Early in 2016 Vee and I had made the decision to not be in Fiji for our birthdays (we have the same birthday). I had wanted to be in Egypt but things were still a bit unsettled in that part of the world so we went with Europe, a continent we had thought to travel when we had a bit more money. Unfortunately, with our itchy feet, it’s difficult to amass any substantial wealth; so off we went because there was no point in waiting for the bank balance to expand.
For this write-up, I will not cover each of the cities we visited but rather a generic overview of things to assist while planning a trip to Europe.
We almost always book our flights from and to Fiji months in advance, generally whenever there is a sale on the Nadi-Singapore-Nadi leg. The rest we fit in progressively keeping in mind sale periods and flight schedules. For this trip, we worked out the must visit countries, and then cities, and then the routes.
For our travels, Vee and I have very specific roles. I look into the travel and accommodation details and Vee works out the ground travel and city itinerary. Once we pin down our route, I look into accommodation options close to public transportation and interest points. The earlier you book the better. My go to site for accommodation searches and bookings are Agoda and Airbnb. Agoda because you collect points over time which can be used to discount bookings, and Airbnb because, lets face it, European hotels aren’t meant to be booked with Fijian dollars.
Side note: always read reviews of the places you are booking and take note of other travelers recommendations. When booking for our Venice hotel I had read that there aren’t any lifts in most of the smaller hotels because the buildings are old and its no fun carrying your backpack four flight of stairs. So I mentioned in my booking details that I prefer a room on the ground floor because I have a bad leg. Now this was done months before we checked-in so I was very confused (but pleased) to find we were provided a double door room with a huge bath (with seats and handles). It wasn’t until later in the night when it dawned on me that I am supposed to have a bad leg. Don’t get me wrong, I do have a bad knee, but not bad enough to warrant this lavish room. So for the reminder of the trip, I walked with a limp while entering and exiting the hotel.
The trickiest bit I found was booking intercity trains. Luckily, I found The Man in Seat 61 before I lost my sanity. Mark Smith, documents everything there is to know about travelling via trains in Europe and in many other countries. I am currently referring to his website for travels in Sri Lanka!
For the day to day itinerary, we used Sygic Travel. With Sygic Travel you could map out our itinerary or use itinerary templates. We simply looked at 2-3 day itineraries and picked out the items we wanted to do. Since this trip planner is map based, you could visualise the distance between your different interest points. Apart from Sygic Travel, Vee read numerous blog posts and TripAdvisor reviews for the attractions we were interested in. He listed out the approximate distance between the interest point (specially if we were to walk) and the entry fee.
Most of his work on Europe is available on this excel sheet.
Initially we were horrified at the prospect using public transport and getting lost in Europe. However, after a bit of online research, we found mobile apps which enabled us to navigate most of Europe like locals. We used HereWeGo for public transportation needs as it provided turn-by-turn navigation in offline mode as well. For walking around we used Maps.Me which allows you to download a city map for use offline. It provides walking distance and time between locations, as well as relevant information on nearest washroom or drinking water fountain for example.
Overall, travelling across Europe can be easy, fun and less heavy on the pocket. Be sure to do a bit of pre-planning and leave the rest for adventure!