10 European travel planning tips
We are about to leave on an epic adventure for our long awaited honeymoon!
There's a lot that goes into planning a big trip like this. Backpacking through 8 different countries is a bit different from relaxing on a tropical island. Each has their own perks for sure! But between researching accommodations through airbnb's or VRBO and hostels, we are trying to plan some of the trip while leaving a little bit of room for spontaneity.
1. Make sure your passport is up to date
There is nothing like being all jacked up for your trip ready to go when you get to they airport when your passport is expired or doesn't match your new name. I have heard that you can bring a birth certificate to confirm your identity if you keep your old unexpired passport with your maiden name but I wanted to save the time and headache and just update everything like cards, my passport and anything else I can think of. Besides, I hear there are pickpocketers out there and I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be a good thing if your birth certificate got stolen along with everything else.
2. Investigate your itinerary
Our first draft of our itinerary is completely different now from when we started. So start your itinerary early. At least nail down the route you want to take . A lot of this depended on the type of weather it was going to be coming in later in the spring and into summer, so we wanted to start southern and work our way north so that we can keep it at a comfortable temperature throughout the trip. The certain things you may want to do or see may also have a big impact on your itinerary. Or saving a night of accommodations by taking an overnight train somewhere a bit further away.
3. Look up some attractions for each location
There are the things you've always dreamed of seeing (The Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Canals of Venice, Rolling hills and vineyards of Tuscany, etc) So those will be a given in the bigger cities. But we wanted to see some of the smaller villages that are lesser known and it is nice to have a list of the things to do or see around the area. Another note on this, if traveling try to make things available for offline use like maps, your itinerary on google sheets and your attraction list since you probably won't have access to wifi a lot of the time. I've heard taking a screenshot of a map of the areas you'll be in is helpful. Or download maps2go in the App Store where you don't need to have wifi connection. Saved us a couple times.
4. Get your packing gear
A good backpack will be one of your best investments if you're backpacking Europe. You need one big enough to fit your stuff but lightweight enough to hike the alps or be on foot all day. Some people like to get the backpacks with the bars to take more weight off their back. But since we were looking to do light hikes I grabbed about a 30 L Timberland backpack and a good sized messenger bag with a ton of pockets to put easy access items in as well as having something to carry with me at all times when I drop the backpack off at our accommodation. A money belt or neck belt is also a good idea since there is generally a lot of theft in the bigger touristy cities of Europe.
5. What do you need to pack?
There are lists upon lists of different sites providing information of what you should bring on your trip. Since we will be gone for a couple months we needed to bring enough clothes to be able to have a variety depending on the weather but not too too much because you need to keep the weight of your pack in mind. You do not want the complaint of an achy back right off the bat, so lightweight, non-moisture absorbing clothes and layering makes to most sense. I packed 3 t-shirts, one blouse, one cardigan, one zip-up hoodie for lounging, 2 leggings, one pair of jeans, 4 pairs of light merino wool socks (keeps feet cool and doesn't collect odor causing bacteria), 3 bras, and 10 pairs of non-cotton underwear (two are exofficio underwear that are supposed to be amazing). That's just the clothes, but toiletries are important as well as your daily necessities.
6. Will you be renting a car, taking the train, or both?
We bought both a global eurorail pass and got an international drivers permit (for the autobahn of course).
7. Think about where you can save money
Having an apartment with a kitchen is helpful because you can buy your own ingredients at some of European fabulous street markets to save. Going out is going to be a given most of the time so sharing dishes and only going out to nicer restaurants sporadically can help cut costs as well.
8. Take precautionary measures
Travel insurance is a smart move for a piece of mind and medical coverage in case of an emergency. Make sure you make copies of passports and other important documents in case they are lost or stolen and keep an additional copy in your email. Spread out your cards and money so that it isn't all in one place.
9. What are the best travel apps?
Word lens helps to read signs in different languages. Trip lingo can be your translator. Rail planner for eurorail can help to book trains offline. Airbnb app can book accommodations on the go. Uber is great for transportation in cities. And guide pal is like a personal tour guide.
10. The things I can't live without
There are a few everyday items I just can't live without that if I forgot at home it just wouldn't be a good situation. I need my burts bees Chapstick since I bite my lips a lot out of nerves or boredom. I also need my iPhone - to have all my maps in one place, being able to book accommodations, read books, and have a camera, it has become an invaluable tool for travel. Bobby pins, hair elastics, and mascara are essential. Bobby pins can double as clothes pins when drying, hair elastics can help keep things together as well as get hair out of your face, and mascara helps me not look like a zombie. A couple extras include a portable battery charger for all our devices, an outlet adapter, and a surge protector for additional american sized outlets.
Mike and I are incredibly excited to be able to have take this time and have the opportunity to get out there and travel while we are still young and don't have a family of our own yet. Some people have said that being with your significant other for such a long period of time could either make or break a couple, but we have talked about the trip extensively, agreed upon the various attractions and destinations that we both want to see, and we know each other enough to know what makes each other tick and how to remedy stressful situations (food for Mike, chocolate for me!) We have been planning this trip for about 6 months now, saving and gathering tips, recommendations and warnings and we couldn't be more ready to embark on this once in a life-time trip to Europe!