Planning To Backpack Around Europe?

Ever fancied something just a tiny bit different from the normal holiday?

How about heading off with just a month long train ticket and no set plans?

Sound like your kind of thing? Then maybe a trip round Europe with just a guidebook and your backpack is what you need to be doing for your next holiday!

You don’t even need to plan anything if you don’t want to. If you have long enough (at least a month), and would rather glide around this continent more like a local than a hurried tourist, you can just head off with a rough plan of countries to visit and soak it all up at your own pace, floating around each country between cities and villages - or nightlife to nightlife! As long as you have enough time to get back to your airport, enjoy yourself.

But, if you want to make the most of it and are more pushed for time, then planning is essential.

How long have you got? - Decide how long you can go away for as this will have a direct impact on what you can see while travelling. Yes, you can get from London to Madrid on the train in less than 12 hours, but you won’t get to see much on the way and it’s a nearly whole day’s sunshine wasted!

If you only have a week, then you will need to either be very restrictive with the area of the continent you travel to (i.e all the countries close together), or you will need to travel at the speed of light to see your favourites.

Basically in a week you will only get to enjoy about 3 cities with a couple of nights in each one. I did get to see 4 countries in less than a week one time, but only really got a ‘feel’ for 2 of them.

In two weeks, you can travel further afield, and may well stay in around 7 cities depending on where you start and finish from. And in a month you could have hit about 17 or more countries!

Where do you want to go? - Don’t worry about routes yet, leave the train timetables well alone - just get your guidebooks and start reading!

List places you would like to see or the festivals you want to attend in the order you come across them; the cities, landmarks, museums and castles, etc. Write them next to the country they are in and mark each with either a ‘definately’ or just a ‘maybe’, then the fun begins….

Now get yourself a basic map of Europe with just the countries showing and 2 colors of pins, stickers or whatever you want to use as markers - one color for ‘definately’ and the other for ‘maybe’. Then get going with them - putting one sticker for each thing on your list onto your map, nice and spread out. Soon you will start to see which countries are coming out on top!

When completed you will be able to write off any countries with only a few maybe’s in them, and start focusing on the countries with the most definitely’s.

Choosing a route - Now you have places to see organised, you can start looking at your route. How many days will it take to see all the places without including the journey times? Are the places too far apart? Have you picked too many things to do?

The only way to find out is to start looking at a rough pathway through your dots, aiming for the definitely’s at first, then look at the one’s out the way and see if they are worth missing. Keep arguing with yourself over what you really want and what can be avoided for a better or smoother journey. The last thing you want to worry about when travelling is keeping a tight schedule where missing a train causes all sorts of timetable changes. You are supposed to be enjoying yourself!

Only when you have less things you ‘definately’ need to see than the number of days you are travelling for, can you stop. You have now got your trip round Europe. By all means keep a few as ’spares’ in-case of bad weather or train delays, or you could just sit with the locals enjoying something impromptu like a game of chess or taking photos of the buildings instead!