Thursday, April 21, 2016

Backpacking Europe: Planning

Backpacking around Europe (read: traveling around Europe on trains while wearing a backpack) is easily one of my favorite memories thus far. I had so much fun, spent way to much money, and had so many new and exciting experiences. If you're ever considering traveling around Europe like that, do it!

That being said, there is a lot (a lot a lot) of planning that goes into a trip like this to make sure it all goes relatively smoothly. Here are some of the pre-departure tips I have:

Map it out: One of the first things my friends and I did was print out a giant map of Europe and circle all of the cities we wanted to hit while abroad. I think our list was something ridiculous like 25 or so cities, and obviously we couldn't see all of them, but having a map right in front of us made it so much easier to narrow it down. We ended up making somewhat of a circle (starting in Austria where I studied abroad and ending in Prague) based on Eurail pass lines.

Decide on a travel format: We used a 10-leg Eurail pass that had a 2 month expiration date, meaning that we had two months to make 10 legs of our trip. Each leg could be 24 hours before it counted as two. This also helped in narrowing down cities. Doing it again, I would definitely look at flying between certain cities (namely Florence and Paris... a 12 hour day of traveling on 4 different trains is not something I would want to do again) and using the pass to see more cities (Prague to Budapest, specifically).

Don't neglect the backpack: When your life is on your back, it is extremely important to have a well-fitting backpack. I got mine at REI and got it professionally measured to fit my back. (For reference, I'm 5' 5" and my backpack is an extra small.) The store employees also helped me figure out where the backpack is supposed to fit: the majority of the weight should be right around your waist, so the straps fit nicely on top of your hips. This seriously relieves soooo much pressure from your back, and when your pack weighs 30 pounds, you can feel the difference.

Check your passport and visa requirements: If you're staying more than 90 days in the Schengen area of Europe (the EU and then some), you need a visa to travel past the 90 days. If you're not, then congratulations, you don't need to go through the hassle of getting a travel visa!

In my next backpacking post I'll be talking about choosing hostels: what to look for, how to book them, and my personal recommendations!

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