Planning your first trip to Europe

Hey there, I am digging deep into the archives for this one, all the way back to my first trip overseas. In 2015, at the ripe young age of 19, I took off overseas for my first Eurotrip. My geography was horrible, my awareness needed some major work and my overall sense of direction was shit. I was flying to Russia, then off to the Czech Republic.

Going to Europe??

Quite honestly, I had no idea where the Czech Republic was. I didn’t know how to read a map and I had never traveled alone before. The only things that I knew about hostels came from that horror movie someone made. But hey, I survived. Actually, I did more than just survive. I gained that awareness for the rest of the world and I fell in love with everything around me. Day 1 I was scared shitless but by day 7 I was never going home.

A lot of planning went into that trip, which just makes me laugh now because literally everything went wrong, nothing went towards plan and I changed plans 25 times. So how do you plan for a trip that is open ended, but yet for a complete beginner?

Step 1 – To Euro Rail or not to Euro Rail?

I chose not to Euro Rail and at the time I made that decision because the Euro Rail seemed bloody expensive. It really is a lot of money and I am so glad that I didn’t get one. The thing with Euro Rail is that you have to pick certain countries and I wanted to go to all the countries. So it adds up pretty quick when your list of countries starts to grow.

Step 2 – To Busabout or not to Busabout

Or contiki or top deck or whatever bus tours pop up that you might think would be fun. Okay so I didn not do a bus tour but honestly, I waish that I wuld have!! I say if you can afford it, TOTALLY DO THIS. Everyone I met that was on a busabout tour was having the time of their lives, and it is so convienent. For those of you who don’t know, a busabout tour is a bus tour that picks you up and drops you off in different cities and then returns a few days later to take you to the next city. So you end up hanging out or running into a lot of the same people.

Easy way to make friends, easy way to get from place to place and all around bus-a-fun. Contiki and topdeck tours add on a bit of activities and are more of a guided thing but are the same concept. You are just on tour, on a big bus with all the same people for a while.

Step 3 – To book ahead or not to book ahead

I started out booking EVERYTHING ahead of time. I didn’t leave a single thing up to chance. This means hostels and hotels (Hotels cause I was still a little scared that I was going to be killed in a hostel) and flights, trains and buses. I was ready to go with all my documents and plane tickets and maps that I couldn’t read.This is a great thing to do for beginners. Now I don’t bother with any of it, I just roll up, hope that I have the correct visas and that someone will have a couch I can crash on.

Traveling alone overseas (or even traveling with a friend) can be very daunting and having everything booked out is a huge relief. You know where you are going, when you are going and you don’t have to worry or stress.

Step 4 – Travel Apps

Go ahead and ask me how many useful travel apps I had on my phone when I started in Europe. 0. That’s right. I didn’t have a translator, maps, currency exchange, NOTHING. My phone was a useless piece of crap. Now I use a million travel apps that make my life so much better and I want to share them all with you.

Maps.me

These offline maps are a total lifesaver. If you don’t want to get phone data (or if you don’t want to use all your phone data) you can just hop on your phone and download the country that you are going too. Once they are downloaded, you are totally good to go. Maps for days.

App in the air

This app is fun and functional. It organizes your flights for you, reminds you of any flight details and lets you know if your flight is on time, delayed or canceled. It’s very helpful. Plus it tracks all this amazing stuff that you can look back and get excited about. It tracks hours in the air, miles traveled and airports visited, along with so much more.

Google Translate

You can download languages to use offline. I love this because you can speak into your phone and play back what you are trying to say in another language and on the flip side you can have them talk into your phone and it will play back to you what they are trying to say.

Currency

Pick a currency app that you like – I like one that shows you the coversion for a bunch of currecnies at the same time. That is just because I am a nerd though, that is obsessed with knowing weird things like that. Having a currency app is a game changer because you never have to worry about how much money that you are spending – because you can check it right away. I check the prices of things just for fun.

Step 5 – To over pack or not

Packing is such a hard one. You can read 1 million tutorials about how to pack and what to pack but when it really comes down to it, you are probably going to take things that you don’t need. You are probably going to take things that you are oly taking because you swear that it is going to come in handy. It won’t though…. I took and still take a lot of useless things when I travel, that I totally think are going to come in handy and then I realize pretty early on that I am just packing extra weight.

Portable Charger

Take a GOOD portable charger. Not all portable chargers are created equal. Make sure that you are taking a high quality one. I recommend Ultra Compact Portable Charger because it does an amazing job!

Backpack

Bring the right pack. Buy a backpack that is going to work for you body. I am a petite person so I bought a backpack that works really well for petite women. Osprey Packs Women’s Viva 65 Backpack. This is an amazing pack. Investing in a good backpack is so important because not only does it save your back, but also lasts such a long time!

Rain Jacket

Take an awesome rain jacket. I do not like to get soaked when it decides to rain and I don’t want to be stuck inside all day because I wasn’t prepared. So I carry around this Columbia Women’s Rain Jacket everywhere that I go.

Shoes

A comfortable pair of walking shoes. I seriously walk everywhere. Ask anyone who has ever traveled with me. I am that person that says something like “Oh it’s not that far, let’s just walk” and then 4 hours later we are only half way. Yah I am a monster – no wonder I am always traveling solo. A good pair of walking shoes is my best friend. I usually wear Nike Womens Running Sneaker because they are so comfy, I can go all day and they match everything!

A camera

A good camera or gopro! Don’t waste your time abroad not getting the best photos ever! I shoot on a pretty good camera (Sony DSC-RX10M II Cyber-shot Digital Still Camera) and it does an amazing job! And I have my GoPro HERO5 Black that I am totally obsessed with.

Now of course there is a million other things that can and will go into your suitcase, but for this post I just wanted to share a few of my favorites. To view more of the best travel items check out my post of packing for 4 months abroad!

Step 6 – Insurance or not?

YOOOOO. Get the travel insurance. Yes it costs a lot of money, and yes that money could totally go towards your traveling and that would be awesome. However, travel insurance is a total life saver. It covers all the “what-ifs”. I traveled for literally two years without travel insurance and I wasted way more money not having it, then it ever would have cost. So just get the travel insurance. World Nomads is amazing, they take good care of you and they are super affordable.

Step 7 – To go or not to go

Okay so here you are, you have planned this amazing Eurotrip. You have bought everything you need. Booked your flights, hostels, buses and trains, it’s the morning of d-day. I have met a ton of people that cancel their trip at the last minute! Guys why do you do this!? The world is such a scary place, I know. But guess what!! It is scary at home, and bad things can happen to you at home. Seeing the world and discovering yourself as you go is the ost rewarding experience ever. Travel is the best thing that you can spend your money on, and I am not just saying that because I have been traveling the world for two years and know a bit about what I am talking about.

TRAVEL IS ACTUALLY AMAZING AND LIFE CHANGING.

Don’t go and let life pass you by without doing anything or seeing anything because of fear. Take that Eurotrip.

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  • Agness of aTukTuk
    October 10, 2017 at 9:58 am

    Wow! This is probably one of the most detailed and exceptional travel posts which I’ve read. You made traveling in Europe so much manageable and possible, Jen! Which was your favorite travel destination?

  • Restless Heart Blog
    October 3, 2017 at 9:03 am

    Hahaha, I laughed while reading your post! The only advice I would give regarding the eurotrip is to not try to se everything at once, because most of it will get lost on the way … better to see fewer countries at once and make nice memories there, than to run through the europe as many ppl do 🙂

    • justynjen
      October 5, 2017 at 7:50 am

      Yah I agree! I think that it is so important that you don’t just run through as quickly as you can. I did it both ways but I prefer slower way better,

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