Ok, so you want to visit Europe and go on a backpacking adventure (mind you the idea of “backpacking” for some is bringing a large suitcase full of electronics and expect 5 star hotel rooms with wi-fi and free breakfast. If this is what you are looking for… you won’t find it below)
Making a list of these things will allow you to begin the following steps and make the most of your trip. Look at a map and see which countries you want to visit are near each other; do a bit of research and make a sensible itinerary. In my experience 3-4 days per country will do.
Finding a cheap flight
Search MULTIPLE websites. Simply going on Expedia and typing in your destination won’t go very far. Check for discounted websites such as Priceline and STA Travel, the latter caters to university students.
From cheaper to cheapest option. When you want to travel on a budget and make the most of your trip you know you won’t be spending that much time in a room, so why care for it being overly fancy? I mean, you don’t want it to be disgusting or full of bugs but honestly, as long as you have a bed or couch to sleep on you should be good to go. Check out Hostelworld, Airbnb and CouchSurfing; this site offers -as the name suggests-couches for people to spend a night or two in someone’s home.
Mind you, you will be carrying this all over Europe and you’ll be doing a lot of walking so make sure it is a sturdy one! I have the Osprey 65L. Osprey Packs. It is light, durable and so worth the price.
Tip: check eBay for better bargains on used bags!
What to pack?
People get freaked out by this one. I see it like this, I need a different top for everyday of my trip (can’t be wearing the same top twice on a picture!) BUT I can accessorize it differently SO I cut that number in half (Boys can use change items accordingly):
For a 14-day summer trip I packed:
- 7 light tops (or a mixture of tops and sun dresses)
- 4 bottoms (shorts, leggings, skirts)
- LOTS OF UNDIES!!!
- 2 pairs of shoes (sturdy walking shoes and sandals)
- A light scarf (can use as a headscarf or shoulder cover when visiting churches)
- A light impermeable jacket (in case of cold and rain)
- My kindle (So I don’t have to carry too many travel books)
- Photo camera (duh!)
- Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, body soap, deodorant)
AND THAT’S IT!!!
You can read these on the plane, bus, train, etc. Travel books have hundreds of helpful hints on how to get “off the beaten path” and discover the less touristy areas. I absolutely LOVE Rick Steves’ books. “Europe Through The Back Door” is amazing and gets updates every year. It includes discounts you can get in places by showing his book!
Tip: I take my small kindle where I can keep my books and not have to carry the heavy paperback one
Buses and trains run smoothly and on time (most of the time). The easiest way to travel between countries is to buy a train pass. I personally like to buy them ahead of time since I have a well-organized itinerary but some people like to get them as they go.
Tip: check your destination’s train website rather than your departure city, it will save you a bit of money.
Getting a museum “day pass” may actually end up costing you more than if you bought them separately. A lot of times entry fees are cheaper or even free for students! Also, flashy locations with lots of signs and giant tour groups are not your best bet. Various major cities give out tip based walking tours where a young university student will take around the city and give you some cool info facts about history and the local way of living.
I would also recommend making an itinerary of your day. Check out the places you wanna visit ahead of time. Get a hotel map and make a sensible itinerary; I say sensible because you don’t have to stick to it religiously, just an idea of where to go and what to do.
Tip: my favorite tour guides are from New Europe Tours… various locations!
Of course you’re gonna wanna try the local food and local drinks! Beware though, these are usually pricey in places that have flashy English signs outside the door and or English menus. Your best bet is to go to a small local restaurant. Most of them have pictures of the meals and you can just point at what looks appetizing. Also if you look it up ahead of time, you will know what the local delicacies are and be able to know what you’re eating! For those who drink, go for the local beer, stay away from well-known brands. These are a lot pricier! Also, buy breakfast at your hostel or a local supermarket. I personally have one big meal a day and snack throughout the day. Saves both time and money!
Traveler’s Insurance and Credit Cards
You are not invincible, you will be traveling basically non-stop for 2-3 weeks in a new climate every week, climbing, walking, running, you name it. It is wise to pay $70 bucks for travel insurance that not only will save you a ton of cash in case (heaven forbid) you get sick or lose/break any of your things. Credit cards are a necessity when traveling too. For one you need it to check in/hold hostel and train reservations, and two, you want to have just in case.
You should definitely not go crazy cause one, you wont have a lot of room and two, you don’t want to spend too much. Luckily most trinkets are small and inexpensive if purchased away from the heavy touristy areas. My magnet collection will FILL my entire fridge and then some. I also have a thousand postcards that will one day become part of a coffee and side tables set J These are fun ways to display your cool souvenirs and share stories with people when they come visit .
I know this list could have included a lot more info, but these are the things I have personally done to plan and enjoy a successful backpacking trip. I had the most amazing time summer 2012. I traveled all by myself, got to meet some great people and followed no one’s schedule but my own and had the time of my life!
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!