Do you feel that? That smells like spring to me. And you know what that means – it won’t be long until summer is here, offering a myriad of possibilities for all kinds of adventures. There’s no better time than February to start making plans for an epic trip around Europe – on a budget, of course.
- Start with a plan
If you don’t happen to have the whole summer or neverending finances, you’ll need a good plan to make the most of the trip. So roll out a map and mark your route. Having a realistic understanding of how many places you can fit into your holidays is essential to stay within budget and make it back to work on time.
- Set a budget
Knowing what you are able to spend helps you plan your trip from start to finish and have realistic expectations of the places you are able to visit. The key is to always account for a little more than you think you will actually need. You’ll want to stay on top of things even in unexpected circumstances, especially when you’re abroad. But don’t worry, it’s only February. Plenty of time to start saving for that great adventure.
- Do your research
If you have selected your destinations, take some time to acquaint yourself with the most essential things – what is there to see, how does the transportation work, where to stay, which neighbourhoods to steer clear of etc. Not only is it good for your safety but it will save you valuable time once you’re there and will make for a smoother trip.
- Make a travel plan
After getting to know your destinations, you’re good to start planning how you will be moving between them. Will you fly, go by train or bus or even on foot? Knowing your time constraints and your budget, you can look at the schedules and draw up a pretty realistic travel plan. A smart thing to do is print out the train and bus schedules with prices and keep them in your backpack for when your plans go up in smoke.
- Book the tickets
If your trip includes flights, it’s good to book them fairly early. Many airlines also have sales around this time of year for their summer season. Although it’s usually cheaper to buy a round ticket, it might actually be better to fly in to one city and out of another, traveling by train or other means along the way. That way you don’t have to stay in one area but can plan your trip through many different cities, or even countries. Book your rail tickets ahead to have a better overview of your budget and save time. You can even have regional passes that cover multiple countries.
- Pack light
Do your best to fit all your necessities into your carry-on baggage as checked in bags can add a tremendous amount to your expenses. Check your airline’s guidelines for the weight and size restrictions of the baggage. Even if you don’t have to fly, it’s always good to travel without excessive weight on your back. You’ll thank yourself later for leaving the extra pair of jeans and those three books at home.
- Avoid costly accommodation
No matter where you are, you need to sleep, but accommodation is usually the most expensive part of the trip. Staying at luxury hotels sounds tempting, but the main reason for backpacking is to get as much out of the local culture as possible, and spend less time at hotels. That’s why you should look into home accommodation, booking a place via Airbnb or Couchsurfing. That way you’ll not only save money, but you will also get to know the locals. They might even be willing to show you around and introduce you to places you would never find on your own.
- Bring your own snacks
Bringing some energy bars or granola bars with you during the day can help fight off hunger cravings in between meals. Snacks during the day can easily add up to just as much money as a meal. With light snacks in reach you save money for that great restaurant you read about.
- Avoid traveling in big groups
Although it sounds fun, traveling with a large group of friends can actually become a burden in many ways. Not only is it harder to find cheap accommodation for more than two people at the same place, you might not share the same interests when it comes to deciding on what each person wants to do and experience during the trip. If you’re looking for company and want to split food costs, it’s usually best to invite one person with similar interests to come along.
- Have a plan B
Things will almost never work out exactly as you planned. That’s why it’s always good to plan for extra expenses and changes in your route so you can take it as part of the adventure. If you’ve done your homework and have some extra funds for whatever may happen, you will have the greatest trip of your life.