First Time Traveling to Europe? Here’s How You Can Prepare
If you’ve never traveled to Europe, you’re in for quite a treat. Whether you’re visiting Paris, Brussels, Madrid, Venice, or anywhere in between, there’s beauty and grace in this region of the world. Make sure you plan ahead in order to get the most out of your experience.
5 European Travel Tips
Planning a trip to Europe is unique in the sense that you have to cross borders and interact with unique cultures. It’s not like traveling to the beach or taking a weekend trip to a cabin in the mountains. There are some nuances that you must prepare for in advance. Here are several helpful tips:
Get Your Documents In Order
Start by making sure you have all of the proper documentation in order so that you can travel without any issues. If you don’t already have a passport, make sure you order one as quickly as possible. It typically takes a minimum of four to six weeks to get your passport from the time you apply. While there are expedited services that can knock this process down to roughly a week, you’ll pay a pretty penny for this convenience. It’s best to plan ahead. (If you already have a passport, check the expiration date. Most countries require your passport to have a valid date that’s at least six months past the dates of your trip.)
If you plan to drive while in Europe, please note that most car rental companies will require you to have a valid driver’s license in your home country. Again, check to make sure your license is not going to expire soon.
Finally, if you are not from a country that’s part of the EU, you’ll likely need a visa waiver from the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) starting in 2023.
Having a valid ETIAS is mandatory for travelers from countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Set a Budget
A budget is another one of those things that you’ll want to set far in advance. Having a budget allows you to plan ahead and be more specific with your trip details and itinerary (which we’ll discuss next).
You’ll have to decide what approach you want to take to budgeting, but it’s usually best to set an overall trip budget and then break it down from there. For example, if your budget is $4,000 after airfare and you’re traveling for 10 days, you know that you have roughly $400 per day to spend on food, lodging, and entertainment. This helps you pace yourself and avoid running out of money (or spending more than you originally planned).
Create an Itinerary
Unless you’re a free spirit who likes to take each day as it comes, you’ll probably want an itinerary. A detailed itinerary can help you travel with confidence. It also prevents you from missing sights or experiences that you want to see. By structuring things properly, you make it easy to fit everything in.
Creating an itinerary does come with one small caveat: Don’t overplan. Just as you can miss out on things when you don’t plan, you can miss out when you plan too much. Avoid filling every minute of every day with something to do. Leave at least a couple of hours per day for wandering the streets, dining in cafes, or leisurely shopping. This gives you some breathing room and provides the flexibility to spontaneously experience neat moments.
Airfare is almost always the most expensive part of any trip. Typically, the sooner you book your flights, the better the deals will be. (However, there is such a thing as booking too far in advance. A good rule of thumb is to book your flights two to eight months in advance for an international trip.)
You don’t need to bring your entire wardrobe with you. Overpacking will do nothing but make you miserable. As Rick Steves says, “You can’t travel heavy, happy, and cheap.”
Unless you absolutely have to bring certain items for your trip, you should plan to limit yourself to a single 20-pound carry-on size bag. (One of the small roller suitcases works.) This allows you to place your bag directly in the overhead luggage bin and prevents the issue of lost luggage.
Enjoy a Safe Trip!
A European trip should be on every person’s bucket list. It’s full of unique and wonderful opportunities that are just waiting to be experienced. Whether it’s France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, or any country in between, there’s plenty to see and do. Enjoy!