Happy new year! After disappearing for a few months, I’m back with something different than my past blog posts. This post, and my next handful, will be all about international travel, specifically my upcoming month-long Europe trip.
That’s right! We’re taking Travel and Tea international.
This spring 2023, I am going to London, Canterbury, Scotland, and Paris for (almost) one month. And while I haven’t left yet, I’ve learned so much about prepping for an international trip.
I won’t be alone for the whole trip, but I am first in the first half, and I’m doing most of the planning for the rest. From buying plane tickets to figuring out where to stay and what to do, I wanted to share my newfound wisdom in a blog post.
Planning a Europe trip if you’re not from Europe (like me) and have never been to Europe before (also like me) is daunting! I hope this list helps you out.
Here are 8 essential things I learned while planning my one-month Europe trip.
1. Buy Plane Tickets Last
While organizing this trip, I had trackers on sites like Expedia, Hopper, Kayak, etc., to see the best time to buy plane tickets. And what I learned is that the closer it got to my trip, the cheaper it got.
First, my trip was pretty spontaneous. I decided to go on my March-April Europe trip in early December. So, booking super ahead wasn’t an option. If I planned my Europe 6-12 months in advance, I’m sure it would be cheaper to book then. However, since I only planned the trip 3ish months in advance, booking a month or so before my trip worked best. From Victoria, BC, to London (Heathrow) Airport, it was under $1000 CAD (around $700 USD) for the roundtrip, which is pretty good.
That meant I purchased or reserved my hotels/hostels and train tickets around the UK first and plane tickets last. This worked out great for me.
2. London Heathrow Airport is Your Best Friend
The only thing I knew going into my trip planning was that I wanted to go to Scotland. That was going to be the main event of my trip because I am a die-hard Outlander fan who, yes, has been dying to go see where the books and TV show takes place for a few years now. However, flying into Scotland was WAY too expensive.
I also knew I wanted to visit a few places while I was there, so I checked out what flights would cost from Victoria to Paris, Victoria to Amsterdam, and Victoria to London. Heathrow was by far the cheapest, and it was a great central location. That’s why I decided to go to London, Canterbury and Paris.
So, if you want to visit the UK or Northern Europe, check out how much it costs to fly to Heathrow. But also consider the cost of travelling via train or bus to your other cities. A train to Paris from London costs roughly $110 CAD, and the train from London to Inverness (the furthest place in Scotland I’m visiting) is $230 CAD. Make sure it makes sense to fly to Heathrow and that it saves you money.
3. Use Hostelworld for Cheap Accommodation
My cousin told me that when in Europe, I need to use Hostelworld to find my lodging: a website where you can book beds in hostels and hotels worldwide. Hostels are a cheaper form of accommodation since, most of the time, you’re sleeping in the same room as multiple other travellers. They are also usually located close to the city centre.
I am staying in 2-3 hostels on my trip, which has saved me so much money. Instead of dolling out $120-200 CAD per night at a hotel, I am spending $80-90 per night, and sometimes, with breakfast included. Keep in mind, though, that I am staying in private rooms with shared bathrooms at all the hostels because I’m an introvert who needs alone time at the end of the day! If you opted for a dorm room, that ranges anywhere from $30-50 per night.
But regardless, I am still saving anywhere from $30-110 per night. That can be put towards food, tours, shows, and fun things.
Hostels are also a great way to meet people because they are filled with (mostly) solo travellers looking to make memories and explore new places. Staying at a hostel is really a win-win situation.
4. Look for Accommodation with Free Breakfast Included
I was surprised by how many hostels and hotels I looked at that included complimentary breakfast. When I was younger, Continental Breakfast was common, but now I barely see it. However, it’s still super common in the UK and Paris.
Having breakfast included in your stay saves you money, but it also saves you time. You can jump straight into exploring with a full belly and don’t even need to leave your hostel/hotel.
If breakfast isn’t complimentary, it might still be worth paying the extra money. However, I would stay under $13. Find out what the hostel/hotel offers for breakfast if it’s $10-13. Is it the whole eggs, bacon, pancakes, she-bang with coffee or tea, or toast and jam? It might be worth grabbing a bagel from a local coffee shop if it’s the latter.
5. Buy Train Tickets ASAP
Unlike plane tickets, booking train tickets ahead of time gives you the best prices. I started booking my train tickers in early January, just over two months in advance.
Here are a couple of examples of what I ended up paying:
London to Inverness – $213 (For a first-class seat, but the difference was $30)
London to Paris – $107 (Roundtrip and not a first-class seat)
Remember that London to Inverness is almost a 10-hour trip, which is one reason it’s so costly! I noticed the other train tickets I purchased were each $20-50 one-way.
I went back and forth about purchasing a first-class ticket. Still, after reading what the locals recommended, I learned it was worth the extra $30. It makes the long journey more comfortable, which is ideal since I plan on getting some work done, reading, and enjoying the scenery!
Depending on where you’re travelling, I recommend downloading the UK Railway, Eurostar, and/or the Scotland Rail app. I have all my e-tickets on these apps, making it super easy to board once I’m at the train station.
6. Come Up with an Itinerary
Planning out all the sites and attractions they will visit on their trip is exhausting for some people. Still, I highly recommend coming up with an itinerary, regardless. You don’t even need to completely stick to it.
It’s like a guideline you can fall back on to still make the most of your trip.
After all, people go to Europe to see stuff. Especially places like London, Scotland, and Paris. These aren’t beach vacations that you spend relaxing but trips where you plan on walking at least 20,000 steps a day, divulging in history and gorging on new foods.
So, coming up with a plan for it is super beneficial. For me, this plan is just a list of the different places, stores, restaurants, etc. I want to visit organized by each city I’m staying in. Easy and straightforward, but it’ll be highly effective.
7. Take Advantage of Tours
Since I am going on the trip to see historical sites and filming locations from Outlander, I’ll be investing in a couple of half-day tours.
Not only will I learn some new things, but it’s easy transportation to the places you plan on checking out anyway. And even to a few places that weren’t on your radar.
Tour prices range depending on where the tour is and what kind of tour it is, but the half-day ones I plan to do in Scotland are $150-200 per person. Considering they are at least 5 hours long and include transportation, a guide, and sometimes food and drink, this is definitely worth it.
8. Just Book the Trip
Lastly, but most importantly, don’t let fear hold you back from booking a massive trip like this. It’s so worth it.
As I am writing and posting this, I have yet to go. Still, I could not be more excited and confident about my upcoming adventure. This is my first big (mostly) solo trip, and I know it will help shape me better as a human, which sounds corny.
I booked this entire trip on impulse (which is only sometimes good, haha) because I had the time and the money. Nothing was holding me back except myself. So, I had a glass of wine…or two…and just did it. I booked my first hostel, then my second, then my third. A few weeks later, I booked my train tickets, and a week later, I booked my plane tickets.
Now, I’m going to Europe. It was that easy.
So, what’s holding you back?
Those are the 8 essential things I learned while planning my one-month Europe trip, and I hope they were helpful to you. Whether you’re currently planning a Europe trip or will be in the future.
Stay tuned for lots of other fun Europe-related blog posts!
Until then, don’t forget to check out my last blog post: Makenzie Beach Resort Spartan Airstream Review (Tofino, British Columbia, Canada)
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