Europe

Planning

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There aren’t many things I enjoy more than planning vacations. Call me crazy, but I love the lists, research, and scheduling that goes into it almost as much as experiencing the trip itself. Give me my iPad, an Excel spreadsheet, and wifi and I could peruse SkyScanner all day.

While planning, I find my Type-A personality is actually a blessing instead of a curse. I’m a firm believer that chance favours the prepared meaning that I’m the one who not only always has a Plan B, but also a Plan C and D. Just a note to the ‘go-with-the-flow types – I’m aware that most people aren’t quite as rigid as I am with plans, but this method works for me. You may prioritize certain aspects of your travels different than I do, these are just my personal suggestions. If I had the guts to buy an open ended plane ticket to a foreign country I would, but I know myself and that sounds like stage one of a minor panic attack :)

My next big trip is going to be backpacking across western and central Europe. Like many other recent grads I feel as though it’s a right of passage to be able to say I roughed it in hostels. I’m hoping to be able to spend 2 months taking in all the sights, culture, and food I can.

The first thing I did when I started conceptualizing my trip was print out of map of Europe. If you’re a geography whiz you can probably skip this step, but I found it useful to be able to visualize where each city was in relation to the others. I then went through and highlighted the cities that I wanted to see – don’t hold back, you can pare the list down once you take time and money into consideration.

At this point you need to start looking at limiting factors, the main ones being time and money. Both will unfortunately dictate the extent of your trip, with money usually being the most unforgiving. Once you determine a rough budget you’ll be able to determine how long your trip can be.

The beauty of Europe is that there are so many ways to stretch your dollar – one site I found useful was TrekHard, which has a calculator that will show you an estimation of your daily cost per country based on a number of factors such as accommodation and transportation. It’ll also give you an idea of which countries are more expensive so you can either limit the days you spend there or avoid them all together. I originally wanted to stay in Zurich for a festival, but after seeing how much it would cost decided Prague was a much more viable option! The time of year you travel will also come into play, summer will be much more expensive than winter for obvious reasons.

After deciding on the where and when comes the fun part, IMO – scheduling. To get stated you’ll need the map you highlighted, a list of each cities’ main airport or bus/train terminals, a calendar, pencil and LARGE eraser – you’ll be doing a lot of revisions. My absolute favourite flight app is SkyScanner, it’s similar to Kayak, but specializes in flights within Europe. You have the option of “watching” flight searches and they’ll send you emails when flight prices change. The explore feature is amazing as well – it’s really useful when you’re trying to find the cheapest way to travel between cities – it lets you choose your departing airport and then shows you the prices of flights going into surrounding airports… if you’re really brave you could theoretically plan an entire itinerary using it! I redid my itinerary 8+ times during the planning process, it was a lot of extra work, but this way I ensured I was taking the most economical route.

Trains are another option to consider when going between cities in close proximity. Eurorail passes, especially with student and off-season discounts, are extremely affordable. Overnight trains also kill two birds with one stone, you avoid paying for a hostel and wake up in your next destination!

When looking for somewhere to stay I turned to Hostelworld and Airbnb. Both are great because they include reviews from people who have recently stayed there. When reading through reviews I scan for three main things: location, amenities, traveller tips/suggestions. The location is always most important to me – I’m looking for somewhere that’s close to the metro/public transportation lines. Second thing I look for is an overview of the amenities – were the showers clean? were there any recent bedbug complaints? were the people at the front desk friendly and helpful? As I’m reading the reviews I also like to write down any suggestions the commenters have left, these could include anything from what time is best to see the sunset or the name of a fantastic restaurant around the corner. If there seems to be a never-ending list of reviews try and keep to the most recent – I usually go as far back as year then call it a day. I wouldn’t want to be judged presently by how I was a year ago so I figure the hostels shouldn’t be either.

What steps do you take when planning your trips? Are you more of a planner or a go-with-the-flow type?

Day 5: Hvar

Early Wednesday morning I was unceremoniously awoken by loud banging noises coming from the back of the boat. I quickly arose from my makeshift couch cushion bed on at the front of the boat (the hammock had been removed for the video shoot the day before) and tried to figure out what the hell was happening. It seemed as though the strong winds were causing our yacht to violently thrash into the dock, luckily it had woken up Carolyn as well and she alerted our skipper. Turns out another boat had actually dragged our anchor out of position when they were leaving … James was not a happy camper.

In an attempt to escape the yelling match between our skipper and the owner of the other boat I decided to wake up our friend who actually slept on the riva and grab breakfast. And by breakfast I mean and pastry and a few beers. When I’m on vacation I’m of the mindset that any hangover can be avoided by continuing drinking. After the amount of drinks I consumed at the foam party the night before I was fairly certain that I didn’t want that hangover catching up to me anytime soon.

Once we got back everyone was pretty ready to set sail for our last destination (and my favourite) – Hvar. I’m pretty sure our longest sail day was between Komiza and Hvar, the waters were a little rough, but it was a great tanning day none the less.

Five days of partying was definitely taking its toll on me – I had contracted a mean case of Skippers cough and felt pretty exhausted. For anyone who’s going on TYW, Skipper’s cough basically refers to the nasty respiratory illness that you get from too much drinking, germ sharing and not enough sleeping. Most of the skippers said they caught it after a few days – close quarters and drink sharing was definitely to blame.

Once we arrived in Hvar we docked at Parmesan and I went exploring with a friend. We ended up on the other side of the island and sat on the rocks near the beach for a few hours chatting. We actually lost track of time and had to rush back to change, which for me meant throwing on a bathing suit cover up, my token Croatia captain hat and mascara, so that I could join all the girls for our pre-dinner party.

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A water taxi picked us up from another dock and took us to a TYW exclusive party at Carpe Diem Beach – my favourite venue by far. The open air club itself was built into a mountain and was surrounded by the sea – the sunsets here were epic. They also had these massive beanbag chairs along one of the hills which were perfect for star gazing!

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We headed back to the boat for dinner and by the time we were finished I was beyond ready for bed. Yep, you heard it right, I was out on drinking. Instead of heading out I ended up laying out on the top deck with a friend and catching up on my zs. A few of the girls went out, but most came home early since the next two days were going to be eventful – both Alex and I were celebrating our 23rd birthdays!

I woke up when the girls came back and was somehow convinced to hike to the other side of the island to go swimming. If you’re planning on doing any late night nature walks bring a flashlight because Croatia is DARK at night – the path to the beach didn’t have any lights and I’m not ashamed to say I was mildly terrified. I must admit, the night swim was a pretty perfect way to end my my first day in Hvar.

Day 2: Vis

Hey guys, I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated TYW part of my blog, but I have a (sort of) acceptable excuse. To be honest it’s been really difficult to remember the order that we visited places … I remember the actual parties perfectly, I just can’t quite put my finger on when they happened. I blame the prolonged sun exposure! Anyways, I think I’ve finally narrowed down the order – this is going to differ from the other weeks in Croatia because they merged the routes and changed things up a bit for the last week.

Day 1 (Sat): Trogir – Riva Party
Day 2 (Sun): Vis – Fort George
Day 3 (Mon): Scedro – Circle Party
Day 4 (Tues): Komiza – Foam Party
Day 5 (Wed): Hvar – Carpe Diem Beach/ ??
Day 6 (Thurs): Hvar – Carpe Diem Day Party/Kiva Bar/Carpe Diem Beach
Day 7 (Fri): Split – Vanilla Club

I’m going to try to get the rest of the my YW posts finished this weekend! Especially because bookings for Summer 2015 yachts just opened up on October 27th :) The 2014 aftermovie just got released too! My crew and I were filmed throughout the week and made the opening and closing scenes. The camera crew also caught a few shots of me swimming at the circle party and steering the boat!

Here’s a link to the 2014 aftermovie if you want to take a look!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKYnIeCv1CM&feature=youtu.be]

My first official morning of TYW started around 830am and by some gift of God I wasn’t horribly hangover – I was handed these delicious (and strong) sugary shots all night and was prepared for the worst. All the other girls were still sleeping so I headed up to the deck to enjoy some morning rays. Mornings were the only real downtime I had throughout the trip so I tried to take advantage of them.

Within the hour the Somersbys were cracked and we had set sail for Vis. Travelling between islands is prime tanning time, but don’t forget to use sunscreen! I was pretty bronzed from being outside all summer and still got a little pink the first day.

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We were anchored just offshore from Vis and had to take a water taxi in. You’ll get accustom these, they’re basically little dingy boats driven between/around islands by locals. Prepare to spend about half your weekly budget on them. No joke, it was probably one of my only complaints. If we’re already paying extra for port fees and such we should at least get free water taxi rides!

Getting ready on the boat became a ritualistic experience. We’d all sit out on the deck with our mirrors and makeup bags attempting to mask the fact that we were all still fairly drunk from the day’s shenanigans. This is where my Makeup For Ever green primer came in handy. The green tone actually combats redness in your skin, whether it is due to a little too much sun or alcohol, virtually masking all you daily indiscretions :)

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Moving on to my favourite part of every day – meal time! Make sure you ask your skipper which restaurants they recommend for dinner – they have a summers worth of experience eating in Croatia so they’ll know the good spots. Ours suggested hands down the most picturesque restaurant I’ve ever been to called Luma. If you’re ever looking for a romantic dinner setting this is it! We were surrounded by lush green gardens and enjoyed our meal by candlelight. I was unfortunately too enthralled by the view, food, and my wine to remember to take pictures. The menu had a little something for everyone – I ended up ordering the catch of the day which was a white fish and a side of mixed veggies. It was absolutely delicious and light, but I had complete food envy when some of the girls’ steaks arrived (I may have ended up stealing a few bites).

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After were done stuffing our faces with the delicious local cuisine we caught a TYW scheduled bus up to Fort George for the white party. I had heard that Fort George was an incredible venue from some of our skipper/crew friends, but I didn’t expect it to be so massive! Picture a club in an old world castle courtyard – that’s Fort George. Needless to say, it was an amazing night, especially because everyone kept the to the dress code! Make sure you pack a white outfit – preferably one that’s easy to wash as it’s inevitable that you’re going to get something spilled on you throughout the course of the evening. By the end of the night I was safely tucked back to my hammock bed I was just praying for the hangover gods to take pity on me.

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TYW Packing List

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                                        Everything fit – it was a MIRACLE.

In hindsight, I really wish I had gotten around to writing this post as I was actually packing for my trip so I could express, in detail, how frustrating it is to pack in a relatively small backpack for an extended period of time. I can’t even recall how many times I revised my packing list over the summer – I was constantly adding things to bring. To be honest, I don’t think I really appreciated how limited my storage space was until I tried to physically fit everything into my backpack.

I ended up getting Gregory Cairn 48 ($250.00 CAD) that’s pictured below. It got the job done and I really can’t complain about the quality – it held up to being dragged across the floor at most airports, there were plenty of pockets for extra storage, and the top portion expanded quite a bit.

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My one serious piece of advice is to do your research when you’re looking to buy a backpack! I can’t stress this enough, if I could do it over again I would have compared a few models before making my purchase. There are so many backpacks on the market with additional features and add-ons that would have made my life MUCH easier. When I was shopping I just walked into MEC and bought the first one that:
a) I thought was pretty – at this point I had no idea how low on the totem pole aesthetics should be
b) Was appropriately sized for my height – being petite limited my selection to smaller backpacks as I knew I wouldn’t be able to carry XL monstrosities across airports and train stations. Truthfully, I even struggled lugging mine around.

If I were to look for a backpack now I’d want one that:

1) included a zip out cover – I purchased a separate bag to cover my backpack when I was travelling by air (I didn’t want the buckles and straps getting caught on conveyor belts and ripping). The bag was annoying to store and too big for my actual backpack which made carrying my bag an absolute NIGHTMARE. Think little girl dragging an XL hockey bag around Europe – ya, not enjoyable. Many of my friends had covers that could zip out from a bottom pocket… needless to say, I was envious

2) was front loading – my backpack was top loading and had a side zip which didn’t extend all the way to the top or bottom, so you could technically pull clothes out of the side, but it really just messed up everything in the middle when you tried to take stuff out. Basically repacked my bag every time I changed my clothing – NOT FUN. Part of this was probably my fault though – separate packing cubes would have definitely helped the process.

3) had an attached/zip-off backpack – so I had no idea these even existed until I was away, but it is utter genius!! The friend that I travelled Greece with had one and we used it all the time. My carry-on for half the trip was my red nylon Longchamp bag, which despite having a large storage capacity and being able to fold into next to nothing, is still a purse, and was just a hassle when I was riding the back of an ATV. Plus I’m pretty sure that one of my biceps is bigger than the other from awkwardly toting it around on one arm.

4) had wheels – ok so this isn’t crucial because I probably would have only used it in the airport or paved roads (I did not envy the people with rolling luggage when we were boarding/disembarking the ferrries), but hiking up the hill to the Metro station in Athens in 35 degree heat made me really appreciate the invention of the wheel – especially when a pair of them are attached to a 15kg backpack.

Of course I’m sure there are many more features you may want to consider when you look for your backpack – rain protection, compartments with extra security, etc. If you have heard of or own any backpacks with other cool features I’d love to hear about them! I’m seriously considering buying a new bag for next year if my budget allows it :)

My inherent indecisiveness really added to my packing frustrations. I had a serious case of the what-ifs every time I tried to eliminate an item of clothing from my list. What if my jean shorts rip and I don’t have another pair? What if I fall down and get 9 different cuts, but only brought 8 band-aids? What if one of my 7 bathing suits gets ruined and I’m forced to re-wear one? Oh the agonnyyyy. I was ridiuclous. And yes I ended up bringing not one, not two, but SEVEN bathing suits for yacht week. Dumb, dumb, dumb – I really only wore 3 of them throughout the course of my trip. So. much. wasted. space. No matter what you do DO NOT bring seven bathing suits – some people say you need one for each day, but realistically you won’t wear them all. Once the tan lines set in from one bikini top I was reluctant to switch. Next time I’d definitely purchase the same cut of top and bottoms in various patterns.

Now onto my list. Below is what I actually brought with me, and yes I REALLY overpacked. My saving grace was that it was summer and I’m relatively small, meaning that I was able to fit much more than I would have if I had travelled with heavy items such as jackets and sweaters.

Clothing:

– 6 pairs of shorts (3 fancy, 3 casual)
– 1 long sleeve shirt
– 1 zip up sweater
– 1 pair of jeans – medium wash and my go to for travel days
– 4 dresses (2 dressy, 1 casual, 1 maxi) – I REALLY regret not bringing more casual dresses because they could easily be glammed them up for going out at night
– 2 t-shirts
– 5 going out tops – cotton is your new BFF, I brought 2 silk blouses that haven’t recovered from being stuffed in a backpack for a month
– 3 casual tank tops
– 7 bikinis – DO NOT DO THIS. I even ended up buying another one, I can’t control my love for Calzedonia bikinis. ugh
– 1 Canada one piece swimsuit (for the Regatta)
– 2 bathing suit cover ups
– 8 crop tops – this was so excessive, I think I wore 4 of them
– 1 maxi skirt
– 3 miniskirts – I wore one of these. ONE!
– 2 pairs of pyjamas shorts
– 2 sleeping shirts
– 1 regular black bra
– 2 strapless bras ( 1 black, 1 nude)
– 10 pairs of underwear – once again excessive. It’s like I was preparing for the extinction of laundry machines
– 2 pairs of ankle socks

Accessories:

– Gold Marc Jacobs watch – why I thought it was a good idea to bring this I have no idea, I would have been absolutely beside myself if I had lost it
– Black leather bracelet – leather + salt water … enough said
– (Faux) gold locket – I was actually happy I brought this, it matched all my outfits and would have been no concern if it had been lost of broken
– Diamond Earrings – ya this was a big mistake, I actually forgot they were on and wore them on the airplane.
– Baseball cap – useful when trying to disguise how horribly hungover you are every morning
– Black side bag – something with a zipper preferably
– Carry-on bag – large red nylon Longchamp
– Canada flag umbrella hats – for the Regatta

Footwear:

– 2 pairs of sandals (1 dressy, 1 casual)
– 1 pair of sneakers – I bought white Supergas, which I am still in LOVE with, I didn’t even need to break them in before hand (a small miracle in my eyes)

I didn’t bring any heels with me and thank god. Flimsy ankles in 6 inch heels on cobblestone streets is just asking for an injury. Truthfully I had issues in my flip flops some nights haha

Electronics:

– iPhone
– iPod
– Headphones
– AUX cable
– Power converter – I brought two and found Croatian outlets used two-prong plugs that were a bit larger than those in Italy and Greece
– Portable power charger – this was so crucial throughout my travels, especially for yacht week. There were only a few power outlets on the boat and we weren’t guaranteed a spot on the riva every night so there were a few days we went without power. When you’re sailing between ports there is electricity if the motor is running, but keep in mind this uses up gas unnecessarily! I ended up buying the RavPower RP-PB07 for $39.99 CAD on Amazon and it lasted me the entire week, granted my phone usage was minimal.
– Camera – I barely used my camera because I brought my phone out with me at night
– Camera Battery Charger
– iPod/iPhone charger

Toiletries:

– Travel toothbrush
– Tooth paste
– 2 hair ties
– Body moisturizer
– Face moisturizer
– Sunscreen – I LOVE Arbonne’s, it’s spf 30 and isn’t greasy like other formulas
– Maui Babe tanning oil – Yes I’m a sun worshipper, but I love this formula because I don’t need to stay in the sun as long and they actual advise you wear sunscreen underneath it!
– Disposable razor – I think I bought 8 of these on the trip because I kept leaving them behind
– 2 Hair brushes – 1 round and 1 flat
– 1 Hair clip
– Shampoo/Conditioner – I have been hoarding those sample shampoo/conditioner combos that come in the mail for YEARS and finally found an occasion to use them
– Nail file
– Nail clippers
– Homemade beach hair spray (I’ll probably post on how to make this later)
– Tide-to-Go stick
– Q-tips
– Cotton pads

*Go out and purchase travel containers from the dollar store, I believe I got a set of 5 bottles for around $2 from Dollarama. It really doesn’t make sense to be carrying around a full sized moisturizer or suntan lotion when you only need a quarter of it!

Makeup:

– Waterproof mascara
– Liquid Eyeliner
– Naked 3 Palette
– MAC eyeshadow in Bronze – it’s been my summer shadow obsession since high school
– Make Up For Ever travel sized makeup remover
– Make Up For Ever green HD primer – so essential in masking redness when you’ve been in the sun a bit too long!
– Anastasia brow palette in Dark Brown
– Brow brush – I’m a Torontonian, we are OBSESSED with eyebrows. No joke. Having a bad brow day is equal, if not worse than a bad hair day
– Bronzer – My favourite is Hula by Benefit because of its matte finish
– Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer in Bisque
– Travel set of makeup brushes
– Nars blush in Orgasm

I am absolutely obsessed with cosmetics and I even impressed myself with how little makeup I brought. Salt water is basically natures magic, it clears up my skin and makes me hair actually behave when air dried. In my opinion, nothing can top the au naturel look of tousled beach hair and a nice healthy glow. Ok so I know tans aren’t really healthy, but can you blame me for wanting to look a little more like Jessica Alba and a little less like Nicole Kidman?

Medicine/First-Aid:

– Tylenol
– Seabands – these are elastics wristbands with a little plastic bead that goes over a pressure point to combat nausea. I wore them the first 4 days, but soon realized I was getting the dreaded “seaband tan” and took them off … I didn’t feel nauseous at all throughout the trip, even after removing the bands, so it’s difficult to say if they worked or not.
– Gravol
– Benadryl
– Imodium
– Tums
– Amoxicillin – I get strep throat a few times a year and actually felt a bit sick before leaving so I got the antibiotics as a precaution
– Polysporin
– Band-Aids – you will need these, be the hero and don’t forget
– Gauze
– Medical Tape

Other:

– Float – I bought 2 donut floats from the Dollarama. If you don’t have room in your pack don’t bother… the Getro just outside of Kastela Marina has a bunch of floats for sale, but they are around $10-15 CAD vs. the $2 I paid.
– Pack Towel – they’re lightweight, dry super quickly, and fold up into nothing
– Nylon bag – from the Dollar store for the beach/groceries
– Neck Pillow – $2 at the dollar store means I didn’t care when the beads exploded everywhere on the train to Florence haha (though my friend wasn’t pleased when we kept finding them in his hair)

Whew! Are you still reading? If you are, you’re a fantastic human being. I know that was a ridiculous amount of information, but I swear I’m just trying to be thorough. I had the hardest time finding a blog with a specific list of items to bring so if there are any other (mildly?) neurotic people out there planning for TYW I hope I was of some assistance.

My last tip is from my superwoman of a Mom …

Being the genius that she is, she suggested that I before I packed my bag I lay out all the clothes I was bringing and take a picture on my phone. This way I’d have something to refer back to when trying to make outfits instead of having to rip apart my suitcase yet again. It also helped me keep inventory of my clothes and make sure nothing was missing when I was moving from place to place. I literally have no idea what I would do without her.

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