About 6 months ago I quit my job to travel through Europe. I didn’t really make much of a plan except I knew I wanted to quit my job, and travel Europe. I had a list of places I wanted to go and only about $5500 to go with, (That is including credit cards). I know everyone was freaking out about my decision to quit my job just to travel for a month with only $5500 dollars, and once the time came to put my notice in at work, I have to admit I was wondering what I had done and if this was the right decision. Now I realize this trip, compared to so many people out there is nothing; but for me this was a huge thing. I had only been to Germany when I was 12 and that was the last time I was over seas. I spent a good about of time in Canada because I have family there but this was going to be a big step towards something I have always wanted to do. I had finally stuck to something I said I would do and the only thing I would change is see more places and plan a tiny bit better.
When I talk about planning I don’t mean having a play by-play list and color coded binder for what I plan to do each day and hotels, hostels or Airbnb’s already scheduled. That’s not me, it never will be me and there is something incredible liberating about taking each day on a whim. I knew sites I wanted to see and such but I liked the flexibility of not having to really rush to get to a place. If I was on the train on my way to one place and changed my mind I could. I loved that freeing feeling.
However there were a few things I would do different and here are my top 5 things I will do differently next time.
I had no idea what to pack. So when it came time to pack (The night before) for this month-long trip I was scrambling to try to find the right luggage and clothes to bring. I didn’t do much research about the climates of each place so when I got to Rome it was so hot and muggy I didn’t really have anything at all to wear that was comfortable. I initially bought this super portable red nylon bag from REI that I though would be big enough to carry all my items but also small enough to carry on. Then I got home and realized it was bigger than I thought. I bought this Longchamp tote (which I use a lot and LOVE) and once I packed everything in it, it was very heavy and I couldn’t find anything. So I ended up with my super small roller suitcase. This was a mistake. This was a mistake for me because I relied completely on the train to get from place to place and when your lost and running back and forth between tracks, Or if your me and don’t realize there are two train stations in Paris and have to load into a cab or uber. The Roller bag isn’t awesome. I also realize that it depends on what type of trip you are taking. For me it was at times a bit rougher than others so I would have much rather had a larger backpack/suitcase converter bag similar to the one I linked, that I could have just carried.
Now, When it comes to packing I wanted to make sure I wasn’t packing a ton of clothes even though I was gone for a little over a month. I knew when I got to Germany I would be staying with family and I could do laundry there and in between those times I could just clean anything I needed cleaning in the sink.
Therefore I didn’t pack a lot however I still packed too much. I ended up with three pairs of sneakers and one pair of boots with a heel on them. This was stupid. My suggestion is wear one pair of shoes and pack another. A pair of sneakers is always a good idea but make sure you can walk for long periods of time. I also suggest a pair of ankle boots; again a pair that you can walk around in for hours. I did not do this and I don’t know why. I have a pair of ankle boots that I adore and that are so comfortable I can walk for hours in and the make me feel like haven’t been walking for miles on hard concrete. I would suggest one pair of jeans, a light jacket, a rain jacket that rolls up and stashes easily, light tops and maybe one sweater. Again this all depends where and when you are going. If you are going to Finland in December maybe pack a little warmer. I went between September & October so weather was still on the warmer side in some places. Anything else you need you can buy there. Same goes for makeup.
I packed makeup and I think I only wore makeup one day. I realize not everyone is like me but I am pretty happy and comfortable not wearing makeup. Carry with you maybe small sample sizes which are so easy to get. Same goes for face wash and toothpaste. If you get those monthly boxes like Birchbox or Glossybox etc, you probably have a ton of travel sized products which work great. Before I left I saw these little canvas pouches each filled with samples from Joyus
and those samples came in very handy. Again, anything you need you can get when you are traveling which is what I did for a few items. When it comes to make up and travel; this is really up to you and what you want but Glossier’s
Products are great. Their perfecting skin tint is phenomenal and small and easy to pack and now they have concealer and lipsticks that are great for that perfectly imperfect flawless look that is great for traveling.
2. PURSES & TOTES
This may go along with packing but when I used to travel domestically I would have my suitcase, a tote bag with book, laptop, junk I didn’t need and then my purse. This is too much, for me, this is too much. As I started traveling a little more domestically I tried to find ways that worked for and I usually pack a small purse and throw my wallet and small makeup bag, sunglasses and everything else I need into one backpack or tote. I initially purchased this super affordable faux drawstring leather backpack and it carries my laptop, camera and little bits nicely. But as I was packing I realized it might not be enough so I purchased another Longchamp tote which worked nicely.
Again, each trip is different for someone and maybe you are OK with having a purse and a travel tote. I do sometimes wished I still would have brought that small backpack for walking around because when I take pictures I think it would have been a lot easier to move around.
Also when it came to wallets I wasn’t going to take my large Hobo Clutch/Wallet and just take a small one but I am glad I decided to use my hobo wallet because it is big enough to carry my passport and all my cash and lodging keys all in one spot. I never was worried about loosing anything and everything was in one spot.
Oh electronics, how you have taken over our lives. I went back and forth over whether or not I should bring my laptop. I decided to bring it because I did have some school work I needed to make sure to try to keep up with and honestly I am glad I did. There were a couple of nights in Paris that I just enjoyed my gorgeous hotel room watching Netflix and eating chocolate croissants.
When it came to cellphone coverage I actually lucked out and switched to T-Mobile a few months before my trip and had unlimited text and data throughout Europe so when I got home my bill was like normal except for a little overage due to some phone calls. I had always struggled with my carrier prior to T-Mobile with outrageous international data charges just going to Canada. I realize no one wants to change services but if you are planning a long trip overseas switching to a cellphone provider that offers great international plans isn’t such a bad idea. Plus my phone bill is half the price it was with the other provider (Gosh I sound like a commercial).
I love taking photos and I have a gorgeous Canon 7d I got a couple of years ago. I did bring that camera with me but honestly I wished I hadn’t. It is so cumbersome and heavy that it was just added weight and bulk I didn’t need. I have a small Canon Powershot S100 that I love and it takes terrific pictures and video and it is small and slim and easy to tote with you. I wished I would have just brought that camera instead for this trip. It also depends on the type of trip. My next trip I want to focus mainly on photography and then I will need to pack properly for all my cameras; but just for a regular trip like I did last time I suggest a smaller but amazing camera. With electronics comes chargers, you want to make sure to get an adapter I got mine from best buy for about $20. It had three an US one which of course I don’t need and a UK & Europe plug. It was perfect and worked great. It stacked up nicely and I just tossed it into a leather pouch that I kept my camera charger, phone charger and laptop charger in. This bag I tossed in my tote nicely. When I went site seeing I made sure to bring my adapter and phone charger just in case.
I am the first person to be an advocate for letting the wind take you where you want to go and you don’t need a map. However There is something to say about knowing kind of where you want to go. When I had planned this trip I had a good idea of where I wanted to go but of course like anything I had to make some changes due to time and money. I wish I would have made sure to do a bit of research on the areas I was staying to find local spots to visit other than the major tourist sites, even though they were amazing and I would visit them again in a heart beat. I also would have also rented a car and cruised around to areas that I wasn’t able to get to by train. I adored the train because it gave me a chance to see everything but I also wished I had a car so I could have seen the spots I saw on the train and drove into the beautiful towns I saw. Also the train schedules can be tricky, I thought I was being super organized by making sure I had pre-paid my train tickets but ended up missing a few trains due to my own terrible sense of direction and also the trains leaving late and missing connectors so I ended up having to double pay. I found that showing up at the train station and purchasing my tickets there was much easier and way cheaper.
I had planned to rely completely on Airbnb which in theory was a great idea. I did get a place in Montmartre in Paris, top floor with a stunning view of Paris and the windmill of the Moulin Rouge. It was truly stunning. It was gorgeous or new by any means but I loved it. I had planned to stay there 5 nights, but in the middle of it I decided to switch and find a hotel for the last two nights to experience another part of Paris. I had the app Hotel Tonight which became my go to app to find lodging. I found some not so great but mostly really terrific and affordable places to stay. I wanted so badly to rely on Airbnb but because I was flitting along Europe it became increasingly more difficult to find lodging at the last minute. This app was a life saver and I’ve used it for friends here in Seattle and I’ve used it when I go to L.A., I love it. I would use this app again when in Europe and I would also use Airbnb. Those are the two platforms I found to be the easiest to use and affordable.
6. STAY TRUE TO YOU
The one thing I wished I had done was not allowed people to influence my decision on visiting certain places or going somewhere. I had my heart set on visiting Poland but was in a way talked out of it and instead went straight to Italy. I wished I had stayed true to my heart and just gone to Poland regardless. I also stopped in a location in Italy for another reason I don’t really want to get into but I wished I had just went to Venice like I had wanted and not chosen to spend time where I did because it was for the wrong reasons, and that I truly regret. This is your trip, your dreams and you must always stick to your agenda. If something exciting comes along by all means join and experience life, but don’t let someone change your mind.
These are just my suggestions, and what I learned about traveling, and what I would on my next trip. I honestly am so in love with my choice to do this trip and it was a great first try at it. I am now preparing myself for more traveling probably for a little bit longer this next time. I caught the travel bug and I don’t want to shake it! 🙂