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Are you looking for the best way to plan a multi-city trip to Europe? Well, you have come to the right place! I have planned multi-city trips to Europe for over a decade now.
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.
🇪🇺 Don’t overstay in Schengen! Use the calculator below to calculate the number of days you are allowed.
Since I was making the 14-hour + plane ride to Europe, I wanted to see as much as possible. Over time I became an expert in planning multi-city trips to Europe.
The first trip I booked my multi-city itineraries, I messed up. There were several factors I wasn’t thinking about as I was buying airline tickets.
By the end of this post, you will have learned from my mistakes and have the confidence to plan your own multi-city trip!
Tricks & Tips to Travel Planning For Multi-Cities
The truth is trip planning is a lot of work. 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 when planning itineraries to different countries. And if you are a solo traveler like me, try not to get too frustrated with yourself if a couple of things go wrong.
Sometimes, you just won’t be able to see everything you intended to. And that’s ok! Nowadays, I strive to make my trips the least stressful 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 will still be, “Next time, I’d do that part differently.” Go easy on yourself. There is a reason a whole profession is dedicated to making travel plans.
Hopefully, these multi-city trip travel hacks will get you on your way to planning the best adventure!
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#1. Look At Your Flight Transit Times
The flight cost doesn’t always determine whether I will go to a city or not. Searching for a flight doesn’t take much time, and 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 at night probably isn’t a deal-breaker. However, flight times are crucial to me.
My ideal scenario is Direct flights leaving 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 plan 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 Skyscanner.
My Favorite Travel Planning Resources
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#3. Consider Your 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 into 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 the 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 major cities.
If you are traveling to Europe for a month, then spending more time in transit can be ok. But, this is something to consider when you only have a short 2 weeks.
Planning the perfect multi-city trip in Europe is finding the best places that work with the shortest time in between them.
Free Planner PDF: How To Plan A Multi-City Trip To Europe
#4. Use Skyscanner To Find the Best Deal on European Destinations
The best way to craft a multi-city itinerary in Europe is by using Skyscanner! I put in my departure city and search for the destination with “Explore Everywhere“. I also click the direct flight buttons.
Know where you want to go? Play around with the flight search finder below!
#5. Add Transit Service At Arrival For Convenience
Consider how many bags you will have when you land, and if it’s more than just a carry-on, book a transit service to pick you up.
I am all for taking public transportation, but why add an extra layer of stress to the end of a long flight by trying to navigate it?
An affordable and reliable car service to use is AirportTransfer.com. Available in most European countries, you should book a pick-up when embarking on a multi-city trip to Europe!
#6. Research Your Options With Trains & Buses
Sometimes you need to get creative to see the bucket list of European 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.
The train travel time from Barcelona to Valencia is about 2 hours and 40 minutes. So I decided to add in 2 nights in Valencia and then fly from Valencia to Seville. This meant I had to axe visiting Granada for this trip, but it was the most efficient way to make my itinerary work.
I personally always prefer train travel over buses and flights. And, don’t worry, 2 years later, I made it to Granada ; )
📲 Don’t forget to upgrade your phone plan! If you are traveling for more than a week, get international SIM cards!
#7. Utilize Multi-Planner Sites
One of the best things you can do when planning a long journey is to use websites that make all the choices easier.
A good option to act as your Europe trip planner is using a site like Omino Travel. It will drastically improve your ability to make the proper choices with destinations.
* Here you can search by quickest travel time, least amount of connections, and more.
#8. Pick The Right Number Of 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 not staying long enough in a city.
My general rule is to stay a minimum of three to four nights max in a big city. I always recommend booking for three nights if you have to fly there. 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 quickly 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.
#9. Don’t Forget To Budget 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. Finding cheap flights is key, but there are also other transit costs I research thoroughly in the planning process.
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 for 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 the time a train would. And not to mention triple or more the cost.
Use this free travel planning cheat sheet to keep you organized when booking.
#10. 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 was always better to stay a night at the next destination, not considering alternatives. So that leads me to another multi-city trip travel hack. Can it be a day trip?
When I research another city for a day trip, I rate the best option by how long it will take me to get there. I consider somewhere under 2 hours on a high-speed train to be a great choice.
If it takes a lot of time to get there, say more than 2 hours, I think a little more about staying the night. A great example was when I visited Verona from Bologna.
I opted for just the day trip since Verona was only 2 hours from Bologna. 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 was 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 a day is a bit more ambitious.
I made just the day trip and felt I desperately need more time to see it all.
When planning a trip to Europe, it’s crucial for travelers, especially those from non-European Union countries, to understand the Schengen 90/90 rule.
This rule is a cornerstone of the travel regulations within the Schengen Area, a zone comprising 26 European countries that have abolished passports and other types of border control at their mutual borders.
What is the Schengen 90/90 Rule?
The Schengen 90/90 rule allows travelers to stay for up to 90 days within any 180-day period in the Schengen Area.
This rule is designed to prevent individuals from staying indefinitely in the Schengen zone under a tourist visa.
Key Points of the Rule:
- 90 Days Maximum: You can stay for up to 90 days in the Schengen Area for tourism, business, or visiting family and friends.
- Rolling Period: The 180-day period is a rolling window. It’s not fixed to any calendar dates but is counted backward from the date you are in the Schengen Area.
- Area-Wide Application: The rule applies to the entire Schengen Area, not to each individual country. This means you can’t reset your 90 days by traveling to a different Schengen country.
How to Calculate Your Stay:
To comply with the 90/90 rule, keep track of the number of days you spend in the Schengen Area. Each day, whether full or partial, counts towards the 90-day limit.
The count resets after you’ve been out of the Schengen Area for 180 consecutive days.
Why It Matters:
Overstaying can lead to fines, deportation, and entry bans, affecting your ability to travel to the Schengen Area in the future.
It’s essential to plan your trip accordingly and ensure compliance with these rules.
Tip for Travelers:
To help you calculate your stay within the Schengen Area, use our Schengen Area Stay Calculator.
This tool will help you determine your arrival and departure dates, ensuring you remain within the legal limits of the 90/90 rule.
Schengen Area Stay Calculator
The countries part of Schegen are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland (a non-EU member), Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein (a non-EU member), Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway (a non-EU member), Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland (a non-EU member)
Plan A Multi-City Trip To Europe With Carry-On Only
Every pro traveler will tell you, don’t check a bag. Determine how to dumb down your travel style and bring only the essentials.
Pro Tip: Lighten your load by leaving the heels at home.
When I pack for 2 weeks in Europe, I pack two types of shoes, cute flats that can be suitable for dinner, and comfortable boots or sneakers (one or the other).
When you are going between different cities, nothing will slow you down faster than an overpacked, oversized bag. It will limit your ability to take public transit comfortably. I recently took a long trip, (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. The best thing about my travel style is that it 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 pasta in Cinque Terre.
Get it right the first time with this Packing for Carry-On Guide.
Don’t Forget About 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; 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, I didn’t have a visa upon arriving in Sri Lanka. Luckily, I could just 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 on your passport, make sure it’s on your ticket. Otherwise you could be refused boarding.
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.
Spoiler alert. You need it, and 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 mishap chances 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 Safety Wing. 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.
Best Multi-City Europe Itinerary Ideas
If you are ready to try this multi-city, multi-country traveling, I have some great suggestions!
Below are some ideas for routes and the best cities for a perfect two-week European holiday.
Want me to create an exclusive city guide for you? Book a call here!
The maps below give you an overall view of the distance between destinations.
How to Plan a Multi-Country Trip to Europe
Start your European vacation in Copenhagen, Denmark! Copenhagen is very close to other great destinations in Europe.
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, check out one of my favorite cities, Amsterdam. One of the first things to do in Amsterdam is a canal tour! Check out my complete guide to Amsterdam for more itinerary ideas!
After you’ve had enough time in The Netherlands, consider taking a high-speed train to Germany!
Western Europe is well connected by train, you will have no problem getting around.
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.
When I visited Salzburg, I found the best food tour that also took me to all the top sites in the city!
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 itinerary is a budget-friendly one for European travel. A good idea is to fly into Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina! This eastern European city is ideal for a few days. I visited Sarajevo on a solo trip and felt safe taking the transit alone.
The best time to visit the Balkans is in October when the weather is much milder.
A day trip suggestion from Sarajevo would be to go to Mostar!
When you are ready to explore another country, fly to Romania, and explore some idyllic villages.
Final Thoughts on Booking Multi-City Trips to Europe
Planning a multi-city European vacation takes a lot of time, but it is essential to ensure you have the best trip possible.
I would highly suggest you don’t be an aggressive multi-city trip planner for your first trip. If you have 2 weeks, make it 2 major cities, and sprinkle in some day trips!
Have the best time on your trip and if you need help, you know where to find me!
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