Why You Should Pre-Plan Your European Vacation

Wouldn't you rather be enjoying yourself instead of anxiously trying to puzzle out what to do next while on your vacation?

I was engaged in an email exchange with a reader/friend who was proudly telling me of her plans to go to Europe for two weeks in early July this year with her daughter, as a graduation present (for the daughter).

Although not a very experienced traveler, she had decided the two of them would simply head out and enjoy total freedom and flexibility.  They’d have a rail pass, and a return flight, but beyond that, they’d go where they wished, when they wished, and end up enjoying exactly the type of European experience they’d dreamed of, free of any constraints or restrictions on when/where they could go.

Sounds idyllic and marvelous, right?  Wrong!  Sounds like a prelude to a disaster.  Our email exchange got me to thinking – this concept of wanting to be free of the constraints and confines of a fixed itinerary is a widely shared one, but in most cases, is totally the wrong thing to do.

Why do I say that?  When is it necessary and/or not necessary to preplan?  Please now go visit my new article about if you should preplan a European vacation for the answers to these and many related questions.  (Note that while we use Europe as an example, the underlying issues are similar for many/most other destinations too.)

4 thoughts on “Why You Should Pre-Plan Your European Vacation”

  1. Regarding hidden hotel fees: I stayed at the London Marriott County Hall over the Jubilee weekend. Upon checkout, I discovered a £3.00 (~$4.50) fee to remove our room service cart! Outrageous.

  2. I agree with much of what you say. But mostly doing independent travel, we try a mix of pre-planning and optional stops. Usually these days I find good speed Wi-Fi available at many places (most hotels also). With my netbook PC, I can get on easily with a small, lightweight unit. I try to book in advance, but usually with a 24 hr cancellation – so can adjust as needed. We use a car if visiting smaller towns and enjoy stopping whenever we see something of interest – one thing one cannot do on a tour.

    We usually book on shoulder seasons, making it usually possible to adjust schedules without too many problems. And we do use Rick Steves as a reference, but also use Web sites like booking.com with many reviews to use in choosing our hotels. When in larger cities, location is a main factor for a hotel as we walk most of the time.

    If one wants to plan their own trip, it does take lots of research, notes, planning to have an enjoyable vacation. I suggest for older folks like us to stay most of the time 3 nights as getting into and out of a place is time consuming and adds frustration.

    As you know, we are off the beaten track folks – and usually tours go to the main sights. Try going almost anywhere in Paris without tourists.

  3. Hi David,

    Since my wife is a project manager, she likes everything planned. Needless to say, any trip more than 1 night has an Excel spreadsheet with times, places, and confirmation numbers. On our cruise to New England and the Maritimes this October, she already has restaurants selected for Portland, ME and St. John, NB.

    If there is any driving involved, I have road maps and Mapquest print-outs.

    She really got this bug to plan after a co-worker of hers went on her honeymoon to Jamaica. Rather than plan anything, they decided to wing it. (They did have their hotel booked.) So, they wound up every day at the straw market, and ate at the same restaurant by the market.

    It’s one thing to have a plan and then change it, because the weather is bad, or you find something that piques your curiosity. But going with no plans (and no reservations) is just asking for trouble.



  4. I travel to Europe on vacation every few years. I also have the luxury of being able to stay with relatives throughout Germany.

    So here’s a tip for those visiting Euro countries and doing the same. Do your travel explorations first, then schedule any visits. If you do it the other way around, you’ll likely be charmed into staying way longer than expected, cutting into precious touring.

    Relatives understand your deadline for your flight home, so it’s easy to tear yourself away.


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