Deciding what to bring when planning a trip backpacking through Europe can be a little daunting when you first start the preparations needed. There are multiple things to consider, like organizing your passport, travel insurance, booking flights, getting the right equipment and multiple other little things that you haven't even thought of yet.
The first thing to keep in mind is DON'T STRESS. It's do able, and once you're on the road all of the planning will be 100% worth it.
Let's discuss a few things, and let me impart some of my hard earned advice when it comes to preparing for a backpacking trip.
Give yourself 4 months to arrange your passport. That's right, I recommend that long. You have no idea what unforseen circumstances could arise, so you want to have time to get this IMPORTANT document (if you don't have one already). If you've already got a passport, make sure it isn't going to expiry mid-way through your trip. No passport = no travelling.
You'll also need to arrange a visa for Europe. The best visa is probably The Schengen visa, as it gives you access to over 20 countries and all of Western Europe. This is sufficient for most people, however not every country is on there so make sure you check it out. If you're heading to Croatia for example, it's possible you may need another visa specifically for that country.
Now, onto Travel Insurance. You want to make sure it is active and covering you from the first day of your trip. In fact, even the day before. Make sure you get a decent policy, you don't want a cheeky one that is going to throw fine print at you if you ever try to claim anything. I've always found a good travel insurer will make what is covered relatively straight forward up front.
Guys, READ THE FINE PRINT. I'll repeat that, READ THE FINE PRINT. Don't just sign off on travel insurance without knowing EXACTLY what you're covered for. I recommend at least having full medical cover and emergency medical transport. You might also want to consider specific cover if you're bringing along items like laptops and cameras.
What about flights? Well GENERALLY the earlier you book, the cheaper you'll get it. So it's a good idea to book your flights as soon as you know what dates you will be heading to Europe. A good tip is to perhaps book through a travel agent that will offer a refund of the ticket if cancelled prior to the flight date, then if you do find something cheaper at a later date, you can claim the refund and rebook the cheaper ticket.
So, what about gear and equipment? Well obviously a backpack is required - look out for one of those 'massive' sales at your local adventure store. They normally have them about 3 times a year I find. Don't buy at normal retail prices, ever. If you must, head into the store, try on and figure out which backpack you want, then head home and order the exact model on the Internet.
Cheeky? Sure, but it's allowed if you're on a budget!
Here are another few items you might want to consider bringing along:-
- A money belt
- Small nail clippers
- A small torch
- A diary or journal to record your thoughts
The amount of things you COULD bring are endless of course, but it's always nicer to pack lighter. Europe has everything available to buy if you forget something.
So there we have it, I hope you have a blast on your adventure.