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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

: lets go to europe : how to do it on the cheap :

hey everybody!
so, today is wednesday! we leave for iowa on FRIDAY! and the ride starts on saturday.
[oh my goodness]
i have a lot of great posts scheduled for my time away ; some are even from *other* really rad bloggers!
today, i have chelsea here to share her tips on traveling europe [for months] on a teeny, tiny budget!
Hi lovely readers of Diana's!
My name is Chelsea and I blog at Yours Truly. I am a 20-something Vancouverite currently living in Auckland, New Zealand with my cute Kiwi boyfriend, and I am a customer support rep by day and a blog designer by night!
How cool is it what Diana is off doing right now? I seriously wish I had her motivation and determination, she is pretty amazing.

Today I'm here to share some travel tips and experiences with you! 
Travel is one of my favorite things to talk about. So much in fact, that I often find myself being a little too pushy trying to encourage people to break out of their shells and get out into the big, beautiful world. It really is big and beautiful though, I promise.
Unfortunately, the thought of how much a trip costs can be very daunting and does make travel seem like an unrealistic opportunity to some.
Luckily, I am here today to tell you that my boyfriend and I travelled Europe for two and a half months for under $10,000 Canadian dollars. $10,000?!?!?!, you may be thinking. It does seem like a big number.
But split that in half and it's $5,000 for one person. That number is a lot smaller. And you could easily spend less than we did as well. This amount included our flights, transportation, food, accommodation, shopping and all things touristy.

The gorgeous canals that run all through the city {Amsterdam, the Netherlands} 

Tip #1: Find cheap flights 
Most people have no idea how to find well-priced flights on the internet. They give up after one search and call a travel agent to whom they end up paying hundreds, even thousands extra to. It's easy. 
Have your money ready to book with and look up flights on various websites every day until you find a price that sounds good! Sites like Skyscanner and Kayak can show you prices compiled from tons of other websites to help you find the cheapest price. You don't need to buy your flight the first time you search, give it a few days of searching, even a few weeks as prices are constantly rising and dropping. 

Swimming in the Mediterranean costs zero dollars! {Barcelona, Spain} 

Tip #2: Pack light 
You've probably heard this a thousand times, but I can't stress it enough. My boyfriend and I both brought 50-60L backpacks. DO NOT FILL THEM UP. I'm not kidding. You carry this bag on your back. It's heavy. It may not seem like it while you prance around your house with it on in excitement for your upcoming trip, but after a long flight or train ride when it's ridiculously hot out, you are going to hate that backpack more than anything. Packing light is one of my top tips for a good time while travelling. If you know you're going to hate carrying a backpack, then get a bag with wheels. It sounds stupid to go "backpacking" with a rolly-bag, but if the backpack is going to make you angry everytime you pick it up, then roll along my friend. I would bring a rolling bag on my next trip, personally.

Reenacting photos seen on Copenhagen postcards is also free! {Copenhagen, Denmark} 

Tip #3: Hostel! 
I'm sure you've seen or heard of the movie Hostel. Hostels are not like that. You're not going to get murdered/tortured/other-scary-things-here by staying in a hostel. They're actually the best place to meet other travellers and hear about things that are cheap/free/awesome to do in the city you're staying in. They're also VERY cheap accommodation. Hostel World and Hostel Bookers are the best two sites to find hostels in the city you'll be staying in. Some hostels even include breakfasts/dinners or have pools, just look up the details on each hostel. If you hate the idea of sleeping with strangers in the room, most hostels offer private rooms for a little higher price but still far cheaper than any hotel room.
Hiking up to a massive Jesus statue and enjoying a beautiful sunset.....priceless. {San Sebastian, Spain}  

Tip #4: Having fun doesn't need to be expensive
Lots of travellers/tourists have this idea in their head that they need to pay the 20 something Euros to go to the top of the Eiffel tower, or that they HAVE to get a ride in a gondola in Venice. When you are actually there, you realize this is so unnecessary to enjoy yourself and experience the city. Yes, it would have been great to go to the top of the Eiffel tower, but it looked pretty cool from the bottom too. We spent that money on doing a night time cruise through the River Seine instead, and I don't regret that choice one bit! You don't NEED to do every tourist thing there is {and in Europe, they know how to suck you in, there are tons of "must-do" things around}. You can wander the city, meet locals, visit free museums, hang out with other travellers you've met, take free walking tours often offered by hostels. 
You will still have just as much fun, and you can save that money for something you really were wanting to do.

Who needs a gondola ride in Venice when you can go in the middle of the plaza and feed pigeons off your body? Okay...maybe too far this time? {Venice, Italy} 

Tip #5: Bring a sleeping bag 
A lot of travel sites told me not to pack a sleeping bag when I went to Europe. My boyfriend and I decided to anyways, and bought a light sleeping bag that rolled up very tiny and took up very little room in our backpacks. 
Sometimes, the hostel is cold and you want that extra warmth. 
Sometimes, you're staying with someone you know in the country and need some bedding. 
Sometimes, you find someone on Couch Surfing to stay with. 
Sometimes, all of the hostels are booked up because of some conference going on in the area so you have to rent a room off crashpadder at midnight only to show up to a very sleepy old woman's house and you need a sleeping bag to snuggle into {this happened to us}. 
Or those long overnight train rides that would be ridiculously uncomfortable and/or cold had you not brought your sleeping bag with you. You never know when you're gonna need it. 

It cost us 30 euro each to buy lunch and spend the entire day at this amazing park. It seems quite expensive, but remember this is an entire day's activity, food and transport. Money well spent. {Plitvice Lakes, Croatia} 

Hopefully these tips have been a tiny bit helpful for some of you planning a trip. I have a billion more opinions on how to travel Europe, so if you have any more questions definitely feel free to email me at and I would love to answer them for you to the best of my knowledge! 
If you are curious, my boyfriend and I visited the following countries in one and a half months: Denmark, Spain, France, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Germany, Italy, Monaco and the Netherlands. 
I'd be happy to give suggestions on what to do or where to go, to the best of my knowledge, in any of these countries!
fun, right?
tell us : what countries have YOU traveled to?
[i have been to canada & 9 different countries in europe!]