When flying is cheaper than hitchhiking, you know it’s an exciting time for cash starved students.
This post will get you one step closer to learning about different cultures, meeting inspiring people, attending awesome nights out, and having the best education one can invest in — life experience.
Traveling Europe for less than what it costs to live at home would be a challenge without consistently finding cheap flights. Luckily for us, the website Drungli does a great job at this. The tool only lets you choose the place of departure and date, so the general idea is to find cheap flights to cities where you can leave on the cheap too. This can be done by opening multiple tabs and repeating the same process for a new city and date— yes it gets messy, but we consistently found flights for €5-€15!
If you’re traveling with a friend, it helps for one of you to focus on discovering the flights, and the other on booking them. Good communication is key if you don’t want to make mistakes.
When purchasing the flights, make sure that you know how to navigate the budget airlines booking funnel. Ryanair is notoriously good at adding expenses to unwary travelers. Keep a close eye on the flight cost, and if you see it increase for anything other than a booking fee or tax, then you’ve probably opted in to travel insurance, car rental, or some other paid service.
To keep costs down, you will be traveling with hand luggage only, so find out the size limitations. In preparation for the trip, I purchased a backpack that had adjustable straps. Whenever I would catch a flight, I’d shrink everything down to make sure I didn’t receive a fine at the checkin gate. Once through the airports, the extra space was there if I needed it.
This will take a good few hours, so be patient. Get the pizzas in the oven, play some chill-out music in the background, and enjoy the very random process of defining the trip of a lifetime.
You will most probably be traveling with Ryanair most of the time, with exceptions to the occasional Easyjet & Wizzair flight, as well as long distance bus ride. If you haven’t yet flown with Mr O’Leary, then listen up — be creative getting from the airport to the city. Cheaper airlines usually land about an hour away from your final destination because of the tax savings they gain from using smaller airports. This means you need to find a way of getting from the airports to your destination. Public transport is expensive and a great way to undo all of the hard work you put in to finding cheap flights in the first place. You may have to pay the occasional trip, but with the right preparation hitchhiking still works.
Unless you have a place to crash in every city you visit, you will need an alternative. This is where the open minded people that make up the Couchsurfing community will come in handy. It’s because of this community, the trip took on a life of its own where the focus was not so much on the places visited, but on the experiences shared with the people I met and stayed with. From traditional African meals, to classical music jams, arguments in strip clubs, and moments of self discovery; you will be sharing it all with the people you meet. It ads a unique tag to your trips that would otherwise be just another tourist’s visit to Barcelona, London, & Berlin etc. Much has been written on how to use couch surfing, so I’ll only say this:
Host before you surf
There’s nothing like having lots of positive feedback on your profile to social proof your existence. Unfortunately I couldn’t host people prior to the trip, so was forced to build this up while traveling. From my own experiencing of how it became easier to find hosts when I had lots of positive feedback, I can say that it’s worth hosting people before your trip. It will also give you a feel for the dynamic behind form of travel.
Start sending requests as early as possible
Ignore at your own peril.
Make your profile personal
Although some hosts will decide if they want you around based on their personal agenda, many will make the decions after quickly judging you based of your profile. Don’t be lazy! Invest time here, and make sure you capture who you are as a person. Ask friends for feedback if you’re struggling.
Write an awesome request
This is just as important as having a good profile. There’s nothing more annoying than receiving a crappy couch request. Due to the scale of the trip, I would argue that it’s silly to write a personal message to every request you send. Instead, write an awesome template where you capture the magic of your trip, and what value hosts will receive from giving you a roof. It took me a few iterations to get mine just right, and I may have pissed off a few people in the learning process; but hey…you can’t please everybody!
Give personal feedback
I cannot express just how important this is. Write great personal feedback; something that demonstrates your listening skills. Do this without expecting any in return, and you’re on the right path.
Have a plan B
There were three occasions where I was in need of an urgent place to stay. If it weren’t for having a back up host, I’d have been forced to stay at a hotel…ok it happend once, but come on it was xmas.
I was lucky to have a friend from Spain with me, so I ate extremely well for next to nothing. We would shop intelligently saving cents on ingredients where ever we could. Using our hosts kitchen’s, we cooked larger portions so the meals would last several sittings. I carried around the food in containers like this one. Food varies in price, so you will find yourself eating very plain where cost is high such as in Scandinavia, and then you’ll dine very well in places like Eastern Europe.
Euro-trip on one pay check is viable
We have all heard of cheap travel, but covering 12 European cities (mostly capitals) on such a budget seems impossibly low; it isn’t — I’ve done it, and so can you. For a good read on travel, there’s a lot of wisdom to be gained from this book, but don’t let that pause you. Get your tickets, and start soaking up some culture.
Want to see some of the images from my trip? — find them here.
- Don’t forget a thermal flask — European winter winds can be chilly
- Get a pair of quality walking boots — your feet deserve it
- Learn to take great smartphone pictures — Friends & family will appreciate it
- Get a micro fiber towel — Saving space is key to traveling with hand luggage
- Bring a sleeping bag — You never know where you’re going to sleep
- Make the trip details accesible anywhere(dropbox, drive) — Keeps everyone on the trip in sync
Cities visited— Barcelona, Brussels, Oslo, London, Oxford, Maastricht, Stockholm, Berlin, Warsaw, Budapest, Prague, Hamburg, Lyon, and Cologne.
Time period — Mid Nov / Mid Jan
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