Backpacking Through Europe? Here's What You Need to Know
Feature Image: Alex Vasey
1. Share your plans
Whether you are going solo or with a group, it's a good idea to give someone a copy of your plans or itinerary. Even if you're going with the flow and don't have an exact plan, make sure you have someone back home who you can check in with you every few days or new location.
2. Do you actually need a backpack to go backpacking?
Technically, no. Take whatever works for you. However, I will say that most European streets are lined with cobblestone (so picturesque right?), which does make it a little exhausting pulling a suitcase over them. A backpack is not as cute as my dream monogrammed suitcase. However, it is a little easier to transport, and it keeps your hands free when you're jumping from train to plane, so you can keep your passport in one and a double espresso in the other. Here is a super helpful resource for picking out the best travel backpack for you
3. Quality over quantity
When I went backpacking, I wanted to do everything! Every city I went to I wanted to hit all the must sees and didn't want to miss a single thing. Well, three weeks straight of that became exhausting, as you can imagine. So finally, my friend and I decided just to hit a few things that we couldn't live without and then spent the rest of the time wandering around and getting lost. We still ended up creating incredible experiences and also saved a lot of money. I would recommend trying to be intentional with the sites you choose to visit and know that you can have a great time just being present in the city.
4. Be Flexible
No one loves a plan as much as I do. My friend and I planned out our six-week trip and had everything locked in. It made us feel very secure and safe in our adventure abroad. Nonetheless, life happens. Trains go on strike, and planes get delayed. Or maybe you get to a city and realize perhaps you don't need three days there—and you want to move on, but you can’t because you've already planned out everything. Changing your plans now would mean losing money from changing hotel reservations and other travel plans. There's nothing wrong with making a plan and sticking to it, but leave some room for some changes and be willing to go with the flow.
5. Never take your eyes off your stuff
I don't think I ever took my purse off the entire time I went backpacking—especially when I was eating at a restaurant. My purse was across my body and in my lap. I have heard so many stories of people getting their phones and wallets swiped from tables, or having their wallets or purses taken right off their shoulders or out of their pockets. Pickpocketing is serious so make sure to be mindful wherever you go! I also had my backpack zippers locked together and then purchased another lock to attach to my overhead compartments on trains or buses, so If I fell asleep I didn't have to worry about someone snatching it!
6. Don't forget to plan rest days
Like I've mentioned before, being a tourist is exhausting. On long travel days (and even on short ones), you're not going to want to do anything but eat, sleep, and rest. So make sure you give yourself some time to recover; otherwise, you might end up overdoing it, getting sick, or burning out too quickly.
7. Pack wisely
Packing for six weeks in a carry on backpack still to this day proves to be one of my greatest accomplishments. I have so many people to thank for getting me through that, but more on that later. I bought a lot of cheap clothes that I thought would last during my trip. I ended up throwing half of them out towards the end because they either ripped, became discolored, or started to unravel. I love a good bargain as much as the next person, but I would highly suggest splurging on a few good basics, such as a nice pair of jeans that are going to keep their shape, a nice t-shirt thats not going to look dingy after a few wears and washes, and shoes. (Definitely splurge on the shoes and go for the comfortable option. Your feet will praise you later.) And don’t forget to leave a little bit of room for some must have items that you see throughout your trip!
8. Be open
Besides seeing incredible places and crossing a lot of things off my bucket list, meeting people and making friends in all those places were some of my favorite memories. Whenever I stayed in a hostel, I tried to participate in any group activities they had. It’s a great way to break the ice and force yourself into some social settings. It always ended up being worth it.
Have you ever been backpacking?