How I Took a Solo Trip to Europe- Planning

Thursday, September 24, 2015 Emily Childers 1 Comments

I work for a pretty amazing company. One of the biggest perks is that employees get a six week fully paid sabbatical every four years. Yasss. I dreamt of how I'd use those six weeks from my first day in the office. Right before I passed my four year mark I got a save the date from a friend in England who was getting married. Perfect timing? I think so!

Nick was still deep in the throes of starting a business so he couldn't take more than a few days off work. I figured what the heck, why not travel alone? I've done smaller trips on my own, but never anything this long, let alone in a place where I don't speak the language. I was nervous, but honestly didn't think twice about going.
Morty thinks Rick Steves is awesome too

With six weeks off, I figured four weeks of travel would give me plenty of time at home to decompress and get over jet lag before heading back to work. Four weeks of travel wherever I wanted to go. On my own schedule. Holy crap. With that kind of freedom I was a little bit overwhelmed and not sure where to start. I knew I had to be in England at the end of March but had no idea where else to go. Enter: Rick Steves.

I ordered Rick Steves' Best of Europe 2014 since it was half the price of the 2015 edition and I figured there couldn't be too many changes in just one year (spoiler: I was right). I immediately scratched out cities I'd already visited and read through the remaining chapters. I narrowed it down to the following:

  • Paris
  • Amsterdam
  • Halstatt and Obertraun
  • The Berner Oberlands
  • Vienna

I was going to be like Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love. But fatter. And without
the spiritual bullshit. Or the boring plot. So basically not at all like that.
I figured if I spent a couple days in each city and with the wedding and bachelorette party each taking a weekend, I'd still have a few days to fit in one more location. Time to bust out the old bucket list... ICELAND. That's right, Iceland. Land of volcanoes, hot springs, hidden people, and crazy ass weather. I won't go into my specific schedule now, but will break it down in my weekly travel logs.

Once I had my locations, it was time to map out an itinerary. Some people like to travel without a strict schedule, but I am not those people. I pre-booked all of my train tickets based on price and length using a combination of Google, Eurail, and country-specific train provider websites. I considered buying a rail pass, but with my detailed pre-planning I ended up saving a bit of money by purchasing tickets individually. I reserved hostels, hotels, and apartments and printed out maps of each in relation to where I was arriving. Have I mentioned I like to plan? I had heard horror stories of bed bugs and burglaries in cheap hostels so I picked higher end hostels (about $30/night for a bed in a shared room) in expensive cities and found mid priced hotels and apartments in cheaper cities (around $40 per night). It's amazing how much the cost of lodging varied between locations.

A cheap hostel in Paris is just like the movie but with more bugs and less murder.

I organized all of my reservations and travel details in a google spreadsheet that I printed for quick reference. I also tracked costs and projected expenses, as I was definitely traveling on a budget. This was my travel bible.

Anal retentive much?

At this point I had my itinerary, transportation between cities, lodging, and a hefty credit card bill. Did I mention I put all of this onto a credit card? No? Well I did. I opened up a Chase Freedom credit card that offered 0% apr for the first 15 months so I could give myself an installment plan to pay off the trip without being charged interest. I'm still working on paying it off, but don't regret the debt at all.

Check out my other posts on packing and Paris.

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