Eurotrip Planning: Do's and Don'ts
I'm leaving in less than a week for Europe, and I now realize how poorly I've planned out my itinerary.
On the flipside, it will be a lot more spontaneous ;)
However, I feel like I wasted a lot of time and waited until the last minute to actually book or look into travel expenses.
Don't do this!
Here are some do's and don'ts of long-term Eurotrip planning that I've learned from my missteps.
Book your flights early & search in Incognito mode: Google remembers when you search for flights in regular browser mode and will automatically increase the prices the more you search. (Sneaky.)
Google other travel blogs to find out how to plan a trip in [enter destination(s)] of choice: For my Eurotrip specifically, the Backpacking Europe Step-by-Step Planning Guide from The Savvy Backpacker was extremely helpful.
If you're buying a Eurail pass, research! Figure out what type of pass you want first depending on how long you'll be traveling, what countries you'd like to tick off your list, and a loosely-planned out itinerary. A good point made in the posts I read was to factor in the amount of time you want to be spending on trains. There is also a list of average travel times between cities, which is posted here on the Eurail site. This post from Nomadic Matt also gives a pros-and-cons breakdown of the Eurail pass; I also found this post from Price of Travel to be extremely useful if you're at all wavering on Eurail.
Buy your Eurail pass online & before you leave: Yeah, I didn't do this.The Eurail site states that while you can buy certain passes in designated European stations, they will be more expensive to buy in person. They recommend ordering online and getting it delivered to your house, apartment, etc. If you've already left, they also deliver to hotels and hostels.
If you're not using Eurail, there are tons of budget airlines who'll happily take your money: Vueling, Ryanair, and Norwegian Air are the among the cheapest I've found so far. (However, I'm not sure how the service will be on those airlines, so I'll follow up with info on that!)
If you're on a budget, consider multiple types of accommodation: There's Couchsurfing, house-sitting, Airbnb, and of course, hostels. If you're traveling in Europe in the summer specifically, it's recommended that you book at least three weeks in advance because prices go up and options go down.
Count your discounts: Check to see if you can redeem Travel Rewards that you may have accumulated with a credit card. I didn't even realize that I've accumulated a lot of points from using my Bank of America credit card, so check to see if you can redeem any or all of your points and credit them towards travel expenses (flights, hotels, car rentals). If you have AAA, you can also get discounts on travel, some accommodation, and other expenses. Search by country in the AAA database here.
Figure out what to pack - If you're backpacking, most blogs recommend not to bring any more than a carry-on. Depending on the airline, it's usually around 10kg/22lbs.
Figure out a daily budget: Your main costs will be transportation, accommodation, entertainment, food, and maybe a miscellaneous category for unanticipated expenses. And if you're concerned about how much you'll potentially be spending...
Read tips on how to save money while traveling: I like this list of 75 tips from Budget Traveler.
Wait to do all of this planning the week before you leave: Guilty.
Plan your trip without a budget: Have backup funds in case of emergencies!
Book your flights at the last minute: It's recommended to book flights 1-2 months in advance if you want cheaper prices.
Book your trains at the last minute: (Unless you have an open-ended itinerary).
Forget to read the fine print for baggage allowance: A lot of the budget airlines will charge you extra for having a checked bag. The carry-on allowance is no more than 10kg (from what I've seen thus far).
Overpack - Surprisingly, I did not overpack. This is the only thing I may have done right for this trip, haha. Another post specifically on packing is coming later this week ;)
Facepalming all the way to Europe,