Our Europe trip was really decided during a random phone call one evening, last year. And it took us almost 6 months to make that random decision, an actual reality. Well once you have decided you want to go and you have the decent funds for it, what you really need is some amount of decent planning and a good amount of enthusiasm to travel.
We went on a trip for 21 days, 6 countries and on a budget of 1,80,000 with an additional 20K personal shopping, per person. Here are some tips on how you can also plan this trip at this budget.
Selecting what countries you want to travel:
This is important before booking the flights tickets, so that you can plan your port of entry and exit accordingly, mix and match the destinations to get the cheapest fare while entering and exiting Europe. Also, chalk your internal travels such that, you spend the least amount of time travelling between the countries. We choose, Paris as our port of entry, traveled to Brussels, Belgium (because that's north of France), onwards to Amsterdam(Netherlands), to Blackforest (Germany), to Munich( Germany), to Prague(Czech Republic) and finally Budapest(Hungary). We flew out from Budapest. Try to go in one direction, i.e. West to East, or North to South and so on, so that at no point you are retracing your steps back to go to a different destination.
Website/App we used:
Lonely Planet : Well this has quite the cliched photos and destinations, but you get a fair idea of what places you want to visit.
Trip Advisor : This is like the baap of travel websites. It has awesome reviews on anything and everything that place has to offer.
Tripto : Thanks to a dear friend Pooja, who told me about this App. It has accounts of people who have been to all these places and amazing amazing tips. Download it and you wont regret it.
Selecting the date:
The next thing we decided is on the dates. The ideal time to go to Europe is between Apr - Sep. Initially we wanted to travel in May 2017, which then moved to Jun 2017 and finally we decided on a date in Jul 2017. The only reason we moved it is because we were too busy with our work to dedicate proper time for planning this trip. And if you have going that far, the better you plan, the better you save and the more you have fun!
Travel on a weekday and you will be saving money
We traveled on a Wednesday and our return flights were also on a Tuesday. Don't book return flights from the same destination. Like in our case, the return flights from Mumbai to Paris and back were cheaper, but because as mentioned above, you don't want to retrace your steps back to the same place( If you do that, you would be spending money in Euros and not to mention time, to travel back to Paris from Budapest. Instead pay some more in INR and take the flight back from Budapest). We paid 20K for Mumbai to Paris and 26k for Budapest to Mumbai per person in INR.
What we didn't do, but are highly going to recommend -> Try and avoid travelling between Jun - Aug. Agreed the days are the longest and you get more time to explore during the day, but almost everything would be swarming with people and the sun is really really harsh in these places. Would suggest to travel in May or Sep. Cheaper air fare, hostel prices and lesser people!
Website / App we used: Makemytrip
Decide on what you really want to see:
Europe has something for everyone, so try to go with people who have similar interests :-) , else you may end up seeing a lot of things which you really are not interested in. Like in our case, both Priya and I wanted to steer clear of museums. We visited the Louver, but from outside. Agreed we went all the way to Paris and didn't see Mona Lisa(shocker :-|), but for all we know, you can really just catch a glimpse of her from far, and we have like zero clue about whats happening with all the other paintings in there. Yup, you do get the audio guide, but it will cost you more. We instead, spent some time with the Pyramids outside. But, we did stand in the line for 2 hours and spent 25 euros per person to go right up the Eiffel Tower, because we didn't want to miss this view for anything and we didn't regret it. So, this is really a personal preference.
We almost had an hour by hour itinerary on what we wanted to see in each city, each day. We split the cities among-st ourselves and then sent it for reviews early on. Like for instance, Priya religiously followed Fox traveler before we were to go and I remember she clearly told me to change the restaurants where we were going to eat and the gelatos which we were going to try (yup, we had researched that as well!, because local food is also a part of the travel), based of some of the shows she watched on TV and those were some amazing places where we ate.
One more instance would be -> We also wanted to visit DisneyLand in Paris. And instead of booking the tickets at the park, we booked them in advance and got a discount of total 4k INR on two tickets.
Another instance would be researching the different travel cards each city has to offer, and where you can buy them. For instance, we bought a Paris travel card for 4 days at a cost of 22 euros per person, which gave us free access to the trains, trams and buses in four zones of Paris (yes this covered Disney land as well). Travelling by uber /taxi is a big no and no for a budget trip and really you can't compare the hustle bustle with the local commuters against a boring lonely taxi ride!
Website / App we used:
Apart from Lonely Planet, trip advisor and Tripto, we also used Wiki travel, local blogs(just type backpacking Europe and you have tons of stuff to read) and of course Fox traveler channel.
You HAVE to ditch the hotels:
Trust us when we say this. Staying in an airbnb acco with your host who is a local or in a hostel room with 4 other people from different nationalities, comes no where close to a lonely hotel room. Want one more advantage, COSTS way way less! We budgeted for 2K INR per person per day, and we ensured we didn't cross this.
Go for Airbnbs and Hostels such as ->
Airbnbs which offer free laundry service. You end up carrying less clothes and you have clean cloths for free :-)
Airbnbs which have an open kitchen. Why? You can cook your own breakfast and probably lunch
and save on money. But Do have one meal outside, because as we said before local food!!!
Mix and match between airbnbs and hostels. We did this, but we stayed in airbnb for the first half of our stay and the remaining part were hostels. Airbnbs give you more privacy, which we craved for, near the end.
Hostels which offer free breakfast or atleast an open kitchen, again to save costs. Except Munich, all our hostels had free breakfast/open kitchen.
Hostels which offer free late checkin. We ended up paying 5 euros for a late checkin and we were not too happy about that!
And most importantly, check the location as well (apart from the reviews) of your airbnb and hostel. You don't want to be spending time and money in reaching your acco daily. Try and choose a place which is near to the city centre. Its safer as well for women travelers.
Pack Less and Ditch the backpack
Carrying our stupid big bag-pack and our another stupid small sack between the countries was like our lowest point on the trip. Instead do what all the Chinese people did (well they were so many Chinese around us at almost all destinations, that at one point we really wondered if there any of them left back in China! Man these guys travel and how), travel with one big suitcase and a tiny little purse. Almost all of Europe have escalators if you worried about the stairs. Please do this and you will thank us later.
You really need to pack smart and use the laundry services in all places effectively. Take an account of what kind of weather you will be encountering in all the places you are traveling to and pack accordingly. Quick tip would be (this is of course for the females :-) carry lots of scarves, skirts, and one good shawl,2 very good pair of walking shoes, and not more than 2 pants. Instead please laundry them. For tops and t Shirts-> well that;s really as per your facebook/insta needs :-P
Well, I am really going to wrap this one up now, to avoid more frying of my brains(whatever is left of them) now. If I forget something, I will either edit this post, or add it to the following country wise posts. Next up, how to apply for a Schegen Visa!