If you’ve had visions of a European vacation, flights are affordable and now is the time to go. Whether you’re looking to travel on a budget or you’re looking for a blowout once-in-a-lifetime vacation, you can find transportation that fits your needs and wallet. Once you’ve visited Europe you may find yourself drawn to specific locations again and again, but for a first-time visit, you should try to hit several countries, getting a feel for what you love and want to revisit on another trip. Here are some of the best ways to get around Europe and the benefits of each.
Take a Cruise
There are so many options for cruise packages around Europe that you’re sure to find something you love. Europe is relatively small and has thousands of miles of coastline along the Mediterranean, Black, North and Baltic Seas, along with well-developed inland waterways for river cruises. Whether you want to wrap up while viewing the fjords from the deck of your ship or you want to jump into the crystal waters off the Greek isles, there’s a cruise for that. You might even consider a repositioning cruise that lands you back in the United States at the end of it all.
The best part about seeing Europe by cruise is that you get to see several countries and bring your hotel with you. Cruise standards around the world are very consistent so you’ll never wind up in a broken down pension wondering whether you can squeeze your suitcase into the room with you. With the best cruise lines your food, drinks and incidentals are included in the price so you don’t have to worry about budgeting for those expenses. With the different levels of rooms and add-on packages, you can cruise inexpensively all the way up to the fanciest suites.
Travel by Rail
If you want to have more control over how long you spend at each destination, consider traveling by rail. European rail sites offer terrific tools for helping you plan your vacation and destinations. Definitely buy your tickets while still in the United States to get some of the best discounts on multi day tickets. There are also student and senior discounts to bring the price down even further. You can visit mainland Europe, the UK, Ireland and all of Turkey via rail and stops are usually located close to city centers. Besides the Eurail there are regional and local rails that can meet your needs.
Unless you’re a train buff or young and in good shape, rail has a couple of drawbacks. You have to lug your luggage around with you, so pack lightly. If your destinations are far apart, you have time for lovely sightseeing but it can eat up your travel days. Rail travel can be inexpensive, but if you want to have somewhere to actually lay down on an overnight trip, the prices rise exponentially. Of course, you’ll have to plan all of your hotels and meals outside of your train planning.
Use the Bus
For a more budget-friendly option, try riding the bus. Even more than the train, far-flung destinations can eat up your trip, so try to keep your destinations closer together if you use the bus option. A bus can be your best friend for traveling within a single country, on the Iberian Peninsula or in Eastern Europe where there are fewer rail connections. Prices can vary wildly, with some cross-country jaunts for under $10 and others for almost $100, so you need to have time to do your homework before you leave home.
A final benefit of all three of these options is that they can make crossing borders go more smoothly than crossing in a private vehicle. Each option offers different benefits, from the all-inclusive nature and ease of cruising to the independence of planning your own itinerary with rail or bus. No matter what you choose, with prior planning you’ll have the vacation of a lifetime.