My boyfriend (also SE ’15 grad) and I are exploring Europe for approx. 5 weeks - Rome, Florence, Venice, Salzburg, Munich, Interlaken, Lucerne, Paris, and London. I will be compiling a series of blog posts for each city about our experiences, observations, as well as tips if y’all are interested in checking out these cities in the near future.
Our itinerary is considered a fairly laid back trip, as most people blaze through the same amount of cities in less time. We chose to stay in all Airbnb listings as we thought through a rough itinerary and wanted to book our train tickets in advanced as well. Airbnb tends to be half the price of a mid range hotel for every city — and plus it’s nice to stay in a legitimate local neighborhood to avoid touristy areas.
Airbnb has been pretty good to us in the past, and hosts have to be verified and reviewed by brutal criticizers - so we are pretty trusting when it comes to places with 4.5+ stars and at least 10 reviews. Filters that were useful: tick off washer. Especially if you’re travelling for as long as us. Having Essentials is nice, too. You can always buy stuff when you’re there, but it’s not always convenient to search for a supermarket/pharmacy.
We also got a data SIM card from Keepgo which provides 1GB for 30 days upon activation. [The 30 days part is not very explicitly stated on their website. Luckily we are travelling as pairs, so one of us activated a couple days later so that we are still able to have data after the first 30 days. ^^] A data sim is not really necessary if you have ambitiously planned out your route, or you are going with a tour group, but it can be annoying having to open up a paper map and getting lost isn’t really desired in most cases. Just make sure you use it sparingly, especially if you have the luxury of 6GB+ (basically unlimited) on your monthly data plan. Turn off Cellular for apps like Snapchat and Facebook since they eat up a lot of data for loading feeds (especially those videos). Predownload things offline (ex. online tickets, itineraries, etc) if possible. I only used my data for Google Maps, checking in on Swarm, and the daily Instagram posts. Also make sure your phone is unlocked or none of this will work.
The other important preparation is packing light. This is so tough for young females who want to bring an outfit for every type of weather, and all the toiletries that you use in every possible situation, especially for these longer trips. The thing to consider is your mode of transit. Will you just end up taxiing to/from the train station for each departure & arrival, or will you attempt to take public transit and do some walking? If you are doing the backpacker thing (staying at hostels), you will probably need to get one of those giant travel backpacks.
I brought a rolly luggage anyway (a small one), and I spent a ton of time choosing between which things to bring. I did my best to choose the thin, light fabrics, and layers to allow for easy carrying. I also got travel-sized containers for my shampoo, cleanser, etc. since I prefer to use my own. I cut it down by a lot - I even brought my mini straightener rather than my normal sized straightener - which ended up being a great choice. If you’re staying at hotels, make sure to take advantage of their amenities. All hotels should provide hair dryers, towels, soaps, shampoos, many also have laundry. A couple of wall plug converters should also be brought around for Europe. It was also nice to consult with the other people in your group so you don’t bring extras of one thing. For example: laptop charger. We both have Macbooks. We decided we will only bring 1 Macbook charger, 1 waterbottle, and only 1 of us needs to carry around the DSLR.
This talk at the Rick Steves Festival was pretty informative if you want to pack well:
$$: We brought 500 euros each as we didn’t want the stress of carrying around thousands of euros. So far we haven’t splurged too much, and we are planning to just withdraw more cash via banks when as we run out.
We are travelling as a group of two and doing meetups with some friends along the way. It can be hard to plan for a group larger than 4 - especially getting accommodations if not via hotel, as well as seating for restaurants. Consider these sorts of things when you want to plan a similarly long duration trip.