If you’ve ever thought: Gee, I’d like to visit several countries in a week! – this post is for you.
One thing I’ve learned from my solo travels is how much I can see in just one day. All it takes is an eagerness to explore and the stamina to stay in GO mode. Multiply that by seven days, and the possibilities are truly endless!
For my December 2018 trip to Europe, I knew I couldn’t spend the entire week in Brussels. Two or three days is typically plenty of time for me to stay in any one place – especially when I don’t have any extreme adventures planned. So, rather than one city, or even one country, why not four??
Since I lived to tell about it, I thought I’d share a few tips on how to navigate multiple countries in a short span of time… for any other fast-paced travelers out there.
HEAD TO EUROPE
It’s a heck of a lot easier to visit four countries in a week when they’re relatively small and close together. No continent fits that description better than Europe. Choose adjacent countries – or don’t! With countries the size of U.S. states, travel by plane, train, and even car makes country hopping pretty painless.
My top tips:
- Check out Rail Europe for cheap and speedy train travel between countries.
- Search Google Flights for cheap fares on low-cost airlines like Ryanair. (For this trip, I opted for the train so I didn’t have to pay extra to check my suitcase.)
If you don’t have a plan, you’re more likely to waste time trying to plan in the moment. Indecision. Sold out tickets. Places not open when you get there. All things that can be avoided by a little planning.
Personally, I plan a LOT. But a little really does go a long way!
Once you choose your country and city preferences, do a bit of research to gather up some options for the best ways to spend your time. You may already know about the top tourist spots in a city, but I’m telling ya. Some of my favorite travel experiences happened in places I didn’t know about until I did the research.
My top tips:
- I Google everything. (Don’t you?) Seriously searching something as simple as “Unusual things to do in ________” or “Off the beaten path in __________” can yield a pretty decent list of spots to consider.
- Consult Instagram. Whether you do a location search or stalk your favorite travel grammers, visual inspiration is powerful stuff! One of my favorite IG features is the ability to save photos into folders. Mine are categorized by country, and when I book a trip, one of the first things I do is browse all the photos I’ve saved in that country’s folder.
Really, this is just a continuation of planning ahead. But I’m gonna give prioritizing its own header.
Once you’ve done your research… once you’ve got your countries, cities, and cool spots in mind… prioritize. Which cities and sites are completely non-negotiable? Which ones are worth squeezing in? And, which ones would you not lose sleep over if you didn’t go there? It also helps to map ‘em out. See where they are in location to each other. Prioritizing not only your interests but also your time spent getting from place to place is gold, my friends. GOLD.
My top tips:
- Create a simple Word doc itinerary. Okayyyy, so mine wasn’t simple, but yours can be! Start by just throwing EVERYTHING on the doc. Then organize by country and city. Then rank each country/city list by must-sees down to ehhhhhh. I even go so far as to add in my train times as well as walking to and from, since that is pretty non-negotiable.
- Plug your stuff from the Word doc into Google Maps. Check distances. Figure out if you need public transportation, or if you could walk it out. Then, SAVE the spots in Google Maps. Much like Instagram, you can create save lists in Google Maps, too! I utilize this feature ALL THE TIME, especially during my trips.
I’m not talking about the trip itself. I’m talking about the tickets you’ll need during the trip. Flights between countries, trains, rental cars, museum entry, tour times, restaurant reservations. Book all your highest priorities that require a ticket or reservation to secure your spot. Not only will this guarantee you don’t miss something you truly want to experience, but it will also save you time and energy while you’re on the trip. Promise.
My top tips:
- Go electronic if you can – as in e-tickets you can pull up in your email. But, if that’s not an option, be sure to book far enough in advance so the tickets can be mailed to you before you leave. OR know where you need to go to pick them up in person during your trip.
- Invest in a travel wallet for your printed tickets and screenshot any e-tickets just in case your Internet connection is weak when you need to pull them up. (I speak from experience!)
STOCK UP ON SNACKS
Whether you cram packaged foods in your suitcase or hit up some local markets, having portable snacks is essential when traveling from country to country. While in transit, food options are limited. Of course, you can always grab something at the train station or airport, but you’ll likely pay more. Fuel up on snacks from A to B, then get yo’self a hot meal when you get to B.
My top tips:
- Choose protein bars (like Clif Bar, LÄRABAR, or RXBar) and produce (think apples, carrots, bananas) that are easily portable, and also provide some extra nutrients after eating out all week.
- Bring a reusable lunch bag (mine is similar to this), and maybe even a plastic food storage container to tote your snacks.
SLEEP WHEN THE TRIP IS OVER
Yeah. If you’re set on visiting multiple countries in just one week, sleep pretty much CAN’T be a priority. From red-eye flights to early morning train departures to maximizing every moment of every day… sleeping in or going to bed early is prolly not gonna happen. I’m just being real.
My top tips:
- Walk a LOT. It’s easier to stay awake when you’re upright, and you’ll wear yourself out so that the hours you do sleep will be restful ones!
- Do make time to sit throughout the day – even if it’s just in transit, or while you’re eating, or taking 30 minutes to people watch on a bench. Just don’t close your eyes. Ha!
- If you’re country-hopping by plane, sleep on those short flights. Otherwise, I wouldn’t advise sleeping on the train or any other modes of public transportation. Pickpockets, yo.
Have you ever visited multiple countries in a week? If so, how many?
If not, after reading this, do you think you could / would / should?