Today I will be leaving for my first travel break; It is hard to believe we are already approaching week 6. I will be traveling to Paris for the weekend, then off to Amsterdam Sunday night, and finally I will be finishing up in Berlin. I have never been to any of my three destinations so I am extremely excited to see what my trip has in store. I highly doubt there will ever be a dull moment. In order to have a successful trip, I prepared out my travels from day 1 all the way until I arrive back in Paderno 10 days from now. Preparation is key to having a relaxed and stress free travel week.
The first step in my preparation process was laying out a schedule of the destinations that me and my buddies wanted to reach. It is important that the group you will be traveling with has the same goals that you do. I have never been to Europe before, so Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin sounded like excellent travel destinations. Some of our group wanted to stay in Paris longer than others, but due to budget restrictions, we decided on 2 nights. Amsterdam was a city that we all agreed on weeks prior to the trip, and Berlin drew our attention because of the cheap prices and that it allows us the opportunity to eat pub foods such as a tasty burger and french fries. After we all officially agreed on our destinations, it was time to search for hostels and transportation. Keep in mind as we searched for hostels and transportation we had to keep the price within our budgets.
To search for the best hostels, we used http://www.hostelworld.com/ . This is a popular website that ranges from the cheapest hostels to most expensive ones. When we were searching for a hostel we kept in mind a few things:
1) how many people do we have in our group?
2) Is the hostel close to where we want to explore?
3) how far is the hostel from the airport?
4) does the hostel include breakfast/lunch/dinner?
Not all of these are as important as the others but this is just a general idea of what to think about when looking for hostels. Hostels vary in price from city to city. In Paris our hostel is more expensie than our hostels in Amsterdam and Berlin. We have 10 people total in our group. In Paris we have two 5-person rooms at about 30 euro a night. In Amsterdam we have one 10-person room which is about 15-18 euro a night; and in Berlin we have a 10-person room, which is about 15-21 euro a night. As you can tell, Paris is a more expensive city so I highly recommend booking far in advance, as prices tend to rise the longer you wait. In regards to the location of your hostel I advise booking hostels which are in walking distance of where you want to sight see. I know in Florence we were in walking distance of where we wanted to spend our time. This was nice because we were able to come and go without spending money on transportation.
In addition to hostels, booking your transportation is just as important. For our flights we used sites such as http://www.ryanair.com/en, http://www.easyjet.com/EN, and http://www.eurolines.com/. Searching for the cheapest airline is alot easier than you may think. Me and my 9 other buddie simply sat in our room and as we all began searching the sites I listed above, we started to spit out numbers around the room. When someone found a cheap flight, we discussed it. If we didn’t agree or if we found a cheaper flight, we discussed more until we found the best overall option. Easyjet and Ryanair offer great prices on flights. Instead of flying from Paris to Amsterdam we decided to take an overnight 8 hour long bus ride. Why? Simply because we figured the 8 hour long bus ride is cheaper than spending another night in a hostel and flying combined. We are leaving Sunday night around 9:00 PM and will arrive in Amsterdam between 6:00 AM and 7:00 AM. The bus may not be the most comfortable place to slee,p but since we all agreed that our priority is saving money, we booked the bus to Amsterdam without turning back. If you are interested in an overnight bus ride check out the Eurolines link posted above. Booking your hostels and your transportation are not the only worries. Packing efficiently is another one.
In packing for our 10-day extravaganza, I kept in mind a few things: 1) how much do I really need to survive a 10-day trip and 2) will I have extra room in my pack in case I pick up souvenirs along the way. I decided that I will be wearing my peacoat everyday, making it easier for me to dress. I am bringing 5-6 casual shirts that I can wear under my peacoat. I am wearing one pair of pants when we leave Paderno and I will pack one more pair. In addition to those items, you need your everyday clothing such as socks and underwear, your toiletries (bring travel sizes), and then anything else you may need along the way. A few items you do not want to go without are your passport and a cell phone. If you go outside the country it will be required to have your passport with you. Bring your passport everywhere and make sure it is in a safe place that no one else can get to besides yourself. Even if you are not planning on using your phone when you are outside of Italy, it is important to have your phone on you in case of an emergency. You never know when you may be split up from your group.
Remember the group you are traveling with. Stick with them and be wary of talking with strangers. When you are traveling to other countries remember the country makes the surroundings comfortable to the residents of that country, not to its visitors. With this in mind, be respectful to your surroundings and act as if you have been there before. Keep your valuables in a safe place. Keep your wallet in your front pocket and make sure if you are carrying a backpack your compartments are closed shut. Besides those few extra points, I think I am now ready to be on my way to Paris!