Always wanted to do that Eurotrip? Just go for it!
Good. That was easy! So now that you’ve decided to embark on this awesome adventure, don’t just book a plane ticket to your favorite city and rent a car. Maybe don’t rent a car at all!
There are actually a few things I want to tell you about how to travel in Europe that might make your road trip a bit more enjoyable.
Where to start?
If you’re from the United States, I’ve noticed flights to London, Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels are priced the best. The distance between those cities and the East Coast of the U.S. is perfect for a direct flight, for both airlines (fuel costs etc.) and passengers (not having to spend too much time in the airplane). A one-stopper from the U.S. to Europe is also possible. If the stop is in Europe, it will most likely be in one of those cities mentioned above, or in Frankfurt. Chances are a connected flight from the U.S. to the European mainland with the connection in e.g. London is cheaper than a direct flight to London. I won’t go into detail how this works but it’s worth checking a few sample dates yourself if this is true for your particular case.
The connection can also be in Reykjavik. Iceland’s geographical location allows for one-stop transatlantic flights. The budget option would be WowAir, the better version is IcelandAir, which lets you check in 2 big bags per person! You can even do a stopover and explore Iceland for a couple of days without paying more for you flight ticket! Actually, writing this made me decide my girlfriend and I are going to try this out this summer! If you’re from somewhere else other than North America, it is also recommended to choose London, Paris or Brussels as your starting point, because they are centrally located within Europe.
How to travel around?
If you’re planning to travel within Western Europe only, I advise against renting a car. You’ll be driving mostly on highways, which are not scenic at all. Moreover, French highways are mostly toll motorways, which can cost you quite a bit. Driving in Europe’s cramped city centers can be a challenge if you’re not used to it. Even more, parking space is scarce and parking your car in underground parking lots will hurt your wallet.
Your trip will be much more enjoyable if you travel by train. London, Paris and Brussels form a triangle that is connected through high-speed trains, and I strongly recommend making good use of it! I happen to live right in the middle of this triangle, near the French-Belgian border and close to the city of Lille, France. From here, I can get to Paris, London or Brussels in 1,5 hours, and to Amsterdam in 2,5 hours. Awesome isn’t it? A train ride from and to any of these cities will be ten times more eco-friendly than flying between those destinations. Plus, you don’t have to pay a luggage fee. From Paris you can also get to the Mediterranean Sea and the famous Côte d’Azur using a high-speed train.
If you’re only doing Western Europe, the train is your best friend! Just take a look at this map from the University of Vienna, which shows how well Western European cities are connected by rail. A big advantage is the train will drop you off right in the city center, so you can start exploring right away!
Eastern Europe is quite different, in any way. But when it comes to traveling, that’s the region where a rental car is best. You’ll have the chance to drive on smaller, scenic routes.
Now what if you plan on doing both Eastern and Western Europe? Or what if you want to visit two cities that aren’t exactly close to one another, for instance Stockholm and Budapest, or London and Rome!?
Then you can take a cheap flight. This can be with a budget airline like Ryanair, Vueling, WizzAir, EasyJet or Volotea. Use Airhint or Hopper to check what’s the best time to book that particular flight. You can find flights as low as 5-15 euros one-way! But in many cases, you’ll be traveling with bags that won’t classify as carry-on luggage, which means with these airlines you’ll have to pay extra to check in you bags. Therefore regular airlines like British Airways or Brussels Airlines are in some cases a valuable alternative option.
These are just my two cents, which will be helpful if you’re planning to see the major cities. But if it’s your first time in Europe, I think cities is what you want to go for.
I hope this helps in planning your amazing European adventure!
Keep on traveling!
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