The 180 days count-down to a perfect Europe Trip.
The time when you invest all your hard earned money to enjoy your dream Europe vacation.
I hope you have already worked through the 1st phase of planning. If not, I highly recommend you check-out my
before you read further.
The 1st phase was focused on the homework, where you try to design a feasible itinerary within your time and financial budget. The 2nd phase is the execution phase, where you get into all the small details of the tour and get ready to go. The homework you did in Phase 1 will decide how easy or difficult Phase 2 will be for you.
Estimated time to complete: 6 months
The 2nd phase as 5 main tasks to be completed. I have also mentioned the time you can spend on each task. Some tasks would be independent of the strategy you choose and hence only a single time estimate is mentioned next to it.
if you have not chosen your strategy. If you don’t want to read the earlier post then I would recommend you to follow the Actual Itinerary Strategy as you read further.
The 5 tasks are :
- Fix your travel date & entry and exit ports: 15 days maximum
- Collect all visa documents
- Minimal Itinerary Strategy: 45 days maximum
- Actual Itinerary Strategy: 75 days maximum
- Plan your trip
- Minimal Itinerary Strategy: 120 days maximum
- Actual Itinerary Strategy: 75 days maximum
- Apply for a tourist visa: 30 days estimated
- Pack your bags & get ready to go
- Minimal Itinerary Strategy: 75 days maximum
- Actual Itinerary Strategy: 45 days maximum
Each of the tasks is a full topic in itself but I will touch up all the important points here. Do subscribe and follow me.
Fix your travel dates along with entry and exit port
The 1st and most important task is to fix your travel date. Based on the outcome of the phase 1 planning, explore flight tickets and fix a date. You will also need to fix your entry and exit ports; where you will land in Europe and from where you will leave from Europe. Both can be the same city or different cities in different countries.
Tip: Entry and exit port can heavily effect the travel time & cost. Try flights from all the major cities or airline hubs. Try revering your itinerary.
Aggregator websites like Skyscanner, Kayak, Wego etc. are the best place to start. But do check out the airline’s owned websites like Emirates, Qatar, Air France etc. for the best prices and dates. You will be booking your tickets after 2-3 weeks. So do note down 2-3 alternative.
Once your travel dates are fixed, calculate what I call “The Date”. This is basically the date 15 days before your planned departure. This is “The Date” when you should be all packed and ready to go.
Also, go through my post “How to get your Schengen Tourist Visa early?” to decide which strategy you want to follow to get your visa. Your visa strategy decision will affect all task after this.
Collect all documents for Visa application
Visa documents can be broadly classified into 2 categories: 1) Supporting documents; 2) Travel documents.
Supporting documents are the proof of your capability and honesty towards this tour. These will be your employment certificate, bank statements, marriage certificates etc. Gathering the supporting documents will often take some-time. You may need to contact your HR or visit the bank or search your document archive. So start collecting them from the day you get your hands on the checklist. The strategy you choose in “How to get your Schengen Tourist Visa early?”, will have no effect on these documents. Try and finish collecting the supporting document within the first 15 days.
Travel documents would be based on your itinerary and hence would depend on our planning. Things like flight tickets, hotel booking, transfer between cities in Europe, travel insurance etc. fall into this category. You will be able to collect these as you progress in your planning. Most of these documents will be affected by the strategy you choose from “How to get your Schengen Tourist Visa early?”.
Plan your trip
This task would run in parallel with the document collection task as your travel documents are heavily dependent on your planning. This part is heavily affected by the strategy you choose in “How to get your Schengen Tourist Visa early?”. So read the section marked under your strategy.
Minimal Itinerary Strategy
In the first 15 days, you will be heavily occupied in collecting you supporting documents. But you would also need to book your visa appointment as you would need to submit your application within 45 days. In a tourist-heavy month, the appointments get filled in a second (Tripadvisor Forum), so you may not be able to get a booking on the first attempt. So start attempting to book your appointment for the 40th day itself. So your overall plan won’t be affected, even if you take 3-4 days to understand and get a confirmed appointment.
Then book your hotels and get your travel insurance. Make sure you book with a zero cancellation fee. You will get loads of such offer on Booking.com, Airbnb etc. You would also need a cover letter. Many formats are available on the internet, just pick one and modify it to your needs. Your flight booking should be the last task as it is the largest investment. Once you have received and verified all your supporting documents, photographs and other travel documents, book your flight tickets.
At this stage, you will be ready for your visa application submission.
Your planning will continue post the visa application submission, where you will have to get into day wise details of your trip. Spend the next 20 days exploring each city in the order of your visit. In the process, you should be deciding your duration in each city, the overall plan for each day, hotels and mode of city transfer. In the meantime, there are very high chances that you would get you visa result and your passport would be on its way back to you.
Hopefully, it would be positive and you will be all set to book your favourite hotels and city transfer. Even though after you get your visa it is not mandatory to make all bookings and create a detailed itinerary, but I will highly suggest you book your hotels and major city transfer. Also, do have a detailed plan if possible, it will save you time and you will be able to make the most of your trip. Also, early bookings will give you better chances of getting a good price and a nice hotel.
However, even if you visa result is negative, don’t lose hope. You can again apply for visa with the actual itinerary and detailed booking. But this time double check all supporting and travel documents again. Make sure you don’t miss any document or increase your bank balance if possible.
The rejection rate of Schengen Visa is very low and hence if you have not made any major mess you should get it easily.
Actual Itinerary Strategy
In the first 15 days, you will be heavily occupied in collecting you supporting documents. So explore your first and last city as you would have already fixed these. After you finish collecting the supporting documents, spend the next 25 days exploring each city in the order of your visit. In the process, you should be deciding your duration in each city, hotels and mode of transfer.
Tip: Each city transfer will eat up half a day. So to make the most of Europe, try covering places on day trips instead.
You should concentrate on getting your visa appointments booked in the next 5 days. In a tourist-heavy month, the appointments get filled in seconds (Tripadvisor Forum), so you may not be able to get an appointment on the first attempt. Hence, start attempting to book your appointment a few days early. So your overall plan won’t be affected, even if you take 3-4 days to understand and get a confirmed appointment.
At this point (app. 30 days before visa appointment), you should have your confirmed visa appointment, a detailed itinerary of each day with identified flight options and city transfers. Now, get your credit cards out and start booking. Book your hotel first followed by city transfers and finally the flight tickets. Try and get as many zero cancellation deals but do evaluate every situation cautiously. Sometimes the cost difference would not be acceptable for the benefit.
At this stage, you will be ready for your visa application submission.
Apply for a tourist visa
The rejection rate of Schengen Visa is very low and hence if you have not made any major mess you should get it easily. Double check all documents, arrange them as per the checklist. Create 2 set of all the documents and carry the originals for verification. All documents are equally important and hence don’t miss any document. Make sure you have maintained a bank balance of 1.2 to 1.5 times the travel budget. The VFS office is very systematic and time strict. So follow the timings and the instructions, and it should be a very smooth ride.
Pack & Get ready to go
Now that you have your visa in hand, you can spend the rest of time to explore, plan and prepare. The first task would be to get foreign currency. The most commonly used currency is Euros but do check and verify. At times, the local currency can be different like Switzerland has its own currency. As per your budget and places you would visit, carry 30-40% in physical currency form and rest as forex card.
Tip: Forex cards are the best way to carry your currency. It is accepted widely and reloaded easily . You would be easily able to make almost all payments using your Forex Card.
Examine the weather forecast from multiple websites and pack accordingly. Buy clothes if needed, especially warm clothes. Check your cameras and if needed, get them repaired. You will have to walk miles every day, so carry a good pair of walking shoes. Try not to take an absolutely new pair, wear it a couple of time to test it and get past the shoe bite phase. You may also check blogs and vlogs from the last couple of years for more information.
Also, spend these last days exploring and understanding the local food, culture and transportation. Going the local way is the most cost-efficient way to travel but at times you will have to accept the fact that you are an outside. So be prepared accordingly. Pack up your favourite snacks for those small homesick moments. Indian restaurants would be present all most everywhere, search and save them in your maps. Also get all emergency numbers for each of the cities and countries you are visiting. Explore how can get a mobile network there and figure out a way to communicate back to family in India.
Read as much as you can, about the place, people and history. The more you read the more you would be able to connect to your destination and enjoy. Also try and learn the basic phrase like “hello”, “thank you” and “goodbye” in the local language. These will get you a long way when you need local help.
The 15 buffer days
In the final 15 days, disconnect from the travel topics. Having spent almost the last 3-4 months in the planning, you need to disconnect. Otherwise, the pressure would eat into your vacation time and spoil the first few days.
Also as you would be out of the country, do check, verify, complete and delegate all your responsibilities that might come up in your absence.
I really hope you plan wisely. Europe is a destination with endless sights to visit, activities to enjoy, food to relish & a great culture to imbibe. Have a great trip…!!
Do comment & share your Europe experience.
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