HOW TO: Travel Europe Cheap

Airport Moment

There are a few tricks to traveling. I think one of the most important tricks is using your money wisely and traveling smart.

Last summer I spent two and a half months traveling through Europe, slowly bleeding money and counting pennies because of it! I think I learnt a lot; so today, I’m going to give you five easy tips to remember when on your dream Europe adventure.

1) Travel by bus or train (or book your planes veryyyyyy early)

Flight prices will rise and rise and rise in Europe, so if you want to travel with an adequate bag and not stress, use the trains and buses. Europe has one of the best on-ground transport systems on any continent. Personally I used trains and buses interchangeably.

Europe has this thing called Eurolines which I LOVED. You can take 2 suitcases under the bus, plus carry on. You have great views of the countryside and get to see random little villages. Plus, they’re generally cheaper if you are looking for last minute tickets.

Of course, I have to mention EuRail. Europe has a great system of trains that can take you basically anywhere you want to go. I didn’t do this but you can get tickets that will allow you to travel 5 to 8 days out of a 2 month period. These will generally cost around $450 but are quite cost effective and convenient if it fits your holiday plans.

2) Check multiple sources (for tickets)

One memorable moment was when I figured out going from the German to the Italian website for a bus company would save me 15 euros. If you’re backpacking that’s like a whole extra night somewhere. Don’t take the first price you find, compare websites for the cheapest trip, or look for the same route and time at multiple places.

Also, as I explained in my last blog, use sites such as STA and Monomondo to find cheap flights. They will compare all the airlines for you!

But, just make sure it looks legit, you don’t want to be stranded at a random bus stop in the middle of nowhere!

3) Always use relevant discounts!

I am a student and a youth (under 26), so a lot of places and transport will have slightly cheaper tickets. Using relevant concessions can save a lot! i.e. the time I got a first class train to Venice for the cost of slightly cheaper than a normal adult in 2nd class. It was worth it.

So moving on from the transport tips,

4) Stay at Hostels (or Courchsurf!)

I recommend staying in hostels when possible. They are less expensive, friendly, and often provide great cheap or free breakfast. You can find hostels at sites such as HostelWorld or Hostel Bookers. What is great about these sites is that you can look at reviews and they have percentage ratings. Personally I won’t stay in a hostel under 80%.

But, there are some people who shouldn’t stay in hostels. When in Paris last July, I found my hostel and checked in. I stepped into my room and was greeted by 5 panicked Australian girls frantically packing their bags and talking to their parents on long distance phone calls. I recommend staying in hostels but please know what you’re paying for. These girls were expecting luxury and what they got was bunkbeds, a pub at the bottom and a slightly crazy hotel feel. To me it was actually one of the nicer hostels I had stayed in, to them it was horrible and not their ‘dream’ Parisian experience.

Also, Couchsurfing is a great experience if you are up for it! Basically, people offer up their couch, floor space or sometimes, a bed, where you can sleep and wake up to the local experience. You make an account just like your facebook (but less personal!) and send messages to people you want to stay with. They decide based on your profile and previous reviews. It is a great experience if you want to know the ins and outs of a city and don’t mind sleeping on someones floor. I couchsurfed in Montreal, Canada and had some amazing chats with my host in their tiny but amazing apartment.

Ok, so after all of that I give you

5) Don’t eat where the tourists eat.

Seriously guys, C’monnnnn. Don’t do it. You know you are going to pay double or triple the cost and in places such as Italy they will charge you a huge cost simply for sitting in the restaurant, and yes that is on top of the 20 Euro pasta. Go find some random cafe with lots of yelling and laughing Italians. Drink, be merry and spend way less than the tourists being tricked into poor quality and poor service in the main square.

Even better, grab breakfast, lunch and/or dinner from the supermarket! A lot cheaper and you can control how much and how healthy you want to eat.

Alright, so that is my five tips to traveling Europe cheap! There are, of course, a lot more but these are the common sense ones that are not so obvious to newbies. Let me know your tricks to traveling cheap in the comments below.

Xo Casey

HOW TO: Find Cheap Flights

After 6 months on exchange and well, really, the rest of my uni career looking for cheap city escapes I think I have some ideas on how to find a cheap flight. I’ve got 3 quick, easy tips for you.

Firstly, always look at flexible dates.  Click the ‘flex-month’, ‘3 week view’ or ‘flexible dates’ button that your search engine will have. The more flexible you are, the more likely that cheap flight will work for you.

momondo

Secondly, always check multiple sights. I always check costs on KAYAK, STA Travel, Momondo and a few others. The more you search the higher chance you will find that perfect deal.

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Finally, a great tool to use is KAYAK. If you click on more in their top menu, you go to a page where ‘Price Alerts’ is an option. Click that. Putting in your preferred flights and costs is simple and quick, then KAYAK will email you either daily or weekly with the fares which fit your criteria. All the searching with no hard work!

PRICE ALERTS

And that is that! 2 Quick, Easy tips to finding the cheapest flights. Leave any questions below and I’ll be sure to answer them!

Xo Casey

I booked a trip!

I took a leap today. Looking at KAYAK, I noticed that a fare to Auckland return was $390. As most fares are around $550 I took that leap. I booked it.

I will be going to New Zealand for a month and a half at the end of the year. The excitement levels are skyrocketing tonight. So much to plan! So much to do! Hopefully I can do some work experience in Auckland.

The possibility in travel is an exciting feeling. That almost bubbling feeling of contentment and choice is better than the finest wines. Using the internet to research the country and where you can go creates a joy that will not go away.

A lot of my family is from New Zealand, as my mum is a citizen and grew up there. It will exciting to not only see family but explore by myself the place mum is from.

Xo Casey

New Zealand - Maori rowing - 8455

Wanderlust: a constant affliction

Wanderlust is a special kind of affliction. It can really affect who you are and what you do on a day to day basis and yet it is one of the most amazing things to posses. As I once said to a friend, just because the world has been mapped, it doesn’t mean that the Christopher Columbus’ and Captain Cook’s have disappeared. The explorers still exist, we just have a lot more options (and no chance of scurvy!)

I just stumbled across this YouTube video in my subscriptions. Watching it all I could think was “yess so relevant!” Anyone else?

p.s. I know I missed my photography post on friday, I apologise. Nugget, the cat, had just come home from the vet recovering from tick paralysis and I spent a lot of time waiting to pick her up and then hugging her.

Xo Casey

Italian Birthdays

Wine in Milan, Italy

“It’s my birthday today, want to get dinner?”

Looking at each other we stared and started nodding. An Italian dinner and wine? Who would say no?

We were in Milan. The hostel was the remnants of an old commune and the walls were so thin we could hear the breathing of the girls next door. Our bunkbeds were rusty and creaking as everyone sat up groaning about the inescapable humid heat. A pool would be perfect right now, but we were backpacking,  wine and dinner was a perfect alternative.

I had met these girls about three hours ago, but that is the way when backpacking. You meet, you chat, you do something memorable. This night would be a perfect description of my backpacking experience.

We walked along the street, pointing out the squatters in a building across the road. Large signs in Italian were hung between buildings and off the roof. One of the girls pointed out the different signs and what they meant; these people were protesting against the city government.

Dinner would be pasta, of course. The memory of what exactly I ate has escaped me, but the exasperated annoyance when we realised we had to pay for the bread they put on the table will stay with me.

“But they put it there! Not one word at all about money…”

A quick trip down to the grocery would supply us with wine. 2 Euros for a bottle that would cost 20 at home. We each grabbed one. We had no clue if alcohol was allowed in the hostel but from what we had seen so far, we doubted they would care.

The rest of the night was spent curled up on surfaces in the common room. Talking to Germans, Italians, Americans, Canadians and of course the ever plentiful Australians.

xo Casey

TOP 10: Items To Take Backpacking Europe

10. A good bag

Buy a bag you are happy with. Something you can carry up the stairs of a three story hostel in London or walk across cobblestone in Italy. I met many girls on my trip with massive bags who complained about how difficult it was to carry them in subways and up stairs; and these were backpacks! Look at the reviews, try find recommendations from people who have done the trip you’re doing. I bought a backpack after I noticed one of the reviews talking about how well it lasted on their 3 month trip to Europe; perfect!

backpack

9. A reusable shopping bag

The amount of times I ended up carrying breakable, hole filled plastic bags from random grocery stores is astounding. I would always go and buy some bread and basics before any trips on a train or bus and then carry them simply because it meant super easy access on a possibly crowded train/bus. Having a small carry bag/ reusable shopping bag is also great for going between climates and needing to take off jumpers or put them on. You can also use this on the way home as a second carry-on for the plane if you have bought a bit too much!

Reusable shopping bags are great for easy access to snacks and jackets on trains and buses
Reusable shopping bags are great for easy access to snacks and jackets on trains and buses

8. A quick dry towel – a big one!

It’s always exciting when your hostel rents out towels cheap but occasionally they just won’t have them, or they will be an exorbitant price. Solution: bring your own! But bringing a big fluffy towel is not good when you only have limited space. The quick dry towel works great and folds into a tiny packet – like this one! Buy one that is large, especially if you are female/ have long hair.

$19.99 from Kathmandu AU
$19.99 from Kathmandu AU

7. A Powerboard

Buy one before you leave home. There are many hostels across Europe that have one socket for a room of 8 to 20 people. If you have a small powerboard you will be the King/Queen of the room, and I am dead serious about that. It’s also very useful when stopping in cafes so you can quickly charge, your phone/ table/ electronic devices all at once. Just don’t forget the adapter! P.S. Europe, Switzerland and England each have different plugs

8710 - Power Board 4

6. A comfortable neck pillow

I constantly asked myself whether I should get a neck pillow, but by the time I realised I should, I just didn’t have the money to get a good one. Having one is the difference between sleeping and not sleeping on that 20 hour bus to Amsterdam. If you’re smart you can grab one with a clip that is easily attached to your backpack until you need to use it.

neckpillow

5. Washing Powder

This is a bit of a hit or miss. Something that is essential in some places and unnecessary in others. In an Italian hostel I was told they would have no washing powder that day and to please come back tomorrow. In London it was included in the price of using the machine. It is a good idea to put a bit in a little Ziploc bag and then chuck it in with your toiletries. This can be great when you realise you have no undies and need to wash them ASAP. Sinks are your friends.

Keeping a little bit can save you from having to wear dirty undies or clothing.
Keeping a little bit can save you from having to wear dirty undies or clothing.

4. Flip flops/ thongs

I’m Australian so I’m going to call them thongs and everyone can just deal. These are ESSENTIAL. Each hostel shower has had thousands upon thousands of people in there, you have no clue what could be in those drains. You do not want to spent precious money on going to a doctor for a fungal infection (ick).

DON'T forget these!
DON’T forget these!

3. A good camera lens!

I’m a (amateur) photographer so having good camera equipment with me is a must. I bought along two lenses that were great at close range and with people but not fabulous for the intricate details of European architecture. It is a good idea to have a capable lens with a wide focal length range, for example 50-200mm. Going with cheaper, less well-known brands (Pentax, Tamron, etc.) is a great way to save money; just make sure to look at reviews on the internet!

An example of a lens I might use
An example of a lens I might use

2. Emergency Money

Keep some money separate, either in a compartment in your valuables and/or online in an account you can easily access. There may be a time that you desperately need cash because something has gone horribly wrong. An overbooked hostel, a lost visa, a missed plane; all can be solved if you just keep enough emergency cash to deal with them.

A small stash of money can save you in an emergency situation. Make sure to keep it safe and secure though!
A small stash of money can save you in an emergency situation. Make sure to keep it safe and secure though!

1. A Lock!!!

I’ve heard a lot of stories about people who have had stuff stolen in hostel dorms. Well, in three months backpacking Europe I didn’t have a single thing stolen. I bought a trusty lock when I started in Chicago and it lasted me until I unlocked my locker on my final day in London. It is not about locking your whole bag away in the lockers; what is important is putting every item of value that you own into that locker in your room. If the hostel doesn’t supply one ask if they have secure places at reception to leave a laptop or passport when you go out.

A good lock can be the difference between a good and bad trip
A good lock can be the difference between a good and bad trip

The Jewish Museum, Berlin

All across Europe you will find Jewish Museums and I have now been to quite a few. I went to the Berlin museum at the urging of hostel roommates who could not stop raving about the uniqueness and the time I should spend there. Well, I went and ended up walking around for four hours.

First, it must be said, this is not a holocaust museum. Yes, it is a part of it because it is a part of Jewish history but for the most part there is more detail on the full history of the Jewish religion and life then of the war.

Secondly, the architecture of the museum is some of the most unique I have seen in the world. It is described as “a warped (or exploded) Star of David”. The most powerful thing about this was where you could look out a window into the middle of the building. In the middle there is the Void, there is simply nothing upon first look. I read that it is a empty place to signify the missing people of Europe who have been killed or gone missing in tragedy and war. Reaching the bottom of the building I entered into this space and this is what I found.

It is an art installation to signify the innocent who have been killed or gone missing in times of war and conflict. A very powerful idea, especially if you look at the individual disk faces. 10, 000 of them fill the floor.

In regards to the holocaust, the bottom floor is filled with axis’ detailing different parts of the holocaust. They show this by using personal items and stories that have been everywhere from concentration camps, to neighbours who saved their Jewish friends belongings, and even children who escaped Europe but lost their parents or grandparents. It is a very powerful place and even more powerful is the room they have that is meant to show how Jewish people felt during this time. It is a dark and cold void of a space, two stories tall and utterly empty with no windows, little air and no light. Entering the room I felt truly and utterly alone and spent a moment thinking of those who suffered.

Now just for a bit of humour, in the permanent exhibit there was examples of Kippah’s and this was definitely the best of the lot!

I would recommend this museum to everyone. If you are in Berlin, Go! It is the most powerful museum I have ever been to and they are opening a new wing so you could spend a whole day there if truly interested.

P.s. sorry for the quality guys, it was one of those I forgot my camera so I used my old ipod :s