The Europe Trip – Planning the route
Originally, I wasn’t even going to plan a route. I was going to book a one-way plane ticket to somewhere and then wander freely from city to city as the urge struck me. This sounded really romantic in my head, but I quickly realized booking some accommodation and transportation in advance might make things easier for me along the way.
I opted to fly into London, England, and out of Frankfurt, Germany. I booked my ticket using TripAdvisor, using a multi-city option that allowed me to fly in and out of different places. After tax, my plane ticket cost me $1,232 (that was booking two-months in advanced – earlier bookings might get better deals). My ticket was significantly cheaper than purchasing two one-way tickets on separate occasions. Round trip tickets from one destination (ex: flying into London and out of London a month later) are even cheaper, but I didn’t want to have to return to a city I’d already visited. Opting to fly through two major hubs, the Frankfurt airport London’s Heathrow airport, also knocked down the price of my ticket.
A quick Google search told me rail was one of the best ways to see Europe. All I had to do was figure out which Eurail Pass worked for me. Travel guru Rick Steves has a great guide explaining Eurail passes, as does the Eurail website. You can get different passes depending on how long you’ll be travelling for, how many cities you’ll visit, and which countries you’ll be in. Three things to note about Eurail passes:
- None of the passes work in the United Kingdom, so if you want to train to-or-from London, you’ll have to book and pay for that ticket separately (I used Eurostar).
- If you want to travel anywhere in France, you need to purchase the more expensive Global Pass, or buy a regional pass and pay for your tickets in and around France separately.
- Passes are not always all-inclusive. Sometimes, when you’re travelling at peak hours, using high-speed trains or night trains, you need to pay a small fee to reserve a seat. Rail Dude has a great tool for the cheap-at-heart that lets you search train connections that don’t require reservation fees.
I chose the Eurail Global Pass that allows for 10 travel days in a two-month period. It comes to $637 Canadian with insurance. This was perfect for my trip, as I’ll be gone a month-and-a-half and using nine of my 10 travel days.
This was hard. There are just too many amazing, beautiful places in Europe. I started by figuring out where I absolutely wanted to go: London, Paris, and a big princess castle I had always seen pictures of that I knew was somewhere in Germany. (I’ve since found out it’s the Neuschwanstein castle, outside Munich. I’m going). I knew I didn’t need to see Switzerland, Italy or the French Riviera because I had visited those places during a high school Europe trip. All of that helped.
From there, I asked friends, watched Rick Steves’ travel videos, and typed in the name of cities on Pinterest to find out where I wanted to go. I also knew I was starting in London, and had to somehow end up in Frankfurt. I didn’t want to backtrack that much, so I tried to make my route into a quasi-loop. I got some great advice from a friend who backpacked to 12 cities in a month, and told me to go to fewer places and stay longer. I didn’t really succeed at that, I’ll be visiting 11 cities in 39 days, but I get to spend three or four nights everywhere, which seems like a good balance. Or at least it does now, I may curse my planning when I’m jet-legged and running through train stations…
Anyway, this was the result: