You’ve finally saved enough to go on a 2-week trip to Europe — yay!!!
You don’t want to go on one of those big bus tours where you’re herded around like cattle with 40-60 other tourists.
You could get a travel agency to put together a trip for you but you know it will cost you a pretty penny.
What you really want is to DIY your trip: customize your itinerary to make sure it suits your tastes AND at the same time covers all the must-sees.
But You Just. Don’t. Have. The Time.
Well, you’re in luck. 🙂
In this article, we’re going to teach you the basics of putting together an 11-day European itinerary that will give you the best bang for your buck. We also share tips and other things we learned — sometimes the hard way — on our previous trips to Europe.
And if you want to skip all that and just get a really detailed itinerary — one that you can actually submit to the Embassy when you apply for a Schengen visa — we can give you that too. We’ve put together an 11-day itinerary (14 days in all, including transit) that has flight times, train times, daily schedules, tips, and links to where you can book everything you need to book. If that’s what you want, click HERE.
We break down an $850 11-day tour of France, Switzerland, and Italy — its real costs, pros and cons — and discuss the questions you have to ask before signing up for any tour.
Yesterday, a friend asked me to take a look at a tour he was considering going on later this year. I’m hardly a tour expert but, from experience, I think there are basic questions we need to ask before we decide to take a tour or not.
First, a few points:
On the road, I’ve met people who proudly say they “never do tours” and I think that’s a shame. There are good tours and bad tours, and even good tours have their pros and cons. The trick is to figure out whether a tour’s pros outweigh its cons far enough to make its price worth it. *
I usually go DIY because I have to stick to a certain budget and because when it comes to itineraries, I’m often fiercely independent to a fault. That said, I have loved many of the tours I’ve joined; there is a lot to be gained by listening to a local or an expert. A few favorites come to mind:
The tour with an archaeologist at the Colosseum in Rome — fascinating, plus signing up for a tour gets you through the mile-long lines much more quickly *
The Louvre tour with an art historian a/k/a how the French feel when people go to their museum only to see an Italian work of art 😀 *
The tips-basis walking tour we joined in Munich, learning about the Beer Hall Putsch and the Kristallnacht and standing in a square where Hitler had marshalled his army *
Our Highlands tour with Andrew MacDonald which brought up a lot of surprising parallels between Scotland and the Philippines and touched on a lot of the things that I personally value very much, like freedom and loyalty and family *
* Now back to the topic. 🙂
How to dissect a tour
Below are the basic questions that will help you decide whether a tour is good value or not:
What does the tour include? What doesn’t it include? *
How much does the tour really cost when you add the “hidden” charges? *
What are the tour’s stops? How much time do you spend in each stop? Is the time per stop consistent with your goals for the trip? *
What are the tour’s advantages and disadvantages? *
Given all of the above, is the tour worth it for you? If you don’t take the tour, do you have the time or resources to come up with an alternative itinerary?
Deep waters, deep thoughts. The island of Burano, its vibrant colors given a romantic coating by the winter fog, was the perfect setting for a spot of contemplation. But whatever the season or weather, Burano is a great place to visit for anyone traveling to Venice.
What do you do if you’ve got 18 days in Europe and want to see a little bit of everything?
See a little bit of everything!
7 countries, 9 cities in 18 days. (Well, it’s actually 5 countries, 1 city-state, and 1 principality, but the latter two are technically countries, and “7 countries” somehow makes it a bit easier to justify the price of the plane ticket.)
Specifically, this itinerary will take you to France (Paris and Nice), Italy (Rome and Venice), Germany (Munich), the Netherlands (Amsterdam), and Belgium (Brussels, but only for a few hours), plus the Vatican City and Monaco (also only a couple of hours). It definitely won’t let you live like a local — for that, you should spend all 18 days in only 1 or 2 places. Instead, this itinerary is more like taking the tourist bus on your first day in a new place: it lets you get a glimpse of each place of interest, and from those initial glimpses, you can decide where you would like to spend more time next time.
Here’s the 18-day itinerary I followed back in 2014: