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  • Writer's pictureAcacia Gabriel

50+ Tips for Euro Summer


Puglia, Italy. Tips for Euro summer.

Last summer I traveled to 13 countries across Europe in 13 weeks. I brought a backpack and a suitcase and figured it all out as I went along. I was so nervous about my trip before I left. I had traveled before, but backpacking and traveling solo were both really new to me. I am so glad that I took the leap, because it was one of the best experiences of my life.


A solo backpacking trip is such a magical adventure. You learn so much about yourself and the world. You discover how capable, gritty, and powerful you are. You meet countless incredible people and get to explore the world!


Unfortunately, as with most things, travel and backpacking is a very male-dominated space. Before I left, this scared me. I didn’t want to travel like a boy, but backpacker places like hostels are primarily male. At first, I found myself assimilating to the male culture and trying to suppress the things that felt overly girly. Standing out felt embarrassing.


As I got more comfortable, I decided to do things my way. This meant being feminine and extra and taking care of myself. I did face masks in hostel bathrooms. I wore matching pajama sets in my bunk bed every night. I read frilly romance novels. I used hair rollers and wore pretty dresses.


I believe that being unapologetically yourself paves the way for other girls to do the same. And one day, this can accumulate into a greater shift in the backpacking space. Also if backpacking like a boy means hardly showering and eating McDonald’s every day, I’d rather do it my own way.


Don’t get me wrong, backpacking is messy and it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. I always say that it is the best and hardest thing that I have ever done. Things go wrong constantly, and some days follow Murphy’s Law. It’s much more difficult than living at home and staying in the comfort zone. However, it is the challenge that forces you to grow. It’s so natural to have a tough time, but you’re not alone. You’ll get through it and come home more confident, empowered, and strong. Be brave.


I learned so much from that summer, but here are some quick tips for getting the most out of your Euro summer. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes while making a few of your own.


Sections:


Lisbon, Portugal. Tips for Euro summer.
Lisbon

Packing

  1. Remember that your bag is always changing. I threw out and bought new stuff all the time on my trip. Obviously, you’ll save money by intentionally packing to begin with, but don’t stress out too much about having everything and being perfect. You can buy a new phone charger and throw out the heels you swore you’d wear. No one gets it exactly right in one go.

  2. Try to avoid single-use products. Many sustainable products are not only better for the environment, but they will also save you time, money, and energy on your trip! I know that most packing videos are secretly ads trying to influence you to buy one "must have" or another, but it's really up to your own taste. It's your bag/backpack/suitcase, and you really only want to carry the things that you'll use. Here's what I pack to be more sustainable on my backpacking trips.

  3. Packing cubes are game-changing. They'll help keep your bag manageable and organized, and they help you keep track of everything. You're less likely to lose your stuff as long as you keep track of all of your cubes. I liked to organize my cubes by occasion (daytime, going out, sleep, swim, etc.) by rather than category (shirts, pants, dresses, etc.) so I could just pull out the bag that I needed one at a time.

  4. A white linen top is an absolute lifesaver. They’re so versatile. You can wear them to the beach or use them as a light layer over a sundress. Also, if you’re visiting Rome or Israel or anywhere with religious sites, a white linen top is the perfect cover-up. Many sites won’t let you in if you don’t have something to cover your shoulders.

  5. Last summer there was a heat wave in Europe so I didn’t even need the only jacket I packed. I’d say that one, basic sweater should cover you in most places. I also packed one pair of jeans and one pair of leggings, but I didn’t use either of them too much.

  6. Pack electrolytes! I bought some at a pharmacy the first chance I got. If you’re planning on spending long periods of time in the sun or at the beach, they’re your best friend.

  7. Don’t underestimate how important snacks are. Little packet peanut butters or protein bars will save you so much time and money when you’re out and about and get a little snacky. They’re worth the extra space in your bag.

  8. I love bringing my film camera with me, but it is a bit more stressful when you’re constantly traveling and on the move. Disposables may be a better option if you still want that vibe. I was just constantly stressed about breaking my camera (which I eventually did).

  9. I love a good handheld fan. Europe is so ridiculously warm in the summer, especially when you aren’t by a beach. They also care about the environment so they don’t air condition bars and clubs. I brought my handheld fan on every single night out, and I swear it kept me from fainting. It might make you look like a total tourist… but you kinda are.

  10. I thought I was being extra when I packed a two-piece pajama set, but I actually saw a ton of them while I was traveling. Something about a matching set just makes me feel so put together, which is really comforting when you’re traveling so much. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy -- I think I got mine from Old Navy -- but you wear pajamas every night so you might as well bring some that you like.

  11. On that note, pack whatever makes you feel like your feminine, best self. I know girls who won’t travel without perfume. I’ve seen people bring satin pillowcases that they use on their hostel pillows. I loved painting my nails every week. If it’s something small or inexpensive, you can always drop it if you end up not using it.


Malta. Tips for Euro summer.
Malta

Transportation

  1. EuroRail isn’t always the best deal, depending on how much flexibility you want. However, trains are definitely the way to go. Flights aren’t necessarily more expensive, but they take way more time. Airports tend to be further outside the city and you have to get there so early for security. They’re also likely to be delayed and it can take forever to get your bags if you check them. I flew around for the first two months of my trip, but my third month, when I only took trains, I saved so much time.

  2. I took one night bus during my trip and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. However, I was a bit out of it for the next day or so. I’d say they’re worth it once in a while, especially because you save on accommodations. I wouldn’t do them more than once every few weeks.

  3. On that note, if you are flying, it is worth the extra $20-40 to take a slightly later flight. Those 7am flights are brutal because you really have to wake up at like 4:30am and you’ll spend your first day exhausted.

  4. Using public transportation is a really fun way to get to know the city like a local. It's far cheaper than taking cars around and way faster than walking. Be careful in places like Budapest where many tourists get tickets for disobeying the rules.

  5. On a lot of train rides you have to pay extra for a seat. I don't mean for a specific seat -- I mean for a literal chair. Just google if you aren't sure, but you may end up sitting on the floor if you buy the wrong ticket.


Valencia, Spain. Tips for Euro summer.
Valencia

Planning

  1. Three nights per city is the general rule of thumb when backpacking in Europe. It can be quick and exhausting if you do this too many times in a row, but I agree that it’s a pretty good standard. It gives you enough time to have one night out, a full day for seeing the tourist sites, and a full day for blind exploration. This obviously varies, but it’s a good rule if you’re not sure how long to book accommodations for. Also, if you fall in love with a place and want to stay longer, most hostels will let you extend pretty easily.

  2. There are some routes that many people follow. If you stay in a certain region, you’re likely to run into the same people along the way. This includes Split-Hvar-Dubrovnik, Prague-Budapest-Vienna, or Rome-Florence-Venice. These routes are popular because it’s pretty intuitive and convenient to get from one city to the next. It’s always fun when you end up in one of these loops, because you get to see some familiar faces and get good recommendations.

  3. If you’re traveling around, it’s nice to take a break between beach locations and city visits. I absolutely love the beach, but I got so sick of constantly being covered in sand and salt. It’s nice to be able to go back and forth, especially in countries like Italy, Spain, or Portugal where they have great options for both.

  4. If you go on Spotify’s Live Events section, they recommend concerts in your city based on your listening. This doesn’t always hit, but it’s a great place to check if you’re not sure what to do. I ended up in the front row at a Leon Bridges concert in Porto. I think I paid like $30 USD.

  5. If you're in a new place and you're trying to find the trendy neighborhood, google vintage shops. The part of the city has the most thrift shops is usually the most artsy and chic. This is how I found Navigli in Milan and Brunswick in Melbourne. It applies to most cities.

  6. There are tons of events and festivals around Europe in the summer. For example there’s Sziget in Budapest, running of the bulls in Pamplona, and Ultra Croatia. It’s kinda fun to plan around big events like these because they guide your trip a bit more and give you something to look forward to.

  7. If you're in a foodie capital like Bologna or Athens, you can look for cooking classes or other experiences. I really enjoyed using EatWith, an app designed to give travelers and opportunity to share meals with locals. They have cooking classes, three-course dinners, food tours, and more depending on the city. It's a great way to learn about a new culture and eat some good food.

  8. If you know that there is a really popular tourist attraction, it's better to buy tickets as far in advance as possible. For example, the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam or the Last Supper painting in Milan. If you don't buy them soon enough, you run the risk of them running out of tickets.


Switzerland. Tips for Euro summer.
Switzerland

Exploring a New City

I know this may seem similar to planning, but figuring out what to do every day when you're in a new place can be exhausting. It's a different skill than planning.

  1. Having a mission is such a fun way to explore a city. I spent an evening following clues to a specific sandal store in Santorini, hunting around Milan for tiramisu, and trying to find a dress for the symphony in Vienna. Missions push you out of the norm and you feel so accomplished afterwards.

  2. One mission I repeated was trying to get on a boat in as many places as possible. 10/10 recommend. Ferry to an island off the coast of Dubrovnik? Paddle boats in Madrid? Tour of Blue Grotto in Malta? Gondola in Venice? It’s a fun mission and you never know where you'll end up.

  3. Ask around and try to find the best places to watch the sunset in your city. It's such a beautiful, colorful core memory when you catch these amazing sunsets. It can be a fun adventure to explore a new viewpoint. I'll never forget watching the sunset from the Spanish Steps in Rome, Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and on a boat cruise in Amsterdam.

  4. When I was feeling a bit homesick, I found it really comforting to write postcards home to my friends and family. Postcards tend to be pretty cheap in tourist shops, and it's a nice way to connect with people you miss. If you are thinking about sending some, ask your friends for their addresses before your trip or far in advance so you can send it all in one go.


Tel Aviv, Israel. Tips for Euro summer.
Tel Aviv

Self-Care

  1. Do whatever makes you feel like you. Sometimes backpacking can leave you feeling kinda dirty or confused or just out of it. That’s completely natural. You’re changing cities or countries on a daily basis, carrying around a tiny bag, and meeting new people constantly. It’s nice to have some grounding exercises that bring you back to yourself. I journaled almost every day, but there are also smaller rituals. I liked to paint my nails and do a face mask once a week. These small acts of self-care are really important for your mental health.

  2. Summer vacation is a great time to catch up on reading. If you’re staying in hostels, many of them have libraries where you can exchange books. I bought one book, and then exchanged it in different cities for new ones. It was a really fun way to travel, and I read a bunch of new books I hadn’t heard of before.

  3. It’s summer, so drink water and use SPF. Your skin, body, brain, everything will thank you. Water and SPF are one of those things where you really feel their absence when you aren’t consistently using them. Invest in a decent water bottle and sunscreen.

  4. Calm nights in your bed are absolutely essential if you're on a long trip. You'll feel so much better once you've rested. Burnout is so real on these backpacking trips, and you run the risk of getting sick or just getting too tired and going home early. Try not let the FOMO get to you.

  5. Make a Spotify playlist for the summer. I loved adding songs that had to meaning to me to the same playlist throughout the trip. Whether it was the Calvin Harris song that my friends and I couldn't stop singing or the Leon Bridges song that I saw front row, I still listen to this playlist when I want to reminisce.

  6. If you know you won't be taking a flight for a while, it can be lot easier to buy larger shampoos, conditioners, body washes, and lotions. It's also kinda nice to have the same ones throughout the trip rather than having to scrounge around every time you go to a new place.

  7. Remember that you don’t have to see any of these people ever again if you don’t want to. This might be scary in some ways, but I found it really freeing. If you say something stupid or do something embarrassing, you’ll forget about it by the time you’re on the train to your next destination. There’s no reason to be anyone other than who you are.


Plitvice Lakes, Croatia. Tips for Euro summer.
Croatia

Staying Safe

  1. Safety is absolutely and always your #1 priority.

  2. Even when you’re solo traveling, you’ll make allies quickly -- especially with other girls. Trust your gut when it comes to any and every person or situation. Find people you trust and try not to go out at night alone.

  3. I personally have always felt safe in my hostel rooms. If you ever don’t, talk to someone who works at the hostel and ask to switch rooms immediately. Also, it’s generally worth it to pay the extra cost to stay in an all-girls dorm rather than a mixed one. But once again, don’t let this scare you out of staying in hostels. Do your research and read reviews before, but I have stayed in like 25+ hostels and have always been okay.

  4. If it’s late at night, it’s usually worth it to call a taxi or Uber home rather than walking alone. Yes, this may seem expensive, but you just never know. It’s better safe.

  5. I know lots of girls like to use dating apps to meet new people while they’re traveling. This is fine and can probably be really fun, but take precautions. Always meet in a public place, share your location, and tell someone from your hostel where you’re going.

  6. I brought scrunchie drink covers on my trip. I didn't use them very often, but they were easy to throw in my purse or hold on my wrist. If I ever felt less than 100% comfortable in a drinking situation I would throw them on the top of my drink.

  7. ALWAYS be an ally to other girls if you think they might be in a bad situation. If you see someone who seems too fucked up at a bar or a guy being overly aggressive, we have to look out for each other.


Technology

  1. You can use Wise to transfer money in different currencies. It has low conversion fees and zero transaction fees. This can save you in the long-run if your regular debit card charges transaction or ATM fees. I even use it to pay rent while living abroad. Sign up for a Wise card here.

  2. Look up which kind of converters you'll need throughout your trip. I personally don't really like the all-in-one converters. I think they're a bit too bulky. and you're likely to only need one or two.

  3. Download Google Maps for each city you visit that way you can access them offline. This will save you so much data and time. It's not flawless, nor is it as easy to navigate as the online version, but if you're ever lost and don't have service it's a serious life-saver. Once I knew I added a city to my itinerary I just downloaded a new map. It only takes a few minutes if you have wifi.

  4. E-SIM cards are much easier than buying physical SIM cards in different countries. You can just download an app on your phone and pay through Apple store rather than going in-person to different Vodafones in every country. I use Airalo, which is really easy to top up and offers E-SIM packages for 200+ countries and regions. You can use my code "ACACIA9654" for a few bucks off your first E-SIM.


Porto, Portugal. Tips for Euro summer.
Porto

Hostel Life

  1. Hostels seem a bit scary before you've stayed in one, but they're so much fun. You make so many friends from all over the world. They usually have planned events like pub crawls or group dinners. They're not the nicest place to stay and you'll usually have a communal bathroom and kitchen, but they're so much cheaper than an Airbnb or hotel. Also, if your travel plans are up in the air, the bookings are far more flexible.

  2. I use Hostelworld for their rating systems and reviews. I find them pretty accurate. If a hostel has a rating below an 8, it's probably pretty gross. I do my best to avoid those.

  3. Even though I use Hostelworld, I don't typically book through the site. It'll usually be cheaper if you book directly through the hostel's website. They also might offer deals like free breakfast or last-minute cancellations.

  4. There are several chains around Europe that are consistently good. For example, in Italy, everyone loves Ostello Bello. They have them in most major Italian cities. I personally love Selina. I’ve stayed in them all over the world, and they always have nice facilities and great locations. People also really like the Wombats hostels. If you find a chain you like, then it can give you a bit more consistency when you’re moving around.

  5. Party hostels can be really fun. I've stayed in a few and they're great in big party cities like Budapest or Lisbon. Everyone is really social and it's a good time. BUT they are also exhausting and they tend to be pretty filthy. You definitely can't stay in them long-term, but they're worth checking out. Some famous ones include Mad House Prague, Greg and Tom Krakow, and Gspot Lisbon.

  6. However, there are also larger-scale chains that can feel a bit soulless at times. This is a place like St. Christopher’s or any other hostels that offer accommodations to more than 100 people. It can be harder to meet people or make friends in a place that is less personal.

  7. Think of a few staple meals you can cook with few ingredients. These will save your wallet when you’re visiting places for just a few days. My personal favorites were pasta with tuna, chicken with zucchini, and yogurt with granola.

  8. Pack or buy tupperware. I always need one when I cook in hostels, and they rarely have any. They’re the best way to pack snacks and save food. Your little tupperware will end up saving you money and it shouldn’t take up much space in your bag.

  9. Sleeping eye masks and ear plugs are absolutely necessary for sleeping in hostels. There are just so many going in and out, everyone snores, and sometimes people have early flights and alarms. Plus, you will really need your sleep.

  10. I've stayed in more hostels than most, and even I can't handle them for longer than a few weeks at a time. It seems really doable and it's so exciting at first, but plan ahead for a private room or Airbnb every few weeks. You'll thank me later.


If you have any questions about these or want to go more in-depth, feel free to shoot me a DM or leave a comment and I can give more details! Bon Voyage.


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Check out our guides to get the most out of your next European summer!


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