Freelance writer Danielle Corcione shares 5 important tips to consider before you go backpacking through Europe, Grownups.
Last fall, I had an amazing exerience backpacking through Europe for two months. I considered the trip half an artist’s journey, half independent study, and planned my activities around what I wanted to learn and how I would maintain my work while I was traveling. (I’m a self-employed freelance writer and journalist, so my job can be done anywhere in the world—as long as I’m equipped with Internet access.)
While there were plenty of international travel resources online, none were specific to my situation. I wasn’t staying long enough to need a visa but was definitely staying in cities for longer than a night or two. That’s why I’ve compiled some tips for Grownups looking to take a backpacking trip or planning long-term travel.
Backpacker Tip 1: Start Saving Right Away
I decided to backpack through Europe almost a year before I left. For the next six months, I put away half of each paycheck. I pretended that money didn’t exist. Fortunately, I didn’t end up spending all that I saved, but it provided a nice safety net for extra expenses. While abroad, I felt comfortable because I planned ahead so far in advance.
Investing in travel insurance, as well as stowing away an emergency fund for any unexpected expenses, are always good ideas when traveling. Aside from unforeseen expenses, you might just decide you need to rest comfortably somewhere along the way—either due to illness or simply fatigue—and it’s nice to know you have that option if necessary.
Backpacker Tip 2: Consider a Travel Buddy
Finding a travel buddy is relatively easy, you just have to put the feelers out. Usually, someone matching your criteria will sign up to go.
If you do travel with a buddy, I do not suggest going with a best friend, relative, or significant other. Of course, you don’t want to travel with a complete stranger—you want to make sure your travel companion is able to function independently, so you’re not stuck feeling like you have to spend time with someone for the whole trip. By going with a person you’re not very close to, you’ll have the opportunity to book solo getaways (like a weekend bus trip) to spend some time apart. In general, traveling with an acquaintance, as opposed to a close friend or relative, will enable you to approach the trip a little more diplomatically.
When I was backpacking through Europe, my travel buddy wasn’t someone close to me; we met on a secret Facebook group a year prior. We shared the same alma mater but didn’t know each other. It was an awesome time and we’re still good friends.
Backpacker Tip 3: Research and Plan a Potential Route
If you’re like me, you like to schedule everything in advance. I planned out several possible routes—but by the end of the trip, I didn’t follow it exactly. It worked out great, though. That’s why I always prefer to anticipate changes and be flexible.
It’s important to think ahead and map out your must-see places. Write down anywhere on your bucket list, open up Google Maps, and plan around those. For example, since I booked a flight to Paris and wanted to end up in Central Europe, I decided to hit Amsterdam and Berlin along the way.
Backpacker Tip 4: Look for Flight Deals
It’s ideal to have flexible dates, especially if finding the best airfare deals is key to your budget. If you’re planning to travel during the summer, expect prices to skyrocket, since that’s the busy tourist season. Off-season trips will usually lower the cost significantly, but to avoid the bitter winter months (when you’ll have to pack heavier), try planning to travel in spring and fall.
Consider setting a travel fare alert with Airfarewatchdog or another online flight tracker. Being flexible with your initial destination city can help you find a more affordable flight as well. I allocated more than an entire month just to search for flights. After monitoring flights myself, I booked a ticket to Paris for less than $250—and my returning ticket was about the same price leaving from Budapest. For booking cheap continental flights, check out SkyScanner for deals.
Backpacker Tip 5: Stay in Hostels
A lot of people, especially younger Millennials still in school, don’t book hostels ahead of time for their travels. They want to stay spontaneous and be open to changing their plans.
However, if you’re like me, you want to plan everything out in advance so you’re not scrambling last minute for a bed. That’s why I suggest booking hostels before you leave. You can find the best deal before you land and can plan your days accordingly. Plus, you’ll never panic if you can’t find a room. I used HostelWorld to find hostel listings, but you can also book through the hostel directly once you find one you like.
While it might be fun to spontaneously travel throughout Europe, it may leave you disappointed. That’s why it’s important to schedule and think ahead. That way, you won’t run out of money or miss out on any awesome things to do. Plus, you can always cancel a hostel reservation for an unexpected change of plans.
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While Society of Grownups hopes the information is useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation. If you need recommendations geared to your personal financial situation, schedule time with a financial planner.