When I was in college I went backpacking through Europe with my sister and two of our friends. None of us had a lot of international travel experience at the time, so I’m just going to say we made some good choices, and others not so great. For example we ran the numbers halfway through our trip and realized that we had a euro a day to spend on food for the remainder of the trip. Picture four girls a little too skinny and probably a little dirty sitting on the ground outside a Laundromat in Rome when we pressed equals - the number was one. Just one little baby one. It was a weird combination of laughter and serious crying mixed together with how did we get ourselves here and then cheersing with some gelato we couldn’t afford. With that, here are some tips I learned the hard way.
Tip # 1 – you don’t actually need a backpack for travelling Europe. I wish I had brought a small rolling suitcase. My dad carried by bag for me to the airpot and by time I was actually carrying it on my own I was in the airport in London and couldn't lift it up, it was like a joke, it wasn't budging. I had to squat so I could activate my legs muscles and I was still shaking. Once on my back I was good to go as long as no one touched me and I maintained a perfect balance to even out the weight ratio, this meant leaning forward 30 degrees resembling a disproportionate humpback. It's cool though, I had very sculpted back muscles by the end of the trip, so if you’re into that - ya know, go for it.
Tip #2 – Listen to all those bothersome people when they tell you to be careful with your purse because it could get stolen, and you’re like ya I know I’m not five. It could really get stolen.
Tip #3 – Bring enough money. Be better at math than me.
Tip #4 – Strike a fine balance between planning and leaving room for flexibility just in case you fall in love with a place and don’t want to leave, i.e. Vernazza in Cinque Terra. We stayed mostly in hostels that we pre-booked, but apartments could be a great option as well.
London (stay in Notting Hill) :: Paris (stay in the 4th, 5th or 6th) :: Barcelona (watch your purse on Las Ramblas st.) :: Geneva (The cleanest city) :: Interlaken (don't skip this and go white water rafting, all the adventure sports start at $100) :: Florence :: Cinque Terra (all five cities are perfect and a rail runs between them all for easy travel) :: Rome (stay in Trasteverde) :: Venice (pay a little more to stay close to the canals) :: Vienna (don't buy any music tickets on the street, do research on whats good) :: Munich (Beer Gardens) :: Berlin :: Amsterdam (don't skip the Van Gogh museum of art) :: Bruges (it's better than Brussels)
Tip #5 - Get a Eurail and book your sleeper trains before you leave. It costs a little more but it saves on hostels and allows you get travel time over with while you sleep. If you don't want to pay the extra money you can try and sleep in a train chair but if you book a room it locks and has 4 really tiny beds.
Tip #6 – Don’t over pack. Find Laundromats, bring items that can be switched around. Don’t bring really heavy books, for example the entire collection of C.S. Lewis is going to be a little annoying. Below is my packing list: