Backpacking Europe is a rite of passage for many travelers. For some, this involves massive packs covered in patches, cheap meals and quick stays in hostels. But visiting multiple European destinations in two- or three-week chunks doesn’t have to mean traveling like a twenty-something. If you’re beyond the life stage of shower flip flops and bunk beds, you can still plan a budget-friendly backpacking getaway, but with a bit more comfort.
This guide will give you some tips on how to have one of the best European vacations of your life — without the grit of traditional backpacking.
1. Pack Light
A grubby backpack isn’t required, but it’s worth investing in a sturdy bag that you can carry without relying on a porter. Look for a lightweight spinner suitcase that can easily be lifted onto train platforms and carried up stairs. Using carry-on bags cuts costs from airline baggage fees, and also helps you move efficiently through cities. PacSafe and Tortuga make sleek backpacks with utility features that look stylish.
While packing, choose items that will help you blend in. Solid colors are ideal for mixing and matching. You don’t need an outfit for every day; select pieces you can wear multiple ways, adding accessories as needed. Comfortable clothing is also a must for long flights and train rides. If you’re staying at a Diamond Resorts property, you’ll have access to laundry facilities on-site, so you can pack even lighter and wash clothes as often as needed.
2. Plan Your Itinerary
A two-week trip will allow you plenty of time to dive into three or four cities. There are hundreds of possible routes depending on your interests. The Mediterranean and Adriatic coastlines of Spain, Italy and Portugal are great for sun-seekers. Explore England, Scotland and France for famous architecture and history.
Getting around by train instead of flying can be a way to save money and see more of the continent’s beautiful landscapes. It may take longer to get from point A to point B, but the scenery is unmatched. Rail passes are available for multiple destinations, and you can upgrade to first class for added comfort.
3. Embrace European-Style Dining
One of the best parts of backpacking Europe is indulging in the incredible food — but dining out for every meal can get expensive. There are ways to eat on a budget without resorting to instant ramen. Many of Europe’s traditional cuisines do not include a heavy breakfast, so find a local cafe or pâtisserie to indulge in the local customs and save a bit of money.
Save the large meal for lunchtime. Not only is lunch more affordable than dinner, but you may also have quite a stretch in between the two meals. In many Spanish cities, for example, it’s customary to wait until 10 p.m. to sit down to dinner.
While staying at a Diamond Resorts property, you’ll have an in-suite kitchen, allowing you to shop at a local market and stock up on fresh produce, cheese or meats to hold you over. Tapas and aperitivos (appetizers) are another great way to experience European dining culture in smaller, less expensive portions.
4. Go Sightseeing for a Fraction of the Cost
Free museums like London’s Tate Gallery offer a great way to explore Europe’s cultural elements. Research museums and tourist attractions to see which ones have discounted admission after a certain time of day, during off-peak season or with discount cards. Look for free cultural events like outdoor concerts and exhibits. Sometimes, there are also free walking tours that provide in-depth history lessons without the outright cost — just remember to tip your guide for their time.
5. Stay Like a Local
While hostels might have been how to backpack Europe in your teens or early twenties, Diamond’s properties offer plenty of adult-preferred alternatives that provide a similarly local experience — plus plenty of recreational spaces to mingle and exchange tips with other travelers.
Stay at Alpine Club in the mountain town of Schladming, Austria — near Salzburg — with options to book studio and multi-bedroom apartments. This resort is surrounded by outdoor activities including ski slopes, golf courses and mountain bike trails.
If you’re looking for a relaxing stay in the Canary Islands, Diamond has some stunning properties with nearby beach access. Club del Carmen in Lanzarote is one of the area’s top resorts with apartments and villas featuring full kitchens and balconies. Los Amigos Beach Club in Mijas Costa on Spain’s Costa del Sol also offers sun and fun with multiple pools, tennis courts and a miniature golf course.
In neighboring Portugal’s Algarve region, vacationers love Vilar do Golf in Almancil. Set on more than 2,000 acres, the resort is a favorite of golfers as well as culture vultures who can admire the charming tile-covered churches.
Located in Vincennes near Paris, the Royal Regency is close to attractions like the Vincennes zoo and the Château de Vincennes, and the property has a residential lounge and sauna. Le Club Mougins in Mougins on the French Riviera has a charming terrace from which you can enjoy 300+ days of sunshine.
Across the pond in the United Kingdom, the English countryside is home to gems like Pine Lake Resort and Thurnham Hall in Lancashire. Pine Lake is near the Tolkien Trail with kayaking and other outdoor recreation, and Thurnham Hall is a country house dating back to the 12th century. In Perthshire, Scotland, The Kenmore Club is set in a picturesque village with hiking, fishing and cozy rooms.
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