EUROTRIP – how to plan your trip in 5 easy steps.

As I wrote here my boyfriend Floret and I went for EUROTRIP two years ago and we LOVED IT. This was by far the best trip in my entire life, and even though I have two more eurotrips planned, I can’t imagine any of them top this experience. If you want to know details about my trip you have to check my previous post linked above, but the excerpt is that we travelled by car from Poland to Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria. I wrote that we have two more Eurotrips left planned, well actually to be planned, that is: Scandinavia (Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden) and “wild, wild west” (Italy, France, Portugal and Spain).

Because this year we were offered to visit our friend’s house in southern Croatia to see Dubrovnik as well as Montenegro (hence not spend a single dime on accommodation), we decided to go there instead and postpone our Eurotrips for next year. That left me with quite significant time to plan our trip ahead and not end up being “spontaneous” (here the synonym of unprepared). I mention the impulsiveness of our first Eurotrip because it got us in trouble several times – hence I decided to plan everything in a little bit more detail. During my planning procedure I realised I have some experience which might be useful to all of you, sweet people, who might want to plan their own trips! Hence, I decided to share my 5 great tips for planning the Eurotrip!

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Amazing Plitvice lake we’ve seen during our first Eurotrip experience in Croatia.

1. Start by preparing overall plan

We decided to go for the Scandinavian trip first – let the working title for this expedition be; Vikingtrip. We started with the overall plan in our heads after a little bit of brainstorming – I wanted to see Copenhagen and the Oresund bridge to Sweden, Floret wanted to see Bergen and the fjords. Taking a quick look at the map we realised that our trip should look something like that:

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Our trip consists of: Warsaw, Berlin, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Malmo, Gothenburg, Oslo, Bergen, Oslo again, Karlstad, Stockhold and Gdańk.

The trip “ends” in Stockholm only because we decided to take a ferry to a beautiful Polish city of Gdańsk through the Baltic Sea. Now when our outline is ready we can see how long will it take to drive our little camper. We know from experience (we are together for almost 3 years and drove hundreds of kilometers) that it is optimal to drive around 500 km every 2-3 days. That way we won’t be too exhausted from driving, we will have time to see places we visit in detail and we will be able to relax.

Bearing that in mind we can move further and plan stops in between cities, which are too far away. That way I put a stop between Oslo and Stockholm in Karlstad – a city we were not really interested in, but decided it’s optimal to take a break in. I evaluate that the time needed to see all these places is around 3-4 weeks. Now when our trip is planned we can get into much more detail and check-out interesting activities and things to see.

2. Allow flexibility – don’t book all the hotels

Obviously in case of the Vikingtrip we are going to go in a camper, so arranging accommodation is going to be limited to us simply finding a campsite to stop. If you don’t have such an opportunity, I advise you not to book hotels for each night. What I realised during my first Eurotrip is that we liked some places way more than others. At some point on Krk island in Croatia we got a little bored of tanning on the beach and decided to drive to Slovenia earlier – which turned out to be a great decision – Slovenia is definitely my favourite destination out of all the trip.

Allow yourself a little bit of carpe diem moment. Be spontaneous and don’t worry – it’s not like finding a hotel is very difficult – you wouldn’t believe how many people book rooms and never show up!

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Floret on his way to see a mountain shelter in Slovenia.

3. Plan activities, relax and sightseeing in equal intervals

I used the word “interval” and got reminded of all the terrible moments I had in my High Level Math class in high school – I nearly got a panic attack, I swear. I am a firm believer in balance in the universe. I think that equilibrium between sightseeing, relax and activities should be achieved at all times, so that we don’t go crazy during a trip that is longer than a weekend.

At the end of my first Eurotrip we went to Vienna, Austria and were sightseeing the city and all the museum until I just gave up and had to simply… have fun! Floret saved me by taking me to Vienna Prater (an amusement park), where after trying one ride, tired I fell asleep on the grass in the park nearby. I realised then, that a great trip is packed with everything, not just sightseeing!

Usually Floret is the one who organizes sport during out trips; he took us for biking and kayaking in Slovenia, all the water parks on our way, as well as rafting. I am usually responsible for finding great places to see and visit; like museums, interesting places, reading the guide and analyzing where to go. I am also responsible for food and restaurants, while Floret looks for beaches and relaxation. I think we are quite compatible!

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Me kayaking on a lake Bled in Slovenia.

4. Always get a detailed guidebook

I know people who don’t believe in guidebooks and hate reading them. They prefer to simply go and see whatever they want. I am not one of them, and let me, sweet readers, explain why. When on my last Eurotrip I bought or borrowed guidebooks for all the cities and for most of them I read all the information. I simply stopped at a church, for example, and read all the trivia to Floret. At the end of the trip in Vienna I was a little lazy and didn’t bother to read at all, and… can’t remember half of what I’ve seen. I browsed through pictures to choose some for this page and it turned out I don’t even remember seeing these places. At all. I’ve never had amnesia before, so I think I’m right believing that it’s all because of not reading the guide – after all, I remember all the other ones!

Moreover, when you already have a guide you can prepare a more detailed plan of what to see in each place – you simply pick most interesting things and arrange to visit.

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Menu in one of Viennese restaurants – on the table an amazing guide I was too lazy to read.

5. Plan your finances and book hotels in advance

Since I ran out of points to close up in 5, I had to join two very important points. I know you might think I’m contradicting myself, above I wrote: “don’t book hotels for each night” and in here I tell you to book hotels. What I mean, is that I believe we have to arrange accommodation for most of the nights way in advance to get better deals. 

In terms of money… Money is such a sensitive topic nowadays. I know Instagram makes us believe all the people in the world are loaded and we are the only ones who don’t have golden Lamborghini, but the reality is I know very few people who can wipe with cash. When going for such a long, quite expensive trip, you have to assess how much cash you need and be prepared to use your credit card. We spent around 3500 Euro on our trip and it was a lot of money – we didn’t limit ourselves with anything really, which we should have, and we tried everything, so be prepared for that kind of money. We had to use our credit cards several times and weren’t really expecting it!

Right now, in case of Vikingtrip I know it will cost way more than what we spent before – Scandinavian countries are extremely expensive – hence the camper idea to not pay for hotels. You now know why I constantly preach about things being expensive and saving money, I just need it to travel.

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A dark sky above Krk, Croatia.

I hope with this post I was able to help you. If you have any questions please hit that contact button and let’s share! Follow me on Instagram and get fresh pictures from my adventures!

Dorota

 

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Stopping food waste and saving money – meal planning.

In my previous post titled “How to stop being broke” I have slightly brushed through the topic of money-saving by changing your diet and establishing a plan for shopping. I am myself not a very frugal person – I try, but I was never really thought how to save money, since I never had any – so I have some financial issues that need solving quite fast. Even though I may not be a saving expert, I consider myself a rather practical lad, hence I decided to start my saving adventure right about now. At 7 AM, in the morning, the day before the last exam in my entire life.

What I’ve found on YouTube and several other platforms are various posts considering shopping planning, meal optimization and other, that focused mainly on throwing out less leftovers. So not only am I gonna save money, but I’m also going to be more eco-friendly – great, let’s do it.

I started with giving myself a reason for why I should plan:

  1. The better you plan, the less you buy. Simple as that. If you think you’re not overspending on food look at what you bought recently and check how much of it you threw out. I had to get rid of many things this week – I bought too much and later, with all the events I attended, I didn’t have time to eat all of the food and had to throw it out (very bad Dorota, I know, I’m trying to be better).
  2. You improve your diet. If you plan a shopping list, drive to the shop, spend hours picking up all that you need, drive home, unpack everything, there is a very small chance you will go to McDonald’s later. That’s just it, the more effort we put into something, the more difficult it is for us to waste it.
  3. Reduce waste. I once heard a very interesting interview with a freegan living in Poland, who said that he doesn’t spend nor earn any money. He lives off food found in the trash or taken from supermarkets when it hits expiry date. Very noble indeed, and even though I did not agree with most of what he was saying (he lived in his friends apartment, for example, which means someone had to pay for it), I think the idea behind what he was doing was great. I’ve actually looked through the page of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and found some really bothering information. Did you know that food currently wasted in Europe could feed 200 million people? 200 million people is just like more than half the population of the United States. If we reduce what we waste, by reducing what we buy, the market will adjust itself and produce less. The environment is going to thank us all for that. Let’s look up some UN statistics over here:

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Source: SAVE FOOD: Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction by the UN.

I’m European and I feel ashamed we don’t respect what we have and waste such amounts. I think that’s enough of reasons to support, that meal planning is worth trying.

How I started?

With a rather basic concept in my head – what I can actually cook, what do my boyfriend Floret and I like to eat, is there something seasonal now that I can use which is cheaper than imported goods? I listed all my thoughts onto a piece of paper and moved from there.

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I prepared my plan – on an A4 sheet of technical paper I drew a table. I could buy one but I wanted to hand-craft something myself to try out some of my non-existent calligraphy skills which I gained by doing absolutely nothing ever with calligraphy, but I did get some special pens for a birthday gift (last October) and I think it’s time to try them out – even to write in my regular handwriting.

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As you can see I’m not an artist – duh! – but I tried to make it easy to understand and very clear. Almost all the dishes I chose for lunch and dinner are my home’s classics that we enjoy and are quite easy to prepare. I started out like that just because I’m not very used to planning everything in such detail (and none of my diets ever lasted longer than “until Tuesday”). I thought I will give it a slow start, just to make sure I don’t resign after couple of days. My main concern is that I work full-time from 7 am until usually 5 pm, so I have to eat lunch at work – hence it has to be prepared in a way that allows microwaving and also doesn’t make food taste like paper afterwards. I don’t necessarily eat breakfast at home either, actually I don’t remember the last time I did, so I might have to change that and start waking up a little bit earlier (I already suffer when I think of it, I will have to wake up earlier than 6 am!).

What I hope will keep me motivated is:

Roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted.

I have to visit UN’s site more often.

I made my plan include a shopping list – since the designed place I would hang it on was the Fridge (notice the “F”. Not a fridge, the Fridge) it made perfect sense to me. I tried to use blue colour mostly, because the only elements in my house that are not white or wooden are blue – so I made a food table to fit my couch – so tricky. Unfortunately the Fridge itself is for some reason black (and it also makes a noise that annoys everyone that stays over for a night on my couch), and I don’t own fancy magnets, so I had to improvise and give you a little preview of what my other posts might be about.

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Here it is, ready-to-go plan for meals. I hope I can handle doing everything as perfectly as I wrote there. I think what might be the most difficult part is lack of chocolate, or generally sweets, but I have to start getting my bikini body (haven’t worn a bikini since 2012, but ok) and finally get back to my weight from before I quit smoking.

I hope you will get inspired with all the meal planning and hop aboard my train to reduce waste. I made my first step towards being more conscious last night. I attended one of my friend’s bachelorette party and at the end the waiter asked if we want to take the remaining food (which was a lot) out. Naturally I said “yeah” and that’s how some of my friends have great Balkan food to eat for the rest of the weekend. Small step, but what matters is that it’s a step ahead.

I hope to let you know in a week how it went.

Let me know what you think about food wastage and meal planning. Do you plan yourself?

Dorota