How to Pick the Countries for your Tantalizing and Exciting European Vacation

Where do you want to go in Europe?

(note: this blog post was updated August 2022)

Europe is a big place, full of exciting destinations and amazing food. Brochures and tour companies ply great pictures of incredible destinations that tantalize and overwhelm. It’s enough to distract and overwhelm you. To build your trip, you have to start with the intrinsic places of your life and build a trip from there. Here are three tips to start planning your exciting and tantalizing trip to Europe. Below is how we built our first trip to Europe, way back in 2009!

A quick note about the Schengen territory. If you’re a USA citizen (and many other locations), you can only stay in the Schengen Area for 90 days, and then you must leave for 90 days. The Schengen Area includes most of the countries in the European Union with a few exceptions. If you plan to go to Europe for an extended amount of time, you’ll need to track your Schengen days so that you don’t extend your stay. In addition, starting in 2023, most visitors to the EU will need a visa.

Rely on Your Favorite Memory about Countries

The astronomical clock in Prague

First, think about some of the first countries you knew about as a kid growing up in the United States. Beyond the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, what country is the first one you remember learning about?

Kernels of travel desire get planted early in life. Today, I give a shout out to Mr Watson, my fifth grade teacher at Skyline Elementary in San Diego. For a presentation assignment, we had to pick a country in which to learn about and present it to the class. It was 1977, and Czechoslovakia highlighted the news with great ice hockey and a nuclear meltdown. Pronouncing the country’s name was fascinating enough for me, and they also had a great historical story. It cemented in my heart as a place to visit, so Steve and I picked it as our first stop on our western Eastern Europe trip. And guess what, he proposed to me there!

Dig into Your Genealogy or Your Heritage

Be sure to do a Hungarian bath!

Perhaps your ancestral roots need to be explored? Here’s your second tip. For our trip, we went into our genealogy and dragged out a map to build the rest of our trip. Steve’s family comes from Krusco–according to the Ellis Island ship’s manifest–and we placed that somewhere in Hungary. Knowing nothing else about the country except for Hungarian goulash, Budapest jumped onto the list. Interestingly, after more research, we’ve discovered that his family is actually Slovakia! So our next European tour will include his family’s ancestorial home.

The famous Hofbrauhaus in Munich!

My family emigrated from Bohemia, Germany. Knowing that Munich might lead some clues to the family treasures, we dropped a pin on Munich. Now with Prague, Munich and Budapest making a nice triangle, we wondered if we could add a fourth destination just for fun? The map held the clues. And the beer held the flavor!

Let Spontaneity Happen

The third tip to planning a tantalizing and fascinating trip to Europe is to let things happen. Have a rough itinerary, but allow for spontaneity and adventure to happen. What’s between Munich and Prague? Why, Vienna, of course. “Why not?,” I ask. With little expectations for Vienna, we found train tickets to the capitol of great music, chocolate and waltzes. What else would we find there?

The buildings are giant in Europe!

With a Tantalizing Itinerary, the Planning Begins

Alas, the geography determines we’ll start in Budapest, drive to Prague by way of Krusco, and then rail it to Vienna and Munich. It’s enough of a guideline to get started. Thus, our tantalizing trip to Europe got planned first by reviewing some early country memories, then we reviewed our genealogy, and we finished our plan with a bit of spontaneity.  How will you start planning your amazing European vacation?



  1. Travellin Chris

    Margaret…please!!!! We'll take all the recommendations we can get! Also, where should we stay?

  2. Maggie Waples

    Chris. I spent 9 days in Budapest last fall. I'm in love with this city. I can recommend some great wine and restaurants. You can't go wrong with Rick Steve's travel guide. He has one on Budapest


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handsome hiking couple

Chris and Steve, the empty-nesting nomads, travel the world, one month at a time, housesitting and Airbnbing along the way. We uncover urban walks, great hikes, and vegan/vegetarian eats that other guide books miss. And we throw in a bit about Forex trading along the way.

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