Exploring Europe for five weeks was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I want to share my experience with all of you in a five part travel series that talks about my adventure, and each unique place that I visited. For today, I am breaking down my booking process and how the trip came about. So if anyone is planning a trip to Europe you might find these tips useful.
Here is a break down of the booking process:
1.Decide a time to go that works for everyone, whether its just yourself or a group
2. Create a Budget
3. Decide where you want to go, and a time frame for each destination
4. Plan your route
5. Book flights and places to stay
6. Find excursions and activities
8. Your off….
Best time to go
Its important to do your research on the best time to travel to certain places. The reason for this is because you can be saving tons of money just based on the time you go. For Europe High season is June-August and Low season is March-May. We went from May -June which Is in the middle, but was relatively cheap and worked for everyones schedule. Give your time to figure out when you want to go instead of booking last minute. Having an approximate time you want to go months in advance so that you can look for good flights and hotels will help you score major deals and save a lot of money.
Create a Budget
Europe can be a very expensive vacation if you do not have a budget in mind. The way I created my budget was by asking people who went and doing research online. Depending on when you are going, costs will definitely be affected. For five weeks I budgeted $5000, and I stayed below what I budgeted. When you have a budget in your head its easier to book things that are within your means. Give yourself time to save as well, so you know exactly how much is set aside for your vacation. This trip was something I knew I was going to do years before it happened. So with that being said, I casually did research here and there and already had money set aside before booking or officially planning anything. I recommend doing your research and taking everything into consideration; travel costs, accommodations, activities, food, and spending money. Once you create a budget and time frame you’ll know exactly how many places you can visit, and budget accordingly in each place.
Places to Visit
This is a very optional step because there is so many places to visit in Europe, and it would be nice to visit them all but depending on your time frame its probably impossible. So pick places you always dreamed of going. Some of my favourite places on the trip that I 100% recommend checking out is Santorini, Cinque Terre, Amsterdam, and Tuscany. I loved everywhere we went but I definitely have highlights at these specific places. Keep in mind your time frame, and decide how long you want to stay in each place. This is something I recommend researching too because sometimes we want to stay somewhere for 2 days but people recommend staying for 3 days depending on what you want to do and see. Once you have achieved this your ready to plan your route
Plan your route
The best way to plan your route is too travel to destinations that are close together so that you are saving time, and money. We did a circle starting in Amsterdam, then Berlin, Athens, Santorini, Rome, Florence, La Spezia (Cinque Terre), and Paris. Another thing to check is if there are events or holidays going on at the time you want to go to a different destination as this can save you a lot of money. For instance, our Berlin flight was $200 because we flew on the weekend the Prince was getting married. Take a look at different forms of transportation, to make sure you are getting the best travel deal. We found that flying was the cheapest and quickest way to travel Europe. But depending on where you are going that could be different. Be flexible to change your route if its cheaper to do it a different way. When you start to look at flights or other travel accommodations look for the best route combination. We did not no where we would fly too first, but with the help of Hopper we found a really good deal with KLM to fly to Amsterdam and so we planned our trip starting there and making our way down.
Book flights and places to stay
We used a lot of apps such as Hopper, Skyscanner, Air BnB, and Homeaway. The nice thing about Hopper and Skyscanner is that they find the best deals for flights and hotels and give you predictions of whether to book now or wait because they predict prices will go lower. I use these apps no matter where I go, even if I am not fully sure I want to go. Its just nice to look ahead of time so that if you find a good deal it might help you decide for sure. As for sleeping accommodations we booked mainly BnB’s because they were relatively cheap when split between five people. That is why I recommend travelling in a group so that you can share the cost of accommodations. However, if you are traveling alone, hostels might be a better option. Read reviews on different BnB’s to make sure that you know what to expect when you get there. For instance, we looked for places that were close to train stations, grocery stores, and not far from the main attractions. If you plan to go to Santorini or Cinque Terre keep the following in mind:
Find Excursions and Activities
Sometimes its beneficial to book activities ahead of time because they can be pricy if you book them there. We booked 4 things before leaving and got good deals for each. WE used Trip Advisor and Expedia to find the best options. We got I Am Amsterdam cards, a sunset cruise in Oia with dinner, a colosseum tour in Rome, and a wine tour in Tuscany. If I can find the exact ones I booked I will link them below. You don’t have to book everything but having a couple things booked ahead of time could save you time and money. You got to remember that if you decide to book in Europe that it will be more expensive because of the Euro.
For this five week adventure we used backpacks and one carry on luggage to fir all of our toiletries. My family was shocked that I was bringing so little with me for five weeks. However, I packed more than I actually used. I also shared clothes with my friend which is also a benefit in traveling in a group. In addition, majority of our BnB’s had laundry machines to wash our clothes. For a vacation where you are changing destinations every few days, you do not want to be carrying a lot with you. For clothes, this is what I packed:
There you have it! My experience booking a five week Europe trip. If you have an questions or comments, leave them below and I’ll be happy to get back to you! Next week I talk about my experience in Amsterdam, so stay tuned!