’ll find excellent campsites all over Europe, making a tour in a campervan or motorhome ideal. Even if a motorhome isn’t for you, you might consider travelling by car or even motorbike. Of course, you could also cycle, but only if you have plenty of time on your hands.
Apart from your transport, the next most important thing is having somewhere to stay. This might be something that you organise on the fly. It’s super easy these days to get online, find somewhere you want to book, and simply click a few buttons to get accommodation for the same night. Just watch out for any holidays or special events that might mean all accommodation for miles around is completely booked up! You might prefer to book your accommodation in advance if you’re someone who likes to plan.
As mentioned before, campsites are available in many places if you’re camping or in a motorhome. Before you travel, it’s a good idea to check where you can stop and what facilities are available. Finding a campsite at the last minute may not always be possible.
Europe is excellent for hostels (unlike some places like the US, where they’re not really a thing). If you’re an older adult, they might not be for you, although some are happy to stay in them if it means they can save money. Some hostels do have private rooms, so you don’t have to share dorms with others if you don’t want to. The community feel can be great if you like to meet new people on your travels.
If you’re looking for more comfort and perhaps a little luxury, you also have the option of hotels. Other possibilities to consider include B&Bs, serviced apartments or self-catered accommodation, ranging from flats to villas, gites, cottages, cabins and anything else that might take your fancy. You might even plan to spend some nights on a sleeper train!
When you’re planning a long trip, should you plan or book some activities or tours? It all depends on what you want out of your trip and how you plan to travel. Some people like to pack as much into each day as possible or have a tour guide show them the sights. However, other people prefer slow travel and like to explore at their own leisure. After all, that’s often how you can discover the hidden gems that many tourists will miss. If you do want to plan some activities, try not to plan too much. Leave yourself some space to make decisions once you get to your destination, instead of following a strict itinerary.
Many of the countries in Europe use the Euro, but not all of them do. Make sure you’re aware of which ones use a different currency if you’re planning on taking cash with you. However, you might find that there are better ways to pay, particularly in countries where cash is on the way out, such as in the Nordics. Some credit cards can have low or no fees, and your debit card may also be a good option for withdrawing cash if you don’t do it too often. Other options include traveller’s checks and prepaid cards, which can help you to keep your money safe.
You certainly don’t need to be multilingual to travel around Europe. It would be pretty difficult to learn all of the languages! You will find that people speak good English in many places and at least a little English in others. However, it will always benefit you to learn a few key phrases in different languages. Even when it might not help you in a practical way, it’s simply polite to be able to greet people, say please and thank you, and express other niceties. Attempting a little of the local language can get you far. It can also be useful to learn things like how to ask for and receive directions.
If there’s one tip to keep in mind as you travel around Europe, it’s to check out where the locals go. Sometimes you might head to a popular tourist spot, whether it’s to see a famous landmark or find something to eat. But if you want authenticity, find out where local people go to eat and drink or what they do in their spare time.