The most important part of your trip is planning you do before you leave. Improper planning can turn a European dream-trip into a nightmare. Plus, a well planned trip is probably going to end up a lot cheaper than one you plan when you step off the plane in London.
Pre-trip is also the best time to figure out and deal with all the logistical nuisances of international travel– it’s a lot easier to get a passport, visa or plane ticket to Europe 6 months before you leave than it is if you’re leaving in a week.
Good planning doesn’t necessarily mean planning a minute-by-minute itinerary for every place you’re going to go. In fact, one of the benefits of backpacking is the flexibility it awards you. Since you’re not on some predetermined trip, you can change things as you go, join up with some other backpackers you met your hostel for a few days, or spend an extra day exploring the beautiful village that your guide book didn’t know anything about.
I would advise beginning to think about your trip 6+ months ahead of when you’d like to go. That’ll give you enough time to put together a good plan and also score some early-bird discounts on transportation and accommodations. Hostels and airfare, tend to be cheaper the earlier you book.
To help you out here’s some checklists detailing all the pre-trip tasks that you’ll have to do.
3-6+ months before your trip
This is the time when you’ll want to start doing the research for your trip. The key objective of this period is going to be getting enough information to be able to commit to actually going on the trip. You don’t want to start buying plane tickets and rail passes just to find out later you’re missing a passport, or can’t afford the trip.
Your second objective should then be starting to plan some of the logistics.
- Figure out your budget
- Plan an itinerary or travel route
- Get a passport and any visas you need
- Start looking for plane tickets
1-3 months to go
Once you’re committed to your trip, it’s time to start making some of the major purchases, such as airfare and railpasses. This is the point that your trip is going to start feeling real.
This is also the time that you’ll want to start getting a feel for the trains, hostels and attractions in each of cities on your itinerary. You obviously don’t have to go crazy, but it’s helpful to start knowing the major inter-city rail lines or what the hostel situation in a city looks lie.
- Book airfare (if not booked already)
- If you’re getting a Railpass or Bus-pass, order it now.
- Purchase a backpack
- Get a guide book
- Start getting acquainted with the transportation and lodging options along your itinerary
1 week to go
At this point, you’re almost there. You should have enough of your trip planned out to survive for the first few days . Have a hostel for your first city booked, make sure you know how to access your money when you land, look up how to get from the airport to your hostel, etc.
- Pack, pack, pack!
- Get excited!
1 day to go
This is it. You’re ready. Enjoy your trip!
- Relax, stay safe and have fun!