Planning and packing tips

Trip Planning and Booking Timeline for Europe

May 2, 2016 (Last Updated: May 19, 2020)
by Carolyn
Trip planning timeline

Do you plan and book your holidays well ahead or are you more of a last-minute Charlie? I fall into the first category and start planning and booking my travels to Europe around nine or ten months ahead of departure.

I know that’s hard for a lot of travellers to comprehend but it allows me plenty of time to get everything in place and it’s convenient as it means I can make payments along the way, without having a huge expense just before I leave home for my trip.

As you’ll see from the booking timeline below, by booking the different components of my travels over a long period, I can spread out the costs and take advantage of early booking savings at the same time.

9 months before departure (or September/October when the early bird fares are released for travel the following year)

  • Book flights to/from Europe (read my tips here first). If you are redeeming frequent flier miles, you may even need to book more than 9 months ahead.
  • Purchase travel insurance. (Read why I never travel without it here.) 
  • Book accommodation and/or tours that are crucial parts of your itinerary and those that are likely to book out early
  • If leasing a car, book now to secure your preferred vehicle type and to take advantage of early booking offers
  • Check passport to ensure it has at least six months validity from your return date

6 months before departure

  • Book inter-Europe flights
  • Book car hire
  • Book accommodation
  • Book Eurostar travel if required

3 months before departure

  • Book rail travel (on most European sectors bookings only open 90 days before travel)
  • Book remainder of accommodation
  • Obtain/load foreign currency onto a travel money card

2 months before departure

  • Book sightseeing tours and airport transfers

1 month before departure

  • Check/re-confirm all reservations
  • Advise the airline if you have any special meal requests
  • Print out or take note of any special instructions you need to take with you (details on picking up the key for apartments, etc)
  • Load any apps/travel guides that you wish to take with you onto your smart phone or mobile device

Once I’ve ticked all of the above off my list, I’m almost set to go but I also refer to my Pre-departure check list to make sure I’ve covered off all of the household tasks, too.

Then, I’m off to the airport.  Au revoir!

This planning timeline might not suit everyone, but it works for me.

Top image © Kaspars Grinvalds / Adobe Stock Photo