Having been on a big holiday to Sri Lanka last year my boyfriend and I decided to go somewhere nearer to home this year. In December last year we decided to plan a trip around a few European cities that we had yet to visit. We settled on visiting Prague, Budapest, Bucharest, Milan and Venice. In this blog post I will discuss all the logistics of our trip such as booking and planning the holiday. In the posts that will follow this one I will discuss each city and what to do when you are there. I hope that my posts will inspire you to visit these cities and fall in love with continental Europe just like me.
In my experience the key to a good holiday is detailed planning. In this blog post I will outline how my boyfriend and I went about planning our trip so that we could get the most enjoyment out of our trip when we were on holiday.
Firstly, pick for how long and when you wish to travel. We settled on late June and ten days. The second step in planning a holiday with multiple destinations is picking which cities to visit and how to get between them. This may seem an obvious piece of advice but can actually be more complicated than you think. My boyfriend and I knew we wanted to travel in Eastern and Central Europe having been to most destinations in Western Europe however, many of the cities and countries we desperately wanted to visit were too complicated to reach and so this changed our plans. Our first destination was easy to pick since we looked at places in Central Europe that we could fly to from our local airport. We chose to fly to Prague first. Our final destination was also chosen because we could fly home from here too, hence the choice of Milan. Once you have decided on your first and final destination it is possible to chose your other stops. A great way to plan your various stops is to get a map of the area so that you can see which cities are near to each other and so are possible to travel between. This led us to pick the cities of Vienna, Budapest, Warsaw, Krakow, Bucharest and Venice. The next vital step is to see whether you can actually travel between these cities easily and within your budget. Unfortunately, for us this was not possible. We could not find flights for the dates we had selected for all of the destinations we wished to visit and found the trains to be too expensive. The best way to find flights is to use the site skyscanner. This website searches different airlines for flights and allows you to pick the quickest and cheapest option much like other search engines for hotels. So after this step our destinations were reduced to Prague, Budapest, Bucharest and Milan.
The third important part of planning your holiday is sorting out your accommodation. We looked both on hotel search comparison sites and on airbnb. I would recommend that you look at both of these options to see which is the cheapest and best option for you as they will not be in the same comparison site. In the end we settled on an airbnb for Prague and Milan and private hostel rooms in Budapest and Bucharest.
The fourth step is to then sort out transfers between stations or airports to and from your accommodation. The best way to find out about transfers is to look online and what other people have done and to buy some travel guides which will often provide very good information in this area. I would recommend booking as many transfers in advance as possible and planning your route before you leave otherwise you can end up being ripped off at the airport by tourist traps. However, unless you are booking public transport such as train tickets and bus trips I would not recommend paying in advance for these services. For example, in Prague there was no public transport to get from the airport to the city centre so we chose to use a shared shuttlebus service which we booked and then paid for after the journey just in case it turned out not to be reliable. Another thing to bear in mind is that if you are leaving very early or late at night you may have to get a taxi to or from the airport and should factor this into your expenses so that you have enough money especially for when you are leaving your destination. Always ask the hotel to book your taxi to avoid being ripped off by taxis who are part of local networks that do not operate within local regulations.
Finally, you may wish to plan day trips before you go, perhaps to a destination that you wanted to visit but didn’t fit with your plans. For example, we had three days in Milan and so decided that we would visit Venice for the day. We did this by taking the train and booking on the national train website in Italy. So you could search for train tickets for day trips to other nearby cities too if you wished. Guidebooks will often have suggestions for nearby day trips if you are stuck for ideas. It’s always good to book in advance to save money on ticket prices.
Once you have planned the outline of your trip you can then move on to planning things to do in each stop. My next blog post will describe what we did in each city and hopefully give you ideas for your visit to these destinations.