What You Need To Know Before Planning a Long Term Stay in Europe

For as long as you can remember, traveling around Europe has been at the top of your bucket list. After years and years of dreaming, the time has finally come to plan your long term stay in Europe. But, before you can eat croissants in Paris and dance flamenco in Seville, there are some very important matters you need to address.

Unfortunately, planning a long term stay in Europe isn’t as simple as clicking purchase on a one-way ticket. Visa issues, transportation, and accommodation are just a few of the items you must consider. Few things will derail your long term stay in Europe faster than failing to make arrangements for your stateside commitments such as familial responsibilities and homeownership duties.

Planning a long term stay in Europe can be both exciting and overwhelming. However, with the right checklist (this one!), you can feel confident that you’ve left no stone unturned while preparing for the adventure of your lifetime.

Visa Considerations for Europe

Before you can start planning your long term stay in Europe, you must first understand the European Union’s visa requirements. If you’re a traveler from the United States, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand, you are allowed to stay in Schengen Area countries for 90 days at a time within a six-month period. To stay in Europe longer, you’ll either need a visa or a creative travel itinerary.

Some countries, such as France, offer extended tourist visas. Other options for a long term stay in Europe include student visas and freelancer visas. However, on the whole, procuring a visa to stay more than 90 days is a difficult process.

If you want to stay in Europe more than 90 days, the best way to do so is organizing your travel itinerary to include a mix of both Schengen and non-Schengen countries. For example, you could start your stay spending three months in the Schengen country or countries of your choosing before moving on to the United Kingdom, Ireland, or one of the Eastern European countries outside the Schengen Area. You’ll need to arrange to spend at least 90 days outside of the Schengen Area before you’re eligible to return. 

Leaving Life Back Home in Order

While visa requirements are one of the most important elements to research when planning a long term stay in Europe, they’re far from the only consideration. If your trip to Europe will be your first long-term stay abroad, it’s easy to overlook details such as leaving a forwarding address for your mail and informing your bank as to your travel plans.

In addition to letting the post office and bank know where you’ll be, you must also share your travel plans with your friends, employers, and family. Give yourself plenty of time to ensure that your familial life is in a place that you can easily maintain from abroad. For example, child custody and visitation issues need to be resolved beforehand since they can be difficult to make arrangements for from afar.

Once you’ve informed the people in your inner circle about your plans to stay in Europe long term, you should check to see if you can register your trip with the government of your home country. To give you and your loved ones peace of mind (especially if you’re planning to travel Europe during the pandemic), take the time to submit your trip through the U.S. State Department’s free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.

If you’re a homeowner and plan to remain so while staying in Europe long term, you need to make arrangements for who will watch over your house in your absence. Leaving your home in the hands of a trusted friend or relative? You may even consider making upgrades to your home while you’re away. In some cases, it could be more convenient to schedule construction while you’re out of the house.

Saving Money While Abroad

Perhaps the most important consideration for your long term stay in Europe is your budget. If you’re like the majority of travelers, you won’t have unlimited funds and will need to find ways to live inexpensively, especially if you’re intending on using a credit card while you’re there. To start, the accommodation you choose can make or break your travel budget. Rental companies like HomeAway, Airbnb, and HomeExchange offer affordable options for a long term stay in Europe. For travelers on tight budgets, free accommodation is possible through volunteer organizations and online communities such as Couchsurfing.

Going hand in hand with accommodation, another tip for saving money while in Europe is staying in locations for longer. Traveling to a new country every few days will skyrocket your transportation costs. Instead, establish a home base in a city with lots to do. When you do travel, spend time researching your options. Air travel might be your first choice, but often, overland travel via bus or train is more cost-effective. Looking for a low-cost and healthy means of transportation? Research the possibility of biking across Europe.

For advice on everything from travel and accommodation to where to seek medical care abroad, connect with the expat communities in the countries where you plan to stay long term. Who better to tell you what you need to know before planning a long term stay in Europe than people who have navigated the process themselves? Not only are expat groups and forums an invaluable resource, but you might make a few friends before you even leave home.

From connecting with the expat community and finding accommodation to ensuring your familial life is in order and creating a travel itinerary that takes visa requirements into account, there’s a lot to think about as you plan your long term stay in Europe. But, where there is a will, there’s a way. With each task you tackle, you’re one step closer to the European adventure of your dreams.