I have recently completed my long-term goal of visiting every single European country. Many people ask me how I’ve done it while working full-time. Here are my tips:
1. Good planning is important
I do all my travel planning on a spreadsheet – I realise this is not necessarily the most fun way to do it, but it makes life easy when you’re planning multiple trips at the same time. I keep a list of where I want to go, how many days I plan to stay there and how many holiday days I will need to use.
2. Save your holiday allowance as much as possible
In the UK we have pretty good holiday allowance, but if you’re travelling pretty much every month (that is what I did for a while), you will need to keep track of your holidays. This means making good use of bank holidays and planning ahead to get good prices even at busy times.
3. Get an early flight
One way to use as little holiday days as possible in your travels is to book flights late in the evening or early in the morning. You can leave work on a Friday straight to the airport and come back to work on Monday morning from Poland, France, and many other places. The downside is that these trips can be quite tiring, as waking up at 4am in Latvia then going to work in London is not the most relaxing commute!
4. Visit the capital cities
Different places have different things to offer, but in general capital cities are the gateway to a country, particularly where you don’t have a large tourism industry. I’m an urban soul, so that worked well for me.
5. Always book ahead
Most of my European trips were weekends or long weekends, which meant that it was usually best to book flights as soon as I decided on a date for a trip. For hotels you don’t need to book as early, but particularly in big cities it might be worth doing that to ensure that you can choose the perfect location.
6. Follow a system
Besides my travel spreadsheet, I also have a standard packing list and a general routine that I follow when I’m travelling. This means that I don’t have to spend a lot of time thinking about logistics every time that I’m travelling.
7. Enjoy the challenge
Travelling is amazing, but not everyone likes planning trips, packing, and other holiday preparation. When you’re going to 50-odd countries though, it’s much better to enjoy the whole process! This also helps when you get towards the end and start planning trips to more inaccessible places.
8. Visit multiple countries in a single trip
We visited Finland and Estonia in one trip and the Balkans in two trips covering multiple countries. Smaller countries are easy to visit as a longer trip, and you get to see many different places at once. Just make sure to research the border crossings in advance (for example, you can’t travel from Kosovo into Serbia).
9. Bring a buddy
I love travelling by myself, but going through this amazing adventure with my husband was even better! On a more practical level, travelling with someone else is always cheaper.
10. It’s all about having fun!
Even though I have visited every European country, I also travelled to many countries I’d visited before in the same period. I wasn’t trying to complete a challenge as quickly as possible. I did it because it was fun: I like going to new places, so every new trip was an opportunity to discover somewhere different!