The hard part is done. You’ve researched different destinations during Part 1 of planning your Eurotrip, found places that got you so excited to visit that you stay up late dreaming what it’ll be like, and you took the plunge to buy your flights.
In my opinion, the absolute hardest part of travel planning is figuring out how to get around in a city you’ve never been to before. It just takes the most research, and patience.
Luckily, Luke has lived and explored all over Europe – and we’ve recently traveled to places like Italy and Norway – and is well-versed with all of the different options, including flights and taking the Eurorail. He so generously lent me his knowledge on how to plan a trip to Europe to share with you, specifically focusing on getting around and also what to pack.
Plane vs. Train
The main factor of determining whether you need to book plane tickets or rail passes is where you are traveling to and from. Take a look at the geographic relationship of the destinations you are visiting.
This will determine whether you will need to fly to save time, or take a train if they are not that far from one another.
This is my personal favorite way of travel within Europe. You get to peer out the windows into the beautiful countryside and get very small glimpses of places you don’t have time to actually go.
Eurail is the best place to start if you are traveling to neighboring countries. However, if you are doing a combination of flying and train rides during your trip, it’s best to look into the rails of an individual country, as they all have their own train transportation system.
For example, on our recent trip in Europe, we flew from London to Germany, so then looked into Deustche Bahn, Germany’s train transportation, to get from one Germany city to another.
Eurail has deals and special rates for trips to countries that are close together. Your pass for a trip to Spain, France, and Germany, countries that are all next to each other, would end up being cheaper than if you purchased rail passes per individual trip.
Instead of buying a few single trips, your rail pass would include a set number of trips, like five or six. This would end up being cheaper if you look at the cost of each trip, and this gives you more flexibility.
Some of these packages have a full-day window for you to use a “trip”, so if you wanted to stop in a city for lunch, but then hop back on the rail and keep on going to your final destination, that counts as one “trip”. You don’t have to be tied to a set time to depart.
They also offer deals for students and for other age parameters.
Another benefit to taking the train is that you do not have to pay any additional fees for your luggage. You can bring any sizes and amount of bags.
Trains in Europe are incredibly reliable with arrival and departure times. Though train rides tend to be longer than flights, you are able to plan your trip to the minute when you get around on the rail.
The real benefit of flying in Europe is saving time. Though train rides are often convenient and entertaining, it could save you a day’s worth of travel time by flying.
Flying Europe’s budget airlines is often cheaper than taking the train. When looking at the following break out of our transportation costs, you will notice that our flights were significantly cheaper than our train rides.
RyanAir, Vueling, Transavia, EasyJet, and Norwegian Airlines are some of the many budget airlines that cover cities in Europe. We always start out by using Google Flights, as you have freedom to manipulate time and destination combinations, and then compare with Skyscanner.
The downside to budget airlines is the cost to check luggage. They are very strict on weight and carry-on size. If you don’t prepay for luggage, you can get stuck with a huge fee when you get to the airport. Prepaying online for your luggage will help you avoid this.
Always keep in mind that your luggage may be on the emptier side on the front end of your trip, but upon return, you will likely have picked up souvenirs to bring home with you. Accounting for this and saving some space is a wise decision when flying in Europe.
Something else to know is that budget flights have a higher tendency of being delayed. You can either pay in money or pay in time when it comes to booking flights in Europe.
See, for instance, what we’ve paid for all of our flights and trains from country to country, and city to city:
- Flight from London to Cologne ~$20 per person = $40
- Train from Cologne to Munich ~$150 per person = $300 (this was not planned for – we missed our next flight from Cologne to Munich and had to improvise)
- Flight from Munich to Venice ~$50 per person = $100
- Train from Venice to Rome ~$75 per person = $150
- Flight from Rome to London ~$75 per person = $150
Booking Your Stay
After you’ve got all of your travel booked, be sure to lock in your accommodations. We usually look to Airbnb. I love staying in a shared home where the host is present – it’s basically like having a concierge.
Asking your Airbnb or VRBO host for restaurants suggestions, things to do, and must-sees is asking the most local source. It gives your experience a comfortable, hospitable touch.
They live in this place and know it better than TripAdvisor or any other resource. It’s also so fun to stay in a residential home in a new area. You get a taste of what it’s like to live there.
To give you a better visual, our total lodging costs (hotel for one night in Munich and Airbnbs in Venice and Rome for four nights) was ~$370:
- Hotel for one night in Munich was ~$100
- Airbnb in Venice was ~$100 for one night
- Airbnb in Rome was ~$75 per night for two nights
Now, your travel and stay are booked. Packing for Europe is the easy part! When you’re at this step of taking your trip to Europe, it also means you’re actually close to departure. Are you giddy yet?!
What you decide to bring varies on many factors of your trip, such as the season, the natural climate of your destinations, weather tendencies, and what type of activities you’ll be doing.
For my recent trip, I went to London, Munich, Rome, and Venice. It was mid-September, so weather is warm during daytime but the perfect chilly-fall temperatures after sundown.
We visited friends, went to Oktoberfest, attended the wedding of two beloved friends in Munich, and backpacked northern Italy for four days.
As you can imagine, these occasions were a little tough to pack for since we are each took a backpack, and shared one checked suitcase (gotta have some room to bring back Italian wine, of course!).
I do regret bringing that extra suitcase. Though the extra room was convenient, it was difficult to lug around on cobblestone roads in Venice and Rome. It was on its last limb when we got home, and is basically ready to be thrown away now. So if you have access to a backpack or are willing to buy one, definitely consider picking that instead.
My rules of thumb for light packing for abroad trips are as follows:
- Only bring simply colored & patterned clothes that can mix match. Less is more.
- 1 pair each of solid walking/hiking shoes, 1 pair sandals, 1 pair wedges/boots.
- A multi-use jacket or sweater, such as a leather jacket to wear out and stay warm, or jean jacket.
- A scarf that can double as a pillow during travel and a shawl when it’s chilly and a flannel shirt that can serve as an extra layer or a shirt (thanks for that trick, Becca!)
- Use vacuum bags. They fit a ton inside and then you squeeze the air out so your things get hugged tight, and end up saving so much room.
- Roll your shirts instead of folding.
- Squeeze items into your packed shoes.
- Be okay with re-wearing.
Check out my travel tips on what to pack for a more comfortable long flight for your travel to Europe, and what you should definitely take onboard with you in your carry-on. I fly comfy and prepared.
You’ve got a way to get from all point ‘s to point Bs; you have an authentic place to call home in a new city for a few days; you will look stylish while being practical in Europe.
Sounds like you’re all set to me!