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Does it feel like everyone you know wants to plan a dream vacation to Europe?
You’re not dreaming.
According to KAYAK, people really want to grab a croissant in Paris or hear Big Ben ring out now more than ever. Searches for European flights by Americans are up 77% from this time last year.
My wife and I have stayed in over 20 cities in Europe and have loved each and every trip.
I thought it might be helpful to answer some of the questions that we’re asked about most often when it comes to visiting Europe.
What keeps us coming back?
1) The unique culture of each city and country.
Although it’s roughly the size of the United States, there are about 50 countries and 24 official languages spread across the EU. You can hop on a train, and in just a few hours you’ll have a completely new landscape, language, and culture. The Schengen Area makes it easy to move between 27 different countries without border crossings or checkpoints.
2) The people
We have met so many incredible people in our travels. In Malta, our guide heard we were searching for my grandfather’s home before he emigrated to America. So, after our official tour, she invited us to her home for Christmas cookies, grabbed a jacket, and started walking us through the neighborhood. In Spain, we struck up a conversation with a restaurant owner who heard we were looking to watch a Real Madrid match and gave us tickets to see a game. From tour guides to taxi drivers to t-shirt vendors, we love meeting new friends on our travels and discovering more about their daily lives.
3) The history
A guide with whom we spent the day in France joked that “it’s not really old to us unless it happened before Napoleon.” As a point of reference, he was born in 1769… so… you know, a few years before America was born. We’ve stood in front of 1,000-year-old doors and stayed in hotels located inside of buildings that date back 500 years. It’s hard to visit somewhere and not get an impromptu history lesson.
4) The food
Some of the most memorable meals we’ve ever enjoyed were in Barcelona, London, Bratislava, and Gdansk. There is so much we’ve learned about a country just from the food. From pierogies to paella, tapas to tiramisu… we always seek out an authentic meal wherever we end up.
What’s the best way to get there?
However, with just one stop, there are hundreds of cities you can visit from CVG.
- Air Canada stops in Toronto on your way to a dozen European destinations.
British Airways can be your one-stop connection to London and beyond. Every major European city (and many smaller destinations) are just a short connection through Heathrow.
Where should I go for my first trip to Europe?
That’s a pretty big map with a lot of choices, right? Here are four ways to book a trip based on your personal preference.
You have specific dates and want to see a specific country or countries.
You want to see a specific country but can go whenever it costs the least. (Great money-saving opportunity!)
You have specific dates but are open to going wherever the fares are lowest. (Another great way to save.)
You are open to wherever the lowest fare takes you. (How we usually travel and the biggest savings.)
I’d recommend hopping on TripAdvisor and clicking on “Things to Do” in each destination you might be interested in. It’ll help you get an idea of not only what to do but the best time of the year for that activity. The message boards can also be quite helpful if you have a specific question.
How long should I go, and how many countries should I see on a trip?
After finding a great deal on a flight to London over Thanksgiving, we left on a Wednesday night and came home on Monday. It was a terrific trip, and we loved every minute.
We’ve also had trips lasting nearly two weeks where we’ve visited four different countries.
There’s no right or wrong answer. For a first trip, I generally recommend one or two destinations and about seven to 10 days. That’ll give you time to adjust to the time difference and recover from any jet lag. You may also consider utilizing one of the many train services that stretch across Europe, especially the high-speed rail lines. It can be a great way to add more cities on your trip.
So, I need a passport, right? How do I get one?
Absolutely. Everyone, including your kids, need a passport to visit Europe. And because travel demand is higher, so is the demand for passports.
There are three ways to obtain a passport.
You apply, get your photo taken, send in the application, and wait.
All of the above, except you’ll get faster service.
In-person at an agency office
If you want to travel within the next nine weeks, you’ll need to visit a passport agency office. The closest are in Detroit (four-hour drive), Chicago (five hours), and Buffalo (6.5 hours), and scheduling can be tricky. If you haven’t applied for routine or expedited processing, your appointment must be scheduled within 14 calendar days of your international travel date. If you have already applied, your appointment must be scheduled within five calendar days of your international travel date. And appointments are limited, and there’s no guarantee that a time slot will be available. Soooo, that can be a little stressful. More details can be found here.
The State Department updates the estimated processing time for passports on this website.
The current wait time as of May 1, 2023 is 10-13 weeks for routine processing and 7-9 weeks for the expedited option. For an expedited passport at an agency office, you must have international travel within 14 days.
If you already have a passport, make sure it’s valid for at least six months after your trip. Check the expiration date carefully for each member of your family. Adult passports are generally valid for 10 years. However, children’s passports (under the age of 16) are only good for five years.
What’s your favorite country?
It’s impossible to pick just one. We’ve loved something about every single place we’ve visited!
So go on, book that next adventure! Keep an eye on my Jay’s Deals page for great international deals I’ve hand-picked for you.