Backpacking season has begun (if there even is officially a backpacking season?) so I figure it’s time to share some essential tips for a backpacking trip through Europe. Some of these tips I learned before I left for my European backpacking adventure and others I learned the hard way. Here are 13 quick tips to ensure you are prepared for your trip backpacking Europe.
1. Use packing cubes
This is a tip that has been gaining popularity but some people still haven’t yet joined us packing cube fanatics. These nifty cubes are essential for keeping organized while on vacation, especially if you are living out of a backpack which can make the packing and organizing process significantly more difficult.
2. Utilize Google Maps offline
If you haven’t already heard, Google Maps has an offline feature that allows you to download selected areas that you can use with absolutely no connection. Perfect for those with limited or no data. Now that everyone has phones in their pocket 24/7 it can be difficult to find physical maps, not to mention they take up precious space. So do yourself a favor and download each city’s map while you have access to the internet.
3. Get a European sim card
Even with access to offline Google Maps buying a European sim card can be a lifesaver. Running around trying to find WiFi to contact someone can get old quick. Just get a prepaid sim card that can be topped up when needed. Ensure your sim card can be used in all of the countries you are traveling to or at least has a country plan that allows limited uses in some countries.
4. Get a manicure
Before I left for my trip I made sure to make a stop at my nail salon to get gel nail polish. The manicure lasted perfectly for three weeks, as gel nail polish tends to last longer than a normal manicure. Of course Europe also has nail salons all over so you can always get a touch up when the time comes. This tip will leave you feeling a little more put together in any situation.
5. Bring locks
Unless you plan to literally have your backpack on your entire trip (which would make the whole experience very difficult to say the least) there is a large amount of time you will be spending away from your belongings. In order to both have peace of mind as well as avoid any frustrating situations involving lost belongings it is key that you bring a couple locks.
6. Learn the basics
If you are going to be spending any time at all in a country it is essential to at least learn a couple words in the language. Learning a simple “hello” and “thank you” will make your experiences significantly better as locals appreciate when travelers make an effort. English is commonly spoken throughout Europe so you will likely not have much trouble getting around even if you do not know the language, but learning a few words will improve your interactions.
7. Bring extra batteries
Always, always have extra batteries with you. If you are bringing a camera then be sure to charge your batteries often and always have a spare with you. If you plan to use your phone often then you will absolutely need a portable charger. Charge it every couple days to ensure you will never be without power.
8. Don’t over-pack!
You have heard this tip on basically every packing advice article you have ever read. Yet I still put it on here because you still do it, and I still do it. When you are backpacking it matters significantly more to pack light than when you are taking along a rolling suitcase as you will actually be having your backpack on your back for quite a few long distances. If you can’t lift it or it becomes uncomfortable, you aren’t doing it right. Lay out everything you think you will need. Then take away half of that. You can always (and probably will) purchase more clothing items on the road.
9. Find your homesick comfort place
One of the keys to keeping upbeat and to keep pushing through when you are traveling for longer periods is to find your comfort place. If you are hitting multiple destinations try to find a common chain or type of place that reminds you of home. This way if you are ever feeling homesick or are having anxiety and need to chill for a minute you have somewhere to go that makes you feel calm. My favorite comfort locations are Starbucks (due to my childhood near Seattle), Irish pubs (not sure how this started exactly but I always feel comfortable there and they are seriously everywhere), and parks.
10. Pack travel sizes of toiletries
You are not going to the middle of the desert, you are traveling Europe. No need to pack full sizes of all of your shampoos and body washes. If you run out of something you can always find a replacement easily. If you have specific toiletries that you may not be able to find everywhere that usually come in large packaging then just put them in refillable bottles and be sure to fill a little more than you think you will need.
11. Bring an emergency pack
Medicine can be expensive so it doesn’t hurt to throw in a few DayQuils and some Emergency-C in case you feel a cold coming on. No need to bring bulky boxes, but pack enough to get you through a day or two so you have enough to get you to a pharmacy if you wake up in the morning and feel awful. Though we always want to pretend this won’t happen, airplanes are notorious for spreading colds so it is best to come prepared.
12. Be prepared to miss trains and have your plans unravel
Everything will not go as planned. This is inevitable. But don’t be afraid by that. Enjoy the ride as a missed train could turn into a chance meeting or leave you stuck in a town that could lead to the best night of your life. Look at every missed plan as an opportunity for a new spontaneous adventure.
13. Don’t over-plan
Lastly, go with the flow. Don’t have every hour of every day planned out before even stepping foot on the plane. Make a list of things you want to do at each destination and see what happens when you get there. You could meet new friends who want to take a day trip to that destination you always dreamed of but didn’t think would fit into your schedule or could find out of an even better way to spend your morning than what you originally had planned. Be open to suggestions and just roll with the adventure.
Check out the video for these tips on my Youtube channel!
What are your best tips for backpacking Europe?