Photo: Zagreb, Croatia.
So you’ve decided to hit the road! Now what? I’ve had a few first time travellers and friends ask me for my best travel tips! I thought I’d write a few of my biggest travel tips for those itching for adventure! Feel free to message me for any questions or advice 🙂
Flights– I always use Google Flights as my first stop when flight searching. It has an extremely user-friendly interface. You can easily move your search between dates and surrounding airports to find cheap rates. While its true that the flights aren’t always the cheapest, especially for international flights, I still think that when you’re in the planning stage, Google flights is the best. You gain a ballpark idea of the rates, and especially if your dates are flexible, can find the cheapest time to fly. Ideal fr one way, short, or last minute flights (it also lets you see a Map View of prices which is very handy).
After you’ve found the flight you want, try booking direct with the airline to get a better deal (though you’ll often find that it doesn’t differ greatly from the price that google flights quoted you).
Ryanair is awesome. They don’t fly everywhere, but are surely a European travel staple. Watch out for flash deals, and try booking direct through their website for great deals. Also a super user-friendly booking system, great for within-Europe travel and flexible dates!
Use eDreams and Skyscanner if you have non-flexible dates or for international flights.
Busses– I’ll fight anyone on this- Bussing is the best way to get around Europe! Cheap, fast, and going where you’re going.
Goeuro.com lets you compare prices. It often ends up sending you to
Flixbus though, with whom I’ve always had a good experience. Bathrooms, wifi, on time, speedy transfers.
BlaBlaCar– An incredible carpool app that offers very affordable, friendly and quick travel between cities. Travelling with locals has endless perks including new friends, and local recommendations, to name just a few.
Trains– If you’re bougie. Honestly I think interrail is overrated. PROs: I’ve heard the rides can be very beautiful. But if you’re doing things right you’ll be way too hungover to enjoy the scenery anyways. CONS: inter-rail passes are very expensive, and come with restrictions, like that you can only use the pass a certain amount of times, to visit a certain amount of countries/cities. They’re slow. They’re full of mostly tourists. Check it out though, their packages might work with the time frame you have in mind.
Ferries– ferries are fun! Not usually fast, but almost always a cheaper option than flying, and the views are unbeatable.
Directferries.com lets you compare!
Where to Stay
If you’re in a group of 3 or more, you can save by booking on airbnb, booking.com, or homeaway (the last two are gaining popularity in Europe). Even if you are 3 or less people, on long journeys it can be worth it to splurge to have some space to yourself and some peace and quiet.
HOWEVER, I ALWAYS encourage the hostel experience! So much so that I wrote a whole blog post about it! Check out my “Top 10 Reasons to Stay in a Hostel.”
Visit Hostelworld.com to see whats out there!
Tips: Make sure you have an eye mask, good earplugs, and a pad lock (for lockers or to lock up a bag if necessary) with you. Depending on availability and budget, I always try to choose rooms with as few people as possible. Spending a few more euros for an 8 bed dorm is worth it for me to avoid a 14 bed dorm. Less bodies, less noise, less in and out of the room at all hours. Better sleep means a happier traveller!
Couchsurfing.com. Have yet to try this myself but have heard amazing things! Build your global network of friends all over the world. You usually get very interesting hosts. Reviews are obviously VERY important in this network, so be a good guest!
Homestay.com. Save money, stay with locals, get a local experience. Always a good option/ last minute option!
What to do
I always recommend starting with a free walking tour. I do them in almost new every city I go to. They can be found with a quick google search or by asking your hostel. They allow you to see the highlights of a city, get some historical context, and get the feel for a place, at whatever price you can afford. You can ask all kinds of questions to the local guide, and figure out what you want to do with the rest of your time!
I always go with Sandeman’s if they are around, super high quality walking tours, knowledgable guides, always hitting the highlights! They also offer all kinds of other tours.
Don’t mess around with this one. I’ve heard horror stories of travellers getting into tens of thousands of dollars in debt because they had to be air lifted or have emergency surgery in a foreign place without insurance.
I recommend World Nomads. Affordable, helpful, and extensive coverage to help you out of any pickle you should find yourself in. They cover cancelled flights, stolen documents, stole items, etc. Also it just puts your mind at ease so you can enjoy your trip more.
Blue Cross has always been good to me in the past, too. Also worth it to see if your bank has deals.
… its the little things that make a trip! Of course you want to be present and enjoy the journey. But paying attention to the small details will ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip.
Price compare. Especially in the planning stages of your trip, it’s worth it to do a little shopping around. Particularly for big expenses like housing and transport. Travel can add up fast, so by taking a little extra care every step of the way, you’ll never have to be one of those people who make me facepalm by saying “I don’t have money to travel!” (Because its just untrue. Travel can happen on any budget, as long as you do it right.)
Keep your friends close, and your wallet closer. Losing your friends and your phone is one thing on a regular night out, and a whole other thing while travelling. Taking extra care of the people you’re with is crucial in a foreign land. Pickpocketers pray on inexperienced travellers, so take extra care of your belongings especially in crowded areas. Tip: take the business card of the hotel/ hostel you’re staying at when you go out, so no matter what happens you can always get back.
Take care when crossing streets. Please don’t be the person texting and walking. Cars drive on different sides, and often have different pedestrian courtesy rules, country to country.
BE FRIENDLY. Smile. You, wherever you are, represent the country you’re coming from. Chances are the locals wherever you’re going already have stereotyped ideas of tourists. Prove them wrong! Knowing or becoming friends with locals will ALWAYS enhance your travel experience, from local recommendations to experiencing something off the beaten tourist path. And you’ll have a couch to crash on if you ever return!
Don’t you dare litter. Its just bad form wherever you are in the world. Tourism can have detrimental effects on ecosystems and local environments, so take only pictures, leave only footsteps!