With summer coming to an end everyone is making an arduous, often disorganised return from their holidays. Whether you’re jealous of your adventurous friends, or you’ve always wanted to go travelling, now is the time to start thinking about how to map your journey out and avoid many of the pitfalls that can make travelling so daunting.
1. Plan your route carefully
It may be tempting to aim for the mother of all trips (bouncing from the wintry forests of Norway to the lemon groves of sunny Spain, for instance) but the limits of practicality, time and cost mean that for most this is simply not feasible. Decide where you most want to go and keep it within reason. Do you want to take in several countries or focus on one? InterRail offers Global Passes which give the ticket-holder access to participating rail lines across Europe as well as One-Country Passes which do exactly what they say on the tin. Be careful though – sometimes it can be cheaper to buy individual tickets than a pass so look into it before settling on a combination pass.
2. Book your hostels
Once you know where you’re going you need to make sure you’ll have a roof over your head. There is a lot of variety amongst hostels so do your research thoroughly. Dorms are cheaper if you’re willing to share with other travellers but private rooms offer that extra level of security and, well, privacy. Some hostels have kitchens available to guests and although some provide breakfast, most have no catering facilities at all. Websites like HostelWorld list selling points and reviews which budding travelers would do well to check out. Take it all with a pinch of salt though – glossy words like “kitchenette” can be synonymous with “microwave”.
3. Decide an itinerary
This really ought to be done simultaneously with the previous point – the more there is to do in a city, the longer you will want to stay there. Try not to be too strict with your planning, flexibility is important, as many attractions are weather-dependent and you don’t want to be shackled to a schedule you made months before departure. On the other hand if there are places you know you want to gothat require tickets for admittance see if you can buy them in advance to make a saving. Check the websites of the attractions for deals – for example in France some cultural attractions are free for EU citizens under the age of 26 and in Austria, such landmarks are often free for under 19’s. Just make sure you have photo ID with you; an international student card will quickly pay itself off with the savings you can make on reduced tickets.
4. Pack wisely
The most popular choice for travelers is a trusty backpack – so long as they comply with size and weight regulations for any transport services you intend to use they are probably the easiest option. Investing in travel supplies like a microfibre towel, an extension cable and a basic First Aid kit will mean you are well-equipped. Roll, don’t fold, your clothes before putting them in your bag. If you are taking a lot, vacuum bags might be an idea to conserve space. Don’t forget that you can always wash clothes and you might need to get used to wearing outfits for several days. Experienced adventurers can all attest that after a couple of weeks hunting for clean socks can be like searching for the Holy Grail.
5. Get savvy
Scout out your mobile app store for anything that could save you time and money. The InterRail app allows you access to offline train timetables removing the need for mountains of printed sheets. It may still be an idea to take a copy of your schedule, but the extra reassurance relieves some of the pressure. There are also plenty of apps for language learning. This isn’t essential but locals will be a lot more inclined towards friendliness if you make the effort. Check online for average weather conditions in each place so you can feel super-prepared and make sure you have photocopies of your passport with you. If you’re travelling in a group save each other’s emergency contact details onto your mobile in case anything happens. In order to avoid having to pay an arm, a leg and your first born child every time you send a text, get yourself an international pay-as-you go SIM card. With O2, you can order the SIM card for free and top up later, a good way to check it works in your phone – many phones don’t even need to be unlocked to use this SIM.
Once you’ve covered the basic planning you’re well on your way to having a fully-organised trip. Dust off your walking boots, get your bags out the attic and prepare for an amazing holiday!
Header image rights; Rowan Dick