Planning a European vacation can be time-consuming and frustrating. But with COVID concerns subsiding for some and travel restrictions lifted, plenty of Americans have dealt with the planning challenges.
Travel from the U.S. to Europe was up a whopping 862% in March 2022 over the same month in 2021, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office. That could be why your Instagram feed is filled with photos of the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben.
Still, finding the best airfares and suitable accommodations at a bearable price can seem like a second job. Frankly, the search for such information can suck some of the joy out of planning that dream trip.
There is a way around that complication.
There are many tour companies that offer group rates on both airfare and accommodations. They plan the travel details for you so that you can concentrate on reading travel guides to determine what you want to see and do. Yes, some tours do tend to lead trips with early-morning bus departures and other inconveniences, but that is not always the case.
Tours also promote camaraderie. You will be taking that dream trip with a group of strangers, at least initially. By the end of the trip, you may have found a kindred spirit or two that you might want to work with on your subsequent trips to Europe.
The goal is to travel to all of those historic and picturesque locations within your budget constraints. Tours offer that opportunity.
Your Money Is Going Further in Europe
This is a great time to travel to Europe. Due to inflation, the value of the euro has fallen considerably against the U.S. dollar in summer 2022, so that your money goes further in the countries that use the euro as their currency.
The exchange rate is close to 1:1 and that hasn’t happened much since the European Union currency launched for widespread use in 2002.
There is another reason to plan a trip to Europe now, although it is a slight one. The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) is instituting a 7-euro fee (just over $7 currently) to any non-European traveler to the continent starting in May 2023. This fee is aimed at providing identification of travelers and combat epidemic situations.
6 Eurocentric Group Tours to Get You Abroad With Less Hassle
- Travel & Leisure Club
- Walking the World
- Affordable Tours
- EF Go Ahead Tours
We’ve highlighted some you might not have heard of but we think they are worth checking out. They can be especially economical if you can find cheap airfare on your own. Are you on a buddy list of someone who works for an airline? That’s one way to fly for cheap.
Aimed at the young adult (21 to 35) with a limited budget, Under30Experiences list tours all around the world, including Europe. In many cases, Under30 offers trip itineraries — including hotel, transportation and activities — on a month-by-month basis, so that it has something for you no matter when you think you want to go. In Summer 2022, most advertised European trips have an estimated cost below $2,000.
Under30 also advertises that it takes into consideration the safety of travelers when reserving accommodations.
Under30 does allow travelers over the age of 35 (but not under 21). It also encourages solo travelers to join their travel groups for excursions and sightseeing. The company accommodates date and travel plan changes, understanding that making a travel plan months in advance can run into roadblocks.
2. Travel & Leisure Club
Taking advantage of the name recognition from the acclaimed travel magazine, Travel & Leisure Club offers European travelers set curated European itineraries that reduce travel and accommodation costs by as much as 60% over making reservations yourself.
The cost of Travel & Leisure Club is only $14.95 per month ($179 per year) and that includes access to a personal concierge you can contact before and during your trip, as well as a subscription to the Travel & Leisure magazine.
3. Walking the World
Walking the World offers guided walking tours of some of the most beautiful lands in Europe, both urban and countryside. There is no fee to join the travel groups with Walking the World. Your fee covers accommodations, but not airfare.
This club markets to an older demographic but welcomes younger travelers. Spain, Ireland and England are among the trips featured in summer 2022. For example, the 10-day Ireland trip costs $3,995. The groups do have maximum numbers of travelers and fill up quickly.
4. Affordable Tours
With thousands of itineraries starting at around $3,000, Affordable Tours has almost any trip you can imagine in their list of arranged tours.
This is a tour aggregate service; it partners with travel groups from around the globe, meaning you are traveling with tour guides who truly know the site you are visiting. Affordable Tours has “air-inclusive” trips so that you do not need to book your own travel.
Do you want to see as much of Europe as you can in one trip? ExpatExplore has the tours for you. These are multi-country tours operating over several countries, like the 7-day, 6-country Europe Taster trip starting at $1,210. That does not include airfare to the originating site, but does include the cost of at least one meal per day.
6. EF Go Ahead Tours
As an extension of the EF Education First organization dedicated to opening up the world to cultural differences through travel, Go Ahead Tours offers tours of all sorts — solo, small group, multi-country. Plus, EF has many niche trips: safari, national parks, food and wine, history, and castle, among others.
Go Ahead Tours also offers notifications on tour deals, including a first trip discount, weekly specials and a Club Go loyalty program for frequent travelers. A two-week trip to the Greek Islands is going for just over $4,000 above the cost of the flight. That price includes 12 breakfasts, five dinners with beer and wine, three sight-seeing tours and 12 nights in handpicked hotels.
More Help for Travel Planning
The idea of taking a tour is to have someone else take the headache of making arrangements for transportation and accommodations off your hands. But, if the above choices are still too much to consider, there are websites designed to let you input your travel details and kick out some opportunities for you.
Input your travel dates, your desired destination, your age, the number of people you want to travel with, where you want to go, and the type of travel adventure you seek (recreational, sightseeing, hiking, etc.) and boom! A variety of choices to meet your demands pop onto your screen. TourRadar asks a lot of questions in order to find the best matching trips for your interests.
Scott’s Free Flights
Scott’s Free Flights does not book flights for you. Instead, it finds flight deals being offered by airlines for a variety of reasons. This includes “mistake fares” accidentally published by the airlines which they must abide by. Members can indicate their home airport and their favored destinations in order to get quick updates. Scott’s Free Flights has three membership tiers, including a free service. Other memberships cost $49 or $199 per year depending on the service you request.
Kent McDill is a veteran journalist who has specialized in personal finance topics since 2013. He is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.