Europe Travel Planning Mistakes | 21 Things NOT to Do On Your Europe Trip

Are you planning on traveling to Europe? The key to having an amazing trip is not to make the most common Europe travel mistakes. No worries, though, because I’m here to help you avoid them, whether you’re going for a week or a month!

We’re going to look at mistakes not to make with planning, when packing, and what not to do while you’re there. If you’ve made some of these mistakes before, it’s okay – most of these, I’ve made myself at some point. The point is that you learn from it and become a Europe travel planning expert yourself!

Europe Travel Planning, Logistics, Packing, & Accommodation Mistakes

Before you step off the plane in your destination, ready for a fantastic vacation, you need to navigate the maze of Europe travel planning, logistics, packing, and accommodations. A misstep in any of these stages can lead to unnecessary headaches and stress on your trip. Take note of these 21 key areas where travelers often go wrong, so you can start your trip on the right foot.

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Europe Travel Planning Mistakes

Let’s start with the planning. Planning your getaway involves more than just picking European destinations; it’s about making smart choices so you can have the best experience possible. Here are some of the most common Europe travel planning mistakes to watch out for.

#1: Planning to visit too many places.

This is one of the biggest Europe travel mistakes that people make. I know some people go to Europe only once in their life, but it is not a great idea to go see London, Paris, Rome, Madrid, and all the cities on one trip. That’s different cultures, different countries, different languages, and different food.

My recommendation is to try to stay in one country, and if you can, to stay in one region in that country. Dive a little deeper into their culture, and your trip will feel more seamless and will be easier on you.

Barcelona - Europe travel planning

#2: Going in August.

August is when all of Europe is on vacation, so prices are extremely high, restaurants are full, and popular sites are full. If you’re visiting smaller towns, a lot of them are actually closed the entire month of August. People aren’t working or running their restaurants, so avoid planning European travel during this time if you can.

#3: Packing your itinerary too tightly.

I recommend not to book your entire day chock-full of things to do. You’re on vacation and you do want some downtime. You might find there’s something amazing you didn’t know existed before you arrived! I love seeing one big thing or doing one big event during the day and leaving downtime to go adventure and explore whichever amazing city I’m visiting.

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#4: Not planning for major sites in advance.

Even if you’re not going in high season, one mistake to avoid is not checking out the major sites that you want to see long in advance and making plans to visit those. The best thing to do is book your tickets for sunrise, sunset, or off-peak times.

If you don’t plan in advance, you’ll be there with all the other tourists, and they’ll be in all your pictures, too. Tickets for some places (like the Colosseum in Rome) also sell out months earlier. So, I do recommend planning those particular fancy, famous sites long before you leave.

Roman Colosseum - Europe travel planning

#5: Not getting travel insurance.

I can’t imagine planning Europe travel (or any other destination, really) without travel insurance. I always recommend that you get good quality travel insurance and medical evacuation. I use Travelex for my travel insurance and Medjet for medical evacuation coverage. You know, it’s not until you need it that you need it and wish that you had it.

Europe Travel Logistics Mistakes

The next few Europe travel mistakes are a little more about logistics. Logistical oversights can turn a smooth journey into a bumpy ride. From losing booking documents to declined credit cards to getting cash, these are the logistical mishaps to avoid when traveling through Europe.

#6: Not making copies of important documents.

Make copies of your passport, your credit cards, and important documents, like your travel insurance policies and hotel reservations. Email copies to yourself, too. That way, if you get pickpocketed or lose your things, you will have a copy of everything in your email.

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#7: Not alerting your bank to your travel plans.

This is another of the biggest, most common Europe travel mistakes. Go ahead and call your bank and your credit card companies and let them know that you’re traveling so they don’t block you when you make international purchases.

I also suggest using an ATM or credit card that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees. Bonus points if it has excellent travel perks like some of my favorites (read more about them here!).

#8: Using the exchange kiosks at the airport.

When I’m traveling to Europe, I typically don’t get cash in the United States because the exchange rates are bad. That’s a terrible mistake! Also, when I get to the airport, I don’t go to the exchange kiosk where you can exchange currency. That’s another terrible mistake because the rates and fees are so high.

What I do, is just use my ATM cards. Typically, it’s the best exchange rates possible using your ATM card or using your credit cards to buy things.

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Europe Travel Packing Mistakes

Let’s go ahead and start with the packing. Packing for Europe is practically an art form, requiring a balance between preparedness and simplicity. From packing too much to not bringing the right items with you, learn how to pack like a pro.

#9: Overpacking for your trip.

Don’t overpack or bring gigantic suitcases, and don’t bring two or three of them with you. Most of the time, you’re going to be using public transportation, trains, planes, etc. It’s extremely challenging to be traipsing through a big city or a little city with cobblestones with a gigantic suitcase. Getting it on and off a train, in and out of airports, it’s just not worth it.

Also, Europe has everything that you’re going to need, from shampoo, hair dryers, sunscreen, and more. You may also find some cool new clothes! So, there’s no point in taking all of those extra what-ifs or just in cases.

Avoid These Europe Packing Mistakes

Are you planning an exciting European adventure? Before you jet off, avoid these common packing mistakes that can make your dream vacation a headache.

#10: Not packing the right shoes.

Planning European travel means planning for a lot of walking, up and down and all over. Sometimes I walk 20,000 steps a day without even noticing! So, you want to make sure that you have comfortable walking shoes that are good quality, which is extremely important when you are traveling. (Also, here’s my review of the best travel sandals).

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#11: Not bringing the correct adapters.

This is a big one because if you don’t bring the correct adapters with you, you’ll have trouble charging your devices. This universal adapter works in most European countries. Do note that a couple of European countries don’t use those typical two-prong adapters. England and Malta don’t, for example, so it is something to research first.

#12: Forgetting about your phone data and security.

A couple of things that I always bring with me are an eSim (I use Holafly) and a VPN (I use Surfshark). While I was traveling to Europe, my Instagram got hacked, and it took me two months to get it back! So, now I use SurfShark’s VPN to protect my data and Holafly’s eSim to help me stay connected online while I’m traveling.

Europe Travel Mistakes While Traveling

Now let’s talk about mistakes to avoid while you’re actually on your trip. Sometimes, no matter how much Europe travel planning you do before you leave, there are still things that can go wrong when you’re there. These are the common missteps not to make, ensuring your European adventure is as seamless and enjoyable as possible.

#13: Not being willing to use public transportation.

Not every destination has Uber or rideshare services, and taxis can be extremely expensive. The European public transportation system, including trains and buses, is amazing. Actually, a lot of Europeans don’t even have a car! It’s kind of like in New York or in San Francisco, you don’t really need a car. So, I definitely recommend you try public transportation when you travel to Europe.

Prague public transportation tram

#14: Not booking with local guides.

When you’re searching for itineraries and things to do, day trips to take, etc., look for local guides. They have the inside scoop and know the best places to go, as well as the best ways to get there. I love taking a locally guided food tour the first night I travel anywhere.

#15: Eating at touristy restaurants.

Planning Europe travel and then not really eating any European food is a huge mistake. If you’re in the heart of the tourist area and you see a big touristy menu with all the food is in photographs, that’s probably not the restaurant you want to go try.

I would step off the main drag, maybe go down an alley or side street, and look for a local restaurant. You’d be amazed what you can find just one block off the main drag; amazing food at probably half the price as in the main areas.

#16: Tipping the wrong amount.

Another thing to avoid and to pay attention to is tipping. You need to check what the customs are in the country you’re visiting. In some places, it’s normal to only tip 5% or to leave your space change, whereas other places expect 15-20%.

#17: Eating too early.

Since we’re talking about food, another mistake to avoid is not following the local customs and eating at the wrong time. For example, if you’re used to eating at 5:30 in the afternoon, you might want to adjust your schedule. The restaurants in Spain aren’t even open then because Spaniards tend to eat at 9 or 10:00 at night.

Paris restaurant - Europe travel planning

#18: Wearing the wrong purse or bag.

Don’t wear a sling bag or a bag that is very loose and not close to your body because there are pickpockets. You also don’t want to be carrying your phone in your hand or your back pocket because somebody will come by and swipe it from you. Not in every city, but it is possible wherever you go.

#19: Putting all your money in one place.

This might be one of the most important Europe travel mistakes to avoid: don’t put all of your money in one place. Leave some of your money, some of your credit cards, and definitely your passport in the safe in your hotel (or use another secure method). If something happens, you don’t want everything in one location.

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Europe Travel Accommodation Mistakes

Choosing where to stay is just as important as choosing where to go. After all, this is where you’re going to be resting and refreshing yourself each night for the next day’s adventure. Avoid these common accommodation mistakes and rest assured knowing you’ve made the best choices for a home base during your travels.

#20: Staying in the wrong accommodation type for your trip.

If you’re only going to be in a city for one or two days, you might want to stay in a hotel and not an Airbnb. Airbnbs can be a little harder to get around, find where you’re staying, get the keys, and understand how things work, like coffee makers, toilets, washers, dryers, etc. It’s also more inconvenient when problems arise, such as a broken shower. It’s a different culture and a different country, so things can be a little bit more challenging.

Local hotel - Europe travel planning

#21: Staying in big brand-name hotels.

I do suggest staying in local hotels, as well. If you’re a big brand-lover and have lots of status on a particular hotel, that’s great. But when you’re traveling to Europe, do things that are a little more local and intimate, and don’t stay in the big, name-brand things that you’re used to. I’m a big Marriott girl; I love Marriott, but when I’m in Europe, I try and stay in more local hotels.

Now You’re a Europe Travel Planning Expert!

And finally, something you absolutely should do is: be kind. Be generous and be respectful of someone else from another country. It’s not supposed to be like where you’re from, wherever that may be. You know, learn a little bit about the language. Important phrases like hello, goodbye, thank you very much, and where is the toilet are a good start. I’ve found that a lot of people are even more welcoming when you try to learn the language.

I hope you learned a lot about what not to do for your Europe travel planning! Have any tips of your own? Please share them in the comments below!

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Looking for more travel resources and inspiration for your Europe travel planning? Check out my favorite travel products and some of my other posts on traveling in Europe!

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Whether you’re going for a week or a month, this video has it all. We’re going to be talking about mistakes not to make with planning, mistakes not to make when packing, as well as mistakes not to make while you’re there. Today, this video is about mistakes not to make when you’re going to Europe.

I’m Kim, The Abundant Traveler, and not only have I traveled extensively through all of Europe, but I actually lived there for about 6 years. I lived in Austria, France, Italy, and England, so I have lots of ideas and tips to make your travels to Europe much easier and more seamless.

Let’s start with the planning. Number one is, don’t pack your itinerary too tightly. I know some people go to Europe only once in their life, but it is not a great idea to go see London, Paris, Rome, Madrid, and all the cities on one trip. That’s different cultures, different countries, different languages, and different food. My recommendation is to try to stay in one country, and if you can, to actually stay in one region in a particular country. Dive a little deeper into the culture of that particular country, and your trip will feel more seamless and will be easier on you. Plus, if you’re trying to go to all of those places all over Europe in one small trip, you’re going to spend most of your time on planes, trains, and automobiles.

The next mistake to avoid is going in August. Perhaps you have to go in August but if possible, don’t go. That’s when all of Europe is on vacation, so prices are extremely high, restaurants are full, sites are full, as well as if you’re visiting sort of smaller towns, a lot of them are actually closed the entire month of August. People aren’t working, people aren’t running their restaurants, so people in Europe are on vacation in August. So, if you can avoid it, don’t go that month of the year.

Even if you’re not going in high season, one mistake to avoid is not checking out the major sites that you want to see long in advance and making plans to visit those. It is very important to see things like the Eiffel Tower and the Coliseum. However, the best thing to do is book your tickets in advance and do either sunrise or sunset or the off times. If you don’t plan in advance, you’re going to be there with all the other tourists, not going to be able to take a picture of you without having a thousand people there. So, I do recommend planning those particular fancy, famous sites long in advance.

The next two planning mistakes are a little more about logistics. Number one is to make copies of your passport, your credit cards, etc. Anything of value (your travel insurance, which we’ll talk about in a minute), email a copy of it to yourself. Just in case you get pickpocketed or lose your things, you will have a copy of all that emailed to yourself.

The next one is also logistics and it’s about money. Go ahead and call your bank and your credit cards and let them know that you are traveling so they don’t block you when you’re traveling overseas. I also suggest using an ATM or a credit card that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees. So, check your credit card and your ATMs in advance.

The last thing thing is, when I’m traveling to Europe I typically do not get cash in the United States because the exchange rates are terrible. That’s a terrible mistake! Also, when I get to the airport, I don’t go to the exchange kiosk where you can actually exchange money. That’s another terrible mistake because the exchange rates are so high and the fees are so high. What I do do is I have my ATM cards open (remember, I called my bank in advance), and then I use my ATM card. Typically, it’s the best exchange rates possible using your ATM card or using your credit cards to buy things.

If you’re enjoying this video, then make sure to like, subscribe, and leave a comment about your mistakes not to make when going to Europe, so YouTube shares this video with other travelers just like you.

Let’s go ahead and start with the packing. So, number one, don’t overpack and also don’t bring gigantic suitcases and two or three of them. Most of the time, you’re going to be using public transportation, trains, planes, etc. It is extremely challenging to be traipsing through a big city or a little city with cobblestones, etc., with a gigantic suitcase. Getting it on and off a train, in and out of airports, it’s just not worth it. Also, Europe has everything that you’re going to need, from shampoo, hair dryers, etc. There’s no point in taking all of those extra what-ifs. 

If you’re interested in seeing what mistakes not to make when you are packing for Europe, then make sure to check out my video. I put the information in the description below.

So, additionally with packing, okay, I consider this packing. It’s also planning and it is get good quality travel insurance and possibly medical evacuation. So, I use Travelex, and I use Medjet for medical evacuation and again, I put both those in the description below. You know, it’s not until you need it that you need it and wish that you had it.

Another packing mistake to avoid is not bringing the correct adapters. Do note that a couple of European countries do not use those typical two-prong adapters. England doesn’t, Malta doesn’t, so it is something to know.

Also, a couple of things that I always officially pack with me are my eSim (I use Holafly) and my VPN. While I was traveling to Europe, my Instagram got hacked, and it took me two months to get it back. So, I use SurfShark VPN and Holafly eSim, so I have all of my electronics things covered while I’m traveling.

Now let’s talk about mistakes to avoid while you’re actually on your trip. Number one is not being willing to use public transportation. Not everywhere do they have Uber, and also taxis can be extremely expensive. The European system of public transportation, trains, buses, etc., is amazing, and actually, a lot of Europeans don’t even have a car. It’s kind of like in New York, you don’t need a car, or in San Francisco, you don’t need a car. Public transportation is amazing, so be willing to take public transportation.

The next thing is to do things with local guides. When you’re searching for itineraries and things to do and day trips, etc., do check with the people that you are working with and make sure that they know what is going on and they have the inside scoop.

Also, I recommend not to book your entire day chock-full of things to do. You are on vacation and you do want some downtime. Also, if you have some downtime you might find there’s something amazing that you didn’t know existed before you arrived. And for me, I love doing one thing during the day. I tend to spend a little bit more time. I love seeing one big thing, doing one big event during the day, and leaving downtime every day to go adventure and explore an amazing city that I’m visiting.

Another mistake to avoid is while you’re eating. If you are in the heart of the tourist area and you see a big touristico menu and you see all of the food in photographs, that’s probably not the restaurant you want to go try. I would step off the main drag, maybe go down an alley or something like that, and look for a local restaurant. One where there is isn’t the touristic menu with the pictures on the menu. You’d be amazed just one block off the main drag what you can find, amazing food at probably half the price as it is on the main drag.

Since we’re talking about food, another is the local customs, as far as timing when they’re eating. So, perhaps in Spain, if you’re used to eating at 5:30 in the afternoon, the restaurants aren’t even open because Spaniards tend to eat at 9 or 10:00 at night.

Another thing to avoid and to pay attention to is tipping. You need to check which country you’re in, what the process is, and what the customs are for tipping, as well.

As far as accommodation mistakes, things to avoid if you’re only going to be in a city one or two days, perhaps you want to stay in a hotel and not an Airbnb. Because airbnbs can be a little more cumbersome to get around, find where you’re staying, get the keys, understand how things work in the Airbnb, like coffee makers and toilets and washers and dryers, etc. It’s a different culture and a different country, so things can be a little bit more challenging. So, if you’re only going to spend a couple of days, then I recommend just staying in a hotel.

I do suggest staying in local hotels, as well. If you’re a big brand and have lots of status on a particular hotel, that’s great, but when you’re traveling to Europe, do things that are a little more local, a little more intimate, and not stay in the big name brand things that you’re used to. I’m a big Marriott girl; I love Marriott, but when I’m in Europe, I try and stay in more local hotels.

The last three mistakes to avoid are all about what you’re doing during the day. Number one, don’t wear a sling bag or a bag that is very loose and not close to your body because there are pickpockets. You also don’t want to be carrying your phone like this because somebody will come by and swipe it from you. Not in every city, but it is possible.

Number two, don’t put all of your money in one place. Leave some of your money, some of your credit cards, and definitely your passport in your hotel in the safe. If something happens, you don’t want everything in one location.

And the final one is about shoes. I know we should have talked about this when packing, but you are going to be walking a ton when you are in Europe. I don’t know what it is, sometimes I walk 20,000 steps a day without even noticing. So, you want to make sure that you have comfortable shoes, good quality walking shoes, which are extremely important when you are traveling.

And finally, be kind. be generous, and be respectful of someone else from another country. It’s not supposed to be like where you’re from, wherever you are from. You know, learn a little bit about the language, learn hello, goodbye, thank you very much, and where is the toilet; important things like that. You know, just be respectful of another culture and don’t expect it to be just like yours.

I’m Kim, The Abundant Traveler, make sure to check out this video about mistakes to avoid when packing for Europe, and I hope to see y’all in some amazing European city very, very soon. Take care, see y’all soon!