Build The Perfect European Travel Itinerary With These Tips From Rick Steves

Travel guru Rick Steves is well-known for his European travel tour company. However, he wants everyone to feel empowered enough to travel, whether with his company or not. Therefore, he spreads his love of travel and what he's learned along the way through his website, his PBS show, and his guidebooks for every region in Europe which cover everything from hidden gems to helpful phrases in the local languages.  

The number of countries within the European continent can make planning a trip feel daunting. Driving for only a few hours can mean crossing multiple international borders. Sometimes travelers try to pack in too many sights in too little time or spend too much time inside modes of transportation. At Rick Steve's Europe, he says to build an itinerary, start simply with a map to plan out a logical route to each place on your list. Steves suggests having some changes of pace by visiting both large and small towns, which is easy to do given that Europe is well connected with trains, buses, and even rental car companies. Additionally, keep in mind that it is possible to arrive at one airport and leave from another at the end of the trip. 

Rick Steves recommends staying more than 1 night per destination

Once you know where you are going and how you'll get there, think of when to visit. This means taking weather and even local holidays into account. For example, France celebrates Bastille Day every year on July 14th. While the celebration in Paris is quite the spectacle, it results in large crowds and closed metro (subway) stations which could be frustrating to travelers not planning on including the festivities in their itinerary. For day-to-day sights like museums and castles, make sure these attractions are open on the dates you plan to visit. Check websites for each one. Doing so will also help determine if tickets must be purchased in advance or not.

Another key aspect of time in itineraries is how long to stay at each destination. Rick Steves suggests avoiding just one night's stay per place. Even arriving late one night so that you can have a full day of sightseeing is better than arriving at a new place sometime in the morning and leaving the very next day.

Have an itinerary, but leave some wiggle room in your schedule

After you've mapped out where, when, and for how long, make sure everything fits within your budget. If not, discern what you can leave out. Think about the variety of your destinations and leave out places that are too similar to each other. If you feel that you are leaving out important places, Rick Steves wants travelers to remember not to try to see all of Europe in one go. Chances are, you'll be able to return someday — especially if you stay on budget during the trip you are currently planning.

One last overarching tip: Though planning an itinerary is essential, Rick Steves opts not to have every minute of each day planned out. "If a serendipitous opportunity presents itself, the answer has always got to be 'yes,'" Steves told Travel + Leisure. "We tend to be too figured out these days," he said. "It takes away some of the joy of travel, which is letting things unfold in an unpredictable way." So once you've picked your top things to see, make sure you have some extra time available in case a hidden gem comes your way.