One Week in Europe? How to Create an Itinerary for Four Countries

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.

4 countries in a week map
My December 2018 trip route

Tips to Visit Multiple Countries in One Week

Go 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 for trip planning in Europe

  • 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.)

Plan your trip details ahead of time

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 for trip planning:

  • Google ideas for your itinerary. 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. Also, be sure to Google days and times places are open while you’re at it.
  • Search Instagram. Whether you do a location search or stalk your favorite travel influencers, 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.
Saved folders in Instagram by country
A *few* of my Instagram saved folders

Prioritize the things on your itinerary

Really, this is just a continuation of planning ahead. But I’m gonna give prioritizing its own section.

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 for organizing your itinerary:

  • Create a simple itinerary in Google docs or Microsoft Word. Okayyyy, so mine aren’t usually simple, but yours can be! Start by just throwing EVERYTHING you ideally want to do on the doc. Then organize by country and city. Then rank each country/city list by must-sees down to just 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.
Sample itinerary in a Word document
Sample from my trip itinerary
  • Use Google Maps to search the places on your itinerary. 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.
Google Maps saved list for Paris France
Google Maps saved list for Paris (blue markers with white squares are my saved spots)

Book tickets and reservations in advance

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 for travel booking:

  • Book electronic tickets whenever you can. These will be easy to 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. This will be useful for your printed tickets. Also screenshot any e-tickets just in case your Internet connection is weak when you need to pull them up. (I speak from experience!)

Pack plenty of snacks for when you’re on the go

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 yourself a hot meal when you get to B.

My top tips for travel snacks:

  • Protein bars. Whatever your preference, bring them from home, or be adventurous and buy some at local markets in Europe. While you may find some brands available in the US, you’ll likely find many you’ve never seen before. Enjoy!
  • Nuts. Snack pack sizes are fairly easy to find and provide a dose of protein and fat to sustain your energy. Who doesn’t need that on the go?!
  • Portable produce. Think apples, carrots, bananas—anything that is hearty, thick-skinned, or won’t squish easily in your bag. The extra nutrients never hurt either!
  • Bring a reusable lunch bag. Anything that you can easily roll or flatten is perfect. Plastic food storage containers also work and can be used for things like jewelry and vitamins as well.

Remember that you can sleep when the trip is over

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 to combat tiredness when you travel:

  • 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!
  • Take 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, sitting once in a while is important. 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.
Woman looking out the window on a train

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?

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