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Eurfirst Trip to Europe: How Long to Travel

Revised May 8, 2011

It is important to know that the length of your visit will determine what you need to possess as your travel documents. Generally, you are can stay up to 90 days in most European Union countries with a US or Canadian passport. If you are staying longer than that or spending time in eastern Europe you may need a visa. US travellers can get the details at the US State Department website. Canadian travellers can get details on travel restrictions from the Canadian government's passport website. If you are a Mexican citizen, your passport and visa requirements are explained at the Mexican Consultate's website.

Any pleasure trip to Europe is a trip worth taking but the hours it takes to cross the Atlantic encourages most Americans to stay for at least two weeks. A longer trip gives you more time to adjust and acclimate--it will help you appreciate the pace of European life. It would be difficult to schedule enough time to do all that you would want to do, but the more time you can take and afford, the more memorable your experience will be. As you make your plans, keep in mind that as oil prices rise, the cost of airfares to Europe will continue to climb. If you are going in the summer, the cost of the flight to Europe will be one of the largest parts of the typical trip to Europe so that if you can add a few days to the trip uou are planning, that may be more realistic than planning a return trip in a year or two.

Our first trip was for 41 days, plus travel time, and took us through France, northern Italy, western Austria, western Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium. Like a whirlwind visit to the great national parks of the US, our trip was just a sampler of the historical and physical beauty of the continent. We missed many of our planned destinations because we were enjoying where we were at the moment (and probably had been too ambitious in our original travel plans). We opted for a long trip on the assumption that it might be our only trip to Europe. By the end of the trip, we realized there was so much more we wanted to see and experience that we would find a way to get back.

 

The airlines sometimes charge higher prices for summer travelers who stay for more than 30 days. We paid approximately 20% more for our airfare to stay the extra 12 days. In hindsight, we might have stayed only 30 days and applied the savings toward the next set of tickets to Europe. But students travelling during the academic year (September to May) will find low cost fares though they plan to stay for many months.

The method of travel you choose will also affect how long you stay. If you travel by car, the cost of renting or leasing may be affected by you length of stay. Credit card companies often place a 30-day limit on the length of liability insurance that they provide if you a renting a car.. Typical advice to a traveller who is visiting for more than 30 days is to lease the car because of the way insurance operates. We fortunately found a travel agent who saved us money by arranging two car rental agreements with the same company...and by paying for them with two different platinum cards.

Similarly, Eurail passes and airline passes are for specific lengths of time. Your trip will extend beyond the length of the pass based on how long you plan to stay in your arrival and departure city/cities. If you are taking a package tour or cruise you may want to add some independent time before and after the tour. Just remember that anyway that you can save money will allow you to spend more time on a continent that is amazing.

With the weak dollar, you may fear that the cost of traveling very long will make it prohibitive. You can stretch your travel dollars by camping or renting a cottage for a few weeks.

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