You want to see Europe. But you have no idea where in Europe you actually want to go. If someones asks you your answer is, “I want to see everything.”
I can so totally relate to this. I feel the same way. But, I’m here to burst your bubble — you only have about 2 weeks and you can’t see ALL of Europe. Hell, you can’t even see ALL of Italy in that time.
The biggest mistake that Americans tend to make, in my opinion, is to rush through cities and countries in Europe to “see” it all. But in the end, you’re not really seeing much.
So I’m going to share some advice on how to figure out where to go in Europe and how to really see it — to truly experience the places you visit.
The first thing to think about
What is an absolute must on your list? Do you fantasize about wandering through the layers of the Louvre taking in all the great works of art? Are you dreaming of driving through the hills of Tuscany stopping at hill towns and savoring fabulous wine? Do you want to have a pint of Guinness and listen to some traditional Irish music in a warm, cozy pub? There’s probably one or 2 items that are truly at the top of your list. Start here. This will most likely dictate which country or region to go to.
Don’t have a specific site in mind?
I bet you have interests though. Into Renaissance art and architecture? Florence is your city. Have a love of gorgeous castles? Maybe Germany is the place to visit. Are you a beer aficionado? Make your way to Belgium.
You get the idea. Make a list of your interests and let those be your guide.
What’s your budget?
This will be the second most important item to consider or quite possibly the most important. If you’re budget is a bit lower, consider some of the eastern European countries. While they are still building some tourist infrastructure, there’s definitely enough there. And there are more than enough sites. Often you’ll find the same quality of food and wine and beer and you’ll meet incredibly friendly locals at a fraction of the cost. Countries like Romania, Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina are fabulous options for budget travelers.
If you’re on a mid-priced budget, then you can really go most anywhere except for perhaps some of the Scandinavian countries which tend to be pricier. You may want to avoid Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. Not that these places can’t be visited on a mid-priced budget, you’ll just have to lower your standards.
Got a bigger budget, then you can go anywhere!
Consider the weather
If you hate cool, rainy weather, for pete’s sake, don’t go to England or Ireland or Scotland. It will rain and it won’t be particularly warm. If you melt in the heat, then you need to avoid southern Spain in summer.
Think about the kind of weather you like most and least — what you can live with and what will drive you crazy. Be sure to choose a country accordingly.
Now you can’t control the weather. You can’t really even predict it. But if you look at sites like Weather Underground, you can see general trends to know what the temps and precipitation are in the area you are thinking about. Let this be a guide.
Are you a city, small town or nature person?
Think about this. I tend toward being a small town and nature gal. But I do spend some time in the cities — just not as much time as a little goes a long way for me.
If you love the hustle and bustle of a city, then London, Paris, Rome, or Berlin are the places for you to be.
Most of us fall in between and that’s probably the best plan. Spend some time in both the cities and small towns.
And if you love to be in the great outdoors? Then by all means, get out into the mountains, a lake or the sea. Personally, I’m always happy to be in the mountains!
Price of flights
If you’re undecided between a few destinations, check flights (or have your travel planner check flights). If the flight is cheaper to one destination over another, then maybe that’s a sign from the universe that this is the place for you to go. Finding a great deal on a flight is a wonderful feeling as airfare to Europe is not always cheap. If the fare is great, then grab it and start planning!
How comfortable or uncomfortable are you with ‘different?’
For folks traveling to Europe for the first time, countries like England, Scotland and Ireland are great places to start if you want to go somewhere that’s not too different from home. There’s no language barrier and it’s an easy transition.
But you may be more adventurous and be okay going somewhere less like home for the first time or for a 2nd or 3rd visit to Europe. I actually went to Spain for my first visit to Europe as I wanted to travel to a place that felt different from home. And I loved it!
Know yourself. Know if you are going to freak out if you can’t converse with a local or if the food and customs are too different from home. I personally think pushing just to the edge of your boundaries is the best way to travel to really get the most out of your experiences. But that’s me. You need to travel YOUR way. So know your comfort level with ‘different.’
Make the most out of your time
Don’t overplan. Don’t do “one night stands”. Believe that you will get back to that country or region. Slow down and enjoy yourself. Don’t simply see. Experience. Savor. Plan for the unexpected. Go with the flow. Follow your travel intuition (as I call it). This is when the magic happens. And these are the memories that will stay with you … for the rest of your life.
And if you still aren’t sure where to go?
I’d recommend contacting a travel planner such as myself. We’re great at asking the right questions — to dig deeper to get to the answer of where the hell you should go in Europe.