Before I moved to Germany, I would save up and travel to Europe once a year. Traveling from the West Coast of the United States is a great distance. Since I was making the 14 hour + plane ride to Europe, I wanted to see as much as possible. Over time I learned how to plan a multi-city trip to Europe.
The first couple of times, I booked multi-city itineraries, I messed up. There were several factors I wasn’t thinking about as I was buying airline tickets.
The truth is, trip planning is a lot of work. And you need to have patience and be willing to make adjustments. I’ve learned the hard way it’s better to save that city for another time than squeeze it in.
It can take time to find that rhythm as a solo traveler. So don’t get too frustrated with yourself if a couple things go wrong. Sometimes, you just won’t be able to see everything you intended to. And that’s ok! Nowadays, I strive to have my trips be the least stressful as possible.
I don’t like to feel rushed, nor do I want to be bored. I’ve found that it can take a minute to get the hang of planning the “perfect trip.” Remember, we are always evolving, and there is still going to be, “next time I’d do that part differently.” Go easy on yourself. There is a reason there is a whole profession dedicated to making travel plans.
Hopefully, these multi-city trip travel hacks will get you on your way to planning the best adventure!
Free Planner PDF: How To Plan A Multi-City Trip To Europe
How To Plan A Multi-City Trip To Europe | Flight Transit Times
The cost of the flight isn’t always determining whether I will go to a city or not. It’s great when you find a flight for 60 Euros, but is it departing at 11 pm? If you are young and tireless, getting on a plane late night probably isn’t a deal-breaker. However, flight times are crucial to me.
My ideal flight time is somewhere around 10 am with a total flight time of under 2 hours. I don’t want my entire day to be in transit. This is why it is so important to consider transit times when planning a multi-city trip. It also brings me to my next multi-city trip travel hack.
A significant tip for booking a multi-city trip is how you search for your flights. Be prepared that this step can take hours, depending on how many cities you are planning to see. A trick to use is always to check the roundtrip price and the one-way price. Sometimes the roundtrip price is lower!
How to plan a multi-city trip to Europe was made easier when I started using Google Flights. The one minute video below will show you just how I do it!
Airport to Destination Travel Time
The next how-to plan a multi-city trip to Europe tip plays a huge role in my bookings. Consider this essential factor when squeezing in another city on your trip. You will want to ask the question, “how far is your hotel from the airport?”
I will give you an example of a more extended travel day scenario that you might overlook. If starting from Copenhagen and traveling to Barcelona, you might think nothing of the 3-hour flight. But, travel time from the airport to the city center of Barcelona by train is an additional 1-hour minimum.
If you add in your transit time to the airport plus time before flight (1 1/2 ahead of time), it adds up. This quick trip 3-hour flight has doubled with all the transit factors. You now can see how a massive chunk of your day will be consumed by just getting there.*But, there is a 1 hour time difference in your favor for these cities.
If you are traveling to Europe for a month, then spending more time in transit can be ok. But, when you only have a short 2 weeks, this is something to consider. Planning the perfect multi-city trip in Europe is finding the cities that work with the shortest time in between them.
How To Plan A Multi-City Trip To Europe With Trains & Buses
Sometimes you need to get creative to see the bucket list destinations you have in mind. I will give you another example of my trip to Spain.
I was visiting Barcelona, but I also really wanted to visit Seville! The flights from Barcelona to Seville were not feasible. The transit times and the prices within the times I wanted to go, just didn’t make sense for me. Then I looked at flights from Valencia to Seville and found some great deals.
Valencia by train is about 2 hours and 40 minutes from Barcelona. So I decided that I would add in 2 nights in Valencia, and then fly from Valencia to Seville. This meant I had to cut out visiting Granada, but it was the only way to make this trip work. Don’t worry, 2 years later, I made it to Granada ; )
Choosing How Many Nights To Stay
This is a critical factor to consider when booking multi-city trips. You want to find the perfect number of nights to stay. Nothing worse than overstaying or under staying in a city.
My general rule is to stay a minimum of three to four nights max in a big city. If you have to fly there, I always recommend booking for three nights. Otherwise, you will feel rushed. Even when it’s a quick flight, the airport experience can be draining, better to have three nights. Plus, you lose more time when you fly.
If I roll up into a city by train, like when I visited Valencia, you can get away with a two-night stay. Although it all depends on when you first arrive in the city, if I arrive after 4 pm, I will stay another night for a total of three.
A great way to tackle the city sights in a short time is by doing either a bike tour or a bus tour. When I plan my stay in a city, I always try to incorporate this on the first day of arriving. When given a broad overview of the town, I can spend the remaining time I have returning to the sites that piqued my interest.
Budgeting For The Transit Cost
How to plan a multi-city trip to Europe is all about budgeting. It is vital because if you don’t plan it out, you could spend a lot more than you need to.
Always keep in mind the cheapest and fastest way to the transit hub. If you were to just arrive at the airport not having researched your options to the city center, you could waste a lot of money.
Understanding my transit options seems like a no brainer. But, when I first started traveling, I just thought I would figure it out when I get there. I didn’t do any research.
My first instinct was just to take a taxi. I didn’t assume that would be the cheapest way, but I thought it would be the fastest. I learned the hard way that was not always true.
Sometimes a taxi will take double or more the time the train would. And not to mention triple or more the cost. Use this free travel planning cheat sheet to keep you organized when booking.
Can It Just Be A Day Trip?
The more I travel, the more I learn! Going from one city to the next can be exhausting. It’s usually worth it, but it takes a lot of energy.
I used to think it’s always better to stay a night in the next destination, not considering alternatives. So that leads me to another multi-city trip travel hack, can it be a day trip?
What I consider to be good a day trip material is to find somewhere that is under 2 hours. More than 2 hours, I think a little more about staying the night. A great example when I visited Verona from Bologna.
I had always wanted to visit Verona and wasn’t finding an easy way to get there from my home city. After researching, I booked a 3-night trip Bologna and planned to squeeze in Verona. Since Verona was only 2 hours from Bologna, I opted for just the day trip. Not having to lug your bag and spend time checking into a new hotel allows for more time to relax…and drink wine.
Verona is a very small city, so it turned out to be the perfect day trip! The day trip doesn’t always work if the city is more significant in size. For example, going to Florence for just the day is a bit more ambitious. I made just the day trip and felt I desperately need more time to see it all.
Plan A Multi-City Trip To Europe With Carry-On Only
Every pro traveler will tell you, don’t check a bag. Figure out how to dumb down your travel style and bring only the essentials. A big tip to lighten your load is to leave the heels at home. I pack two types of shoes, cute flats that can be suitable for dinner, and I wear comfortable boots or sneakers (one or the other).
When you are going from city to city, nothing will slow you down faster than an overpacked, oversized bag. It will limit your ability to take public transit comfortably. I traveled for four weeks with a small carry on suitcase, and couldn’t have been happier.
My trick was that at least once per week on that trip; I booked an Airbnb that had a washing machine. I also wore leggings most of the time.
You think you will want to have all these cute, stylish outfits to choose from, but in reality, you will want to be comfortable. My travel style is simple. It’s all black with some different accessories. Wearing a tight pair of jeans to dinner can undoubtedly take the fun out of eating homemade Italian pasta.
Travel Documents Readiness
Being an organized traveler is essential when tackling a multi-city itinerary. If you have never been to the destination before, check to see if you need a visa, how long you can stay, and if you need insurance.
Again, this might seem like a duh; of course, I would know if I need a visa. My advice is to double-check. I will reveal my stupidity here, and it’s an embarrassing one. Years ago, when I visited Sri Lanka, I needed a visa. But I was flying through India, and don’t ask me why, but I thought I just needed a visa for India. I knew Sri Lanka was a country, but somehow in my stressed-out brain, I thought a visa for India would cover my entry to Sri Lanka.
To my surprise and horror on arriving in Sri Lanka, I didn’t have a visa. Very luckily, I was able just to walk over and obtain it at the visa on arrival desk. But could you imagine if I couldn’t?
Travel planning is a lot of work, and even the most obvious requirements slip your mind.
Here is another critical tip I hadn’t previously known. If you have a middle name in your passport, make sure it’s on your ticket. I have read articles where passengers have been turned away from boarding the plane because the passport name didn’t match the ticket name exactly.
Do I really need insurance?
I can’t stress enough how important travel insurance is when planning a multi-city trip. When you travel from city to city or country to country, your chances for mishaps do go up. It is so smart to protect yourself for such a small price.
I know it’s tempting to use that added cost of insurance money for something more exciting, like a more delightful hotel. But don’t do it. Travel insurance is something that can cover you for an array of issues that could arise. The piece of mind is worth every penny.
I recommend that you check out Travel Nomads. Yes, it is an affiliate link, and for a good reason. My experience using their service has been a positive one. The prices are fair, and the coverage is broad. Be sure to look into this for yourself in more detail.
How To Plan A Multi-City Trip To Europe Itinerary Ideas
If you are ready to give this multi-city, multi-country traveling a try, I have some great suggestions for you!
Below are some suggested routes that could be perfect for a two week holiday in Europe. For exclusive city guides created, by me, click on the highlighted cities. The maps below give you an overall view of the distance between destinations.
Europe Destinations | Itinerary Plan Ideas
- Start the trip to Copenhagen, Denmark! For many reasons, Copenhagen is a fantastic choice. It’s a relatively small city with excellent transportation. Easily visit Malmo or Helsingborg, Sweden, for a day trip. When you are ready to move on, a nearby town to visit is Amsterdam! The Netherlands is well connected by train for the next journey into Germany!
- Another European itinerary for multi-city travel starts in Salzburg, Austria! Salzburg is the perfect size city to stroll around for a couple of days. Then when you are ready to move on, quickly travel by train to Lake Bled, Slovenia! Lake Bled is an excellent place to relax and unwind, especially in the summer. Only an hour away from Lake Bled, is the capital city of Ljubljana!
- The final budget-friendly European travel itinerary idea is to start traveling from Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina! This eastern European city is ideal for a few days. A day trip suggestion from Sarajevo would be to go to Mostar! Then, when you are ready to explore another country, fly to Romania, and explore some idyllic villages. Finish things off by flying to Lviv, Ukraine! Be charmed by the architecture, and delighted with the food!
How To Plan A Multi-City Trip To Europe – Itinerary #1
How To Plan A Multi-City Trip To Europe – Itinerary #2
How To Plan A Multi-City Trip To Europe – Itinerary #3
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