So you want to take a Euro trip?
How to plan a post-graduation trip to Europe
We’ve finally made it past spring break and finals are starting to loom in the distance. Usually, finals season is not a good thing. However, for those of us graduating this May, it signifies the end of our college career and the fateful moment when our name will be called, we will walk across that stage, and become alumni of whatever college or university we attend. No matter how you feel about graduating and leaving behind your campus and friends, you’re probably pretty excited about celebrating graduation! One of the best ways to celebrate getting your diploma is to take a Euro trip and travel before jobs, graduate school, or just the real world makes it hard to do so. Read on for tips and tricks to plan an amazing post-graduation trip to Europe!
• Create an itinerary
Where do you want to go in Europe? Maybe you’ve seen Eastern Europe and want to focus on Western Europe for your trip. Or, maybe you’ve been to countries along the Mediterranean but never ventured up to Scandinavia. The first step in planning your trip to Europe is mapping out where you want to go and how long you want to be there for. Figure out how much time to you have to spend in Europe before moving on to whatever real-world commitment you made post-graduation. Then, from there figure out where you want to go and think through the sequence of your adventure. It doesn’t really make sense to go from Paris to Croatia, back to London then over to Berlin, and down to Italy before flying home. It will be much easier for you and those who will worry about you if you start on one side of the continent and work your way towards your end destination. Maybe start in Istanbul and work your way to London before going back to the US.
Figure out how much time you have. Pick your starting point and then work your home making sure you hit the cities and countries you want to on the way.
• Estimate costs and make a budget
If you’re planning a post-graduation Euro trip, you’re in luck because the Euro and USD have a pretty good exchange rate right now. The key cost? Your flight to and from Europe. I would advise buying one-way flights because you never know how your plans will change and locking in your return flight means that you could miss out on some amazing spontaneous adventure by yourself or with friends you meet along the way. Google Flights and Skyscanner are my favorite flight search tools – use these to buy your flights within Europe as well. Be sure to set up price alerts and aim to buy 6-7 weeks out as that is the best time to buy international plane tickets. Also, try to purchase on a Tuesday morning as research has shown flights are usually the cheapest then.
• Other important costs
Travel within Europe, lodging, food, excursions, and any souvenirs. Since you’ve now completed step one and have your itinerary and have set price alerts for your flights to and from Europe, we can move on to other costs – the most expensive of which will be intra-continental travel and lodging. Since you know that you want to go to other cities and you have an idea of when you’ll be in Europe, you now need to figure out how you’re going to get there. I personally would advise flying within Europe only because it’s so cheap when you plan ahead. Whether or not you buy your flights before you arrive in Europe or once you get there is up to you. If you’re on a tight schedule then buy your first few flights before you get there so that you know where you have to be and when to progress in your trip. Something to keep in mind is that budget aircrafts (Ryanair, Wizzair, Easy Jet) are popular in Europe. This means that you might not always be flying into the cities main airport. Make sure you figure out how to get from whatever airport you land in to the city that you actually want to visit. Most airports, like Milan-Bergamo, will have buses that take you to the city center – fair-warning that it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to get there. In addition, you should also consider getting a Euro-rail pass. Trains are big in Europe and in some cases taking the train from say Paris to London is be cheaper than flying.
Once you’ve figured out your travel, you need to figure out where you’re going to stay. Airbnb and hostels are some of the best options for cheap, clean, safe lodging in Europe. Check out Hostelworld and do an Airbnb search for whatever city you’re going to be in, look at the reviews, pictures, and ratings and book! Make sure that your lodging is close to the city center because that will just make things easier for you and will save you money on cabs, Uber, or the metro in the long run. Don’t be afraid to splurge on nicer accommodations to ease your family or personal comfort level. Being and feeling safe abroad is a key priority.
Your other costs are food, any excursions (a canal tour in Amsterdam or ride on the London eye) and any souvenirs you want to bring back. You know how much you eat, what extra activities you want to participate in and if you’re going to be buying souvenirs. Make a budget for these expenses and stick to it.
• Apply for any necessary visas/get any necessary shots
Make sure that you don’t need a visa or any shots to enter any of the countries you have chosen to venture to. If you do, apply early – like as soon as you figure out your itinerary because bureaucracy is never quick. Also check the health requirements to make sure you don’t need any shots or other medical attention before being allowed entry to the country.
• SAVE, SAVE, SAVE
You’ve got your itinerary and expense sheet, now save or receive (hello graduation money!) the necessary funds to make the trip happen.
• Register with the State Department and tell your family/friends
Someone should always know where you are when traveling abroad. The world is a crazy place so it’s important to register with the state department and leave copies of your itinerary and lodging with your family/friends so that in the event of an emergency at home or abroad, the proper parties can reach out and evacuate you if necessary.
• Graduate, pack, and be on your way!
Enjoy! Hopefully this guide helps you plan and embark on an amazing post-graduation trip to Europe!