I did not realise what I was getting into when I took over the herculean task of planning our two Eurotrips. Even though this was totally new to me, I knew I would be able to cope with it, as I have a good amount of experience in travelling within India and had managed to plan amazing trips to Ladakh, Kashmir, Goa, Rajasthan etc.
For tips on planning your Eurotrip check out these links to my previous posts :
When I started, I had a blank slate in mind. I asked around my friends and cousins who had travelled around Europe and received helpful suggestions. Some turned out to be infeasible for the trip we had in mind. Since the entire continent was yet to be explored, we went ahead and included what we wanted to or what seemed hassle free.
To start with, I researched online regarding how to go about it and came across a million different apps to try out. I loaded my phone with 20 odd apps and went ahead with the planning.
Here I group some of the apps/tools I found extremely helpful into these 4 categories:
1. Planning Related
2. Tickets Related
3. Accomodation Related
4. City Related
I came across Tripoto around 3 years back and found it to be a very convenient platform to let the traveller in you speak out. I have written about a few of my trips on Tripoto and enjoyed the liberating experience thoroughly. When you document a trip, its registered forever not only in your heart and mind but also as a helpful account for fellow travellers. I myself enjoy going through the thousands of experiences shared by people around the world. Details like time, expenditure, duration etc. mentioned in the travelog come in very handy for planning your own trip. Moreover, the photographs prepare you and get you excited for the upcoming trip.
I could easily find matter on all the cities we were planning to visit. For the bigger cities you'd find hundreds of trips. Eg. for Rome I found one day, two day, three day trip experiences. Going through these helped immensely as we also had limited time to explore the cities we visited.
For advice on your trip, you can write to the authors and get clarifications. There's another new feature called tripoto.ai which pops up on your screen and recommends what to do in the city you wish to visit.
2. Trip Advisor
Trip Advisor gives you places to eat, places to stay and things to do in a city with traveller reviews on a rating basis. Reading reviews is sometimes boring but can be helpful in planning your own trip. Also, you can download a city for looking at the maps and attractions when you're offline.
3. Random Blogs
Its difficult to quantify the amount of blogs I've read for planning these trips. Ranging from solo backpackers to happy honeymooning couples, these helped me in picking out the best places to visit and filter out the results I got from Trip Advisor. There's a more personal feel to traveler blogs as compared to sites like Trip Advisor and you can contact the author for tips and recommendations. Since I was not thoughtful enough to note the names of authors, I wouldn't be able to name the blogs here but I'm sure my friend Google would be of much assistance to you.
This is by far the most awesome travel related app I have come across and believe you me, I have tried many. This app asks you your origin and then apart from asking you for a fixed destination, gives you an option of putting 'Everywhere' as a destination. Yeah that's right, the search bar reads "Results for Paris to Everywhere". With this you can decide your next point by simply choosing the cheapest destination from your origin. This app comes in very handy when you are flexible regarding your destinations and want the cheapest possible option. It also compares fare prices from hundreds of sites and then you can book the one you find best.
2. Go Euro
This is an awesome fix for travellers willing to explore different options of transportation. You just type in the date of travel, your origin and the destination and this app gives you all the options to travel between point A and B. They include flights, trains, buses and even car sharing like bla bla car. You can look at the cheapest option, the fastest option, the option with least no. of breaks etc etc. Since most of our travel within Europe was with trains and busses, this app came in very handy to search for options and book the best tickets.
3. Make My Trip
I use Make My Trip for its convenience. There's no particular reason why I find it good or use it extensively. I use it often for tickets within India and have been able to get good discounts. Also, with each booking you get reward points which can help you save on the next one so it's a happy circle. Its easiest to search for a fare on Make My Trip but its best to confirm from the airlines website for the fare. I have often found the airlines fare to be cheaper than MMT and sometimes the other way around, but I make it a point to check before booking.
My cousin recommended Airbnb after her happy experiences in London and Paris. I loved the idea and thought that it would be interesting to share living spaces with locals. My husband was also up for it so we started looking and ended up booking most of our stays with Airbnb. We had pleasant experiences with all our hosts and found the entire process quite convenient. With Airbnb, you have the freedom to decide your budget and your area of interest in the city with endless options to choose from. It definitely turns out to be a lot cheaper than city hotels and also gives you an opportunity to live with the locals and get helpful tips from them. Our hosts recommended some places which the guide books or Trip Advisor did not and we are glad that we included these in our trip. Make sure to go through reviews and discuss any trip related issues (early arrival or late departure etc. etc.) with your host as that would make things simpler for future you.
2. Make My Trip
For hotel bookings within Europe I found Make My Trip to be cheaper as compared to others like Bookings.com or Agoda so I booked all hotel stays with MMT and happily redeemed my collected reward points.
We looked into the hostel option also but found hotels or airbnb cheaper and more convenient for two travellers. Hostels may make sense for solo travelers so make sure to check out this helpful app if you're backpacking around Europe.
1. Ulmon City Maps 2 Go
For getting around, we used the Ulmon City Maps 2 Go Offline Maps. This is an awesome app for anyone who doesn't have internet on their phone during a trip. This app gives you a detailed map of the city with roads, streets, places of interest, restaurants and bars, metro lines and stations, tram and bus stops, public convenience, cycle stops etc etc etc, well everything you can imagine. And these come with reviews so you can decide what's best for you. You can star places you'd wish to visit and you just need your device to provide your present location and then figure out how to go about it. It works so perfectly and we used this app extensively on our trip and it never ever disappointed us in every city we were in. The app itself is free and we downloaded the city maps for each city (10 to 20 MB) beforehand over internet. There were times when we were arrived late at night or had to look for our booked place of accommodation and we were the only 2 people on the entire street. With no internet or calling we had no way of contacting our hosts. CityMaps2Go was our absolute saviour and even gave us house numbers so that we could easily reach our destination. To summarize, this is a MUST-HAVE.
2. Sandeman's New Europe Tours
We booked the Sandeman's free walking tours in various cities we visited based on reccomendation from one of my cousins who has extensively backpacked throughout Europe. The 3-4 hour tours were a fun and exciting way to learn about the history and culture of a city. The guides are helpful and make the tour very interesting with snippets from here n there. There is no tour fee and at the end of the tour you can tip your guide based on your liking. Our guides also advised on what to do in the city after the tour got over. This is a good way to get a jist of the city in a limited time and I highly recommend it.
3. Via Michelin
At some point of time, we had decided that we would hire a car and drive around Central and East Europe for the second Eurotrip. Somehow it did not materialize and we ended up booking bus and train tickets for the same. But when we were planning for the road trip, I came across Via michelin and found it to be an extremely helpful and informative app. It gives you various routes to drive from one place to another. You also get info on the tolls, fuel price and the fastest or cheapest opion to reach your destination. Apart from this you can find restaurants, conveniences, parking and what not on the route.
I hope these tools would be as helpful to you as they were for me.
Happy planning !
Happy travelling !