Plan an Unforgettable European Vacation: A Comprehensive Guide

December 26, 2022

Europe is one of the most exciting places to visit, and a European vacation may include over a dozen different countries. All of these different cultures make it essential to plan a vacation to Europe carefully. It's important to understand basic European travel, learn what to pack for a trip to Europe, and discover how to plan a trip to Europe that doesn’t exceed your budget.


In this guide, we’ll discuss how to plan a European vacation while we answer common questions like, “How much does a trip to Europe cost?” and “What does European plan mean?” Learning these facts could help make the most of your vacation in Europe. We’ll also highlight several countries that you should consider visiting on your trip. Your first official stop? The Parking Spot, where you can get airport parking assistance, including 24/7 care and a convenient shuttle service.

Researching and Choosing Destinations in Europe

Before your trip, make sure that you research popular destinations in Europe that your family will love. Our travel experts have been from one end of Europe, to the other. All countries are different and you must prepare for this before traveling. We've written the following article to help make it easier to plan a vacation to Europe.

Popular European Destinations

Your European plan should include multiple countries and cities where you can experience the best that the continent has to offer. Just a few options for your European travel include the following:

  •  The United Kingdom: Made up of England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland, the United Kingdom is a fantastic place to visit. Check out places like Snowdonia National Park . Start your European vacation here to ease into the continent and its uniquely exciting destinations.
  •  Spain: After enjoying the United Kingdom, fly over to Spain and visit cities like Barcelona, Seville, or Madrid. Tour grape-growing regions like La Rioja , or visit the Museo Nacional de Prado if you’re into art. Europe’s art scene is diverse, and many of its airports feature high-quality artwork that your family will love.
  •  France: France is equal parts sprawling Paris high-life and unique rural destinations, like wine chateaux throughout the country. Start by seeing the Eiffel Tower if you go to France; there’s nothing like it in the world. Next, hit up the best wine chateaux in France to experience old-school vintages that may be hundreds of years old.

Other great places to visit include Germany (check out Berlin for amazing nightlife), Italy (don’t forget to see old Roman architecture ), and Greece (visit Thessaloniki to see ancient Byzantine art). All of these European vacation destinations will engage you and your family while teaching you more about the area's unique culture.

Evaluating Personal Interests and Preferences

Each European country will provide different facets to explore that you need to carefully research before your trip. Follow these steps to get the best results:

  •  Research Each Country: What interests you about Europe? Identify each nation’s unique culture, history, and natural elements before picking destinations according to your taste.
  •  What are your physical abilities? Many EU countries have different ways to make tourism accessible. And some locations and activities are just not accessible for every traveler.
  •  Talk With Your Family: Does your family have interests that differ from yours? They probably do, so be sure to discuss their priorities and schedule a trip that hits the high spots.
  •  Know About Big Events: Do you celebrate Pride Day with your partner and want to experience it in another country? Research this and other events, like Oktoberfest, before you travel.

Determining the Duration of the Trip

Once you’ve picked a few places that you want to go, it’s essential to estimate how long you'll be away. Decide if you want to go for a week or more, and don’t forget to consider travel restrictions in Europe, including COVID rules. Next, you need to look at your available budget and make sure you consider the cost of some basic Europe travel essentials for your trip.

Assessing Available Time and Budget

While a lengthy European vacation may seem inherently better, it can often be quite exhausting. Many people overdo it while in Europe and end up struggling to enjoy themselves. Your budget should take into account your stamina, your kids’ attention span, and other elements, including work and school schedules.

Furthermore, you need to base your budget on the trip length and ration your money intelligently to avoid spending too much. Your vacation budget should be based on multiple facets, including:

  •  Transportation: Are you going to rent a car during your trip or rely on public transit? You could even rent bicycles if you don’t mind a little exercise.
  •  Accommodation: Europe has many types of lodging, from cheap hostels to five-star hotels. Pick an option that fits your budget and your family's needs.
  •  Activities: What would you like to do while you’re in Europe? Budget carefully and limit yourself to a few options in each city based on your available funds. It can be tempting to over-schedule.
  •  Food: Set aside money for unique European delicacies, such as meat-rich dishes and desserts. Try to find inexpensive choices that don’t break the bank, such as street food.
  •  Memorabilia: It is customary to bring back memorabilia and various other gifts when visiting Europe. Budget accordingly and limit yourself to just one or two items in each country.

Think Carefully About the Busiest Summer Days

Try to avoid the busiest summer travel days to minimize complications. Traveling during the off-season is a smart choice and can save you a lot of frustration. You should also research things like global entry and TSA PreCheck to speed up your travel experience. You can sign up for these services before your trip and pay a little extra to travel more easily.

Balancing Depth vs. Breadth of Exploration

Do you want to visit a few countries and explore them extensively? For instance, you and your partner may pick your ancestors' home countries and explore them in depth. Alternatively, you could spend less time in each country and briefly experience a wider range of cultures. The choice is yours; the first option gives you more insight into each country, while the latter helps you see more places.

Planning the Itinerary

Once you’ve got your budget set, you’ve nearly learned how to plan a European vacation that meets your needs. Now, you just have to create an itinerary that not only takes your budget into consideration but satisfies your requirements. Thankfully, this process should be reasonably easy. Many modern travel apps make this process faster and easier.

Creating a Rough Itinerary

When creating a rough itinerary for your trip, you must:

  •  Pick the countries and cities that you want to visit
  •  Know what you want to do at each destination
  •  Give yourself enough time to enjoy every stop

How Much Time Should You Set Aside for Each Area?

The answer depends on what you want to do. There’s no real hard and fast rule here. Instead, you should just go by logic. Could you cram all of your activities into a single day, or will it take multiple days?

Exploring Transportation Options

While you can always rent a car and travel across Europe, it’s a good idea to consider other options that may be more efficient. They include:

  •  Plane: Flying will get you across Europe in two hours instead of two days. However, it can be expensive and might be challenging if you have kids.
  •  Train Travel: Europe has numerous train networks that you can use to travel. They’re like nothing in America and are a lot of fun if you plan carefully.
  •  Eurail Passes: Eurail passes let you travel across Europe at discount prices, especially on intercity trips. This is a great option if you’re trying to save money.

Researching Accommodation

When deciding where to stay the night, make sure you pick establishments that are close to places you want to visit, provide excellent amenities (like pools), and have favorable reviews. Select lodging that's suitable for your budget and consider options like:

  •  Hostels: Hostels have shared sleeping, cooking, and bathroom amenities but are incredibly cheap. They’re great if you don’t plan on spending a lot of time in your room.
  •  Airbnb: Airbnb and similar services not only provide lower-cost accommodations but also let you meet real Europeans and see how they live.
  •  Hotels: Many hotels have basic economy options that may fit your budget more easily. Others are far more luxurious.
  •  Vacation Rentals: If you have the money to spend on more extensive rentals, consider getting a villa or something similar. It’s the best way to stay in Europe.

Navigating Travel Documents and Logistics

While you don’t need to complete a lot of paperwork before traveling to Europe, you do have to handle things like passports, visas, and vaccinations. Taking these steps properly can make your trip safer. Frankly, it’s the best way to vacation in Europe without getting yourself into trouble.

Passport and Visa Requirements

When traveling, you need to ensure that your visa is valid and check all visa regulations. Many European countries require specific travel visas, so make sure yours are up to date. Get a new passport if necessary, and apply for any visas you need. Doing so can streamline your airport security experience and minimize complications.

Travel Insurance and Health Considerations

Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, you should research and purchase travel insurance for your trip. Travel insurance is a temporary policy that can provide medical coverage and even item restoration during your trip.

Managing Finances and Budgeting

When you're planning out your European travel budget, it's important to get the most out of any money-saving tips. This will take some stress out of the process and make your trip more enjoyable.

Estimating Costs and Setting a Budget

Your budget must include meals, activities, transportation, and accommodation. Pay attention to currency exchange rates and emergency expenses to ensure that things go as smoothly as possible. If you’re on a tight budget, consider visiting the cheapest countries in Europe to conserve cash.

Exploring Money-Saving Tips and Deals

If you want to save money, here are a few tips to consider:

  •  Find flight deals and fly based on them
  •  Start thinking about how to manage your flight anxiety to avoid unnecessary cancellations
  •  Travel during slow periods to get significant discounts
  •  Buy city passes to travel more effectively
  •  Make food in your hotel room to save money
  •  Just say “no” to street vendors with knick-knacks
  •  If traveling with friends, be willing to split expenses
  •  Buy the best shoes for travelling in Europe so you can walk more

Preparing for the Trip

The big day is coming soon and you need to start getting ready. The following steps will ensure that you have the items you need to enjoy your trip.

Packing Essentials

It’s critical to pack your suitcase wisely to make sure you bring enough clothes but don’t overpack. Ensure that you bring:

  •  Just enough clothing for the trip
  •  An e-reader to use instead of books
  •  Clothing that’s appropriate for the weather
  •  All toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.)
  •  Voltage adapters for electronics
  •  Chargers for your phone

Packing lightly and efficiently can help your trip go smoothly. Try to limit yourself to one suitcase to avoid getting worn out. Invest in a suitcase with a handle and wheels; this type of luggage is essential for European trips.

Learning Basic Phrases and Cultural Etiquette

When traveling to European countries, you need to understand a little of their language and their culture in general. While many Europeans do speak English, you shouldn’t expect everyone to be perfectly fluent in it. It would be best to:

  •  Practice phrases like “Hello” and “Can you help me?” in each country’s language
  •  Learn other essential phrases, like “Where’s my hotel?” to ensure your trip is easier
  •  Research cultural norms and learn hand signals that can work when language breaks down
  •  Practice proper etiquette for tipping, and serving techniques

Enjoying the Trip

Once you’re in Europe, it can be easy to get overwhelmed with all of the things to do. Thankfully, you can enjoy your trip by embracing European culture and adapting to any surprises as they come your way.

Immersing in Local Culture and Experiences

Make sure you eat local food and skip any American chains you might see in Europe. It’s tempting to eat like you do back at home, but trying authentic dishes will make your experience more enjoyable. Research local activities, traditions, and events to find some that interest you. Consider attending local festivals and celebrations that immerse you in European history.

Staying Flexible and Open to New Experiences

When something goes wrong with your trip, don’t panic. Unexpected opportunities are likely to pop up at any time, such as rainstorms or unforeseen delays. Don’t just sit in your hotel room; embrace the situation instead. For instance, you can check out more indoor locations on rainy days to ensure that you stay busy and have fun.

Get A Taste Of Europe Without Leaving The U.S.

These comprehensive tips should make your trip easier and ensure that you have a fun and enjoyable experience. Using them properly can help make travelling in Europe more exciting and safe while giving you and your family the best chance of having a great time. But what if you can’t fly to Europe for a vacation?

Well, you can always check out cities in the U.S. named after European destinations or those with a European feel. Though not quite the real thing, it’s as close as you can get in the New World! Don’t forget to reserve easy, affordable airport parking at The Parking Spot and get guaranteed parking with airport shuttle transportation. This can help make your trip more enjoyable.

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