That said, we made some stupid rookie mistakes. We were young, poor, and neither of us had any serious traveling experience. We had fun regardless, but next time we go, here's what we'll avoid.
|Slap-happy and sleeping in an airport warehouse in Milan because we'd missed our flights.|
|Oh, RyanAir, you did us wrong.|
Don't be wooed by the budget airfares. There are a few budget airlines in Europe that make it incredibly cheap to fly between countries—we literally bought one flight for a penny. We decided to fly between most of our destinations, which was a huge mistake. There's usually a reason the flights are so cheap. For one, the airports were generally located about an hour outside of the city center. So while we thought we were flying into Paris, we ended up in the suburbs and then had to figure out how to actually get into the city. All of our flights also left ridiculously early, meaning we had to get up at 2 or 3 a.m. a couple of times to get there on time. We slept in the airport more than once.
|Camping in Rome.|
Don't sleep with other people. No, Todd and I didn't turn into swingers in Europe. But we did stay in some very interesting places in an effort to save money. The worst were the dorm-like hostels in Dublin and Barcelona. Staying in a room with several strangers, it was almost impossible to sleep because A) we were surrounded by strangers, and B) people would stumble in loud and drunk throughout the night. We also very randomly stayed in a tent in Rome, sort of a hostel camp. We were awoken at 3 a.m. by some crazy Italians playing tag around our tent. I thought it would be a fun experience. It was not.
|Yes, that's me eating Cheetos in Spain.|
Don't eat crap food. This is an obvious one, right? You'd think so, but we were so exhausted and hungry and lost at various times during our trip that we ate at a McDonald's in every country we visited. I am so ashamed to say this, but it is true. We craved something cheap and familiar, and the golden arches appeared. That's not to say we didn't have some memorable meals on our journey, but I really wish we'd taken a chance on a random brasserie in Paris rather than ordered chicken nuggets at the McDonald's near our hotel.
|Taking a quick nap in Dublin.|
Don't forget to sleep. Between the sketchy hostels and crazy travel schedule, we got very little sleep on our trip. And I refused to nap because I didn't want to miss out on any daylight. By the end of the trip, we were constantly cranky and biting each other's heads off.
|Cranky because my camera was dying and my bag was heavy and I was tired.|
Don't stick to the tourist sites. Don't get me wrong: We enjoyed rambling around Paris, Rome, and Dublin. But our most memorable moments happened off the beaten path. Like when we rented a car in Spain, stopped for pintxos in Mundaka and then explored the stunning San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. We also found a secluded beach full of sea glass in Corniglia, Italy and a small castle outside of Dublin.
Don't forget your most basic toiletries at home. Because we were flying so much, I wasn't able to bring my shampoo and conditioner with me, and I couldn't find travel-size bottles anywhere. I didn't want to buy full bottles if I was only going to use them for a day or two. So because of that, my hair was an unbrushable mess the entire trip.
|This hill in Cinque Terre was so fun to walk up with a giant bag.|
Pack light. This doesn't just apply to your bags, either. I carried my medium-sized camera with me everywhere we went along with a rather large shoulder bag. Walking for hours each day, even the camera alone started to give me backaches. Think about what you really need and pack accordingly.
Have you made any rookie travel mistakes? What are your best tips for newbies?