The modes of traveling in Europe are as varied as the people that use the rails, skies, and roads of the continent. The most common means of transportation are buses, trains and self drive automobiles. What you choose will largely depend upon what type of experience that you are looking for.
Whether you are part of a group tour or going solo, you will want to pack mindfully considering spatial issues. With the former, the touring company will typically handle most of the room and board arrangements for the entire party as a package. There will be a daily set itinerary with activities for the collective and some down time for your own interests to be explored. You will simply need to be aware of your departure times and plan accordingly so as not to get left behind.
The latter will require more finesse. Where as the tour operator will have booked the hotels and restaurants for the group and the driver will be dropping the party at their respective spots, that luxury will not be afforded to you as a singular or family bus traveler. On occasion, you will have a driver that gives you a verbal commentary of some of the sites that you’re progressing through as points of interest which can help pass the time. Upon arrival, depending on where the depot is, it will affect whether you taxi or hoof it to drop your luggage so researching location distances is key.
Typically located in central locations, trains provide both passenger cars, and for more lengthy travel, sleeper cars. They have a reputation for punctuality and a higher frequency of arrival and departure times. Even so, trains give the feel of a more comfortable and old world style of travel for smaller parties. You can even combine your travel modes. Many rail stations have car rental locations available with corresponding hours to the train schedule. For example, If you’re arriving in Germany, you could easily pick up a rental car at the Munich Central Station, a popular pick up and drop point. When traveling by rail, there is more occasion to mix and mingle with your fellow travelers or simply watch the world go by. It’s important to note that even with unlimited prepaid transportation train passes, like those purchased with Eurail, will still require separate paid reservations for each journey. These fees can add up over a month long trip across the continent!
Self drive car rentals offer a myriad of benefits over their counterparts when it comes to diversified travel. First and foremost YOU set your own itinerary. You can stay that extra hour at the vineyard discussing the complexities of the vintages that you sampled that afternoon. If you see a sign for a site you didn’t realize was on your route that lures you to delve further into those mysteries there is not a bus driver or a train schedule that will be causing impending mental anxiety of a time constraints (just operating hours).
This type of travel also lends itself to variants in party size and activities. The family of four who are visiting Monaco for a weekend, then heading to the Alps to go skiing, aren’t going to want the same thing as a reunion family of 9 who have rented a villa in Tuscany for 10 days. The person on a long term business trip will not need the same as a couple on their honeymoon that want to live the dream of driving a Ferrari down the famous Autobahn.
Another perk is the lengths to which you can travel. There are unnumbered towns and countryside locations that you won’t see on the more highly trafficked tourist routes.
The polished veneer that is presented in the cities that make their livelihood with your foreign dollars is stripped away and you can be immersed in the true culture of a place.
The real local flavor of the cuisine and people are unparalleled.
There’s a famous quote, “It’s the journey not the destination,” which I’ve found to be fairly apt. There’s nothing like the feel of the steering wheel beneath your fingertips, the windows rolled down and the perfect song coming through the speakers. But it’s up to you to choose your adventure!