How To Plan a Trip To Germany: Step by Step Guide

Planning a trip to Germany can feel overwhelming. Between narrowing down your bucket list of locations (never an easy task!) to staying within a certain budget (sometimes even harder!) to deciding the specifics like train vs car or which part of a city is the best place to look for hotels. Or shoot, how to even FIND the best hotel for YOU!

Don’t worry, I’ll walk you through EXACTLY how to break down you Germany trip planning process, step by step so that it feels easy, manageable, and has you excited, not stressed!

Step 1: Get Your Information From the Right Sources

I’m not here to bash anyone and I am definitely not here to proclaim that I am the end-all-be-all when it comes to wise Germany travel advice. However, be skeptical of where you get your “information” on traveling in Germany.

I LOVE using local blogs whenever I plan a trip, but it can sometimes be hard to discern who is using AI right now to create a bunch of their content (you’d be shocked at how good some bloggers are at this!) and who is even a true, authoritative source on the matter vs just a tourist who spent a bit of time somewhere and is now claiming to be an expert.

When planning your trip to Germany, look for local sources from bloggers who LIVE in Germany. We know the ins and outs of Germany WAY better than even the die-hard travel addicts who spend a few months in a place and swear they “know” the local insider info, culture, and off the beaten path locations. If you read a bio of someone who says something like, “I’ve been exploring Germany for over “X” years and just love sharing my insights with you!” – RUN. They may have traveled to Germany, but I guarantee that their content is either outdated since they don’t live here, is AI generated, or just plain false half the time.

Who can you trust? There are several great local bloggers who actually LIVE in Germany that I can attest to and know they are passionate, accurate, and updated with their info. Some of my favorites are:

  • BerlinTravelTips: Ali lived in Freiburg for many years before moving to Berlin. Who better to get inside Berlin Travel Tips than from someone who lives there!
  • DestinationTheWorld: Matthias is a German native. He and Kent lived in Berlin for years and are now living close to Munich again.
  • CraveThePlanet: Living in a freaking castle in Landstuhl, Germany, Morgan lives and breathes adventure travel and knows outdoor Germany and hiking in Germany like no other!
  • Jordan has been living in Germany for ages, is married to a German, and knows more about Northern Germany than most people!

I’m sure there are others out there that are fantastic, honest, and extremely helpful. But, all I’m saying is that just because a website is “dedicated” fully to “German Travel” and just because they have a cute picture of them when they VISITED Germany, does not make them an expert.

Step 2: Be Where the Experts Are

If you want up-to-date, real information, be sure you are in places and spaces that people, like the above, are helping and moderating in. Whenever I am planning a trip to a new location, especially when it is a foreign country, one of my first steps is to see if there are any active Facebook Group that help with trip planning in that destination. It’s a fantastic way to get inspired, hear questions you never even thought about, and have a space to ask your own, individual questions to a group of experts.

There are some fantastic Facebook Groups dedicated to real-time advice for traveling in Germany.

Sign Up For Email Newsletters

In addition to being in the Facebook Groups, when I am planning a trip, when I find a trusted blogger, I almost ALWAYS sign up to their email newsletter. This is the place where bloggers are often a bit more “real” life and I’ve gotten amazing advice, tips, and insider information from newsletters like these that help me plan my own trips.

You can sign up for the WanderInGermany Newsletter here. You get a free packing list just for signing up + a week’s worth of “How to Plan Your Trip” emails. From there on out, I send out monthly newsletters letting you know what’s going on in Germany, telling about a hidden gem I might have found this week, or giving advice on cultural questions about traveling in Germany.

Step 3: Get Organized

Before you even begin, it’s best if you get a place to put all the information you are going to be collecting, working on, booking etc. For me, that’s Google Docs and Google Sheets. I create a Google Sheet that turns into my budget, itinerary, and all my booking confirmations/notes.

Coming Soon: Wander In Germany’s Complete Trip Planning Spreadsheet!

Step 4: Start With Figuring Out Your Budget

Personally, I think that before anything else, when you are planning a trip to Germay, you need to know what your budget is first and foremost. Your budget can determine many things such as:

  • How many days you can afford to travel
  • If you should rent a car or take a train (which will affect your final itinerary)
  • What airport to fly into (some are typically more expensive than others)

Obviously, there is a whole range of prices, but for just a very general/ mid range budget, you can expect prices to be (give or take) around the following averages:

Flights: Varies by season/month. Off season can be as low as $500. High season can be as high as $2000!
Hotels: Mid range hotels are often around $100-150/night
Meals: Will vary, but for a “classic” German meal at a “typical” German restaurant, $10-15 per meal is pretty standard (plus drinks)
Transportation: Will vary.
-Car rental can be as low as $40/day (plus gas) but much more expensive if you need an automatic, a larger vehicle, etc.
-Trains: Depending on how often you use them/ how far you can go, train tickets will vary considerably. Check out my Train Travel in Germany Guide to help you figure out which tickets you might need.
Also Consider: Daily budgets for activities (will vary depending on what you want to do, shopping/ souvenirs, and other miscellaneous costs that might occur)

At this stage in planning, you don’t need an EXACT budget, but DO have a rough idea of what you can afford and are willing to spend.

Step 5: Determine How Long You Have?

For many travelers, they are locked into a certain amount of days they can travel. Maybe it’s determined by your kids’ school schedules or is just simply dictated by how many days off work you can take. Alternatively, maybe after determining your budget, you realized you can only do a certain amount of days to stay under budget.

Regardless, I often find that it is MUCH easier to map out an itinerary if I know exactly how many days I have total before even starting.

Alternatively, if you’ve got all the time in the world (and maybe even budget!) then you can probably skip this step and just have the time of your life!

Step 6: Start Making a Bucketlist

If you’ve got a completely open itinerary, then I love to just start with a daydreaming session! Pinterest is great for people who love visuals and Tik Tok has some really fun ideas, too. Just be careful to not get sucked into the “Filtered” version of traveling!

Then, start seeing what Dr. Google has to say. But, be specific in your searches. Some examples depending YOUR interests could be:

  • “Best Historical Sights in Germany” or “What WWII Historical Sights are Worth Visiting”
  • “Off the beaten path destinations in Germany”
  • “Best Alpine Towns in Germany”
  • “How many days for Berlin”
  • etc

The part about this step isn’t to be realistic, it isn’t to even be mapping out an itinerary or set of plans yet! It’s simply to brainstorm some inspiration on places that look amazing to you, moments you want to experience, and sights that interest YOU. Don’t worry about logistics, just get inspired!!!!

Step 7: Decide On The Time Of Year to Visit

Figuring out the best time of year to visit Germany can be a tough one! I strongly believe that each season has it’s pros and cons. However, sometimes, based on the information you’ve already decided in steps 1-4 can actually determine when you should or even will need to go.

For example, if you wrote “Visit Oktoberfest” on your brainstorming list, then you are pretty locked in on needing to come in September (yes, I said SEPTEMBER, not October!). Same goes for something like seeing the Best German Christmas Markets. You’ll obviously need to come before, well…Christmas!

On the other hand, if budget was a serious concern, maybe looking into February may be your best bet because that is often one of the cheapest months to fly to Germany.

If you really want to go hiking in the Bavarian Alps, then June- September is a good time frame.

This is why having a “Bucketlist” of places, events, and destinations that would be amazing to experience is essential. By doing that first, it may help you figure out the PERFECT time for you to plan your trip accordingly!

Step 8: Map Out Your Bucketlist

Next, head over to Google Maps and start plotting out where all the places you listed on your bucketlist are. Don’t waste time looking up distances between anything yet, just simply get an overall view of everywhere that looked and sounded inticing to you.

A. Once Everything Is On the Map, Look For Clusters

After you put everything you could possibly want to do, see if any of destinations look particularly close together. Are there any destinations that are completely on their own and way out of the way from everything else you have mapped out? You can already start realizing what places on your list may need to be put into a “Next time” list.

B. Start Calculating Distances

I tell people to do this before actually deciding on a final itinerary because there may be times that as you get deeper into the planning you’ll realize you can add a day onto a city and just do an easy day trip from there to another destination on your list. Alternatively, you may realize that even though you thought two places were close together, the actual time to get from one to the other was more than you thought. Sometimes, there just isn’t a really good logistical route from one place to the next to justify the added destination.

C. Compare Trains vs Car Rental

Again, you may be thinking, “Gee, LeAnna, shouldn’t I have this decided and then that can determine my final itinerary?”

Sure! That’s one way to do it! Afterall, if you KNOW you won’t be renting a car and therefore will have to use trains/ public transportation to get from one place to the next, then yes, then can really help narrow down an itinerary simply based on the logistics of train travel! For example, if you know you have to take the trains, then going from Munich to Garmisch is much more reasonable than going from Munich to Berchtesgaden, so that can help determine your itinerary for you.

However, if you are still trying to decide on train vs car, then it’s worth looking into things like how long does the train ride from Point A to B take vs a car. Sometimes, it’s the same/shorter than driving, other times, it can be double the time! For people on tight schedules, train travel can make it harder to pack in as much as possible, whereas a car gives much more flexibility, which is going to determine your final itinerary.

D. Check Flight Prices

At this stage, unless you need to be locked into a certain airport for other reasons, take a moment to see general flight prices for the major airports closest to the places on your map. For example, maybe flying into Berlin isn’t even an option because you are only going to do South Germany on this trip.

Alternatively, maybe you realize that arriving into one airport but leaving out of another is way too expensive, which will impact your final itinerary.

You don’t need to make any decisions right now on flights. Just know which airport you most likely will choose based on your preferred locations, budget, etc and adjust accordingly to your needs.

Step 9: Put Together Steps 1-8

Now is the time to start filling in some actual days in your itineraries. Knowing how many days total you have, what places you REALLY want to experience and see, and where they are all located means that you can now start figuring out how to fit this all into your trip plan!

You might need to look up activities in each destination to know just how many days are needed in each place. For example, you could do just one day in Munich, but you could also do 3 days in Munich depending on your interests.

You also know how far each place is, so you can budget that into your itinerary. For example, if you are going from Munich to Berlin, then you need to plan on a good chunk of your day on transportation alone, which you will need to allot for when figuring out logistically just how much time you have.

Step 8: Slow Down!

I’m going to pause you right here in your itinerary planning.

More often than not, I see far too many tourists try to cram so much into their trip to Germany that they end up spending just as much time in a car or on a train than actual time enjoying and experiencing a particular destination! I get it, this is a once in a life time trip and you want to see and do as much as you possibly can! But, don’t do it at the expense of actually ENJOYING your time! Make sure you have scheduled the time it takes to get from one place to the next. Give yourself an extra hour in a location to sit at a corner cafe. Allow time in your day to just wander and soak up the vibes and feelings of a place rather than running through just to say “I’ve been there!” (but can barely remember it!)

So, do you need to go back to your rough itinerary and take anything out right now? Do you need to look at something more realistically and give yourself some extra time in a place, or plan on the actual time it takes to get somewhere, find the hotel, and get back to the major sights?

Adjust accordingly and before you know it, your itinerary is going to unfold in front of you!

Step 9: Set Flight Alerts and Book Flights

Now that we know exactly where we want to go, when we want to go, and our budget, it’s time to get serious about booking stuff! First up- flights!

I always start with Google Flights and just get a general idea on prices for when I want to fly. I often will set an alert as well to get notified of any major changes.

I usually book international flights about 5 months in advance. I find that gives me enough time to see a pattern but isn’t pushing it with last minute price gauges.

Once you find a flight that works for you, your budget, and your itinerary, then pull the trigger on booking it!

Step 10: Start Researching Accomodations

You already have your itinerary figured out, so you know exactly what days you want to stay where. While I have a few qualms about things like, I will admit that I absolutely LOVE that I can filter just about any need/desire/ preference I have about what I want for a hotel, making it one of the best search tools for hotels out there.

You can set your own personal nightly budget, look at the map view if you have a specific area of town you want to focus on, only look for hotels that have AC (It’s true, many Hotels in Germany Do Not Have AC!), etc.

I usually narrow it down to about 3 hotels per destination and then dig into all the reviews and photos before deciding on a final accommodation. You can either book it right in (which admittedly usually has good cancellation policies) or go straight to the hotel site itself, which often is a little cheaper when booked directly.

Step 11: Fill Out Your Spreadsheets

Hopefully, this whole time, you’ve stayed semi organized with a spreadsheeet or something similar that has helped you keep track of things. It’s at this stage that I double check my itinerary plan, make sure I’ve input which hotels where booked for which nights, added the confirmations to my list, and review any notes I’ve made throughout this entire process so far!

Step 12: Check Your Documents!

This list will vary for everyone depending on your nationality (ie: do you need a Tourist Visa?), if you are going to be driving (international drivers permit), etc.

  • Passport: Is it valid for 3 months from your trip?
  • Trip Insurance
  • Flight tickets
  • Visa- if needed
  • Hotel Reservations (confirmations)
  • Valid Drivers License (if renting a car) + International Permit
  • Credit cards/money
  • and other documents you have for travel

Step 13: Pack It Up!

At this stage, all the logistics are done and taken care of! All you need to figure out now is exactly what to pack for Germany based on the season you are traveling in!

My Ultimate Packing Guide For Germany
Winter in Germany Packing List
Oktoberfest Packing Guide

Step Get Excited and Have Fun!

Now, it’s simply time to head to the airport and have one amazing trip to Germany!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Choose Your Accommodation and Book

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