I’ve been known as the
control freak one who manages itineraries everytime I’m traveling with a group of family/friends. One of my succesful trips was the family Eurotrip earlier this year. We were traveling with a group of 7, visiting five countries in Europe in the middle of February (chilly winter) -with two countries that I had never visited before; and gladly everyone was having fun. Well or at least I hope so. There wasn’t any bad stuff or experience happened during the trip, so that suffices yo. Learn how to plan a group trip to Europe from my journal here!
Planning a trip to Europe might look intimidating, and even more so when you have to take care of a bunch of people. But with the right preparation and researches, you can nail it and have a great time with your crew. Let’s get started.
1. Appoint the group tour leader. Let’s just suppose that it’s you. You’re the one who make sure everyone’s passport is still valid and they get the necessary visa on time. Keep a copy of your travel documents with you at all times (store the digital files in your phone, or email all the documents to your own email)
2. Decide on a price range beforehand. Make sure the budget is acceptable for everyone. You will work on this budget to later plan for transportation mode, accommodation, meals, sightseeing schedule, etc. Other individual expenses like snacks, shopping and other activities costs should be paid each to their own.
Usually everyone will start with a return airplane ticket (let’s say, Jakarta-Paris round trip), and the budget will decide which countries/cities you’re going to visit. Big cities like London, Paris, Stockholm and Berlin might be more expensive than the low-key, underrated, albeit beautiful cities like Prague, Hallstatt or Budapest. So if you want to explore more countries, combine the more popular big destinations cities with the smaller ones.
Our budget for the 14 days Europe trip (Paris, Amsterdam, Prague, Hallstatt, Salzburg, Bern, Jungfrau) was €900/pax excluding the airfares from Jakarta, including the whole accommodation and transportation during the trip, meals and sightseeing fares. Keep in mind that this is not a general base price, as you can save up more by staying in hostels instead of AirBnb/Hotels, skip all the taxis (I travelled with a group of older people who’s, understandably, can’t take too many hikes/walking), and if you take Swiss out of the equation, it will be significantly cheaper.
3. Make a Whatsapp group with everyone to ensure easier contact. I recommend for everyone to send their copy of passport and visa here, along with pdf of booked tickets, hotel address, etc.
This is also where we send each other photos taken with our own cameras #important.
4. If you’re going to fly/take the train during the trip, book everyone’s tickets in advance to make sure everyone can be on the same flight/train. The closer you get to your departure, the fewer seats will be available. Some destinations within Europe can be reached by budget airlines with the cost as low as 19 Euro one way.
Here’s some website to book budget flights within Europe:
- Easyjet : covers more than a hundred destinations within Europe. Main hubs are in London (Gatwick, Stansted, Luton), Milan, Berlin, Paris (Charles de Gaulle, Orly) and many more.
- Transavia : Main hubs in Amsterdam and Paris (Orly), this is also one of the few airlines which connects Paris straight to Santorini (read more about my Santorini journey here)
- Ryan Air : The largest low cost airlines in Europe. Covers basically almost every destinations you’re heading to.
- Eurowings : Main hubs in Cologne, Dusseldorf and Hamburg, offers connecting flight. We once took a whole detour flying from Salzburg to Zurich (stopping in Dusseldorf… totally out of the route), took more time but it’s still wayy cheaper than taking train, car or direct flight; and wayy much faster than bus.
Keep in mind that some budget airlines (except Eurowings above) do not offer connecting flights, and accept no liability for missed connections, I don’t really advise keeping a tight connection time when you book your flights especially during winter time, as flights do get delayed a lot due to bad weather conditions. Also, budget airlines are stricter about their baggage fares. A few kilograms overweight can double your ticket price, so weight your luggage (AND cabin bag) carefully before you head to the airport.
Here are the link for to book high speed rail train tickets, sometimes traveling by train is more convenient:
- Eurorail : Groups with 2 to 5 travelers get a 15% Savers discount on booking.
- Thalys (France) : Best rail to travel with within Belgium, France, Netherlands and Germany.
- SBB (Switzerland) : The Swiss Pass that lets you save lots of money on travel and sightseeing.
5. Sometimes, renting a van is even cheaper than taking train/planes. Make sure the appointed driver has a valid International driver’s license and is used to drive with left steering wheel. Europcar is the largest car rental company with thousands of rental locations scattered within Europe. The best thing about it is that you can pick up the car and drop it off at another city or even another country, provided they have a branch there. This not only gives you flexibility when traveling but also provides more fun experience during your trip.
If it doesn’t do too much difference on the budget, also consider to rent a van and a driver, that’s how we traveled from Prague to Hallstatt. The cost is cheaper than taking the train and it’s so much faster too. We also made a stop at several sights on the way.
6. Research your accommodation. In some cities, AirBnb can be cheaper than hotels. Some apartments is equipped with kitchen, washing machine and basic necessities so you can also save money by cooking your meals by yourself. The moms in the group had so much fun doing the groceries and cooked for our dinner for some evenings during the trip. Traveling with moms is awesome yo.
Kitchen in our apartment in Prague. Ignore my instant coffee down right.7. This is one of the most difficult steps: choose the sightseeing places you want to visit and activity you want to do, based on the majority decision. A group of three won’t necessarily want to go to the same place, let alone seven or eight. Listen to what everyone wants, let them offer some suggestions, and vote to decide. Keep in mind that planning an activity should also be based on the time and distance factor.
8. The bigger the group is, the more stressful it will get; so don’t torture yourself even more by planning an overly ambitious day of sightseeing. Aim to visit only 2-3 sights (maybe more if they’re close to each other), to make sure that everyone’s having enough time to have fun, take photos, do some shopping, etc.
9. At least, one of the person in the group needs to have a working internet connection in your phone. You will need this to read the directions on Google map, reach your AirBnb Host, or call an Uber. Don’t depend solely on wi-fi, free public wi-fi are rare even in bigger cities. Either turn your international roaming mode on or buy a prepaid simcard. Most telecom providers offer holiday simcard with big data that you can use in the whole Europe. When you run out of credit, you can top it up at newsstands, tobacco shops or mobile-phone stores.
10.Book restaurant reservation in advance, especially if you’re traveling with more than 6 people. In some dining places it might not be easy to find seats that can accommodate lots of people altogether.
If you’re traveling with a group of older Asian people who only prefer to eat Asian food, research Asian restaurants in advance by the distance proximity to the sites you’re visiting. Trust me, Chinese food are everywhere.
11. Don’t push everyone to follow your itineraries. There’s a chance that not everyone will get to do what they want to do. Some people might need more rest too. Assign a day or two for free time and tell everyone to meet at an appointed time and place. Also, if it’s possible, divide the group, so one group can head to the museum, while the rest can go shopping.
12. Make sure everyone in the group has the full itinerary. Make sure they all know the name of the hotel and have a plan if you guys are separated by choice or by accident.
13. If you’re traveling with more than 10 people -trust me on this-, just hire a tour agency. Or else you’ll be running around trying to find missing people, collecting everyone before getting to the airport, finding a restaurant that can fit everyone. Man, too much hassle yo.7