Planning an international trip may seem daunting but it isn’t if time is invested before leaving. Every summer backpackers from around the globe descend on the European continent and all of them were once just like you.

STOP!Before you do anything;buy a flexible three-ring binder.Put everything in there and in clear plastic page protectors.Bring it with you!


The currency of the European Union,which is most of Western Europe,is the Euro.I budget about €100 ($110) per day.That doesn’t include my room cost.That cost will vary from about €20-€80($22-$88) or more each depending on room type.Airfare will vary with point of origin, point of arrival,and time of year. Generally speaking $1000-$1500 is expected.You can certainly spend less per day,and likely will,but budgeting more than needed will allow you to enjoy your trip more and stress less.

Hypothetical breakdown:

round trip airfare from  Hartsfield Atlanta to Schipol(Amsterdam)            $1300 

10 nights in a hostel                                                                                    $350 

meals/local travel/tickets to sites                                                                $1100 

Total:                                                                                                          $2750

I pay for travel in cash by saving up in advance a little at a time,$50 here $50 there.With a little discipline you can save up several thousand dollars in a few months.Travel is a luxury so don’t max out your credit cards to pay for it.

Remember to inform your bank or credit card company that you will be out of the country.This will help avoid any issues using your card once you make it to Europe.I recommend taking two cards just in case.You can always transfer money if a card is stolen.If possible get at least one with an embedded chip.Most of Europe has gone to this design and while the magnetic strip will work some things like municipal bike rentals require a chip.


We all have responsibilities that dictate when we can travel. As a general rule ten days would the minimum amount of time I would recommend for a trip to Europe. Airfare and travel time dictates this for me as an American. Any less time allotted and you will spend too much of your vacation time traveling to and not experiencing  Europe. Don’t forget also that the less time you spend in country the higher percentage wise you spend since airfare is a relatively constant cost.

Plan several months in advance.I usually start planning five to sixth months in advance.This allows me to get the best deals on airfare and to spread out my planning time. Being spontaneous sounds romantic but as budget backpackers this reduces stress and maximizes our time and money. Even once I have finalized an itinerary and bookings I will continue to go back and refine my plans

Consider what you want to see and do when choosing your travel date. Queues will be longer in Summer months and there will be crowds of tourists groups.However, summer is the festival season for Europe.It all depends on what interests you most. A cursory investigation of your destinations before booking will help decide.

Buying airfare is easy online.Kayak, Cheapoair, and Skyscanner are travel websites I have used in the past but compare others and check direct with carriers for special deals.

travel folder
Organize your trip in a flexible three-ring binder.This will fit easily into a day bag.

As I mentioned airfare is the biggest single issue and the first cost incurred.You can save money by traveling in winter when airfare is lower.Another option if you are traveling to multiple cities is to book open jaw flights.This means you fly into one city,Amsterdam for example,then fly out of another,like Rome. This option costs more usually than flying in and out of the same city but can save travel time.Be sure to check to make sure travel between these cities is efficient.You can compare rail routes/times and if traveling between major hub cities commuter flights are increasingly viable alternative to trains.Remember your time is valuable!


Print out a map of Europe.I like to use one with as little printed as possible.This is just to help organize a visual of your plans.You will want to use online rail maps and times to plan actual travel routes.

travel guides
A good travel guide is like a $20 deposit on a $5,000 investment

You now know at least one city you will be traveling to for sure,possibly two depending on your flights. Research the city(or cities).This will help decide how to budget your time.Do the same with other destinations.The internet is a good start but I recommend a combination of a Western Europe guide-book and city guidebooks.Rick Steve’s pocket guides are great for this.They come with fold out maps and self guided walking tours.Plan to use your time wisely so that you will get the most out of your stay but allow free time to discover your destination. Most importantly plan with the intent that you will return!

Try and throw in a few rural destinations even if only for day trips.After a few days in an urban environment it will be appreciated and your trip will be well-rounded.

I recommend reserving a room or bed in advance.In the summer months especially hostels and hotels will fill up and you don’t want to waste precious time searching for a room in an unfamiliar is my go to source for researching and booking reservations. Before booking I recommend checking the hostel or hotel’s website.Often booking direct comes with a discount. 

Try to stay near transportation hubs but local to the sites you want to see.I try to stay near whatever rail station I am leaving from.If I am arriving at one and leaving from another, for example Gare Du Nord and Gare de la Est in Paris, I try to stay local to both.

Once you make a reservation figure out how to cheaply and efficiently get from the airport to where you are staying.In most cities trains or tram system will run at regular intervals and are the cheapest option.Your hostel or Hotel may even have a shuttle.Also ride sharing apps like Über are a cheap and safe alternative to taxis.Under no circumstances should you ever take an unlicensed cab!

If you are taking a tram or train to your room most likely you will arrive at a central station.You will need to know how to get from there to your room.Most of Europe has cheap municipal public transportation and easy to understand schedules.Print out a schedule of times or a map to your room.Google maps are your friend!

Hostels are increasingly becoming better alternatives to hotels.Grungy barracks style accommodations reminiscent of the slasher flick Hostel aren’t the norm. If traveling alone, staying in a hostel also affords you he opportunity to meet other like-minded travelers.

Top bunk at a hostel in Amsterdam.
Top bunk at a hostel in Amsterdam.



Europe is known for it’s efficient and affordable public transportation. Don’t be intimidated by it.Schedules are usually displayed prominently in English as well as the national language.In places where this is less common don’t be afraid to ask.

If you want flexibility go with a Eurail pass.These must be bought before leaving for your trip and cannot be bought in Europe.There are different packages and options depending on where you are going and how many days you will travel.I’ve found that if you know your itinerary in advanced that buying individual tickets in advanced are often a cheaper alternative.Budget airlines,like Easy Jet and Ryan Air can also save time and money but be aware that they do charge al la carte for anything aside from a carryon.Explore your options and choose the one which will save you the most time and money.

Consider back up transportation just in case. Rail strikes are frequent in Europe but are normally announced well in advanced and are short.Most strikes last no more than a day or two.Be flexible and know that there is always an alternative.Hiccups are just part of the adventure.If you are well planned and confident they will not be an issue

No trains scheduled! Rail,cab,and bus strikes are not uncommon and are announced in advanced. With thoughtful planning and a willingness to adapt this is easy to overcome.
No trains scheduled! Rail,cab,and bus strikes are not uncommon and are announced in advanced. With thoughtful planning and a willingness to adapt this is easy to overcome.



Contact your hotel(s) or hostel(s) directly via email and confirm your reservations a few weeks before departure.I recommend doing the same with your airline. 

Some airlines only allow you to check in online.If this is the case be sure to do this before arriving at the airport.If you are unsure contact the airline in advance.

Before leaving I like to program the weather and time zones for my destinations into my smartphone.You can turn off the data so that you will not incur international charges and free or complimentary wi-fi is widely available.International phone plans are available through your carrier for temporary periods and are not a bad idea but I have never used one.I like taking the opportunity to detox from social media.

Scan and print copies of your documents like your passport and drivers license.Do the same with your intenerary,room reservations and flight bookings. Give one copy to a trusted friend or family member and pack the other in your luggage.Do not put the copies in teh same luggage as your three ring binder that you will use day to day.It’s also a good idea to email these documents to yourself.

Downloading your bank’s online app is a good way to monitor your spending and keep an eye on potential unauthorized charges. This is a good idea in general not just for traveling.Smart phones and tablets are an indispensible tool for international travel that I will go into more depth later in another posting.

Check online for local news and events.You will hit the ground better prepared and may find out about something that only locals would.

A read a little bit about the art and architecture you will encounter.You will appreciate what you see more and leave with more than just a selfie.

Don’t wait to pack the night before.I recommend packing most if not all of your luggage a week or more in advanced.I also recommend only using carry-on.I personally only carry a top loading hiking pack and a small day bag.Both are considered carryon for international flights.I’ll go over this in greater detail in a later posting.Remember packing for 4-5 days is no different from packing for a month.

pack lite.
Three weeks can easily fit into carry-on luggage
Pack lite.You will be glad you did. Elevators are rare in European hotels.
Pack lite.You will be glad you did. Elevators are rare in European hotels.


I hope if you read this you will find it helpful and you can draw on my experiences traveling abroad.Comment with any suggestions.If you have nay questions I will do my best to answer them and plan to cover more topics like how to pack, electronics/technology,and cheap travel hacks.


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