How to plan a weekend trip in Europe
Europe is one of the most easiest continents to go country-hopping in, so why not plan a trip to a different country for the weekend?
All the countries are smaller and close together, flights are cheap, and the EU encourages people to travel. This makes traveling to a new country for the weekend extremely doable. To get the most for your money and time, here are some tips on how to plan a weekend trip in Europe.
Where to go?
Use skyscanner. It is a website where you can put in your location and destination to find the cheapest rates. Skyscanner also has this fantastic feature where you can put in your location, then put “Flexible? Search ‘Everywhere’” and it will show the cheapest flights to various countries for that weekend. While in Europe, most people travel Ryanair because it is cheap (round trips as cheap as 40 euros) and it flies to a multitude of locations.
Leaving the airport
Obtaining cheap flights is fantastic, but finding the cheapest ride over usually means you will be in the airport that is over an hour away from the city. Look to see where you will land and if it is far away, look for a shuttle bus that will bring you into the city. You can buy a ticket in advance, which is usually cheaper than buying it when you arrive. Besides, knowing that you have a ride into the city saves you a lot of stress when you land and you can save yourself even more stress by finding directions from the bus stop to your hostel or Airbnb.
Finding a place to stay
The beauty of Europe is that hostels exist, everywhere. Hostels are great because they are usually in the middle of the city (if you do your research right), are cheap, have knowledgeable people who can help you, and can meet people from all over the world. To find hostels existing in your destination, search hostelworld.com. This website shows all the available hostels, what kinds of rooms they have, what utilities they offer, and reviews. Read the reviews, they are super important in deciding whether or not the hostel is actually decent. Room sizes can range as low as four beds and go up to more than 20 beds. The rooms with more beds cost less, but your sleep can be at jeopardy since it leaves room for more people to disturb it. You can also pick whether you want to be in a dorm with the only the same sex as you, or coed. Coed is cheaper most times.
If hostels scare you, or you just want your own space. Try Airbnb. Airbnbs are fantastic because you get a place to yourself where you can rest and relax after a day of exploring. Watch out, sometimes an attendant will give you access to a room in the place that he or she is living in, so you will be sleeping there with them. If you want to avoid that, make sure to read the details and talk to the attendant about it before booking. If you have enough people going, it can be as cheap or cheaper than staying in a hostel.
What to do?
You have the plane booked and the living accommodations figured out. Now what to occupy your time with during your stay? If you have no idea, start with Pinterest. By searching, “traveling in (name of city),” websites upon websites of the “top 10 places you need to see,” “how to live like a local,” and so on will appear. If there are specific activities you like to do, research into how those activities flourish in the city. Want to try the country’s cuisine? Look into the best restaurants for it. Love bookstores? Check to see if the city has any famous ones. If you have friends who have traveled or lived in that city before, ask them what they think you should do.
After getting an idea of the sites you want to see and things you need to do, plan a tentative itinerary. You do not need to be as detailed as “at 10 am, we will go to the Colosseum then at 10:45 am, we will go to the Pantheon, etc.” Have an idea of what places might be best to check out one day, and what else to leave for another day. Creating a loose schedule will give you some direction with your time and travels while still giving you wiggle room to take your time, explore, and try things that were not on your list.
How to get around?
Look into the public transportation, you may have to use it depending on where you plan to go in the city. It is helpful to see what type of transportation–bus, tram, train–you should use while there and what their lines look like. By familiarizing yourself with the map and schedule, you will be able to make quick decisions while traveling in the city. Look into where you can buy tickets for public transportation. In Paris, you have to buy tickets before entering the station while in Stockholm, you have to stop in a 7-Eleven to buy a ticket if the stop you were getting on is not at a station. Do the research, and you will not waste your time in the new city trying to figure out how to get to places.
Research the culture
Learning some basic knowledge of the culture you are immersing yourself into is extremely beneficial to you. What currency do they use? What languages do they speak? Do you tip, or do you not? On Pinterest, an organization called Wandershare posts graphics that gives basic, essential information on the country like the most famous sights, what to tip, foods to try, table manners, basic language vocabulary, and cultural norms like how to greet people or when to show up for an event. Knowing how a culture works like how you should only order a cappuccino in the morning in Italy or that stores close down from 2-5 pm every day for siesta in Spain will help you avoid looking like a tourist and more like a local.