Summer travels: A guide to backpacking


During the summer I decided to spend a month backpacking around Europe.

My boyfriend, Liam, and I had originally planned to go to a spa hotel for 5 nights in Greece but due to a big health problem Liam couldn’t fly. This opened our eyes up to what we could do instead when he got better.

We managed to spend a total of £1250 each for a whole month! This included accommodation, trains, travel in cities, food, Disneyland and spending money. Here I am going to tell you how to do it and how easy it would be for you to do the same.


Planning
Firstly, where do you want to go?

We decided to just see as much as possible and did a round trip through Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and France.

Make a plan of what stops you would like to go to and how long you will spend at each one. This will give you an idea of what trains or other form of travel you need to get.
Hint: If you can do it, fly out somewhere first and just work your way back! You get to see so much more and not travel as far between stops.

Next, travel!

This was actually the most expensive part of our trip. We decided to opt for Interrail as some friends of ours was doing the same thing and they said it was cheaper to do it in the long run.

I did a lot of research into this where someone actually tested it and wrote a blog, it is cheaper! We paid £235 each for a global 10 day pass, meaning we could travel any day within a month but only 10 times (other times are available). HOWEVER, the thing it doesn’t make too clear on the website is that you do have to buy ticket reservations and there is an odd fee.

For example to get from Venice to Milan we paid €10 each, some where more expensive than others and that did change the days we travelled and where we went as it was crazy how much it was. Not all of them were compulsory but I would recommend booking all trains as they get so busy and when you are carrying a heavy bag it is nice to sit down and look at the scenery (or read a good book).

Accommodation

We sometimes only spent £20 a night for both of us for a room

Before you start looking into places to stay make sure all your reservations are booked (Just as some days are more expensive to travel than others so you can slightly change your plans).

We looked into staying in Hostels but found them to still be really expensive and knew it would eat into a huge amount of our budget. We ended up staying in mostly AirBnB’s. These were such a good price and some of the people we stayed with were awesome!

One would keep giving us wine, another kept buying us food and they would tell us all the best places to go. We sometimes only spent £20 a night for both of us for a room. We did end up staying in two hostels and while we met some nice people we both agreed it was the worst night sleep ever (some people can really snore!!!).

When you are in AirBnB’s they let you do your own washing and cooking which really saves on the pennies!
If this is still too much for your budget there is something called couch surfing you can also do!

Money…. 

Before we left I did a lot of research into the best way to take euros. We didn’t want it all in cash in case we lost it.

After speaking to my bank they offered me a credit card that would be paid by direct debit each month that allowed me to withdraw money abroad and use it as a bank card for no interest!

We took a little cash with us but this made a huge difference and meant we could see everything we spent and just paid half of it each.

Day 5: Another day in Germany eating more food 🐷 also seeing some beautiful buildings and doing some lovely reading 📚⛪

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Packing

Now the planning is done you have to decide what to pack! I was really strict with both of us how much stuff we should take (knowing that when we got to Milan or even Disneyland I was going to be shopping).

We both bought backpacks for £50 each that were a great size, with myself being 5ft 1 it was important I could carry it. I also ordered us packing cubes and foldable water bottles. From there we just packed clothes we could mix and match:

Underwear x5
Socks x5
T-shirts/vests x3
Shorts x2
Trousers x1
Best outfit x1
Shoes x2 (trainers and sandals)
Flipflops x1

We didn’t take raincoats as we went in July/August and with little space just agreed we would have to get wet.

Other things we packed included phones/chargers, earphones and my kindle as Liam couldn’t stand the thought of seeing a spoiler of Game of Thrones, Torch, toothbrushes and other essentials, PASSPORTS, travel documents all printed in case we lost the phones, Lock for when we did stay in hostels, extension lead for when there was only one plug, portable chargers, suncream and sunglasses.

Things we wish we took:
A stronger sun cream because, as we discovered, sun stroke is not fun!
Tea bags, Liam can’t seem to function without a cuppa.
Washing tablets in a box that wouldn’t leak- we mostly just forgot this but then when we did get them one popped……

Day 15: we wondered around for 6 hours just exploring! So much to still see so time to get on the bikes tomorrow! 🚲🙄

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Where we went:

Brussels, Belgium– Found a chocolate factory, wandered around exploring but also relaxed! It was day 1 and we felt the need to relax a little after rushing round to get there.
Frankfurt, Germany- Went to museums, walked a lot down the river, climbed a really tall building where we could see across everywhere and found live music acts in the street. We also sat down to eat by the river when a huge steam train pulled up next to where we was eating.
Basel, Switzerland– Found a Volleyball championships outside, Celebrated their 4th of July with live music, food stalls and fireworks in the street, went to the Zoo and did a lot of reading.
Venice, Italy– Fell in love! Ate some amazing food, went in a Gondola, bumped into a friend from home and got drunk, got lost again and again and Liam bought me roses.
Milan, Italy– Made friends in the hostel and played card games, went shopping and exploring around the city finding some beautiful buildings.
Nice, France- Spent the first day on the beach before hiring kayaks and kayaking out to sea. Then got very burnt and had to take a day to recover from very bad sun stroke that made us both sick.
Barcelona, Spain– Another amazing place! We spent the first day walking everywhere, on the second day we hired out bikes and cycled 90% of Barcelona. We also got holiday tattoos and spent our evening eating dinner on the balcony of the airBnB we stayed in.
Montpellier, France– First day we went to the beach again, by now fully recovered, reading and eating melon. Then we explored the town acting silly, eating ice cream, finding quirky shops and more beautiful buildings.
Paris, France– Spent the first and last day in Disneyland as a present from Liam for looking after him while he was sick and organising this holiday. He regretted it when I made him go on his first rollercoaster. The middle day we spent walking miles to the Moulin Rouge and then all the steps or the Eiffel Tower. I needed a 3 hour nap to recover. Our last day in Disney was also the only day it rained.


What we learnt: 

Try not to plan too before you even leave! It’s great to have a look and see if any events are on but mostly we just turned up to them. In Switzerland we just got off the tram (which is free there) and stumbled into the Volleyball champions, we got to lay in the sun and watch it all day. It also happened to be their version of the 4th July and there was a huge firework display.

Don’t worry about being lost, its actually part of the fun! In Venice we was so lost and we loved it, we found some beautiful places that we couldn’t find again the next day no matter what and it was beautiful.

Pictures aren’t everything. I found we really didn’t take as many pictures as I think we wished we had and when we did they was silly. But we was so busy enjoying the moment and being busy we have the most amazing memories.

Eat as much as you can, ask questions, explore and make the most of it. We have already started planning our next go around the Netherlands under the Northern Lights.

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