A European vacation is on the to-do list of many people around the world, but it can be expensive when you factor the cost of hotel rooms, sightseeing tours, transportation, and food. If you choose a backpacking excursion for your trip, it can be a much more cost-effective and thrilling way to see the sights firsthand. You will need to plan ahead and make sure you bring the proper equipment so that you can fully enjoy the experience.
Image via Flickr user Ashely Rehnblom
The first tip from expert backpackers is to make a rough outline of your travel plans. You don’t need to schedule every minute of your trip, but if you decide what cities you definitely want to see, you may want to reserve a bed in a nearby hostel, or you may end up sleeping on a train station bench. You can also check out transportation options so you know how to get from city to city once you arrive.
Image via Flickr user Kevin Dooley
If you have ever tried to wheel a suitcase along a cobblestone street, you know that this is not the best option for your backpacking trip. Instead, invest in a sturdy backpack that can carry the clothing and supplies that you’ll need. Before you buy, check the international luggage size restrictions on your airline. You may also want to bring a smaller backpack that you can carry on excursions, since carrying all of your luggage around the cities won’t sound very appealing after a few days.
Image via vialesimu
We can usually remember to pack toothpaste and pajamas, but there are a few things often forgotten by new backpackers. Make sure to bring a light raincoat or poncho, since soaking wet clothing won’t be too fun to put on the next day. Also, if you plan to stay in hostels, make sure to bring a bike lock (so you can chain your backpack to your bed) and a twin-size sheet (to cover the mattress). Most expert travelers recommend a money belt, since pickpocketing happens to a lot of tourists who aren’t used to protecting themselves from this crime.
Image via Flickr user Andrew Newdigate
If you plan to document the sights, don’t forget your camera and some spare batteries, since outlets to charge might be few and far between. Smartphones are also a great asset, since they can add a measure of safety when you are in an unfamiliar place, but make sure you check with your cell phone carrier before the trip to make sure your phone is ready for international roaming. You may also want to bring an external charger along with your phone, since these can provide several full charges, which will come in handy when you can’t get to an outlet.
Image via Flickr user Michael (a.k.a. moik)
Since you will be spending a lot of your time on foot, your body will require more fuel than it does on days that you are sitting at your desk at work. You can pack healthy snacks, such as trail mix, nuts, and granola bars, or you can stock up once you arrive at your destination. Either way, make sure you have plenty of munchies in your daypack, so that you will be able to refuel at all times during the vacation. You might also want to pack a water bottle with a built-in filter so you can stay hydrated.
Means to Document the Journey
Image via Flickr user Air Force 7 Summits Challenge
You might think you will never forget your experiences, but as time goes on, you will inevitably forget details, and memories will become foggy. Pack a lightweight journal and pen so that you can record what you see, smell, taste, and experience every day of the journey. This will be fun to look back on and reminisce, and reliving your trip will also be a unique way to be remembered by your posterity.
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Don’t forget to bring a basic first-aid kit, so that you can clean and bandage any scrapes or cuts. This can help prevent infection and other bigger health problems, which can make you cut your trip short or have to visit a hospital in an unfamiliar place.
Backpacking is a great way to see the beautiful European sights, and as long as you bring the necessities, you can enjoy the trip without the frustration of forgetting something.
Joe Fortunato is a freelance writer from Tampa, Florida. He enjoys learning about new subjects, following his Baltimore Orioles, and traveling the country for fishing. You can find Joe on Twitter at @joey_fort.