Organisation is key.
I am a pretty disorganised person, however, having never done anything like this before, going off travelling by myself, with no one else to rely on and the thought of not having accommodation or enough money or transport sorted, which could potentially force me into roughing it or compromising with grotty conditions was enough to scare me into organisation.
The first thing I did was work out what route across Europe I wanted to take. Two and a half weeks in the travel world is nothing – a drop in the ocean / a scratch on the surface / the tip of the iceberg – but it was my length of time to make the most of. I decided upon Berlin – Prague – Vienna – Budapest – Split – which later ended up including the island of Hvar – and was a route made easier to plan and decide upon thanks to the InterRail map – the connections made planning the order of the cities to visit much easier.
Once I had decided that I was going to start my adventure in Berlin, I booked my outgoing flight, which made it all very real and something to look forward to. As I had made my decision quite late in the day, I booked pretty much as soon as I could as flights are somewhat of a pain, rising in price without any rhyme or rhythm, which could have ended up being quite expensive. As it was, my flight to Berlin only cost £45 one way. A pretty reasonable price to my thinking. In this case, Ryanair to the rescue.
Once I had settled upon the route to take and booked my outbound flight, working out my time schedule including days to be spent travelling, finding a hostel for each of my destinations and buying an InterRail pass were the next things to sort out. Of which, deciding upon and booking hostels proving to be a bit of a mammoth task. In addition, buying travel gear was also something that needed to be thought about and organised.
Purely based on research which consisted of searching on Wikipedia and other travel sites, I decided to stay in Berlin for five nights, Prague for three nights, Vienna for two nights, Budapest for three nights and Split for four nights. I had to account for travel as well when deciding how long to stay in each city. As it turned out, travel times for Berlin – Prague, Prague – Vienna and Vienna to Budapest all ranged from four to five hours max. Taking a midday train meant I did lose out on half a day, but I was well set for the evenings and I saved money on reservation costs.
Next I began the mammoth task of researching hostels to stay and when I wasn’t doing this, I was researching what I would need while travelling – looking for blogs and articles for advice on what had proved to be essential and what hadn’t while travelling for other fellow travellers.
One of the first things I bought was a 55L backpack from Mountain Warehouse – initially looking at their website, I had thought a 40L rucksack would be perfect for both the time period and me as I’m quite short. However, I left with a 55L rucksack as I’d been convinced by a employee that it would be far too small for any journey longer than 5-6 days and wouldn’t have enough space for all you’d need to carry. The advice turned out to be golden as I was able to get a week’s worth of clothes in, a set of mini toiletries, a mini make-up bag and still had space for a couple pairs of shoes and a small towel. I also took a smaller day rucksack and other items such as wallet, charger, InterRail pack etc. I even bought an evening bag at the airport in the duty free area, which proved to be very useful.
Researching and booking hostels began before I left but carried on well into the trip, including last minute hostel bookings for Split and Hvar in Croatia. By this point in the journey, organisation had become second priority, behind the main thing, having fun.