How to Plan a Eurotrip Worth Your While
11 Cities in 16 days!
I love a good romp around Europe. There are so many different cultures, different cities, and different foods to try. With changes to their flight industry, you can get around for just a few bucks sometimes.
I was based in London during my undergraduate studies for a study abroad stint and went on small trips to Venice, Edinburgh and Paris. I used that time to really live like a local - not hard since London resembles my native New York City. I had my brush with Europe again at the beginning of 2016 when I did another study abroad trip for grad school. This time I revisited London briefly, spent two weeks in Lyon, explored Perouges nearby, and spent a brief day and a half in Barcelona. After graduation, I planned a thank you trip for my mother for all her support during all these years of school. We flew into Milan and went to Venice, Rome, and Paris. I would have preferred not to repeat cities but alas, it was what she wanted! This September I'm going back again!
A Eurotrip seems to be on every young person's bucket list. I'm here to tell you it's not impossible, even on a tight budget. Between living in New York City and student loans, I know how to stretch a dollar. I'll walk you through our planning process for the most recent trip. Please note we're using US dollars for the prices and are flying out from New York City. Prices will vary depending on where you're departing from.
1. Planning a trip
The first step is to plan your trip. What countries are you interested in? Narrow it down to cities. My best friend Grace and I compiled our must-see lists. She was interested in seeing the basics like London and Paris. She wanted Italy and Spain. I wanted Switzerland since I'd been to the other countries before. We answered these questions to determine what was right for us.
Are you slow paced or fast paced?
Do you enjoy relaxing, and taking your time to explore the winding roads? Or do you have the urge to see and do as much as you can in a limited time span? Grace wasn't sure but she was willing to try a fast paced itinerary. I'm always about maximizing my time. I try to see as many new things as possible. Luckily, my friend was willing to try my madness.
Do you enjoy city sights or nature?
Europe offers a great amount of variety. We both agreed that we wanted a nice mixture of experiencing the unique cities and seeing some natural sights. Nothing out of our comfort zone here though. We're going up mountains in Spain and Switzerland via funiculars and trams.
Do you enjoy modern cities or historical cities?
Lucky for us, we live in a modern city and aren't too easily enthralled by bright lights and big shops. We both agreed that we wanted to see cities with a bit of history and flair. I had lived in the historic part of Lyon, France (UNESCO world heritage site!) for a brief time during a study abroad trip. I tried to work in more UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) sites as these are places deemed to be historically significant to humanity as a whole. It didn't quite work out, but hopefully next time!
Would you prefer transportation or walking?
I love a mixture of both and I think we did a good job picking places that were larger and would need public transportation to get around and places that were smaller and easily navigated by foot. Both are a great way to get to know a city. You will be walking a lot during a Eurotrip, sometimes more than you expect, so be prepared.
Through much deliberating, we narrowed it down to these places. We decided to allocate a few nights to each place. London, Barcelona, Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento, Basel, Lucerne, Zurich, Amsterdam, Paris. It was a list we both could live with, with new sights for both of us.
2. Purchasing the Flights
The second step is to figure out the dates. Between our work schedules and life in general, we settled on September. Flights are generally decently priced from mid September till early March, I've found. I would suggest purchasing flights before hotels. After all, what good is a hotel if you can't reach your destination? We shaped our itinerary based on geography and prices of flights. We definitely could have saved if we were very flexible with time and places, but overall we're very happy with our flights. Definitely take a look at trains if you have time and it turns out to be cheaper. Surprisingly, many flights within Europe are now so cheap.
New York > London with Norwegian $320.53
London > Barcelona with Ryanair $49.34
Barcelona > Naples with Ryanair $38.49
Naples > Basel with Easyjet $111.60
Zurich > Amsterdam with Transavia $41.37
Amsterdam > Paris with Transavia $37.02
Paris > New York with Norwegian $304.41
3. Planning the itinerary
For this trip, we planned so far in advance (6 months!) that we had wiggle room with the hotels. We wanted to plan our itinerary and map out all the places we wanted to explore before figuring out the hotel in the vicinity. Because we are a bit short on time this go around, we decided to pack our days full and give each place a few days. For example, Naples acts as a hub as we explore Pompeii and Sorrento on some days. You may not always have the luxury of planning the itinerary before booking the hotels, but it makes most sense if you are looking to maximize your time.
A brief version of our itinerary is as follows:
- London - Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Kensington Garden, Notting Hill, visit a pub, Millennium Bridge, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, Spitalfields Market.
- Barcelona - Park Guell, Gothic District, beach, eat churros and hot chocolate, eat paella, Monserrat.
- Naples - Pompeii, Sorrento, eat pizza.
- Basel - Quick exploration.
- Lucerne - Mt. Pilatus, Stans, explore lake area.
- Zurich - Quick exploration.
- Amsterdam - Van Gogh museum, walk canals, Red-light district.
- Paris - Versailles, Arc de Triomphe, Louvre, Eiffel Tower, shopping.
4. Booking the Hotels
This one will be a challenge. Unlike flights, where it's just timing and pricing, this one requires thought about proximity from airport and proximity to your favorite sites. Luckily my partner in crime was easygoing and we agreed for the most part on the hotels we liked. Because we used credit card awards, our hotels were basically free but the prices (as we kept cross-referencing with other sites) were on point and matched the offers from big companies like Expedia. Our selections were made based on price and proximity to places. Our biggest desire was to be in a good neighborhood within walking distance of transportation. These prices are based on two people per room in September of 2017. I've stayed at my fair share of bad hotels and hostels. It was important to me that we had a good night's rest, especially since we'd be on our feet for so long. So YES, cheaper options are available. We chose these places based on our needs and desires.
London at Apex London Wall Hotel at $221.74 per night, total 1 night at $221.74
Barcelona at Casa Gracia Barcelona Suites at $115.96 per night, total 3 nights at $347.90
Naples at NH Napoli Ambassador at $148.12 per night, total 4 nights at $592.51
Lucerne at TOP Hotel Restaurant Anker Luzern at $193.59 per night, total 3 nights at $580.78
Amsterdam at Alp Hotel Amsterdam at $139.44 per night, total 2 nights at $278.88
Paris at Hotel Elysees 8 at $142.47 per night, total 2 nights at $284.94
Total per person $1153.37
5. Finalizing Everything
Now that the boring stuff is done, you can close out the trip by printing all necessary documents, updating the itinerary with details about how to get to and from places from your hotels, and think about your packing list. Follow along on my adventures and remember that a grand Europe trip is not out of reach.
Grand Total $2056.14 or $128.50 per day