Beyond the initial inspiration comes the planning. People don’t often have the luxury of time to plan out a detailed itinerary that manages to bring their #wanderlust dreams to reality.
Fret not, we got travel blogger Johnny Gillego (that’s @johnnydapper on Instagram) to dish up 10 tips on how he planned his recent Eastern European holiday to Budapest, Kosice, Prague, Vienna, Krakow, Zakopane, Gdansk and Warsaw.
Johnny, take it away!
Hello, Skyscanner travellers!
Here are my tips to get you to Eastern Europe in no time. Hit me up on Instagram when you go on your trip or to share your tips with me.
BEFORE YOU START
1. Know which countries you want to visit.
Having a list helps you figure out the best entry point to Europe. On that note, be open to the order in which you visit your list of places. Skyscanner suggested some amazing European itineraries with Berlin as your entry point.
Using Skyscanner (obviously) to compare the cheapest flight options to and from each city, I found it was a lot cheaper to fly from Singapore to Athens in Greece via Scoot, and then return to Singapore from Warsaw, Poland.
2. Check your visa requirements
While most Singaporeans have the luxury of being able to travel to most countries without needing a visa, it’s still good to check visa requirements. You want to avoid last-minute scrambling.
For example, if you need a Schengen visa and it’s your first time applying for it, I’d suggest setting aside a month before your trip to complete the requirements.
3. Have a budget in mind before booking
This is especially true for flights. To give you an idea, my budget for this trip is usually less than SGD 1,200 for return flights and SGD 800 for accommodation. While I don’t have a specific budget for food, because I don’t want to deprive myself from eating local foods, you’d want to be mindful of the prices. For accommodations, I find hostels are cheaper and practical if you’re travelling for a month. You can have privacy too by booking your own room or you socialise and meet fellow travellers by sleeping in a dorm type room.
4. Book flights early for the best deals
Skyscanner recommends booking 5-6 months in advance for the best deals. However, I normally book 2-3 months in advance. As they say, the early bird catches the worm so do what’s best for your budget. Once you are set on your itinerary, set up Skyscanner Price Alerts to ensure you don’t miss out on good flight deals.
5. Beat the red-eye
One of the things I did to combat jet lag was to only take a nap after my long-haul flight. You want to closely match the time zone of your destination. I also suggest bringing a travel neck pillow and disposable bed slippers to make you feel more comfortable and well-rested during flight or even long bus rides across cities. To aid me, I brought along an aromatic disposable sleeping mask to help me fall asleep easily.
Quick travel tip: While I took a flight to Budapest, I took night buses going to other countries. Night buses will save you from booking an accommodation as you can sleep during the journey.
6. Don’t leave things to h(app)enstance
Planning doesn’t stop the moment you settle on the itinerary and flights! Upon arrival at the airport, I usually map out the best route to my accommodation – be it by bus or train. I strongly recommend downloading the Maps.me app onto your phone before arrival – you can pin the places you’d like to visit and use the app offline (without WiFi or data).
7. Take advantage of free city tours
I’d suggest taking the free walking tours when you arrive in the city. It’ll give you a good overview of what the city has to offer, and it’s also a good opportunity to familiarise yourself with the roads. It’s a great way to meet other fellow travellers.
8. Travel like a local
While tourist hotspots are still a must-go for me, I also like to take time to mingle with the locals. Instagram is also a really great way to meet up with locals where I am able to connect with fellow Instagrammers in each city, even before I arrive. Not only are locals great tour guides, they are also an invaluable source of tips while planning the trip. They can share tips on where to stay or best ways to get around.