Recently (or not so recently now), I went back to Europe! It was an amazing time, and I had the opportunity to take a two week vacation with my brother. In total, the entire trip was under $1,000 and that includes the following: Housing, food, transportation to three countries, cultural experiences, and the round trip ticket to and from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Paris, France. How did I accomplish this you say? Read these 10 steps and find out!
1. Plan Ahead
I planned my European backpacking trip since November of 2016 and I went on the trip January 9th-21st. This allowed us to create a travel plan and get the cheapest deals on hostels and flights. Hostelbookers.com is a great site to look for affordable accommodation within the heart of any major city. All you have to do is select where you want to go and it comes with a list of places you can stay. I recommend picking the highest rated hostels. Even though they might be a bit pricer to stay in, they are usually known for their safety, free events, social hours, free amenities and good locations. For our trip, we spent a max of $25 a day and were upgraded in Paris and Cologne to private rooms!
2. Turn on Notifications
Along with planning ahead, I would recommend turning on Google flight notifications. You can also use sites such as Kayak, Priceline and the actual flight service but Google Flights is what gave me the most affordable plane ticket for the time I wanted to go. I simply typed in the dates that I wanted to travel and turned on notifications. Emails were then sent to me whenever the price would go higher or lower. One day, I got an email saying that flights to Paris from Minnesota dropped to $370. I instantly messaged my brother and we purchased the tickets. After we purchased the tickets, the price rose to $570. Hop on a deal when you can! It won’t last forever!
3. Bring a Friend
When you bring a friend it instantly makes everything less expensive (in my opinion). You can split larger meals, or get a spread of food to test out more dishes. You can also have someone to take all the cool pictures that you wanted for your social media if you are into that sort of thing. On a serious note, having friend around allows you to share all the experiences and remain a bit safer as you travel through a new place.
4. Make Friends
This might be difficult if it’s your first trip, but here’s why choosing the correct hostel is important! There are youth hostels which are great for people younger than 30. It allows you to meet people your own age and potentially develop great friendships with them. Also hostels should specifically whether or not they have amenities such as game rooms, pools, gyms etc. There, you can meet and make more friends. We made the most friends from the free events that our hostel put on which leads to the fifth point.
5. Take Advantage of ‘Free’
Our hostel advertised free events such as dance nights, pub crawls (the drinking age is usually 18 most places in Europe) and our favorite, the free tour in Berlin. Our favorite event that our hostel in Berlin put on was the nightly pub crawl. People from all over the world gathered for a night of drinks, conversation, and a good time. People are really open to meeting others in this situation since it is a more casual environment and everyone there is around for the same reason: to see the coolest bars in the area and be social.
6. Bring a Camera
Whether that be your phone camera, polaroid, or a professional DSLR, make sure you bring something to capture the memories of your trip. Instead of buying a 100 postcards (which i definitely have). Take pictures of the places people really haven’t captured, make your own souvenirs! There’s nothing better then printing out all your pictures to hang on your walls or creating a visual memory of your trip on social media.
7. Travel Light
This was one of the best decisions I made during the trip. I only brought a standard Hershel Supply backpack with me and used compression bags to maximize my clothing supply. I packed one weeks worth of clothes assuming that I would wash them halfway through. The last hostel we stayed at had a washer and dryer actually included within their pricing, so keep that in mind when you plan as well. Traveling light allowed us to run whenever we had to catch a train, feel comfortable enough when we got lost finding our hostel, and generally make the trip more convenient.
8. Take a train
You could easily take an airplane from country to country, but there is just something about taking a train to view the countryside. When we were traveling from Paris to Cologne, the scenery was picturesque. Also trains are very inexpensive. The train from Paris to Cologne was $25 and Cologne to Berlin was $40 (prices will vary). Also sometimes the good seats aren’t reserved so you can get a great experience by only buying general admission tickets.
9. Use Public Transportation
Only take services like taxis, ubers and personal cars if necessary (As we did when we only had 30 minutes to get to the airport before the plane started boarding…). Read up on public transportation before you go to see what services are easiest to navigate. For example, the Berlin subway system was a bit easier to use and the tickets could be purchased at each station. Public transportation will cut down on the costly expense of having someone else drive you everywhere and renting a car.
10. Invest in Data
Some phone carriers have international plans that will allow you to use data at an affordable price while you are abroad. AT&T let’s you pay a fee and you can use limited data while abroad, but it was a lifesaver whenever we got lost and needed to use Google Maps. Google Maps allows to put in a destination, and it will show the most convenient or quickest way to get there. You can also use it offline to pinpoint places and see where you are in relation to everything else.
There are many other tips and tricks for going abroad, but these are the ones I wanted to highlight. If you have any more questions, please leave them in the comments below! I hoped those tips and tricks helped plan a European getaway! Till next time.