Backpacking Europe | Our Epic Step-by-Step Travel Planning Guide

An easy guide to budget travel in Europe.

City Guides

I created this step-by-step travel guide to prove that planning budget travel doesn’t have to be daunting — whether you’re backpacking through Europe or just a budget-minded independent traveler.

This guide is broken down into different phases of the planning process:

Under each phase, you will find links to our most important travel articles — I suggest reading through each one. If you follow these steps you’ll be prepared to have an amazing trip to Europe.

Note: You can find even more information on this website’s the top menu.

PHASE ONE: Initial Trip Planning

backpacking Europe how to guide

These are the first steps to take when planning your trip to backpack Europe. Here you’ll start planning what cities and countries to visit, create a travel itinerary, estimate your travel costs, book your flight, and a range of other things.

You’ll probably spend a large amount of time on this phase  — especially the itinerary planning.

Europe Itinerary Planning and Travel Logistics 

How To Create a Europe Travel Itinerary that fits your travel style, travel goals, and budget.

I’ve also put together some sample itineraries to help give some ideas of places you might want to visit:

Choosing Travel Insurance

I recommend buying travel insurance for your trip to protect against any unforeseen travel mishaps. Here are some Tips For Choosing Travel Insurance.

The Savvy Backpacker’s City Travel Guides

Discover practical travel information, must-see sights, where to eat, how much to budget, public transportation tips, where to stay, and more about more than 20 of Europe’s Most Iconic Cities:

Related: The Best Party Cities in Europe

Finding Cheap Airfare to Europe

Your plane ticket to Europe is one of your greatest expenses. Here’s our Guide To Finding Cheap Flights To Europe.

Best Travel Guidebooks and Online Resources

From Lonely Planet and Rick Steves’ guidebooks to Wikitravel and TripAdvisor, there is a wealth of information to help you choose what to do and see. I review My Favorite Online Travel Resources.

Choosing Travel Seasons

The summer might be the busiest travel season but Europe is a great place to visit year-round. We’ve listed the positives and negatives of traveling during each season.

Pre-Departure Travel Advice

Before you head off to Europe be sure to check out this Pre-Departure Travel Checklist so you don’t overlook any small, but important, details.

Get an Affordable High-Speed Mobile Data Plan For Your Phone

Having fast and reliable mobile data for your smartphone is a requirement these days. Check out my guide on how to use your phone in Europe and our guide to the best SIM Cards and Data Plans for Europe.

If you have a newer phone, check out our guide to the best Prepaid eSIM Data Plans for Europe.

Frequently Asked Travel Questions

I get sent a lot of questions about traveling in Europe that don’t warrant their own article — so I made a Mega-List Of Random Travel Questions.

Phase Two: Budgeting and Money

Europe travel costs budgeting

Let’s dive into the million-dollar question… how much does it cost to travel through Europe? Below are some helpful articles to help you estimate how much money you’ll need to backpack Europe on a budget.

I also cover various topics like using ATMs and credit cards, exchanging currency, and other money-related issues.

Estimating Your Travel Costs

Here’s a high-level guide to estimating How Much It Costs To Backpack Europe on a budget. I break down the average cost of food, alcohol, accommodation, sightseeing, transportation, pre-trip travel expenses, and other common expenses.

City Price Guides

I’ve created In-Depth City Price Guides that cover travel costs for 30+ cities in Europe. Each city guide includes average prices for food, accommodation, sightseeing, and more.

Using Your Money in Europe

Everything you need to know about exchange rates, using ATMs, using debit/credit cards, avoiding/minimizing foreign transaction fees, and more. Check out our Guide To Using Money While Traveling In Europe and our Guide To Using Credit Cards and Debit Cards in Europe.

Daily Money-Saving Strategies

Here are some Simple Money-Saving Europe Travel Tips you can do every day to save money while traveling. Here’s our Guide To Eating On A Budget While Traveling Europe for more money-saving tips.

Phase Three: Packing Advice & Travel Gear

backpacking Europe packing

Packing for travel in Europe can be confusing and frustrating — especially if you’re backpacking across Europe or just trying to pack light. These guides will help you choose what clothes and travel accessories to pack and have advice on packing light.

Europe Travel Packing Lists

I’ve written numerous packing lists for multiple travel styles. Each article covers functional and fashionable clothes for traveling through Europe, helpful travel accessories, toiletries, electronics, and what items you should leave behind.  Check them out!

The Best Travel Backpacks

I love travel backpacks and we’ve personally tested well over a dozen of the most popular backpacks. Here’s a list of the Best Travel Backpacks (Updated For 2022). Be sure to check out our Best Travel Backpacks for Women as well.

I’ve also compiled a list of the Best Carry-On Backpacks if you’re traveling light (which is highly recommended).

Related Article: Things to look for when buying a travel backpack & best travel backpacks for Europe (slightly old but still solid information).

Travel Gear Buyers Guides

I’ve reviewed a lot of travel products over the years. Here are a few of our most popular travel gear guides:

Travel Footwear

Travel Clothing

Travel Electronics

Travel Aids

How To Not Look Like A Tourist

It’s not always easy to stay fashionable while also living out of a backpack or suitcase. Here are some tips for not looking like a tourist.

Travel Packing and Organization Strategies

Living out of a suitcase or backpack does pose a few challenges. Here are some Travel Packing Strategies to help you efficiently organize your travel gear and prevent wrinkles in your clothing.

Related: Tips for using Packing Cubes.

Backpack Vs Suitcase

Do you need a backpack for traveling around Europe? Of course not. Plenty of people use suitcases. Here are some Tips For Determining Your Luggage Style.

Winter Travel Packing Tips

Winter travel is great but you need to know how to dress properly for the cold. Check out our Guide To Dressing For Winter In Europe for tips on dressing in layers to keep you warm and dry without wearing a lot of bulky clothes. Also, see our Winter Europe Packing List for some of our favorite winter gear.

Phase Four: Hostels, Hotels, Rental Apartments & Other Accommodation

I upgraded to an Airbnb while in Florence… the best view in the city!

Accommodation is one of your biggest expenses. In this section, I’ll focus on hostels, rental apartments, and Couchsurfing.

Guide to European Hostels

Curious about staying in hostels while traveling in Europe? Check out our Guide To Hostels In Europe — it covers everything you’ve ever wanted to know about staying in hostels and how to pick the perfect hostel for your travel style.

Also, check out this handy Guide To Hostel Etiquette.

Europe’s Best Hostels

Europe has a ton of amazing hostels. We’ve listed a few of the best hostels in Europe’s most popular cities.

See The Full List Of Europe’s Best Hostels By City

Couchsurfing in Europe

Couchsurfing is a super popular way to experience Europe, save money on accommodation, and meet friendly locals. Here’s our Guide to Couchsurfing in Europe.

Short-Term Apartment Rentals & Airbnb

Short-term apartment rentals — especially Airbnb — have exploded in Europe and it’s one of my favorite ways to experience Europe’s cities. But picking the perfect apartment can be a little tricky. Here’s my Guide To Renting Airbnb & Vacation Apartments In Europe.

Related: Airbnb Review: Why It’s Our Top Choice for Rental Apartments

Phase Five: Trains, Flights, and Other Transportation in Europe

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles!

Europe has a great transportation network, making it incredibly easy to zip from city to city and country to country. The hardest part is choosing which method is right for your travel style and budget.

In this section, I cover each major transportation option system and give tips on finding the best deals.

Complete Guide to Train Travel in Europe

Traveling by train is the best way to get around Europe. Check out my Guide To Train Travel in Europe to learn the ins and outs of European rail travel.

We’ve also written in-depth guides about country-specific train travel and how to score the cheapest tickets:

How To Purchase Train Tickets

There are a number of ways to purchase train tickets — from at the station to online. Read our Guide to Buying European Train Tickets to learn about the different kinds of train tickets and ways to get the best price.

Eurail Pass Explained

Many travelers purchase a Eurail Pass to explore Europe. However, with so many different passes available it can be tough to decide which, if any, rail pass is worth the price. Read my Guide To Eurail Passes to see if a rail pass is right for you.

Budget Air Travel in Europe

Europe is home to multiple budget airlines so it’s not uncommon to find flights within Europe for less than $50. My Guide To Budget Air Travel In Europe will cover how to find the cheapest tickets and help you decide if air travel is right for your trip.

Related: Our Ryanair Survival Guide will help you navigate one of Europe’s most notorious ultra-low-budget air carriers.

Traveling Europe by Car

Exploring Europe by car is a great way to discover smaller towns and villages, but it is a nightmare if you plan on only visiting large cities. My Guide To Traveling Europe By Car will cover what to look for when renting a car and tips for navigating Europe’s roads.

What’s Cheaper? Comparing Train vs Plane vs Car

I did a little comparison to find the cheapest way to travel around Europe — check out my findings. By the way, this isn’t a perfect comparison but it’s a good overview.

Bus/Coach Travel in Europe

One of the cheapest methods of travel is via long-distance coach service but it’s also the slowest. Check out our Guide To Long-Distance Coach Travel In Europe to learn more about this option for cash-strapped travelers.

Phase Six: Travel Service Reviews

backpacking through Europe help

There are many amazing travel products and services that will make traveling more enjoyable and less stressful — but the choices can be overwhelming. In this section read our reviews on everything from our favorite socks and underwear to backpacks and other travel services.

Airbnb Rental Strategies

Want to live like a local? Try Airbnb. Read our Airbnb Review to see why Airbnb is one of our top choices for finding great places to stay and see our top tips for finding the perfect rental.

Contiki Tour Review

Contiki tours are a popular travel option that thousands of people take each year. Read my Contiki Tour Review to see the good and bad of Contiki Tours and determine if this is a good option for you.

Hostelworld Review

See why Hostelworld is my top choice for finding and booking hostels in Europe. Read my Hostelworld Review and learn the strategies I use to find the best hostels.

Phase Seven: More Helpful Advice For Traveling Europe On A Budget

backpacking Europe tips

This section features general travel tips for everything from spotting tourist scams and fashion advice to solo travel pointers and group travel tips.

Avoiding Tourist Scams and Pickpockets

Don’t be one of the many tourists who get ripped off while traveling through Europe. Read our Guide To Pickpockets in Europe and our Guide to Avoiding Common Tourist Scams.

How To Use Data Plans and Smartphones in Europe

Using your smartphone and data plan in Europe can be costly. Read our Guide To Using Smartphones and Data Plans in Europe, How To Buy A SIM Card in Europe, and Guide to the Best eSIMs for Europe to make sure you don’t rack up a huge phone bill.

Solo and Group Travel in Europe

How are you going to travel around Europe — with friends, with your significant other, or maybe you want to travel solo? Check out these articles to help you make the most of your travels.

Using Electronics Abroad

Worried about using your electronics in Europe? Read our Guide To Using Your Electronics in Europe to see what kinds of electronics you can (and can’t) use in Europe.

Travel Styles and Sightseeing Strategies

Here are a few helpful articles to help you get the most out of your day-to-day travels.

Our Favorite Online Travel Resources

The websites I use to book and plan our travels.

Start Your Own Travel Blog (And How To Make Money)

Learn How To Start A Travel Blog — My 100% free guide to making your own travel blog and tips for making money to help fund your travels.


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