The beauty of travelling in Europe is the proximity of popular destinations. In nearly any country on the continent, you can find yourself within reach of a number of other countries in only a few hours. It isn’t inconceivable to wake up in one country, enjoy a late lunch in another, and bed down for the night in still a third. Of course, your ability to travel easily will be determined by the mode of transportation you choose. There is no shortage of options to appeal to a variety of personal preferences, budgets and itineraries. Here are five things to consider as you make travel preparations for your trip. As always the different modes of transportation will have their advantages and disadvantages.
What’s your budget? This is the first thing you want to figure out since there is a myriad of options that run the gamut in terms of cost. If you’re looking for high-end hotels, you can find it. If you’re looking for budget hostels, you can find it. Restaurants and tourist sites are also very similar in that regard, though usually, the most popular tourist sites are also the most expensive to get into—you might be able to get in free, however, if you have certain city travel passes (like the Paris Pass).
How many people are in your group? If you’re alone or in a group of only 1-2 others, it might be cheaper to travel by train or even by air. If you’re in a slightly bigger group (3-4 other people), renting a car is going to be significantly cheaper, though you’ll pay for that in terms of time spent on the road. Fuel in Europe is roughly $6 per gallon, depending on where you’re travelling, so if you do choose to drive, try to get a fuel efficient car that can fit all of the passengers.
Your Desired Destinations
Where do you want to go? If you’re mainly interested in bigger cities and areas near big cities, your options are wide open in terms of how you want to get around. But if you want to get to more out-of-the-way locations, it could be more challenging. You might end up having to fly or take a train to a city, and then rent a car or find a bus route that goes in the direction you want to go. You still have transportation options, but they’re more restricted.
The Duration of Your Trip
How much time do you have for your trip? How much do you want to see? If you want to go to as many countries as you can, but you only have two weeks, flying from city to city will save you the most time, so you can enjoy where you’re at as much as you can before continuing on. Traveling by train or ferry, especially overnight when you’ll be sleeping anyway, is also an option and could save you more than flying would. Additionally, travelling during the night can save you the expense of lodging, though you’ll have to pay a little extra for a comfortable place to sleep (it still won’t be as much as a typical room in a hotel).
Traveling by automobile is less predictable, at least as far as time spent. It’s definitely longer than any of the other options, but traffic and adverse weather conditions can slow you down, even more, impacting the travel time greatly. If you’re only a single rider though and you want to see the countryside, a motorcycle has some clear benefits here: not only are they more fuel efficient, but they’re also smaller, so they can easily squeeze through traffic and find parking at the more crowded tourist sites. You just need to be careful you don’t get into an accident.
The Well-Planned Itinerary vs. Spontaneity
Do you prefer to plan things out or be spontaneous? If you’re a more adventurous traveller, wanting to set your own pace and schedule, a car or motorcycle is definitely the way to go. You won’t get to as many countries, but you’ll still see a lot, and you’ll have a better experience than being confined to a train or aeroplane schedule, especially if you want to stay a little longer in one area than you thought you would.
This isn’t to say that planners can’t have a memorable experience too, or get off-the-beaten-path. They absolutely can. Both types of travellers can have very similar types of experiences; the planner may just have to put in a little more research beforehand to find those lesser-known destinations and plan the trip to them, whereas the spontaneous traveller gets there and learns about it, and adjusts travel plans accordingly. Neither way is the right way to travel: it’s just about what’s comfortable for you. I would highly recommend a vehicle as the best mode of transportation.
Active vs. Passive Transportation
Do you like to be in control of the journey? Or do you prefer to sit back, relax, and leave the navigation to someone else? Many people enjoy being shuttled to their destination, free of worry or stress, while others prefer to actively travel, driving themselves or riding with one other person, especially through scenic portions of the trip. If seeing the countryside is a draw to you, you’re not going to want to travel at night or through the air. Daytime rail or renting a car/motorcycle will be best. But if you’re less interested in the scenery and more interested in the destination and doing things once there, overnight travel and air are going to be bigger draws, since you can sit back and wait until you reach your destination.
There’s really no right or wrong way to travel through Europe. The above tips have hopefully given you something to think about as you plan your travels. Feel free to use them, adjust them, or create your own: whatever works for you and your trip!