How to Plan a Successful European Getaway

How to Plan a Successful European Getaway

An essential how-to list for those who’ve never planned a trip without their parents


Image: Sana Mohsin

I’ll be the first to say that this fall semester was tough, possibly my toughest one so far. The constant stress and lack of sleep had taken a toll on me, and that seemed to be a mutual feeling amongst my friends despite the fact that they attend different universities in different countries. Winter break was fast approaching and an escape was planned — we all made a quick stop in Geneva, then went on a literal ‘getaway’ to Portugal.

Since I was successfully able to autonomously plan (and survive) a mini-trip to a completely unknown place, I’ll share some wisdom from my experiences so you too can have your own getaway! 

Book your transport and places to stay

Whether it’s a plane ticket or a train ride away, make sure you book your tickets in advance and give yourself time for adjustments. Personally, I use apps like Skyscanner to find appropriate flights, and if you plan ahead, there’s the added bonus of the price likely being cheaper. is a trustworthy website for booking your stay, as well as being fairly thrifty, and Airbnb is always a safe bet. It’s also always a good idea to look up the main forms of transport in the country of your stay because you really don’t want to be stranded at Lisbon airport — like we were — because the Metro is so confusing to follow.

Plan in advance 

I love watching vlogs and reading up on the history of the place before visiting and would recommend setting up an itinerary of each day. Historical monuments and museums are a must, as well as unique restaurants and cafes.

But always expect the unexpected 

How could my friends and I possibly have planned to come across an amazing kinetic art show in an abandoned warehouse that had been converted into a bookstore? Or attend a free live performance of “Bohemian Rhapsody” but in a traditional Portuguese style? It’s always great to plan, but sometimes it’s the things you stumble across that become your fondest memories.

Unplug and unwind

This vacation was my break from real life, so it was only appropriate that I momentarily stop using social media — or really using my phone at all except for Google Maps. My main purchase for this trip was a disposable camera, and the time that would have been wasted trying to get the perfect Instagram post was instead spent on savouring the experience of being in this special culture with people I cherish.

Needless to say, we came back from our trip with endlessly fun memories and bags filled with Portuguese pastries so that the trip didn’t end at the border. I’m looking forward to my next trip (and possibly already planning it) and highly recommend that if you get the opportunity, travel!