Last month, I finally booked my plane ticket for my upcoming trip to Europe! From August 7 to September 4, 2012, I will be exploring three countries I’ve never been to before: Greece, Italy and Spain.
This will be my second time in Europe. In college (10 years ago!), I visited England (London) and France (Paris) on a weeklong spring break trip with my professors and classmates.
This time around, I’m going alone. No family, no friends, no tour guides. I’ll be spending one full month exploring Greece, Italy and Spain on my own terms. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared, but I’m also incredibly excited! Here are some details about how I’ve gone about planning my trip so far.
Get (or Renew) Your Passport
If you plan to travel out of the U.S. to Europe, you will need a passport. I already had one, but when I was moving from my Airbnb room in Charlottesville to the Craigslist one I’m living in now, I realized that my passport had expired back in December! I’d gotten my first passport in 2002 and they are only good for 10 years. I submitted my renewal application at the beginning of May and got my new passport back about six weeks later. If you’re in the U.S., you can renew your passport here or apply for your first passport here. It’s crazy how a simple task like getting a passport can seem daunting when you are a beginning traveler, so get on it if you haven’t already!
Figure Out Where You Want to Go
I already had plans to travel abroad since last year, so I just had to narrow down where, exactly, I wanted to go. Originally, I thought I wanted to spend a few months traveling the world, visiting several countries and continents during that time. Little did I know just how much money that would cost! Given my limited budget, I had to narrow down my itinerary. I asked myself one simple question: where have you always wanted to go? My answer: Italy! It’s my ultimate dream destination because of the food, of course. From there, I was able to tack on Greece and Spain, two of my other “must-see” countries, which seem relatively easy to get to once I am already in Europe.
Save As Much Money as Possible
I grossly underestimated how much money it would take to spend a few months out of the country. With my original plan of jetsetting around the world, I would have needed a million dollars. Well, maybe not a million, but way more than the $5,000 I had envisioned.
Over the past year, I’ve been able to save up about $3,000, so that is my budget for my monthlong trip to Europe!
Find Low-Cost Lodging
Create a Budget for What You Want to Do
I plan to travel light, as I did in Honolulu last winter. My main expenses are my plane ticket from/to DC ($1,200), local transportation between countries ($200), lodging ($700) and food ($600).
As I mentioned, I’ll be staying exclusively in hostels instead of hotels and I’ve deliberately chosen ones that offer free breakfast to save on the cost of meals. Beyond that, I don’t plan to do much “touristy” stuff that costs money besides a cooking class and a day trip here and there. For sightseeing, I plan to take advantage of all the FREE walking tours and museums that are available in each city.
Book Your Flight
This is the most expensive single item in my budget. My plane ticket cost me $1,200. And that’s after researching all the best possible flights, sales, deals and airport combinations online until my eyes felt like they were going to bleed out of their sockets. I used Kayak, Skyscanner and Expedia to do some initial research, but ended up booking directly with American Airlines because they had the cheapest flight that also allowed me to maximize my frequent flyer miles. With my Europe trip, I’ll finally have enough miles for a free roundtrip flight!
Because I’ll be visiting multiple cities/countries, I booked my ticket to fly into one European city and out of another:
- Washington, DC to Athens, Greece
- Barcelona, Spain to Washington, DC