Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Europe 2014: The Planning, Tips & The Itinerary
So yeah, I ditched my kids and went for a Europe trip for 40 days. :)
The 3 of us; hubby, me and my sis, went backpacking (but lugging luggage instead of backpacks) in early June until mid of July.
It was a trip of a lifetime, and all of our first time doing this backpacking thingy, and going for such a long time - kids free!
But before I start bombarding this blog with photos of the beautiful scenery and cities, first let me share with you some tips on our planning and experiences.
Tip#1: Grab the Train Tickets Early-Bird Discount Fares
If possible, plan your trip way ahead. We planned ours 9 months ahead and we took many train rides from one city to another, and also from country to country.
We realized that it was even much cheaper to grab the early-bird discounts for train rides, compared to the Eurail/Euroline Global Pass.
We used http://www.seat61.com/ as a guideline for our train travels.
Tip#2: Bring Medicines
Please bring from your home countries some of the common meds such as paracetamol, and maybe some flu or cough meds.
We are no doctors, but I think sometimes along the way, we might be down with a slight fever or cough and flu, and with some meds, it may just go away in a day or two.
We went to a pharmacy in Amsterdam, hoping to buy some cream for hubby's rashes. Then we saw this notice pinned in every pharmacy we went to, stating that "No flu meds or anything similar for sale".
So unless you are prepared to visit a doctor (which may be very inconvenient and costly) if you are just having a minor flu, there will be no meds available for sale.
But please go see a doctor if you are really sick!
Tip#3: Take Vitamins/Supplements
The last thing we wanted was to get sick during the trip, so we each popped 500mg of Vitamin C a day to boost our immune system. And besides that, we made sure we eat as healthily as possible. We make our own breakfast daily and it usually includes wholemeal bread, cheese, eggs, pure fruit juice, etc. And drink lots and lots of water.
I know public toilets are expensive in Europe, but please also drink lots of water, especially when you are back to your apartment/hotel at night.
And we are proud to declare that none of us fell sick during the entire 6 weeks there! *beams*
Tip#4: Pack Light
This is one of the most challenging task for us.
I am no light packer when it comes to travelling. I am one of those who seems to pack the entire house when it comes to travel.
We chose to bring a medium-sized trolley luggage each mainly because non of us owned a backpack. And a good backpack costs rm500+ and no way we are buying three of those just for this trip.
And also mainly because we don't sightsee with our luggage. Once we reached our destination, we checked-in and put down our luggage before we go out for sightseeing. So the luggage option seemed quite reasonable. And also of course, we needed those wheels. lol.
We finally managed to only packed 8 tops, 1 pair of extra jeans, 1 pair of shorts, 1 jumpsuit, 1 raincoat and 2 jackets. Wow, it was crazy wearing the same top over and over again. Hubby didn't seem to be bothered by it, but my sis and I were so sick of our tops and our jeans we swore we would burn them once we reached Penang. lol.
And yes, we wash our clothes whenever possible.
Tip#5: City Maps 2go App
Best app ever. It's a travel guide which you could download maps and use them offline. It even tells you where you are and which direction you are heading.
With this app, we didn't even need a conventional map!
The free version allows you to download only 5 city maps.
Well, as 3 of us has iPhones, what we did was we downloaded 5 maps each and voila, we have enough to get us going for our whole trip.
We just made sure the one with the map of the app had enough battery lifespan throughout the day so we would know the way back to our apartment.
So bring along powerbanks if needed.
If not, there is always the paid version which allows you to download unlimited maps. Only USD$2.99. It's steal a steal I think!
Tip#6: Check if the Same Ticket Valid for all Public Transport
When we reach each city, by flight or train, we would take the public transport to our apartment. No taxi/cab to save costs.
Sometimes we needed to change a few modes of transport in order to reach the city/or our apartment. Namely, first a train, then the metro or the tram.
Check if the same ticket you bought for the train is also available for the subsequent ride on the metro or the tram, or even the bus. Most cities have just one ticket which allows you ~60-90 minutes of travel tine, Check it out so that you won't be buying the same ticket twice.
And also check if you need to validate them. Some tickets although bought from the counter still needed to be validated at machines (some not so visible) for it to be a valid ticket.
Tip#7: Things To Bring.
Besides the usual clothing and such, please bring along these as well:
- Raincoat (just the umbrella is not enough. Bring a raincoat especially if you are forced to sightsee on rainy days)
- Moisturizer (summer in Europe is hot and dry, and you won't want scaly cracked skins)
- Sunglasses (especially if you go up the snow mountain. You don't want to be snow blinded without sunnies)
- Cooking Oil (if you are staying in apartments with kitchen facilities. Not all places provide cooking oil)
- Scarves (for ladies, bring scarves in case you enter religious places (ie: Cathedrals) and you are wearing shorts/sleeveless. Just use the scarves to cover your knees or bare shoulders and you will be allowed in)
Tip#8: Free Tours
Some of the cities they have free walking tours, which usually lasts for about 3 hours. A good way to see the city if you are in a hurry.
We followed a few of them from the Free Sandeman Walking Tour. The guide Geert in Amsterdam was really good and we loved it. Followed the one in Prague and it was boring so we ditched the guide halfway. And the one in Munich was decent.
There are actually many free walking tours from many different companies. But please beware of some of them. Friends reported that some of them said free but is not in fact free. They were 'forced' to give tips at the end of the tour.
As for Sandeman's, we were not obligated to tip the guide at the end of the tour. But of course if you feel that they did a great job, you may want to give them a tip.
Ok, so 8 tips as of now that I can think of. I may add to this list if something comes up.
Next on, our accomodation.
We decided to stay in apartments instead of hotels, mainly because it is much cheaper, and also we love the uniqueness of each place, and also the space and the kitchen facility.
We booked most of our accomodation from www.airbnb.com.
We booked the entire apartment and so far, so good.
Here is the list of the apartment we booked for 3 pax. You can have a look at the links and msg me if there are any questions.
London - Friend's place.
Barcelona - via Airbnb - David's apartment here.
Paris - via Airbnb - Eric's apartment here.
Amsterdam - via Airbnb -Jacques-Yves' apartment here.
Prague - via Airbnb - Petra's apartment here.
Vienna - via Airbnb - Raoul's apartment here.
Hallstatt - via Hallstatt's tourism website - Johann Höll apartment here.
Salzburg - via Airbnb - Marion & Walter's apartment here.
Munich - via Airbnb - R.A.'s apartment here.
Switzerland - Friend's place.
Venice - via Airbnb - Virginia's apartment here.
Florence - via Airbnb - Alain & Irene's apartment here.
Rome - via Airbnb - Fabio's apartment here.
Another thing, all of the apartment we booked are situated right in the city itself. Some are gobsmacked right in the middle of everything.
This is important because this way, you save not only the travel costs, but also save time. Besides that, you can always walk down the apartment and just across the street or so is the nightlife. Awesome.
And oh yes, please if possible, choose an apartment with free wifi connection. It makes so much difference to be able to connect to the internet when you go back to the apartment.
We skyped with our kids several times, and also chatted on Whatsapp with my parents almost daily, especially on my kids' updates.
Besides R.A's place in Munich, and Petra's place in Prague (it's new and she will install wifi soon), the rest of the apartments all have free wifi.
And oh another thing is, we only booked apartments from the hosts which has many positive reviews. You may also book with hosts which are new and with less reviews, but be aware that there is a risk. (just similar with buying things from ebay. Recommended to buy from sellers with good ratings)
Use www.airbnb.com with care.
And lastly, the itinerary most of you are waiting for.
Well, my sis just blogged the rough itinerary in her blog a few days ago, so it is easier for me to just direct you dear readers there. No point for me to copy and paste. :)
Take note, this is the rough itinerary of our 40 days in Europe. For a more detailed itinerary, please either send me a message or email me.
Rough Itinerary blog link: http://tanshu-min.blogspot.com/2014/07/my-40-days-europe-trip-itinerary.html
Ok, that is all for now.
Hope that this post will help you all to kickstart your Europe planning.
p/s - Read more on my Europe trip here.
p/s - Special thanks to my parents and ah-yee for helping me to babysit Shern and Khye for 40 days. Without them, there will be no kids-free Europe trip for me. Hugs and Kisses.