I have promised this post since my return home and I am excited to say it is finally here. Once I got home, I was overwhelmed – in the best way possible of course – with emails, tweets and messages across every social media platform from friends and strangers alike asking for any and all advice for their own impending Europe trips. There have been many a question like, “where should I go”, “how much money will I need”, “which were the best places in Europe you found” and I kept thinking I should just compile it all in one ‘go to’ post where you will hopefully find everything you need to plan your own trip of a lifetime.
6. To Eurail or not to Eurail
The next best way to choose your places to go is by working out what you want to feel and experience.
Oh god. If I had 3 of me before I left I still don’t think I would have found the time to have done everything I needed too with relaxed ease. Multi-tasking and midnight thought bubbles – like; ‘have I written that to do list at work for Richo, shittt I can’t remember if I ended up buying those vac sealed bags, god I hope Morgs remembers to pick up our overseas licenses’ – will become more regular the closer your departure date arrives. Having been there and done that I know having a list of things to cross off is ever so helpful so here is your go to (and by all means add or subtract off of this) as you countdown to your own adventure of a lifetime..
A little overwhelmed yet? You shouldn’t be – it should just be list making time and excitement, oh and of course you need to know the following…
The short answer is….there is no short answer.
This section is only relevant if you are an Australian citizen reading this post – if you’re planning it from another country the information isn’t hard to find out though. The BEST advice we got and followed was from the ‘smart traveler website so the long and the short of it can be surmised like this.
+ If you are going to be in Europe Schengen Area for 90 days or less (that’s 3 months people), then you will NOT need a visa. Even ONE day over 90 days however, you will need to contact the Embassy for whichever country you’re in at that time.
+ If you are there for 4 months for example, but 1 month is spent in the UK and a week in Croatia (Croatia is not part of the Schengen area) then you still won’t need a visa as you are in the Europe zone less than 3 months.
Here is an excerpt directly from their website however with fancy wording and correct advice that will be relevant for your own trip. (This section is sooooooooooo important to not get wrong)
“Generally, Australian tourists planning to spend less than a total of 90 days within a 180 day period in the ‘Schengen area’ do not require visas for countries which are parties to the Schengen Convention.
Kapeesh? It’s really not that hard, if your trip is 3 months and under and you’re going to be in Europe then you won’t need a visa. Any longer you will need a visa, or you need to split your time up in the non Schengen states (all listed in the last paragraph above). The serious stuff is almost out of the way but there are still a few more things to consider, especially…
6. To Eurail, or not to Eurail
Even the word Eurail still sends me in to a bit of a travel related spin, as both Morgs & I had spent copious amounts of hours (I seriously mean hoursss) on researching if it was worth getting a eurail pass or not for our own. We both came to the same conclusion that for us, it just wasn’t worth it but for you it could be completely worth it. It can just vary so widely for each individual.
I could sit here and rattle off all the facts about Eurail from a boring ‘what eurail is, how it works’ point of view so you could make your own mind up from a more educated position, but I’m not going to do that as I never found that worked for me. What I wanted to know the whole time Morgs & I were umm’ing and uhh’ing about getting one or not, was who had actually traveled and either decided to use one or not. They were the opinions I ended up going by, and by doing so, here are our own personal facts we found incredibly helpful and have since come up with our own to help you also.
+ Once you pay for the eurail and once you’re over there, it’s not as simple as then just hopping on any train you like (which is how they sell it to you essentially) and it all falling under your one time amount paid to acquire the card. Any & Every train you want to get on to travel on long distance trips within a certain country or across borders, you actually have to reserve your seat and pay €10 fee per trip. If you happen to miss that reservation (and believe you me it can happen, regularly) the original fee paid and booking made doesn’t stand and you have to make a whole new booking and pay the €10 fee all over again. So Eurail costs don’t end at the ‘one time’ fee of $xxx (it can vary) for the card, every train you get on you also have to pay another €10 and pre book. For Morgs & I, we preferred just arriving to the train station and booking that morning and that be the end of it. Another way to do it (it works out cheaper) is when you arrive in the train station from another country or city, we would then book our next train ticket then and there for wherever we were going next. If anything ever stuffed up too (like we wanted to swap the destination or time) the offices at the train station always helped as we had brought the ticket from them, in their country, we met a lot of people in lines who would get offered no assistance as eurail had nothing to do with that particular countries train company.
+ We never regretted NOT getting one. We had budgeted before we left on average what the trains would cost between each city for the countries we would be needing to use the trains in and so for us it never would have been worth it.
+ Whenever we got in to conversations with other travelers at hotels or hostels and got chatting about where we’d been, where we were going and swapping advice, Eurail almost always came up and 85% of other travelers had done their own research and also decided against it too.
I have two important things to say also though that need to be seperate from the above.
+ If we could have done it differently, we would have organised a Eurail for Italy (but only Italy), and I am suggesting you look in to this yourself too. We did spend over 3 weeks in Italy and covered a lot of ground but apart from that, trains in Italy are expensive, quite expensive, especially compared to places like Germany, France & Spain (note: We easily found France to be the least expensive). Having a Eurail for Italy alone would have ended up saving us quite a bit of money, so learn that lesson from us.
I still hugely encourage you to do your own research on Eurail. This was just our experience but I find sharing experiences vs re hashing known facts helps more in forming your own decision. Now you have this information though, do go and look at the facts (cost for a eurail pass for one country vs 2 or 3 countries and the cost for 10 days vs 3 months etc) and make your fully informed decision then.
Right! Now we have the serious stuff out of the way, (I can almost hear the collective hooraaaay) your next thing to give serious consideration too is…
I s.t.r.e.s.s.e.d over the fact I only had a backpack with me for 4 and a half months that could comfortably carry 15kg of my clothes and things in. How the HELL was I going to fit everything in and almost more importantly how was I going to still feel good and have some variety in my clothing options to mix up my outfits? Somehow, I managed. And not only did I manage, I felt like I had a masters in packing by the time we had returned home. Packing can already be tricky enough already for short work trips away or two weeks to closer holiday destinations, so their really is so much more added pressure and stress to ‘get it right’ for a huge trip like Europe.
Having obtained my masters in packing from my own 4 and a half months away, I have learnt there are some simple things you can remember that will help you when you are about to pack your life in to a suitcase or backpack which are as follows…
+ Don’t go overboard, pack as light as you can. I adhered to this rule to a T when picking clothes that would go in the stay pile vs. back in the wardrobe pile. The lighter you pack the better…you WILL buy things over there.
+ Pack basics and nothing too patterned or ‘stand out’. Taking your fav tshirt/dress/whatever that has a really identifiable pattern on it doesn’t do you any favours in the ‘mixing it up’ to give yourself different outfit options. I stuck with majority basics – Blacks/Whites/Plain colours .. and then mixed them many different ways to the point where I could almost not outfit repeat for just over 3 weeks (which made it great for photos!)
+ Take some accessories that will go with almost anything you packed clothes wise. My plan was to pack basics, and bring enough bold necklaces, earrings and scarfs to rock the outfit a little more sassy. It felt nice to still be able to feel comfortable but dressed like I’d be dressed if I were at home with my whole wardrobe at my dispense.
+ Plan outfits before you pack it in the suitcase/backpack so for the first few days you know exactly what to grab and not spend time pulling everything out to work out what you’re going to wear.
+ Trust me & listen to me when I say; Take sneakers & some gym type gear!!! Morgs & I didn’t plan on ‘working out’ on holiday (& didn’t once) but packing our gym gear and sneakers saved us weekly. You are going to want to do fun crazy things – like bike ride the Austrian alps, Canonyeong, Sky Diving, Trekking through old towns….having reliable shoes and gym type gear helps in a lot of situations.
+ Take lots of underwear. Lots. Seriously. I think my undies count topped out around 35 pairs….but I never ONCE ran out of undies. One thing you are always going to want when travelling is clean underwear and it’s better to be over the top than save packing space on this item.
+ Did I mention Pack light? PACK LIGHT.
+ Pack 2 pairs -minimum- of black leggings (trendy if you can, but comfort is the name of the game here). I KNOW ordinarily wearing leggings as pants is a fashion crime ordinarily, but they will save your comfortable life in Europe. Plus they are great for wearing on commute days on trains and planes, around hotels and hostels to relax in and when you really just don’t feel like wearing jeans on a day you’re going to walk 24km (yeah we did that)
+ So so so so important …. Take a first aid kit!! Buy a small travel one from any Chemist, you should not leave the country without one. Our first aid kit doubled as our first aid / life saver kit. We ran out of panadols one day and luckily found some in there, got stuck with a clothing problem and desperatley needed a safety pin which was in there and used it for numerous other occasions all of the time. Do not forget this item in your bag. It should be a priority.
I asked Morgs to contribute to this section for the guys and this is what he emailed me back. Short, to the point and what got him through 4 and a half months of travelling (whilst buying other stuff along the way).
I hope by now you’re feeling a lot more calm about what is ahead of you on such a huge trip…You can at this stage, if you’ve been doing everything correctly as you go along, pretty much relax, take some of those deep woosaaa breathes and know that you have your shit under control. Well done! The next step is just going to help you if you’re about to do said trip with your other half and help you it will…
8. Travel tips if you’re travelling with a bf or gf
Ahhhh love. Sweet, sweet love. Love whilst you’re travelling with a boyfriend or girlfriend though can be such a fickle, crazy almost all consuming thing though (i.e. completley different to the normal love when you’re just in your routine at home). One moment you can be staring deep in to each others eyes reminiscing of your most amazing times whilst walking the Cinque Terre and the next moment you’re both yelling you can’t believe you ever thought you could do this trip together and you want the other person to go home (note; this didn’t happen to Morgs & I but we did see this happen on the Cinque Terre) … This advice was written and shared right here on the blog after travelling together for a few months but I felt it good to include it in this particular post again. Can I just say though, without a shadow of a doubt, you will undoubtedly get in fights with your loved one when you’re over there, and that’s totally ok, totally normal and probably sometimes, totally necessary. It’s how to react in the arguments and how you deal with each other afterwards that is incredibly important though. This is the same with life in general but you must always, always remember to keep a cool head, don’t say anything you can’t take back and that you really do in fact love them, they’re just the only person there you can take your frustrations out on at that moment in time….Coming from two people who love each other very much (that’s Morgs & I guys!) and who want you to have the trip of a lifetime together, here are a few key other pieces of advice we put together to remember when travelling with your special someone.
- If one of the two of you is starting to get agitated, annoyed, flustered, or stressed, be sure to remain the calm, upbeat, happy one. It works. Trust us. It works. This has saved us twice on the trip so far – once in Cardiff & once in Belfast where both of us have assumed the role of staying calm or happy if the other one gets stressed. It diffuses any situation almost immediately.
- If you are starting to get grumpy, be honest & call a time out. We worked out almost straight away while travelling that communication is key (when isn’t it I suppose). If either of us are needing an Anna or Morgan break we just say and go sit in the sun by ourselves, read a book – whatever! 10 minutes later it’s like you haven’t seen them in a week!
- When in a foreign country, where you don’t know the laws, the rules, or what the people are like, always remain with your partner, & don’t be a dickhead. We went out in Dublin for a big pub crawl and I knew, even though neither of us are jealous types (at all), if either of us gave too much attention to other gendered travelers or if I let a random guy talk to me at the bar, fights would erupt It sounds stupid, but just be respectful & don’t do anything that could piss the other one off – the same should apply in Australia, but especially when travelling.
- With everything that you carry, own, have brought over, adopt the concept that you’re both equally responsible for everything all the time. Taking a bag out for the day and the man is carrying it? Or maybe your more responsible so hold on to things like passports or itinerary’s and phones. It doesn’t matter who is holding it your both responsible to ensure it is on you & remembered at all times. This tip alone has probably saved us 10 fights. We evolved, adapted, came up with this almost day 1 when I lost tickets to the London Eye – its ok I ended up sweet talking us on – and Morgs almost lost our backpack with all the electronics in it. Neither of us got mad at the other as either of us could have checked & asked the other have we got anything, have we remembered, can we look after it for awhile. If you’re both responsible as well you are almost guaranteed to never forget anything.
- No matter what the problem that is going to cause the huge argument, no matter how tired and agitated you are, or how angry you are at the other person – stop and realise exactly where you actually are, that you’re living a dream, & be grateful for the opportunity. Life is already too short for anger & arguments over nothing … especially when you’re having an extraordinary time overseas. Any harsh words or misguided anger is going to be such a waste when you should just be grateful and excited for the opportunity to live a goal of travel & be experiencing awe inspiring moments with a loved one. So drop it, walk away, leave it, cool down – do whatever you gotsta do to let it go and move on.
That’s it beautiful souls. My complete guide to getting ready for your own big Europe trip of a lifetime. Well done on getting down this far, I know she was a long one but oh SO necessary. Can I just say this now also that I’ve been waiting to say the whole post; Like anything in this big beautiful crazy life of ours, you should only just take what you need from advice. You can either take it or leave it, and that’s totally ok, but just know that it is there for you if you need with a whole lotta’ love from me.
If you guys have any personal questions or burning un answered ones that didn’t get answered from this post then flick me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be more than happy to answer them in there!
My wish for you is that you’re own adventure is as big, great, shiny & wonderful as you hope and plan it to be.
Travel really does awaken the soul, spark a fire and fuel adventure and I can’t wait for my own next chapter in my ever growing travel story.
Good luck you, can’t WAIT to hear all about it.
With love, light & so much enthusiasm for your own travel,
p.s stand by for the post following this .. I’ll be sharing my holy grail of travel… our complete itinerary!