European itineraries

Grand Tour: The two-week vacation edition

It's easy to plan a European vacation. It just takes a little guidance. Before you start gathering information on specific destinations or looking for airfares, you'd probably like to know a bit more about the trip as a whole.

What can you reasonably expect to do in a given amount of time? How long will it take you to see these famous cities you've always heard so much about? How can you link it all together? Once you know this information, you'll be able to hammer out the skeleton of the trip and can start booking things.

European itineraries that work

Picking all the places you want to visit is the easy part. Figuring out which of them you have time to see and how long to spend in each city is what takes some work.

Because most Americans get just two precious weeks of vacation, I've crafted most of these tours to fit that schedule. I've also included a three-week whirlwind extravaganza if you can carve out that much time for your trip.

General itinerary tips

You'll notice that these itineraries include the two extra "freebie" days that the weekends snag for you when planning a vacation—so "two weeks" actually lasts 16 days, not 14 (since you fly over on a Friday night and don't come back until two Sundays later). Sure, you'll be exhausted at work on Monday, but boy will you have stories.

Keep in mind that open hours vary from season to season. Because summer is the most popular travel time, I arranged these itineraries assuming summer schedules. They may have to be tweaked if you're visiting in the off-season or if one of the days you happen to be in town falls on a Monday, Sunday, or another day when some sights may be closed.

Balance your itinerary with spontaneity, both in planning the whole trip and with the daily schedule. Although these trip plans are pretty whirlwind, try to leave some elbow room in the agenda if you're taking a longer trip. You need this both for relaxation en route—for at least every 10 to 15 days of rigorous sightseeing, plan on two days of doing little or nothing—and for changes of plans: fitting in unexpected opportunities such as a festival, taking day trips, or choosing to spend more or less time in a place once you get the feel of it.

On occasion, I'll include specific train times and schedules, but bear in mind that this is just to get you thinking about how early to catch a train; rail timetables can and will change regularly, so always check the train times listed here against more current schedules.

Tours Under $995 G Adventures

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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in August 2011.
All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.