Backpacking Europe without a clue

Nov 19th, 2005, 02:36 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 286
OK so I went to buy a backpack today, did you know they cost almost as much as my plane ticket? Any clues where i could can a get value on one?
oh yeah one more question (gosh I'm needy) Has anyone stayed at Hotel Fita in Amsterdam?
Lostmymind is offline  
Nov 19th, 2005, 03:20 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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Why not get a lightweight rolling suitcase, much easier and you should be able to find it for under $100. I think you'll find point to point tickets cheaper than a railpass.
Anya is offline  
Nov 20th, 2005, 07:55 AM
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Yes, I've stayed at the Fita in Amsterdam. Nice hotel in a great area, lovely owners who will lend you their laptop for free Internet, good breakfast, free phone calls to the US (really!). Only drawback was that our ground floor room, which looked out on a school playground, had bars with a rusty padlock, which did not seem safe in a possible emergency; Ask for a room on another floor. There's a supermarket nearby.

We stumbled upon an outstanding restaurant close to the hotel: Don't miss it. We ate there two nights out of three in Amsterdam, and I'm lobbying to return there for my birthday in January, but it's a long distance to travel just for dinner!
Betsy is online now  
Nov 20th, 2005, 08:21 AM
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I know the backpack carrying seems to a symbol for your journey but why not take a rolling 22" suitcase? You probably own one or can buy it for ~$50 at Ross, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Pennys.

Those expensive backpacks are meant for mountian trekking or people who go traveling for months or years not a 14 day vacation.

I mean this kindly and gently but you can have your adventure and use a normal suitcase, or my 2nd choice is a medium size duffle bag with a good shoulder strap. Hey if you skip the expensive backpack you can afford a better hotel -LOL.
suze is offline  
Nov 20th, 2005, 09:50 AM
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Yes, backpacks are expensive. I bought a real mountaineering pack (never know when I could use it for its real purpose)and it costs me over $300. I have a very bad back and I tried on several packs at REI, including travel backpacks (like Eagle creek, etc). I found the outdoorsy backpacks distributed the weight much much better...feeling 10 pounds lighter on my back. Since I was also going for months, I wanted a sturdier pack because I didn't want anything to break! And indeed, my pack prevailed: My last day in Europe, from Greece to CDG, I picked up my bag to head back to the U.S. The travel lock got wedged somehow as it came down the belt into the space where the belt rotates back the other way. The cable lock was looped through a zipper. A man came and pulled my bag quite savagely. The cable lock got completely messed up in the process - but not a tear in the bag.

That being said, you are only going for a couple of weeks. While I really do think it's easier backpacking with a pack (I've had to run up stairs several times to catch a train), I don't think there is any point in investing in it for a 2 week trip - use a rolling bag (and make sure it's in good shape!) Yeah, you won't look like a grungy backpacker, but who cares? Your back will be happier, and you can manage it up stairs when you have to - just pack light. If you have never carried a pack before, it's not heaps of fun. You'll be surprised how quickly your bag will reach 20+ pounds (the good backpacks weigh 5-7 pounds already), and you'll have to learn how to pack it correctly so it feels the lightest, as well as learn to put it on with the correct stance so you don't hurt yourself. Don't get me wrong...I love it and wouldn't use anything else, but not for a short trip with only a few point to points. Plus backpacker backpacks don't have wheels...or convenient handles, which means when it's not on your back, it's a pain to move.

That being said, if you HAVE to have one, go to a store and try several on. Make sure they have a staff to properly fit you...their should measure a few points on your back to get you the right size. Ask them to weigh your pack with 15-20 pounds, and do the same for every pack you try on. Then walk around the store for awhile with each one. I know this sounds cumbersome, but do NOT buy a pack without trying it in weighted and stuffed. You'd be amazed at how each one fits and feels different. While I normally believe in buying the item from the place that gives you all that great service, you can put the bag on hold and see if someplace like has it for cheaper.

BTW, for the first week or two, I really hated carrying my backpack. I was told by a friend that some people end up naming their pack. On the first day of my trip I landed in CDG, had trouble finding a ticket counter at one of the metro stations, and ended up upright for longer than I wanted. My back felt like it was breaking. When I finally got to my hotel, I threw the thing to the ground and christened it Derry - short for "Derriere" (since I was in France and all), as in a pain in mine!!!!
crazymina is offline  
Nov 20th, 2005, 10:24 AM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 259
It's been about 10 years since I did my trek around Europe, but I do recall that the YHI hostels in Switzerland had a strict age policy - I want to say that you had to be under 30 in order to stay.

Perhaps things have changed since 1996, but it might be worth looking in to.

Good luck with your adventure!
asalamy is offline  
Nov 20th, 2005, 10:59 AM
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 38
I agree with others who suggest you should not use a backpack. If it were summer and The traditional backpack trip through Europe lasts all summer and involves some hiking and sleeping outside. (Also traditonally occurs the summer after high school or college.)

I'm the last person to blindly follow tradition, but you are traveling for 2 weeks in winter. If you don't want to be a typical tourist with a 22" wheelie, carry a suitcase with a strong shoulder strap. That's what I used on both of my 6 week winter Eurail trips, as well as a one year sojourn in Europe. Bought it at a good lugga
cylueth is offline  
Nov 20th, 2005, 11:08 AM
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Oops, can't keep my fingers from slipping onto the enter key.

Bought the shoulder strap suitcase at a good luggage shop in 1973 and it is still going strong. But now I use it for short car trips. Easier to use a wheelie when flying, but not necessarily when doing a lot of train travel. See if you can find one.

Also, I vote for some kind of train pass (obviously not the full 17 country Eurail pass.) Gives you more freedom than buying point to point tickets, even though it may end up costing more.
cylueth is offline  
Nov 20th, 2005, 11:41 AM
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I respectfully disagree with using a duffle or suitcase with a shoulder strap. The reason is that your bag will be heavier than you'd expect, and a duffle where you strap them over your shoulders will not be meant for that purpose and the weight will not distributed properly. Same with a suitcase with a shoulder strap. I know that it would really mess up my shoulder (but again, I have a bad back). Spare your back altogther with the wheeled luggage, or do get a proper fitting pack - unless you are really good at traveling light; then I suppose anything would be fine!

BTW, most of the independent hostels won't have an age limit. But some of the YHAs will, so as I mentioned before, do a little research in advance. I did pay cash at all the hostels.
crazymina is offline  
Nov 20th, 2005, 06:56 PM
Join Date: Aug 2005
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I would read Let's Go closely regarding all the hostels in the towns you are thinking of visiting.

There was one I stayed at in Paris and Let's Go had referred to the plaster crumbling. We all had to laugh -- it really was crumbling in a lot of spots.

Also the ones that belong to the IYH group have certain standards they have to meet, the independents don't. But in some cities, the IYH-affiliates were clear out in the suburbs, and we didn't want to deal with that.
5alive is online now  
Nov 21st, 2005, 06:48 AM
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I know I've already had my say here but it is an interesting post... You really don't need a $300+ backpack for a 2 week trip. You do need to check hostel age requirements and/or research for cheap centrally located hotels. As for where to go from there, I'd pick two other cities that are reasonable distance away from train and spend 5 nights each place (counting 3 at the start and 1 at the end in A'dam).
suze is offline  
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