Planning Our Europe Trip: A Transformative European Adventure

Have you ever had an experience that changed you in so many ways? Opened your eyes, your mind, your heart? I was fortunate enough to have this life-altering experience growing up in different places, including living in Germany twice as a kid when my father was stationed there in the US Army.

I didn’t fully appreciate it then, as I was an adolescent kid and didn’t fully accept the experience for what it was. Years later, as an adult, I was stationed in England for two years in the US Air Force. This time overseas was different; I was more observant and had more independence to fully experience living in a different country.

When you experience something so transformative, you want to share it with those close to you. That is why I was so excited when planning our Europe trip to London, Paris, and Barcelona before setting sail on a 15-day transatlantic cruise with my wife, who had never been to Europe.

Eager to show her the differences in lifestyles and all the history there was to experience, I began planning our time in Europe. Planning is key to making the most out of any trip, and I was up to the task at hand.

Travel Arrangements


Flying from the Western US to Europe is a long flight, longer than any my wife had been on before. Wanting my wife to have a good experience with this long flight, but not being able to afford first-class tickets, I was able to book us some flights on economy plus. This gave us more room and put us in seats where there were only two seats, her in the window and me in the aisle, which we both prefer with no one in between us.

We also decided to book a flight instead of a train from Paris to Barcelona since the flights were cheap and were only about an hour long versus a six-hour train ride for around the same cost. The biggest consideration when booking flights was to check the baggage allowance as we were bringing large suitcases.


Booking hotels in London and Paris would be no problem as the cities’ public transportation system makes it easy to get around from just about anywhere. Since we were trying to stay within a budget, we were trying to find hotels for $100 -150 per night.

Plus, knowing we were going to be traveling from London to Paris via the Eurostar train, it would be beneficial to stay close to the train stations in the respective cities. So, we booked a hotel close to the train station we would be departing from in London and arriving at in Paris.

Barcelona wasn’t as hard because we would fly from Paris to Barcelona and only have two days there. It was more important to book a hotel close to the cruise port since we were departing from Barcelona on our cruise.

London Underground Tube Transportation

Trains and Public Transport

Booking our train from London to Paris on the Eurostar train was an easy process, but I would suggest booking as early as possible to save on cost. We delayed and ended up paying more than I would like. This is something I had never done before, and was excited to experience this as the train would be going through the Chunnel, which is underwater across the English Channel to get to mainland Europe.

I had experienced the London Underground Tube system and knew how easy it was to get anywhere in London by using it; the Paris Metro system not so much. After doing a little research, I found the Paris Metro system to be just as easy to use as the London Underground. We made a choice to use the Underground system as needed as they had a daily cap, so if you went over, you were not charged more.

The Paris Metro we decided to buy a weekly pass as that would give us unlimited access to the Metro and the RER trains that we would need to go to the Palace of Versailles and Charles De Gaulle Airport when we were flying to Barcelona.

Daily Itineraries

My wife and I are both photographers, so my goal was to plan our days to go and see as many historic sites as possible, giving plenty of time at each so we had plenty of time to take photos and didn’t feel rushed. I also knew that on our first day in London, we may have some jet lag even though we had a plan to help adjust for it. For that reason, I didn’t plan anything major for that first full day, even though we got in at 9 AM.

London Day 1

Take the train from London Gatwick Airport to St Pancras/Kings Cross Station. Check-in to our hotel (we got early check-in) so we could drop off our bags and get settled.

My wife booked the play “Matilda” at the Cambridge Theater at 7 pm for herself. So, my plan was to take the Underground Tube transit to Piccadilly Circus, go eat some fish and chips, then walk to Leicester Square, then Trafalgar Square to take it all in and take some photos before heading over to my wife’s play.

Covent Garden

While she went into the play, I would continue to take photos around Covent Garden and then find a Pub where I enjoyed a pint of my favorite Caffery’s Irish Ale. I would meet back up with her after the play, and we would head back to our hotel to end the day.

London Day 2

Tower Bridge

Our plans were to go to the Tower of London, then Tower Bridge, and then walk to Borough Market to do some shopping and grab something to eat. One last thing we planned was to go to the top of the Shard for the experience and to take in the 360 views of London, before heading back to the hotel.

London Day 3

Big Ben and Parliment

The plan for today was to go to St. Paul’s Cathedral, then take the Tube to Westminster station to take photos of Big Ben & Parliament from Westminster Bridge, then head over to Westminster Abbey Cathedral, and finally go to Buckingham Palace.

Well, we had our first hiccup when we found out that we missed our window for Westminster Abbey, as it closed at 3 PM. No big deal, as we had the flexibility to add it to the next morning.

London Day 4

Westminster Abbey

Our plan was to go back to Westminster Bridge to take some morning photos of Big Ben & Parliament before heading to Westminster Abbey Cathedral.

Then, we would be taking the Tube to Notting Hill as there was a big outdoor market going on today. We had originally planned to go to Windsor Castle today but made the decision not to go as the cost and transport time would be too much.

London Day 5

The only thing we planned for today was to go to Kensington Palace and then maybe go walking around Hyde Park.

Paris Day 1

Early in the morning, we woke up in London to take the Eurostar train to Paris. Arrived in Paris and went to check in at the hotel. Again, I made arrangements for early check-in. Then, we head to the Metro station to purchase our weekly transportation pass, as this is something we have to purchase from an attendant and not from a machine. Oh, and grab some breakfast as we are in Paris, which is known for its pastries.

Then we take the Metro to the Pantheon as we scheduled a time of 1:30 PM to visit it. I didn’t really plan anything else for today, but since we would be in the area, we have the option to go walk around Luxembourg Gardens and the Latin Quarter if we choose.

Paris Day 2

Palace of Versailles

Another early morning as we have tickets to the Palace of Versailles with entry at 9 AM when they open. I wanted to be there by 8 AM if possible because a line starts for the 9 AM entry early. This also requires us to take the Metro and RER trains, which are new to us, to get to Versailles. There is a lot to see at the Palace of Versailles with not only the Palace but also the Gardens, and it is outside of Paris, so this is all I planned for the day.

Paris Day 3

Eiffel Tower

Today, we have tickets to go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Purchase these online as early as you can. We waited too long and ended up having to buy more expensive tickets that included a glass of Champagne and were only able to buy tickets at separate times.

Eiffel Tower under bridge

My wife at 11:30 AM and me at 12:30 PM. I also scheduled for us to go to some vantage points beforehand to take some scenic photos of the Eiffel Tower from different parts of the city. After the Eiffel Tower, the only other thing I scheduled was going to the Arc de Triomphe and maybe take a walk down Champs-Elysees Avenue.

Paris Day 4

Sacre Coeur

This morning, we started our day by going to the Montmartre neighborhood to see Sacre Coeur Cathedral. Then we would make our way down to Palais Garnier, the Paris Opera House. We would then take the Metro over to Notre Dame. Even though it was still closed for reconstruction from the fire, we wanted to get some photos from the outside.

Notre Dame

We would grab something to eat around there and explore the area as the only other thing I had planned for us was to see Sainte Chapelle, an older church with 360 stained glass windows inside it.

Sainte Chapelle Cathedral

Paris Day 5

Louvre Museum

Today was the Louvre Museum, at least for me, as my wife was not interested in going. I wanted to get some great photos of the glass pyramids in the courtyard before the crowds arrived, plus I had a ticket for entry at 9 AM when they opened. I woke up at 6 am and was at the Louvre by 7 AM. After the Louvre, I met up with my wife in the Tuileries Gardens just outside of the Louvre.

Catacombs of Paris

We went to the Catacombs of Paris later that day. Then, at 9 PM went to a vantage point to take some photos of the Eiffel Tower at sunset and night when all the lights sparkle on it.

Barcelona Day 1

Our morning consisted of traveling on the RER train from the station by our hotel to Charles de Gaulle airport for our flight from Paris to Barcelona at 10:20 AM. We arrived in Barcelona around noon, got a taxi to our hotel, and checked in to drop our bags off.

La Boqueria market

We then made our way to the Gothic Quarter to see the Cathedral of Barcelona and then went to La Boqueria market to grab something to eat. Then headed back to our hotel, which was a spa hotel with free entry to the spa. We took advantage of all the spa had to offer, as all the walking and stairs we had just done in London & Paris had taken a toll.

Barcelona Day 2

Nothing planned for today except to find a shopping market to pick up some bottles of wine and maybe some soda for the cruise, oh, and to relax at the spa again. The evening was spent relaxing and packing up our things in preparation for getting on our cruise the next morning.

Final Thoughts

Even though I thought I planned this itinerary with plenty of downtime, the one thing I didn’t account for was the toll all of the walking & stairs was going to have on us. We visited all the things we wanted to see but didn’t have time to relax and immerse ourselves in the culture like I had hoped we would.

I wouldn’t change a thing, though, because I wanted to show my wife as much as I could since this was her first time in Europe. It won’t be our last, but next time, I will take into account the walking & stairs and not plan as much to do.

Remember, every journey is an opportunity for growth, discovery, and the creation of cherished memories. In the end, the experiences and the moments shared with loved ones are the true treasures of any adventure. Embrace the unexpected, savor every sight and taste, and let your travels shape your perspective on the world. Happy travels! 🌍✈️📸