Travel requires energy, resources, and focus, each of which depends on where and how far you journey. At a bare minimum, you need a destination, a way to get there, and a method to maintain your existence there.
Where should I go in Europe?
Choosing a destination requires researching how you are allowed in and if it’s a good time to go. For instance, most countries in the European Union require each American tourist to have a valid U.S. passport and proof onward travel within 90 days. If you would like to visit Europe for longer than 90 days, then you will need to apply for a visa, which could add to your overall expense.
Similarly, flights across the pond are typically cheaper after Labor Day, when schools are in session. However, festivals and carnivals across the year can drastically increase travel and accommodation costs.
As of writing, I’ve decided to fly to Reykjavík, Iceland from New York City (JFK) in October. One-way flights are less than $200 and Iceland is part of the Schengen Area, which makes flying in and out of the country easy. October is within the season when visitors can see the Northern Lights. The hot springs of the Blue Lagoon will be a nice escape from what will be 35 to 45 degrees during that time. I’ll have to put the flight savings towards some new thermal clothing.
What paperwork do I need to get to Europe?
As an American citizen, you will need your U.S. passport, a ticket to your destination and documentation to your following destination if staying less than 90 days. If staying longer than 90 days, then you will need a visa. The Savvy Backpacker has a series of articles here about staying in Europe for longer durations.
It takes at least six weeks to renew your passport and sometimes up to 10 weeks to obtain a new one. There are expedite fees to receive your travel documentation sooner. Your flight to a destination can be purchased any time, but flights are ideally priced between seven weeks and 99 days prior to departure.
Some tourist book their entire trip before leaving home. Other jet-setters prefer the flexibility of one-way tickets and last minute deals. However, when you go through customs in your new country, you will need to show proof of exit within the visa-free limits. If you do not have evidence of when you plan to leave the country, then you may not be allowed to enter.
What do you need to live in Europe?
Pretty much the same things you need in the States. A roof over your head and food in your belly. You will either need savings that can fund the duration of your trip or a means of income while traveling. Major cities have public transportation and some locations have familiar ride-share apps if you need to move about the urban landscape. Some areas, like Amsterdam, have a different centralized transportation system and you may find renting a bike or walking the local option.
Housing accommodations in Europe can range, including rented hostel beds, rooms, hotel suites, apartments, and villas. Depending on where and when you go as well as what your travel lifestyle is like, accommodations could cost $50 to $300 or more a night. Brand-recognized hotel suites start around $179 a night, whereas a private room at an Airbnb averages $100 a night and a bed in an 18-bed hostel room may be $55. Airbnbs can be more cost-efficient when slightly outside of major metropolitan areas, and, correspondingly, dining and groceries are more affordable away from tourist trap areas.
How do I prepare for a European trip?
Research can do wonders in helping you set a daily, weekly, and monthly budget. If you book all of your accommodations and travel plans in advice, then it might be more relaxing to just have to worry about food and fun. However, if you are planning a long-term venture with more flexibility, then adding 20 percent for incidentals like last-minute price surges and unexpected tickets.