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Thursday, October 11, 2018

How I backpacked Through Europe for Dirt Cheap (as a teen!)

I am finally sitting down to write one of my most requested blog posts ever!! For anyone new around here, I spent a month this past summer backpacking Europe with my sister.  Ever since I got back, so many people have told me that they would love to backpack Europe but they have no idea where to start with the planning or how to even go as a teenager. Honestly, I am no expert, but growing up in a family that loves to travel (& do it on a budget), I've picked up a few tips and tricks along the way!

If you are backpacking through Europe, there is a pretty good chance you are staying at hostels along the way. I know the idea of sharing a room with 12 strangers can be a little intimidating, but if you are traveling on a budget, it’s the best way to go and can actually be a great experience!

Before you read anymore, if you are a teenager looking to backpack by yourself you should know to ALWAYS check with the hostel to make sure they do not have an age restriction before booking. Some hostels want you to be 18 or older to even stay there, some want you to be with some who is 18+, and some couldn’t care less how old you are.

Now for the tips....
Be prepared to pay for towels and make your own bed
  • There is a reason why hostels are so cheap, and that’s because most of them do not provide the basics. I would advise keeping some change on you to rent a towel (most are 2 euros).
  • When you check into a hostel, don’t be alarmed when they hand you the key and a set of sheets and send you on your way. Many hostels expect you to make your own bed, which can be kind of annoying when you are on the top bunk with a stranger below you, but you get what you pay for!

Make friends with your roommates!!

  • It can be intimidating walking into a room full of people who all seem like they know each other, but don’t be afraid to throw that hand out and introduce yourself!! You honestly never know who you are going to meet and you already have something in common with your roommates (roughing it in a hostel). People staying in hostels are usually extremely friendly and are often super interesting backgrounds, there were many times when I was staying in a room where no one was even from the same country!!
  • Another great thing about meeting people in hostels is that you can get great recommendations for the city you are staying in or other cities you are stopping at. We didn’t pay for a single train ticket in Barcelona because people we met along the way gave us their unused tickets. Another time in Switzerland, our roommate saved us over 100 euros on funicular tickets up into the alps with her Eurail discount!!

Free Food Shelf

  • Okay, I know this might sound a little sketch but 90% of the hostels you come across will have a free food shelf where people leave all their uneaten food (packaged of course) that they don’t want to lug with them to their next destination. Don’t even bother buying a box of pasta, because I promise you there is one already sitting on the free food shelf. This can come in handy when you are getting into a hostel late and don’t feel like running out to the grocery store.

Pack Light…. REALLY light

  • I know, I know…. “Pack light” is on every travel tips blog post ever written. But when you're carrying your life on your back, packing just the essentials is crucial. If you are traveling with someone, split the load; my sister and I shared shampoo, a flat iron, toothpaste, shoes, clothes, and pretty much anything we could!! When I left for the trip my backpack weighed 13 pounds, but with the shopping I did along the way, I left with bags and shoes literally clipped to the outside of it….and it was HEAVY. Make it a rule to not pack any clothing that you can’t wear in at least 3 ways and you’ll be good to go!

Bite the bullet and buy the food

  • Okay, I know this may sound like a no-brainer but you would be very surprised how many backpackers you will meet who have not had a meal in days (One girl I met had been living off a bag of granola for four days). While traveling, there was very few days that we walked under 20,000 steps, which meant we got hungry pretty frequently. I know food can be expensive some places (@Switzerland) but trust me it is worth spending the money because you will have so much more energy to take in your surroundings and make the most of your trip. To avoid the inevitable hanger, I always made sure to have some easy snacks with me at all times (apples, protein bars, etc) which came in handy on multiple occasions.

Pack your Rick Steves

  • Rick Steves travel books are hands down the best of the best when it comes to budget European travel. He has books on hundreds of European cities and always nails the best places to eat, shop, sight see, and the places not worth your time. Try one of his walking tours for my favorite way to see a city: on foot!

I truly believe that seeing the world has changed my entire perspective and I am so grateful for the opportunities I have been given to travel to amazing places. My parents have always placed great emphasis on the importance of experiencing other cultures and always encourage me to travel as much as I can. While I understand that not everyone has the means to travel for extended periods of time, or travel on their own; I encourage anyone who wants to travel to not let the idea of expenses get in the way. There are so many ways to travel on a budget and with the right planning, the opportunity is not out of reach!!


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