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Backpacking Europe in 10 Days

In this guide you will get a breakdown of how to plan a trip of a lifetime from beginning to end with helpful tips and recommendations for staying organized while keeping expenses down.


If you've ever dreamt of backpacking through Europe, but are worried about the expenses or the time commitment, you've come to the right place. I get it; not everyone can afford to take months off work or break the bank on an extravagant trip. So, like me, you might want to ease into this adventure with some optimal planning.


This October, I went backpacking in Europe and was able to see 3 countries in 10 days: Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. All with a 22 pound backpack. And it only took 6 planes, 12 trains, and way-too-many-to-count buses. Could you imagine doing all of that with a checked back? Sounds expensive... and heavy.


Man and Woman Taking Selfie outside in car

When I decided to backpack Europe, I had a limited budget and a tight schedule. I wanted to get the full European experience without breaking the bank or quitting my job. Here's how I made it happen in just 10 days.


Below you will find my list of planning essentials for backpacking Europe to get your from merely imaging your dream trip to actually living it.


 

#1: Plan Your Destinations


The key to a successful 10-day backpacking adventure in Europe is meticulous planning and a willingness to adapt. Start by selecting a few must-visit destinations and create a flexible itinerary. Don't overcommit to too many cities; focus on quality over quantity. Consider your interests, the type of experiences you're seeking, and the time you can allocate to each place.


Rank your destinations by priority and determine where you'd like to spend the most time. Keep in mind that in just 10 days, you won't be able to cover an entire continent, so focus on a specific region or a few key cities. Research each destination's must-see attractions, culture, and history to help with your decision.


Man playing guitar outside with car camping tent

For us, we knew we wanted to visit Munich, Germany because Oktoberfest was going to be an event we HAD to see, and then we also knew we wanted to experience as much of Italy as we could, specifically Venice, Rome, and Pompeii. Take a look below to start help you decide your priority destinations.


Helpful Apps & Websites:

  • TripAdvisor: Provides travel recommendations, reviews, and photos shared by fellow travelers.

  • Lonely Planet: Offers detailed travel guides and tips for various destinations.

  • TikTok: Many travel vloggers will post their experiences and recommendations, do a keyword or hashtag search!

  • Airbnb Experiences: Helps you find unique, locally hosted activities and experiences in your chosen cities.

  • Use Google Maps to create a custom map with your destinations and priorities.

 

#2: Track Flight Prices


Flights can be a significant portion of your travel budget, so it's essential to find the best deals. Google Flights is a valuable tool for this. Keep in mind that the countries are Europe are tightly packed together, so flying into another country might not be a bad idea if it keeps your expenses down. Input your chosen destination cities and your preferred travel dates. Then, use the "track flight" feature to receive price drop notifications.


Be flexible with your travel dates if possible. Midweek flights or those during the off-peak season often come with lower price tags. Keep a close eye on your tracked flights and be ready to book when you see a good deal!


Man reading book in car trunk on car mattress while car camping

When looking up flights we noticed due to Oktoberfest, flying into Munich would be much pricier than normal, so we looked up the other cities in Italy for flight prices as well as surrounding cities and countries. Amsterdam seemed to have lower prices than the surrounding areas, so we added that fly-in destination to the list and tracked our flights on Google for any remarkable decrease in flight prices.


Helpful Apps & Websites:

  • Utilize Google Flights to track and compare flight prices.

  • Explore flight search engines like Skyscanner or Kayak for price comparisons and alerts.

  • Google Flights: The same tool you used for tracking flights is great for comparing airfare prices.

 

#3: Map The Itinerary


Once you have your flights booked, it's time to create a workable itinerary. Start by adding your landing destination into Google Maps and mark your accommodation. Then, plot each destination on your priority list and connect them on the map to see transit times and distances.


This visualization helps you understand how to maximize your time. You can adjust the length of your stay in each place, plan your daily activities, and even optimize your travel routes. Remember to factor in travel time between cities, whether by train, bus, or plane.


Europe boasts an efficient and extensive public transportation network. Trains, buses, and subways are not only affordable but also a fantastic way to soak in the local culture and scenery. Invest in a rail pass or a city travel card to maximize your savings.


Sleeping bags and insulated blankets in car during car camping

Once we saw that Amsterdam was lowered for a round trip that was lower than our ideal price, we booked it right away! And then pulled up Google Maps to start putting in our destinations so we could optimize our time with shorter travel but still get to visit each place we had in mind.


Helpful Apps & Websites:

  • Rome2rio: A handy tool for planning routes between destinations using various transportation options.

  • Uber: Uber works in Europe and also offers taxi service!

  • Google Maps: Use this app to create and save your custom maps, including destinations, accommodations, and points of interest.

 

#4: Stay and Accommodations


One of the most significant expenses while backpacking is accommodation. I found that hostels and budget-friendly hotels were the way to go. They provide a comfortable and affordable place to rest your head without draining your wallet. Plus, they're an excellent way to meet fellow travelers. Being in a hostel usually allows for a more, non-tourist experience as well due to the fact that you get to chat with locals and they can steer you away from tourist traps. Some tips before deciding between Hostel, Hotel or and Airbnb/Vrbo:

  • Read reviews and check ratings on travel websites to ensure the quality and safety of your chosen accommodations.

  • Look at your credit cards and see you if you have any free stays or travel points you can use.

  • Consider location carefully. Staying in the city center or near public transportation can save you time and money on commuting.

  • Look for accommodations that offer complimentary breakfast. This can be a great way to start your day without additional expenses.

  • Be flexible with your lodging choices. Some nights, you might choose a hostel for social interaction, while other times, you may prefer a quiet Airbnb for relaxation.

Girls outside enjoying sun while camping sitting in foldable chairs with portable cookware

We actually did a mix of all 3, depending on price, accommodation, and location. So don't lock yourself into just one! Use the tips above and the sites below to help you further.


Helpful Apps & Websites:

  • Hostels: To find and book hostels, use platforms like Hostelworld and Booking.com. These apps and websites provide reviews and ratings to help you choose the best option.

  • Hotels: Search for budget-friendly hotels on Booking.com, Hotels.com, or Trivago. These platforms allow you to compare prices and find discounts.

  • Airbnb and Vrbo: For apartments and homes, consider Airbnb and Vrbo. You can read reviews and communicate directly with hosts to ensure a comfortable stay.

 

#5: Free & Low Cost Activities


Europe offers an array of free and low-cost activities, from strolling through picturesque parks and historic neighborhoods to visiting museums during discounted hours. Take advantage of these opportunities to enjoy the culture without overspending. Some options include:

  • Exploring local parks and gardens

  • Walking tours provided by local guides (don't forget to tip!)

  • Visiting free or discounted museums during specific hours or days

  • Attending cultural events, street markets, and festivals (like Oktoberfest, no tickets required!)

  • Enjoying scenic hikes or cycling routes


Take advantage of these opportunities to immerse yourself in local culture and history without overspending.


Readywise adventure meals

For exact itineraries of what my travel experience consisted of in Europe, check out my other blogs for recommendations!


Helpful Apps & Websites:

  • Use TripAdvisor or Viator to find budget-friendly tours and activities.

  • Your Hostel Hosts are also a great resource! Most of our recommendations came from those we spoke to who lived here and they were all wonderful.

  • Check local tourism websites for information on free events and attractions in your chosen destinations.

 

#6: Explore Local Cuisine


Europe is a haven for foodies, but dining in fancy restaurants can add up quickly (in both time and money). To save money, and experience authentic local flavors, opt for street food, local markets, and affordable cafes. You'll discover delightful dishes without the hefty price tag. Food is a significant part of any travel experience, and Europe has a diverse culinary scene. To enjoy local cuisine without blowing your budget:

  • Opt for street food stalls and food markets for authentic flavors.

  • Dine at local cafes and eateries that offer budget-friendly menus.

  • Ask locals for recommendations on hidden gems that offer affordable yet delicious meals.

  • Consider sharing dishes to sample more variety without overindulging.

Margherita Neapolitan pizza

Helpful Apps & Websites:

  • Use Yelp or Google Maps to find local, budget-friendly restaurants and eateries.

  • Seek food recommendations from travel forums like Chowhound or Eater.

  • OpenTable: Make restaurant reservations and discover special dining offers.

 

#7: Pack Light & Smart


When backpacking, less is more. Pack only the essentials and opt for versatile clothing items that can mix and match. A single backpack is all you need for this adventure, making your travels more manageable and cost-effective. Packing efficiently is essential for a smooth backpacking trip. Keep these packing tips in mind:

  • Prioritize versatile clothing that can be mixed and matched for various weather conditions.

  • Choose lightweight, moisture-wicking, and quick-drying fabrics for clothing.

  • Use packing cubes to organize your belongings and save space.

  • Pack only the essentials, including travel-sized toiletries and a universal adapter.

  • Invest in a comfortable and durable backpack that suits your travel needs.

Woman packing duffle bag lightly for a trip

I have a lot of recommendations for this one because I still wanted to look stylish while traveling! But this was difficult as well since I was going from Amsterdam which was 45 degrees to Germany at 70 to Italy that was 95. So I had to get creative with my layers. Check out my TikTok or Instagram post for the example of how I packed for this vacation. Below you will see my favorite recommendations linked below.


Helpful Items, Apps, & Websites:

  • The North Face 40L Travel Backpack: I too a 40 L backpack that stowed as a carry-on on the airplanes. Weighed about 22 pounds and still had room to take home souvenirs. Don't skimp on the Hip Strap comfortability, that is the part that matters the most!

  • Day-bag: Don't forget to add on a day-bag where you can carry essentials like your water-bottle and some money and also have room for a souvenir or two. I recommend a cross-body.

  • Packing Cubes: This makes finding your apparel much easier than digging through a backpack.

  • Compact Travel Mirror: If you are trying to fit many destinations in, you'll very likely be getting ready on a plane or train. This will help.

  • Explore travel gear reviews and recommendations on websites like REI or The Wirecutter.

  • PackPoint: A packing list app that generates customized packing lists based on your trip's destination, duration, and planned activities.

 

#8: Prepare To Be International


Being well-prepared for international travel is essential to ensure a smooth and stress-free journey. Here are some critical steps to consider:

  • Check Your Cell Phone Plans: Contact your mobile service provider to understand international roaming options or consider purchasing a local SIM card for data and communication while abroad.

  • Verify Passport Validity: Ensure your passport is up-to-date, with at least six months of validity remaining from your planned return date.

  • Back Up Your Passport: Take photos of your passport and other essential travel documents and upload them to a secure cloud storage service. This will serve as a backup in case of loss or theft.

  • International Health Insurance: Research international health insurance options. It's a wise investment to protect yourself in case of unforeseen medical expenses while abroad.

  • Check COVID-19 Restrictions: Given the evolving situation, look into COVID-19 travel restrictions and requirements for your destination countries. Be prepared to provide a vaccination card or meet any other health-related prerequisites.

  • Consider transferring your money before arriving due to conversion fees.

  • Look into Locker Storage at Train stations so ensure you can take a load off before your stay check-ins.

  • First Aid Kit: This might sound silly, but is completely necessary when traveling to a foreign country! Some meds I suggest bringing are Benadryl and Imodium; different foods and allergies can cause reactions that are less than favorable (unless you want to pay a fortune in Euros visiting restrooms).

two people in Europe holding up their American passports

Helpful Apps & Websites:

  • For international health insurance, use World Nomads, InsureMyTrip or SquareMouth to compare plans.

  • Check COVID-19 restrictions using the IATA Travel Centre and your destination's official government website.

  • Mobile Passport: Allows you to complete U.S. customs and immigration forms on your smartphone, speeding up your re-entry into the United States.

  • TravelSmart: An app from Allianz Global Assistance that provides international travel insurance information and assistance.

  • Cell Phone Plans: Research international phone plans offered by your mobile service provider. Consider using apps like WhatsApp and Viber for text and voice calls over Wi-Fi. To find local SIM cards or data plans, use SIM Card Wiki or Prepaid Data SIM Card Wiki to compare options in your destination.

 

By following these eight steps, you'll be well-prepared for your 10-day backpacking adventure through Europe. Remember that flexibility and adaptability are key to making the most of your journey. Happy travels!


For more information and recommendations about my travels in Europe, be sure to check out my other blogs below:

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