Whoa. Thirty Three more days until I take my first flight alone and my first flight over 6 hours.
Im not even gonna lie, Im nervous. Like really nervous. The kind of nervous where my OCD planner self is absolutely freaking out at night before I fall asleep; mainly because there is an 8 hour difference between when my flight arrives in Rome and when my best friend arrives.
I know thats not a big deal for the brave or travel-savvy, but for a girl who has never flown alone and doesnt know Italian, it’s a big friggen deal.
We are figuring out our plan today, and I can already feel the weight lifting off my shoulders. From picking our hostel and finally booking it, to me looking at a map and having a real game plan – it’s those little details that are helping me take a deep breath and mentally prepare.
Erica, my travel buddy, is such an experienced traveler seeing as she just finished up the Semester At Sea program and is doing an internship and taking courses in Spain now. No big deal, right?! Check out her blog here to read about her adventures from Burma to China to South Africa and beyond.
Now that I’ve shared my anxiety with the world Im sure you’re wondering what Im doing, besides biting off my fingernails, to prepare for the biggest adventure of my life!
Things to do ONE MONTH before backpacking through europe:
/ / Make a trip calendar, if you havent already.
Narrow down where you want to go (generally speaking) after you get to that first city. We will definitely be going with the flow, but there are a few reservations that are cheaper (and guaranteed) if we make them in advance. Plus my family wants to have an idea of where I will be!
/ / Make hostel/hotel reservations.
Im a major planner so obviously I want to know that I have a bed with my name on it when I get there. Truly I think this is my biggest fear, besides getting insanely lost haha. Student Universe has been my favorite reservation site in all of the planning process, and I am making most all of my reservations there.
/ / Reserve flights/night trains that will get more expensive and may fill up
NOTE: dont reserve your small train rides while in the US. Tickets will be much more inexpensive to book while in Europe. Just be flexible with when you can leave and arrive, and look into getting a Eurail pass while in the US if you are going to be doing a lot of travelling.
/ / Find your backpack.
You can choose to either buy or rent one so do your research and TRY IT ON. This thing is going to have your life in it for a few weeks and it is essential that it fits. Also, be sure to check airline restrictions so you are aware as to whether or not it can be checked, etc.
/ / Make a plan to get your crap back home.
Cool, so you’re travelling with just your essentials on your back, but how are you planning on bringing anything else back home? Mail it? Another Bag? For me, I am going to buy a small, and very cheap, suitcase when I get to Germany for my study abroad session so I can buy a few more clothes and stuff that thing to the brim with goodies for my family and friends! Then I will simply check it onto the flight when I head home. Much cheaper and faster than mailing a giant box internationally.
/ / Finish up your online shopping.
No one wants to pay for expedited shipping when they are already doling out thousands for this trip to begin with. Things I bought online (from Amazon):
– Brita water bottle (with a filter in it) / / $9 / / my water will taste better anywhere! plus I can fill it up at the airport!
– 4 x 4GB memory cards / / about $6 each / / DO NOT buy just one big memory card. If you lose that thing your entire trip is lost and you will probably spend days crying. Avoid the tears and spread out the photos onto multiple cards
– Voltage & plug adapter / / about $15 / / In the US, the standard socket has around 100 volts… in Europe the standard is 200 volts. Yeah, that will blow any device you have unless you buy an adapter. Not only are the prongs for the socket different but make sure you have something to adjust the voltage as well.
– External Battery / / $15 / / Basically a little black plastic battery the size of your index finger that hooks up to any device via USB, so I can charge my iPhone on the million hour flight over, my camera on a long day of exploring, or my phone again when I am lost and using Google Maps out of pure desperation.
/ / Figure out how you’re gonna chat it up.
For me, I just upgraded my iPhone 4 to a 5 (holllaaaaa!) and will buy an international SIM card when I get to Italy and again in Germany (or maybe before…). This will give my phone a new number to use in the country and will allow me to make cheap ‘national’ calls to my classmates. When I want to talk to my family back home I will just Skype them!
/ / Figure out your international money situation.
Step One: contact your bank and let them know you will abroad for a certain amount of days, and where you will be so they dont shut down your card on your first day. That would be both awkward and unpleasant.
After that it’s up to you how you want to handle your money. I will be getting a special credit/debit card through AAA that is intended for travel, in addition to getting some Euros at AAA a couple weeks before I leave, mainly to ensure that I have something to spend when I first land! This credit card will have a cheaper international access fee, my parents can check the balance online, and it also comes with a second card should one get lost or stolen.