With the cost of a flight to Europe as well as the ease of hopping from country to country by rail or budget European airlines, it makes sense to pack light and spend 2 weeks to a month traveling around the continent. Here are some lifesaver items for either backpacking Europe or simply hopping around from country to country.
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A Hiking Backpack
Dragging a rolling suitcase up train platform stairs and across cobblestone streets is a nightmare! Instead, opt for a light hiking backpack. This is mainly to only carry your clothes and toiletries, so don’t go for the biggest backpack available. Make sure it fits the dimensions of the budget airlines you will use throughout your trip like Ryanair and EasyJet. Look for one with a waist belt so that as you walk, the weight of the pack rests on your hips instead of your back.
If you plan to to visit more urban cities and use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees that is recognized often such as MasterCard or Visa, a money belt is not exactly necessary. However, if you plan to deal in cash and use your bank card to withdraw from ATMs, a money belt is not only wise to prevent pickpocketing, but it also helps you keep your money and card safe during the hustle and bustle of relocating every few days.
If you must look cute for photos, pack that one pair of heels or sandals, but be practical and only pack 1-3 pairs of shoes total. Your main pair of shoes should be comfortable to walk in all day long. Keep colors neutral so that you can pair them with all your outfits, and make sure to break them in before the trip! To put things into perspective for how much you will walk on a European trip, think Disney World times ten!
Neutral Mix and Match Pieces
If you are traveling between the warmer months of May to September, pack around 3 pairs of pants/midi skirts, 3-4 neutral tops, and a sweater for mix and matching different outfits throughout your trip. It is best to avoid shorts and sleeveless tops as you cannot enter some cathedrals without proper covering.
Crossbody Purse or Camera Backpack
In your day-to-day siteseeing activities, you will need a smaller bag for storing a small water bottle, chapstick, sunglasses, hand sanitizer, and whatever else you may need throughout the day. If you plan to simply use your phone for photos, choose a small crossbody purse. If you have a larger dslr camera, choose a compact bag that will serve as both your purse and camera bag.
I hope this helps you pack for your next European adventure! If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below!
Check out my favorite resources for planning travel HERE.
This past week, March 7-14th, I spent my spring break from college in Oahu, Hawaii, and I miss it already! I’ve learned a few things about the island that I hope you can take with you on your Hawaiian adventure. The water was actually cooler than I expected so we opted to hike SEVERAL trails along the Southern Coast and North Shore. Luckily, hiking is free (besides $5 parking) so you don’t have to spend tons of money on Oahu to have fun. I would recommend taking on all of these hikes, but will say that my legs were feeling pretty tired by the end. To help with your trip planning, I have included a map with all hiking locations and will give you as much information as I can about the difficulty level, crowds, and landmarks as some trail heads are not easy to find.
On almost the furthest west side of the North Shore hides a wonderful trail right next to an airport that’s popular for skydiving and paragliding. This hike was slightly difficult to find, but Google Maps works just fine right up to the turning point that leads to the parking lot. Once you turn left after the airport runway into a road labeled “Access Gate,” keep going until there’s a parking lot on your left. Once parked, walk to the right and head toward the mountains down a gravel path until the “Kealia Trail” sign steers you in the right direction. This hike is 3.5 miles up, and consists of several switchbacks and rocky, uneven paths. The view is most beautiful during the hike so be sure to stop for some pictures rather than hoofing it up to the top so fast. At the top, after the picnic table, explore the trails that go further. Once you reach the artwork on the water tower, there’s not much more to see as your view is covered by trees. This trail takes about 4 hours from leaving the car to returning back down. On the hike, you might see several skydivers jumping from planes that took off from the airport below as well as gliders coasting over the ocean. March weather is perfect for hiking! However, even in Hawaii’s winter, it gets hotter toward the afternoon. Try to hike no later than 10am to 2pm in January-March, but in the summer, go as early as you can. After a job well-done, hop in the car and enjoy the coastal highway, H3, admiring the beauty of the land and the talent of the surfers. Perhaps spend the evening at the Polynesian Cultural Center buffet dinner and Breath of Life Show, which I will discuss in a future post. Unless you can reserve that for another time earlier in the day, which is what I would recommend.
Koko Crater Trail
This trail is challenging and steep, but the view from the top is incredible. The parking lot most people use for this trail is also used for ballfields, so it’s pretty crowded. Arrive no later than 8-8:30am in March if you want a spot. Koko Crater Trail is not for the faint of heart. It goes straight up for about 1,500 steps. The trail is an old railway with worn down ties and washed out dirt. It is only about 1.5 miles, but it takes about an hour or two to get to the top. You will weave in and out of those going up and will try to get out of the way of those experienced crazies running down! This is why I say you should go earlier than 8:30 if you can. The less people, the better. At the top, you’ll see why you climbed all that way. Hanauma Bay is in front of you and the giant crater is behind. There are plenty of high platforms on the top of the mountain for great pictures, including the old railway car housing. Spend a good 30 minutes to an hour photographing the views, meeting fellow conquerors, and hearing their stories. On the way down, if you are a less-than-avid hiker (I am just that) hike sideways to alleviate pressure on your knees while descending. The descent will be a breeze compared to the climb. This hike is the most difficult that some people will ever experience, but it will also be the most rewarding. Once you make it back down, don’t forget to look back at the impressive feat you just accomplished and remind yourself that it was all while on vacation.
Diamond Head Trail
As one of the most famous hikes on Oahu, Diamond Head is always crowded. However, the parking spaces free up fairly quickly so wait in line until one is available. You will most likely head to the trail with a large group of others unless you get there when gates open at 6am. However, everyone has their own pace so the trail is not unbearably crowded nor is it extremely narrow. No matter, there will be hikers of all ages, so I just accept the fact that this is going to be a slow, leisurely hike. Explore every inch of this hike, and climb every set of stairs. Even if they look intimidating, you won’t regret it. Close to the top, there is a set of yellow stairs to the right, which you will want to ignore, but really should climb because it’s cool! There is a battery with rusted metal doors and a small artillery area that was used in WWII. The top of Diamond Head is so crowded that you might not want to stay long, but at least take in the city views to your right and the coastal waters to your left. Remember, gates open at 6am. So if you’re an early riser, beat the crowd.
If you’re not tired after Diamond Head, eat lunch and drive to Manoa Falls, which is about 20 minutes north. Once again, Google Maps takes you straight to this hike, and parking is about $5. Manoa is a 3 mile hike round trip. As you begin the walk, you’ll see why they chose this location to film Jurassic Park as it’s filled with bamboo shoots and jungle views that seem to go on forever. Although there is very uneven terrain, this hike is fairly easy most of the way, only getting difficult toward the end near the waterfall. You may see a few groups hiking along with you, but the real crowd comes at the waterfall. People wait for good spots to take pictures, but there probably never will be one. The bottom of the fall is just deep enough to reach your ankles, but the water is freezing! On your hike back, you may see a girl finishing up her music video in the bamboo shoots, and it will sound really good! I found her on Instagram, @OLIVIATHAI. She was on American Idol XV and won both Taiwan Idol and Megastar!
Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail
The last hike of this post is a 1.5 mile steep walk up a paved road. The ground is even, but the climb escalates quickly. After all this hiking, your legs may be giving out at this point, so it may seem more difficult than usual. The scenery is beautiful the entire way, with views of the rocky coast and bright blue crashing waves. It may begin to rain as you reach the top, but don’t turn back after going so far. The rain comes and goes in Hawaii. Now, I’m not going to lie, don’t expect a huge lighthouse, but its surroundings are still breathtaking. The waves will look like they have blue dye in them as they crash against the rocks. After staying at the top for quite a while, make your way back to the car and take a load off. Head to Waikiki and reward your efforts with an acai bowl from Tropical Tribe. Hopefully the sun will make an appearance, and you can spend the rest of your day on the beach where they film Hawaii Five-0.
Here’s just a quick snapshot of how amazing Oahu really is!
I hope this was helpful in planning your next adventure!
I used an Akaso adventure camera for all my videos in Hawaii. It was amazing and way cheaper than a Gopro. The wifi feature doesn’t work, but that’s the only issue, which I think is well worth a $100 savings! Also, if you submit a review on Amazon, they will send you a whole package of accessories for free! It comes with body and head straps, extra batteries, etc.
We rented a home in Alewa Heights while visiting this amazing island. Check out great Hawaiian vacation rentals at VRBO!
Purchasing any items on Amazon through these links, and not only the ones that I mention, help me to share useful tips with you about travel, so thank you!
This past Spring Break, I took advantage of my precious time off from class and hit the road. My family, boyfriend, and I drove to the Historic Triangle in Virginia, consisting of Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown. The most fascinating stories of the first British colonies and the Revolutionary War were told to us by historians at each site. It was interesting to listen to the stories unfold and imagine how they lived during the 1800s. After exploring the primary towns responsible for the formation of America, we decided to do the fully American thing, and drove about 2.5 hours north to Washington D.C.
This post is a compilation of mistakes we made in D.C. as well as some things we really enjoyed. I’ll list the most useful ways of getting around and my favorite parts of our capital. Here’s the map of the walking route we took, which I think covered most of the historic landmarks.
We did not make it to the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Lost Soldier this trip, but that is definitely worth attending.
The Big Mistake:
The entire day before and even on our way to D.C., we were debating whether to search for a parking spot in D.C. or park at a metro nearby and take it into town. On the way there, I read a blog that recommended the metro so we got off at the next exit, parked our car, and took the metro. HUGE mistake!!!!!! Only one metro was working so they combined the yellow and blue line into one route. We spent about an hour and a half just trying to go what would have taken us 15 minutes by car. I recommend taking the risk of driving into D.C. and finding a parking spot. If you can’t find a metered spot, which can now be paid by credit card and phone, pay $24 for a whole day at the Union Station parking garage. Once there, you can buy a metro card for the buses. Plus, if you do want to tour Georgetown or the cute neighborhoods nearby, you can just go pick up your car and drive there.
The Holocaust Museum:
Our first stop was to the Holocaust Museum because we reserved a slot online the day before for 1pm. If you have a reservation, you avoid the long line that goes all the way out the door. We scooted on by and showed the front desk our tickets that we printed at our hotel and they let us right through. This tour took us about 2 hours, but you could spend so much longer if you weren’t on a time crunch. It is heart wrenching as you walk through each level and experience the lives of the Jewish people who begin as normal citizens and eventually have everything stripped away from them. For children, the first floor has a walk-through story about a Jewish child whose life is turned upside down by the Nazis. Although still very real and very sad, this portion of the museum is less graphic.
Air and Space Museum:
Even though I had toured D.C. before, this was my boyfriend’s first time ever. I wanted him to get the most out of the small amount of time we had in this incredible place. Growing up, he wanted to be an astronaut and then a military pilot, so we chose to tour the Air and Space Museum as it was 3 pm and we could only choose one Smithsonian before they closed. Once again, in every museum you can spend 30 minutes to 5 hours there, depending on how interested you are in the subject matter.
The United States Capitol:
This is one of my favorite buildings for two reasons: 1.) The architecture and paintings inside are mind-blowing, and 2.) They give tours. I love tours because when stories are told by historians and tour guides who really love the topic, I get really into it and love their enthusiasm. We had a recent grad student lead our tour group who was an excellent speaker, knew his stuff, and even threw in trivia questions for fun. After the tour, we walked to the Library of Congress. It was closed, but we were still able to walk up the steps and admire just how amazing this building really was. I mean, even the door was made of three-foot thick solid wood!
Dinner at Union Station:
Union Station should be on your list for sight-seeing even if you aren’t taking a train ride or even eating. It is simply beautiful. It’s ceilings reach all-time highs and it doesn’t disappoint when compared to the rest of the architecture in D.C. We ate at the Shake Shack, which serves overpriced burgers and fries. I would probably recommend choosing something else in the food court like Chinese food or Charley’s Philly Cheese Steaks.
D.C. at Nighttime:
Go see the monuments at night! Lincoln looks even more gigantic then he already is and the White House is beautifully lit for pictures. We walked from the Lincoln Memorial to the Vietnam and Korean War memorials and then to the WWII Memorial. They were all so much more breathtaking when every name on the wall of fallen soldiers was lit up in honor.
While clearly I had a bad experience with taking the metro into town, others have had great luck. The parking is free, and the metro card is only about $5 each. If you do decide to use it, hopefully both metro routes will be working properly. If you choose to park in the heart of D.C., go for the Union station parking lot. As far as once you’re in the city, you walk and walk some more! The buses will take you to certain landmarks, but we just walked everywhere. As long as you make a giant loop around the city, it’s not a bad walk especially when the weather is nice. If you have more time to spend, take a car to see the outskirts. I’ve read of the amazing eats and cute neighborhoods that I will definitely go see on my next trip there. I live about 9 hours from D.C. so I’ve never flown in except on a field trip with a tour bus. I think renting a car would be helpful if spending a week in D.C. as you will want to see more outside the district.
Places to Stay:
Option #1 (cheapest):
In the city, places to stay will be pricey. I just looked it up on Booking.com and found several hostels available if you are looking to meet new people. Some hostels even serve breakfast. A 3 night stay was around $150.
Option #2 (Priciest):
Hotels on the outskirts of D.C. near Arlington Cemetery are $100/ night. However, you are paying for convenience if you choose a centralized hotel, which could be well-worth the cost if you are only staying for a few nights.
Option #3 (in between):
For families or groups of 4 or more, there is no beatingAirbnb.com. More space for less money allows you to cook your meals, or at least your breakfast, and fit more people into one house or apartment instead of in multiple hotel rooms. I just looked and found severalAirbnb stays for around $100/ night in neighborhoods close to the White House or Capitol Hill.