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Last spring I took a three week backpacking trip starting on Good Friday and ending in April. It took me a while to plan my trip and figure out all the details. I want to share the steps I took to plan and have an excellent trip through Europe without spending precious travel time worrying about the big picture. After however many segments I write in this I hope the end result is a good solid itinerary for a trip lacking in regrets.

I feel a good place to start is in planning the trip.

The first and most important questions to ask is: where do you want to go? This answer could be specific with a small german town where the family came from as the destination or even a general “Italy sounds lovely”. But in either case it is an important question to ask.

In my case I wanted to travel through Europe for three weeks. That was my answer to the question. So I bought a guidebook for Europe. I tried using online travel resources such as wikitravel, though I prefer to have a real paper book in front of me. A side bonus is the book (or the main book) used for planning the trip can go with you in case plans need to be changed. Plans will likely need to be changed.

For books I have found that those by Rick Steves to be excellent. At least for destinations. I only used the books for city guides and to find destinations; not all my destinations though.

After finding some cities or countries that are interesting write down an itinerary. It can be rough. My first one only listed countries and approximate days. This gives definition to a trip and allows it to be shaped instead of remaining as floating ideas and “I always wanted to go to…” phrases. 

Remember that an itinerary is always flexible, even during a trip. I had initially planned to go to Haarlem in The Netherlands, after talking to fellow travelers a week into my trip I changed it around and decided to stay in Brugge, Belgium for the last few days of my journey.

For an example here was trip itinerary after working on it for a month (not full time of course) and changing it on the fly (destination based on where I spent that night):

  • March 20: East Midlands Airport 
  • March 21 (Good Friday): Rome
  • March 22-24 (Saturday through Easter onto Monday): Florence
  • March 25-26: Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy
  • March 27: Night train to Munich
  • March 28-29: Munich
  • March 30-31: Rothenburg ob de Tauber
  • April 1-3: Bacharach (Rhine River Valley)
  • April 4-7: Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
  • April 8-10: Amsterdam
  • April 11-12: Brugge, Belgium

A quick note, I started and ended my trip in Edinburgh, Scotland because I spent last year studying abroad at Edinburgh University. Also some days were day trips out of the areas or spent traveling by train if need be

Tomorrow I hope to cover budgeting for the trip, both time and money.

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