While planning out my summer, I was so excited at the possibility of going to Europe. I didn’t take up the opportunity to study abroad while in college, because I didn’t think it was a good fit for me and wanted to keep my organizational positions on campus, but looking back I wish I had done a summer study abroad. That is my most obvious regret of college, but at the same time I recognize that I still have plenty of time and opportunities to immerse myself in another culture.
In the spring, I started planning a month long adventure through Europe, wanting to go to about 12 different countries in 28 days. I failed to figure out who I would be going with, how I would afford it, and if my plan was even realistic. Just a few minor oversights, right? Eventually I got my head out of the clouds and realized I was planning it all wrong. So I went back to square one and started over. Here’s how I actually ended up planning my trip:
Step 1: Company
Surprisingly, this was the most difficult step because most of my friends were immediately starting work after graduation, going on family trips, or starting grad school. I also wanted to make sure that I was compatible with whoever I traveled with, because traveling often brings about stress, anxiety, and close quarters.
Step 2: Destinations
My decision on where to go was easy, as many of my good friends had studied abroad and had a plethora of recommendations. I had already been to many of the popular tourist destinations such as London and Rome, so I ventured off the beaten path and wanted to see Prague, Budapest, and Amsterdam as my three main cities, with flexibility on the others.
Step 3: Costs
This trip ended up being a graduation gift from my entire family, but that didn’t mean I had free flowing cash. I was given a clear budget and price shopped on many websites before I confirmed everything.
Here is how it all panned out and what I ended up doing for my trip!
None of my friends were able to go with me, so I chose to go alone. I gave a lot of thought to this before I made my final decision. While I knew it would be fun to have a friend by my side during this experience, I also knew that if I went alone it would push me outside of my comfort zone and be a very personal experience. Once I decided to go alone, I felt the butterfly sensation of anxiety and excitement, which to me felt like a sign that I had made the right decision. Not going at all wasn’t an option, because I knew that once I started working I wouldn’t have unlimited travel time.
The stipulation of going alone from my parents was that I had to do an organized trip. After talking to a handful of friends who had booked through Contiki, I decided to go with this option. If you don’t know what Contiki is, it’s an Australian company that offers travel tours for people 18-35 all over the world. Contiki had the best prices, availability, and my friends glowing reviews were the ultimate deciding factor.
Based on my budget, I could afford to go for about two weeks. My top city choice that was a must-see was Prague, because as I previously mentioned my best friend spent a semester there and wouldn’t stop talking about it. I ended up choosing a tour that went to Berlin, Prague, Vienna, and Budapest, as well as a few smaller cities in between. I was bummed that I wasn’t able to fit Amsterdam in, but it was out of the way and would be costly to add.
I booked my trip in May right before graduation, and planned out everything once I got home from school. Planning wise, I did a TON of research on the internet for each city I was going to be in. For me, I was really curious about the places to see, things to do, and healthy food to eat! I had city guides from a few friends for Prague and Budapest, but also relied on travel blogs, Pinterest, word of mouth, obscure websites, and everything in between. I figured out how much free time I would have in each city and which places were most important for me to see. I used the City Maps 2 Go app to save places, which allowed me to use maps offline. Other helpful apps were a currency exchange rate app, Google translate, and Uber.
Other planning tips were checking to see which credit cards had foreign transaction fees, taking pictures of my passport, and registering with the STEP program in case anything happened and I needed to go to the embassy (to be honest my mom made me do this). Another pro tip is to take a picture of your hotels/hostels on your phone so you don’t forget where your staying or try to know how to pronounce intimidating foreign words to annoyed cab drivers. And finally, when booking flights, if you are flexible on airports to fly in and out of, definitely shop around because sometimes you can get a way better deal.
Stay tuned for my next post where I will do a recap of the actual trip (aka the exciting stuff and not just the tedious planning!).