For travellers embarking on a backpacking Europe trip, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the excitement of your travels and all the amazing places you will visit. That means that often backpackers can get overawed in terms of what they need to plan before leaving and ensuring they haven’t forgotten anything important. To help you get organised, we’ve created this comprehensive backpacking Europe checklist so you’re covered for everything you need to do – from months before your trip right until a few days before you leave!
Backpacking Europe Checklist: 3 to 6 months before your trip
1. Work out your budget
One of the very first things you need to do before embarking on any trip is to work on what your budget is. This is particularly important if you’re backpacking Europe as your daily budget will have a big impact on both where in Europe you can visit and how long you can travel for.
An average daily budget for backpacking Europe is around €40 – 50/day. This will cover you for most places in Central and Eastern Europe, however, you can expect to pay more in Western European countries and less in the some of the more affordable countries in the East. This daily budget will cover you for a dorm in a hostel, cheap meals (with the occasional splurge meal), transportation and one or two activities per day. Click here for a full breakdown of costs of backpacking Europe.
In addition to your daily budget, you need to make sure you have enough funds to cover pre-trip expenses such as flights, gear and travel insurance.
2. Pick a rough route
As mentioned previously, your daily budget should guide you in determining which part of Europe to backpack in. If your budget is tight and you want to extend your travels, then heading to Central and Eastern Europe is definitely the way to go. However, don’t let your budget be the sole influencing factor in deciding upon a route. If you have your heart set on a particular destination or event that might be in a more expensive part of Europe then don’t let your budget stop you from visiting there!
I recommend outlining a few must-sees for your trip, and then determining a rough route around those destinations. There’s no need to over plan your route as you’ll undoubtedly want some flexibility when you finally arrive in Europe. However, if you want to visit a popular festival or city that is known for getting a lot of tourists in high season then it’s worth planning that well in advance.
If you need some inspiration for routes, then check out our five great backpacking Europe routes that we’ve compiled!
3. Book your flight
The most important part of figuring out a rough route a few months before your trip is so you can book your flight! Booking a flight a few months before your trip is usually the best time to do so as flights tend to get progressively more expensive the closer you get to your departure date.
If you have flexibility on your destination airport and/or arrival date then I recommend using Skyscanner to find a flight. Skyscanner allows you to search by for prices by month and also by country rather than a specific city to find a great deal. If you know the specific date and city you want to fly into then I would recommend using Momondo to find the cheapest flight deal.
Backpacking Europe Checklist: 1 to 3 months before your trip
4. Buy a backpack
Buying a backpack is one of the most important items on our backpacking Europe checklist. Travelling with a conventional suitcase can be extremely inconvenient in Europe – those cobbled streets and common staircases aren’t friendly to wheels! Plus if you’re on a budget, you’ll likely be walking a lot so you want to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible!
We highly recommend the Osprey Farpoint 55 or Fairview 55 for women (also available on REI here) if you’re embarking on a backpacking Europe trip. They’re both front loading backpacks, have compression straps, a detachable daypack and are extremely durable.
A more stylish option is the Tortuga Setout which can be used as carry on luggage or the Osprey Meridian (also available on REI here). which is a great choice if you’re after a wheeled backpack. If you need more help on deciding a backpack then make sure to check out our guide on the best backpacks for backpacking Europe!
5. Apply for the right debit or credit card
What is the right debit or credit card you might ask? The ones with no foreign transaction fees!
The last thing you want to be doing on your backpacking Europe trip is giving away part of your daily budget to the banks! Applying for a debit or credit card without foreign transaction fees will mean you won’t get charged extra each time you withdraw money which can save a lot over the course of a few months backpacking. It’s worth making sure you do this as soon as possible as it can sometimes take a little while for banks to approve your application.
6. Decide what electronics you want to pack
The reason why it’s worth thinking about your electronics a month or two before leaving is you might decide that what you currently own isn’t what you want to travel with. For example, unless you’re working online there’s little point lugging around a large laptop during your backpacking Europe trip. However, you might still be keen on having something to browse the web, upload photos or chat with friends back home. In this case, a lightweight tablet like the Amazon Fire Tablet might be a good option.
Another electronic item that I specifically bought for my travels was a Kindle Paperwhite. If you like to read while travelling but want to reduce weight in your bag then this is a must!
Finally, make sure you have a camera so you can document some of the amazing memories you will undoubtedly have. If you’re not into photography, then the camera you have on your smartphone is likely to be sufficient. If you want to get more professional with your snaps, then I recommend the Sony A6000. It’s a mirrorless camera, lightweight and a good mid-range camera if you want to learn more about photography.
Backpacking Europe Checklist: 1 to 2 weeks before your trip
7. Pack your bag
I know that chances are if you’re anything like me then you’ll leave packing your bag until the night before your trip. However, it’s worth starting to think about what you want to take with you a few weeks before leaving to ensure that you have enough time to make any last-minute purchases! You don’t want to forget handy items like a universal plug adapter with USB slots, compression packing cubes, a microfibre towel or other backpacking Europe essentials!
Make sure to check out our complete backpacking Europe packing list to see what we recommend travelling with!
8. Buy travel insurance
Buying travel insurance is one of the most important items on your backpacking Europe checklist! Travel insurance gives you peace of mind in case you get unwell on your trip or if you want to insure some of the more expensive items you’re bringing with you!
When buying travel insurance for backpacking trips, we always use World Nomads. Their policies are designed with backpackers in mind and have a number of advantages over traditional insurance companies. These include being able to extend your policy while on the road, cover you for a large number of activities such as scuba diving and have a straightforward online claims process.
You can get a quote from World Nomads using the box below and make sure to read the policy details to understand if it’s the right product for you!
9. Book accommodation for your first few nights
After getting off a long flight and being jetlagged, the last thing you want to be doing is walking aimlessly around a new city trying to find somewhere to stay. Book your first few nights in a hostel and have the comfort of knowing that you have somewhere to stay when you get off the plane!
Backpacking Europe Checklist: Few days before your trip
10. Call your bank
Remember that new debit card you got a few months ago with no foreign transaction fees? Before using it in a new country, make sure your bank knows about it! Give your bank a call and let them know what countries you’re planning on travelling to so they don’t flag any of your transactions as suspicious and cancel your card while you’re overseas!
11. Get some local currency
It’s worth trying to get enough local currency to last you a day or two for when your first arrive. While it is usually possible to withdraw money from an ATM in the airport, there is always the chance that the ATM doesn’t work or you have an issue with your bank card. By having a bit of local currency you can be comfortable in knowing that you have enough money to at least get to your accommodation!
12. Work out your airport transfer
Speaking of getting to your accommodation, take the time to research the best way to get from the airport to wherever you’re staying. Whether it’s public transport, an airport shuttle bus or an Uber – having these details sorted will mean you don’t encounter any unnecessary stress when you first arrive in a new country.
13. Make copies of important documents
Your passport and bank cards. If something happens and you lose these, you want to easily have their details on hand so you can cancel them. Make some copies, upload them to your e-mail and send them to a family member or friend so you can easily retrieve them.
14. Get excited!
You’re about to go backpacking Europe!
Are you going backpacking Europe or have you recently been on a trip? What would you add to our backpacking Europe checklist? Let us know in the comments below!