How the heck do I plan for a three-week solo backpacking trip across Europe? Where to start? How? Take a deep breath.
Then google... “How to plan for a three-week solo backpacking trip across Europe?”. Nyaharharhar! That’s what I did. Ka boom! I got dozens of planning tips who did this before. I am sharing the most important planning tips based on my personal experience:
Decide where to go
You know the countries. But you have to know further that each country have plenty of cities. Plenty. Do you have a particular place that you’ve been dreaming about going? A picture that motivated you to go there? A story that you recall that just made you want to experience it yourself?
Weave your path
So you want to go to Eiffel Tower, Vatican City and Santorini? Me too! When I started planning, I thought the entire Europe can be traveled using their train system. NOT! I had to drop Greece and Spain from my itinerary because they just didn't fit.
Know who you are.
Sounds like an advice to a teenager choosing what course to take in college. But this will define what type of itinerary will fit your taste and how you want to travel.
Are you a backpacker?
Do you mind sharing a room with strangers?
Do you prefer museums, or architectural work?
Buildings vs. Paintings?
Churches or Gardens?
Some Tips in Planning:
Planning is overwhelming. Be prepared for a barrage of information. Even with all the planning experience I have for local trips, planning for a 24-day trip is a lot to handle. There’s too much info to digest after googling “Amsterdam itinerary for three days”. I’ve planned DIY trips before but nothing in this level. At times, I wanted to throw in the towel and just go with a group tour so that I won’t deal with this headache.
Notes from my planning stage:
Try to concentrate on the itinerary first
I say try because you will get sidetracked. A lot. I lose my concentration in what food to eat, what outfit to wear, where to stay and all other concerns. I suggest you focus on 1) where you are going and 2) how you will go there.
You decide. You are the boss.
I always come across an article or a blog post which says, "You have do/try/go _____ to fully experience ____. Else, you missed the point of going to _____." I am guilty of this at times. But, this is YOUR adventure. It is YOUR experience. You decide.
Schedule rest periods
Coming from the other side of the world, I wanted to maximize my trip. However, covering all possible grounds does not guarantee that you will enjoy your trip. I met a hostelmate who had been travelling with her friends across Europe for a week and they have been to 3 countries already and they are doing it themselves. The plan looks good and possible in paper, but can your health take it? Are you okay with clicking a picture and that’s it? I am talking about walking around a city for 4-6 hours a day. You may not notice the fatigue when you go around but rest assured that it will catch up with you at night. Can you still do the same the next day?
Be at peace with the thought that you will not be able to go everywhere
Europe is a huge continent. One city is always just one or two hours from another interesting city. You can’t go to all the cities in just one trip. Limit what you really want. You may have a friend you enjoyed this place but it doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy yours if you choose one city over the other. This is your vacation – not Amazing Race.
You are allowed to change your mind.
Have a flexible plan. I scheduled some days wherein the afternoon tours were just optional. In case I like my morning itinerary too much or if I decide to sleep late, I’ll just spend more time there.
How many days should you schedule for a Europe trip?
This will depend on all your answers to all the pointers I gave. For me, the choice was easy because 23.25 days – 6 weekend days = number of remaining leaves that I can take for the year. (There’s that .25 because I left the Manila in the evening) That’s it! If you have less time, that could work out too. But since it is an expensive plane fare, you have to make the most out of your trip.
The itinerary planning process:
1) Know the duration of your trip. I was already set on doing a 24-day trip. Now 2 of those days are travel days so I actually have 22 days of planning left.
2) Get a map and mark you major destinations. I suggest you use the Eurail map.
3) Count how many countries your major destinations cover
4) Initially allocate arbitrarily the number of days per country based on your target destinations. E.g. 5 days France, 5 days Germany, 5 days Italy, etc.
5) Check how to get from one city to another. Revise your plan in #4 accordingly.
6) Use other references to check your itinerary. Check the other suggested itineraries online. Revise your itinerary to your liking
So you’ve been doing this for a couple of weeks now? Good, you are right on schedule! I have an office job so I had to do my planning at night and during weekends.
7) Pay close attention to the days when he attractions are open and the opening/closing times
8) After having your draft (yes, still draft at this point) plan laid out, find the accommodations in each city where you will stay overnight.
9) Carefully and patiently do a cost comparison between getting a pass (e.g. Eurail) vs. Buying point to point tickets.
10) Review your itinerary and revise. Review again and revise.
It took me two months in creating my itinerary. I haven’t booked anything except for the plane fare yet.
I am not saying that this is the best way to go because I had a lot of revisions in the itinerary. There is really no “best way” of planning. This is your trip, remember? You are the boss.
Have a great time planning. I had a blast researching for hours and hours, adjusting dates, cutting and increasing the budget, etc. Planning is half the fun!