How to plan and prepare for an extended trip to Europe

There’s much to do to plan an 11-week trip through five European countries and being organized makes your trip so much more enjoyable.  Here’s a fairly complete outline of how I did it.

First, I had to decide where I wanted to go.  I began planning in November 2021.  I read Rick Steve’s info, blogs, Lonely Planet, Fodor’s, ManinSeat61, and chat forums. I’ve watched lots of Anthony Bourdain, Rick S. and read fictional and historical fiction books based in Europe. Once I decided on the destinations I wanted to visit, I did more logistical research: Which places should be my home base and for how long; what day trips (via public transport, usually train) could I do from those bases; how would I get from point A to point B; which order of travel made sense; and then more micro research: What sites did I want to see in each place, etc. I chose the order of my travel based on the weather…warmer climate first (since I began April 2nd) and cooler climate last (since I flew home on June 20th)

Before I left home:

I made sure all of my bills were set up for electronic auto payment. 

A friend agreed to watch my cat and she fell in love with him.

I had my doctors call in 90-day supplies of my medications. 

I lined up a neighbor to do a weekly check of my condo and bring my mail in. 

I signed up for the STEP program: Alerts about what’s going on in the countries I would be visiting and they would have record of where I was. 

Made a timeline of when I had to purchase train reservations (especially for the scenic Switzerland trains), booked shuttle bus tours for the France Chateaus, transfers, ferry, other transport. 

I messaged the 21 accommodations to let them know of my approximate arrival time. 

I paid $100 extra per month to Verizon for 5 gigs of data, 250 talk minutes, and 1000 texts. 

I purchased trip insurance thru Squaremouth (a search engine to compare the insurances (Tin Leg is who I chose). 

Made photocopies of my passport/Charles Schwab debit card/driver’s license/Capital One credit card/extra debit card from home bank/extra Chase credit card for my backpack and checked bag and had photos of them on my phone and backed up to the cloud. Took photos of my passwords and stored in the cloud.

I’ve had four Covid shots (2 Pfizer/2 boosters)/made photocopies of them, took photos with my phone, and stored in cloud. 

Downloaded regions from Google maps that I’d be visiting for offline use onto my phone. 

Put my 40 page Itinerary onto my phone’s home page for easy access (packed a hard copy). 

I developed Google Map walking routes for 95% of the 40 destinations I’d be exploring and had them on my itinerary. I had the itinerary on my phone’s home page so that I could easily look at it and click on the route the morning of my walk.

Some of the apps I had on my phone: Rail Planner (train travel was made much easier with this), DB Navigator (great for knowing ahead of time which train platform), SBB Mobile (Switzerland) (for platforms), Free Now Taxi service (for Italy and France), Rome2Rio, Google Lens (which was already on my phone – came in handy for translating menus, instructions, etc.) An example is shown below of before and after…

Google Translate (I used this quite often), Libby and Kindle for audible and other books

I made folders on my phone home screen for the apps – Airlines, Lodging (Airbnb and, Embassies (Covid), Transport, Get Your Guide (for a couple of tours I was taking).

I’ll go over what I packed and shouldn’t have in another post.

p.s.  If you’ve just began reading…I planned an 11 week, 5 European country, 21 accommodations solo trip from April – June of 2022.  Photos were taken with my LG Velvet Android phone.

13 Things You Should Take on an Overland Truck Adventure in Africa

I returned in June from spending 40 days in 7 countries of Africa and camped 26 nights.  Before my trip, other travelers gave me tips on things to take that would come in handy and I did some research…so here is a list of some items that you should definitely take on an Overland Truck adventure!

1.  Peaceful Sleep Mosquito Repellent.  It doesn’t have the toxic “deet” chemical in it, is less expensive and works great!

2.  Duct Tape.  If you wrap some around a pen or pencil, you don’t have an entire bulky roll with you.  I used it a number of times and let others use it also for a variety of purposes.

3.  Audiobooks on I-Pod.  Many of the roads in Africa are bumpy and even if you have a cast iron stomach like me…reading from your Kindle or book does become a bit aggravating!

4.  Items to barter with, for playing with children, or to give away.  I took a couple of old t-shirts, 3 pairs of flip-flops from the dollar store, bubbles to blow for the children, and beach balls to play with on the overland truck and then give away to children.  If you’re worried about taking up precious suitcase room, you’ll then free up some space to bring home some African crafts…like their beautiful wood carvings.

5.  Headlamp (hands-free).  This should be number 1!  You’re arriving to your campsite, sometimes after dark, and putting up your tent is so much easier with a headlamp!

6.  Large plastic bag for clothes.  Many of the showers are very small and your clean clothes will get wet if you don’t have them in a plastic bag.  Actually, I had quite a few different size plastic bags…they come in handy!

7.  Rolling duffel bag with compartments.  Most of the people had a backpack and they would have to pull everything out of it to gain access to anything.  This rolling duffel that converts into a backpack worked great and I used my regular backpack for all of my electronic gear and other items.  I was able to roll it just about everywhere, rather than carrying!  If you’d like to know exactly what I packed, see this post.

8.  Sewing kit with needle.  A fellow passenger and I both used the needle for a splinter.

9.  Extra camera.  The camera of one of the guys on our trip malfunctioned because he used it at Victoria Falls!  When you’re traveling and camping through all types of terrain… sand, water, dirt, and having to keep track of all of your possessions, anything can happen!

10. Laundry soap & plug.  You can have someone do your laundry for you, but some places are rather expensive, so I do my own also.

11. Wet wipe sanitizer.  I also had regular liquid sanitizer, but the wet wipes were nice because it’s very dusty/dirty in the desert and just camping in general!

12. More $ than you thought you’d need.  I continually took money out of the ATM, even though I took $400 with me.  At one point I was a millionaire.  In Zambia, the Kwacha is 5,300 to $1 US dollar.  So, when I took out 1,000,000.00 it equaled $189.00.

13. Your sense of adventure and patience.  Being cooped up on a bumpy vehicle for 140 hours over the course of 20 driving days out of the 35 total tour days, with people of different age groups, nationalities and personalities, can be taxing.  I think our group did a great job of getting along together!  The rewards are definitely worth it!

On my trip, I broke my Kindle on one of the flights over to Africa, lost my expensive yoga towel (used as my super absorbent all-purpose towel), my Swiss army knife was confiscated at the Amsterdam airport on my way back (I forgot to pack it in my checked bag), I broke the wireless mouse for my laptop and forgot to take my camcorder charger.  I’m the type person that doesn’t let things like this bother me…because once its done…its done!

I hope this helped and have a great time on your Overland Truck Adventure in Africa!!

How to Prepare for a long trip

Image via Pinterest

I am sure many of you that read my blog have gone on long international trips in the past.  By long trip, I mean more than 10-14 days.  But, likewise, some of you haven’t.  I’ve been preparing for my 40 day trip to Africa, leaving at the end of April 2012, and thought it may be helpful to list the many details that one has to attend to before departure.  Because most of my trip is through an adventure travel company, G Adventures, there isn’t as much research involved.  Certain tasks take priority over others, so I will list them in order of urgency.

  • Decide upon trip and airline travel — and purchase.
  • Purchase travel insurance same day.  I secured mine through World Nomads for $129 for six weeks and it covers everything from baggage delay to emergency evacuation!  I learned my lesson last year after booking a trip for three weeks in Turkey–then flying to five Scandinavian countries for another three weeks–and had planned on purchasing insurance–but a week after I booked the trip, my mother was diagnosed with cancer.  Delta Airlines was kind enough to refund my money, so I only lost a few hundred dollars on another flight.
  • I had to order a new passport.  Although mine was still good for 4 more years, I didn’t have enough visa pages left for the countries I would be traveling through.  Get photos for passport and visas.  Apply for Visas if required .  I can get my two Visas at the border.
  • Make appointment for travel shots and any other doctor appointments.  I went through a local county health department (rather than a travel clinic) for my shots and only spent $150.
  • Order travel accessories or clothing.  I ordered a new rolling duffel/backpack, hiking shoes, and a lightweight/compressible sleeping bag.
  • Pack.  I start this early so I can see what I’ll need to purchase as far as clothing, toiletries, etc. and to see how much it weighs.  Then, I unpack the things I’ll need before the trip or that will wrinkle easily.
  • Research hostels/hotels and book.  I decided not to rent a car in Cape Town (where I’ll be for four days before the group trip begins).
  • Notify credit card companies and bank of your travel plans.
  • Set up automatic bill pay if internet connections are questionable.
  • Research things to do and book.  For some activities, I wait until I arrive and decide upon.  For example, I’d like to hike Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, but I’m not sure what the weather will be like, and am confident I can book it when I arrive, to hike a couple of days later.
  • Type up itinerary to include contact information, time changes and currency conversions and leave a copy at home for family.
  • Make photocopies of travel documents (e-ticket/health insurance/credit cards/debit card/passport/vaccination record/itinerary).  Leave one at home and pack a copy in your suitcase.  I also e-mail a copy of my passport and credit cards to myself.
  • Download books to Kindle or other device.
  • Update I-pod with music/books.
  • Make appointments for hair and nails (I’m a girl)!

When you work full time, it’s important to get started on everything early, so that you don’t feel rushed at the end.  You want to enjoy your trip and pre-planning puts your mind at ease!

I’ve had a request from a fellow blogger to list my expenses because he would like to eventually go on this trip…so here they are–

Tour (20% off – Last Minute Special)      $2879

Airfare (Cincinnati has some of the         $1768

most expensive air travel of anywhere)

Food/wine (Most food is included)         $ 400

Trip Insurance                                              $ 130

Hostel in Cape Town                                   $ 209

Visas                                                                $ 150

Optional Excursions (approximate)         $ 350

Transfers from/to airports                         $   50

Total                                                               $5936

Don’t forget that I won’t have some of my usual expenses at home…food, gas and entertainment.  So, I can take at least $750 off the total!

Of course, there were other expenses…passport update and pics $150, shots $150, luggage, $70, sleeping bag, $112, hiking shoes $68, clothing (fleece/2 shirts) $110, toiletries/misc. $50 = $710.  But, I can use these things for other trips.

I may have left something off of this list…so much to do…if you can think of anything, let me know!

Get Your “Af-ri-can” On

I’ve got Africa on my mind!  These photos are from a shop in the Clifton area of Cincinnati…

Lots of progress made so far–

  • Airfare purchased
  • Trip Insurance purchased
  • Wheeled convertible duffel bag bought
  • 30 degree 2 lb. compressible sleeping bag bought
  • North Face Hiking Shoes bought

I’ll do a post about the gear I’m taking at some point!

I decided against the couch surfing…the three people I contacted haven’t responded yet…so I booked a hostel (private room) that looks really cool through Hostel World.  Also, decided on my itinerary for the four days in Cape Town–one day hiking Table Mountain and taking the cable car down; one or two days of unplanned activities around Cape Town–maybe the hop-on/hop-off bus; one day an organized tour (found through Trip Advisor) that hits all of the major sites–such as…

Clifton, Bantry Bay

Camp’s Bay

The spectacular Chapman’s peak drive (if open)*

Hout Bay and boat trip to Seal Island


Kalk Bay


Boulders Beach National Park – visit the African Jackass Penguins

Cape Town day tours Visit to Simon’s Town and the Historic Mile

Cape Point

Cape of Good Hope – The most South-Westerly point of the African continent

Most of my itinerary is finished, including the currency conversion rates for the six different countries and the time differences.

It’s fun planning the trip also…but my brain starts to hurt!  Maybe because I try to get it all done so quickly!  I wanted to thank those of you that gave me some wonderful tips on what to take and what to do!

Have a terrific weekend!