Right now is the time to be finalising plans for travelling to Europe in 2015 and if you haven’t started yet then get on it before prices for flights, accommodation and tours skyrocket or become sold out. I’m planning on returning to Europe in 2015 and have been planning for the last couple of months in detail what I want to do and will now share with you my strategy when booking that dream European trip.
This time round I have decided to do some travelling with Busabout, for those of you who don’t know about Busabout they would fall under the same category as other tour companies such as Contiki (Busabout is owned by the same company as Contiki) and Topdeck, however they stand out from the rest with a unique flexible and affordable way of touring Europe.
The flagship tour of Busabout is the Flexitrip Hop On Hop Off pass which enables you to purchase from six stops and up, depending on how many destinations you want to visit. Unlike most tours where you will start and finish in a pre defined city, Busabout allows you to start and finsh where ever you like as long as it is one of the destinations on the Busabout network. Busabout not only does this, they also have traditional set tours and festivals around Europe and for the first time in 2015 Busabout will be starting tours in Asia. I particularly like the look of the Trans-Siberian Railway trip, it looks really awesome and links up to other Asian trips at one end and the existing European trips at the other end, but we’re not here to talk about Asia, it’s all about Europe for the moment.
So what is the best way to plan a Flexitrip with Busabout? Well there is no clear answer to that question as everyone plans it differently, but I’m going to share how I went about planning my 2015 European trip with Busabout.
1) Deceide what cities/towns you want to visit in Europe…
Write a list of the places you want to visit, even if they are not on the Busabout network. Remember that you can spend as long as you want in one place with a minimum of two nights at non-compulsory stops. So for example if you want to explore more places in The Netherlands, Busabout stops in Amsterdam, you can explore the country and then re-join Busabout again in Amsterdam and head to the next compulsory stop Berlin.
2) Schedule any events or festivals into the plan first…
Without a doubt this was the most important aspect for me when planning. I really want to attend Oktoberfest and I have wanted to attend Oktoberfest for a long time and I decided this was the year, if not now then it would never happen. In the beginning the planning was based around attending this iconic event in Munich with either Busabout or Topdeck, timing was relatively flexible around this and then I figured out that if I went for long enough I could also incorporate the La Tomatina festival too. The planning then quickly shifted from Oktoberfest being the centre of planning to La Tomatina starting the trip off and Oktoberfest ending the trip leaving room to fill the middle of the trip with a Busabout Flexi Trip.
3) Link up events and festivals with tours…
Already locking in La Tomatina into the trip plan it was a great opportunity to see more of Spain and surrounding countries. There are a number of tours to choose from with some of the best being tours that incorporate Spain, Portugal and Morocco. I really would’ve loved to have looked at all three of these countries in detail but this is one of the times I needed to be realistic with the time I had.
Look up start and end times for various tours and get a sense for how much time you have. I decided to go for the Busabout Iberian Adventure for a number of reasons. Firstly it was extremely easy to link up with when taking other Busabout trips, secondly It takes in three different countries and you get one night in Africa. However with this tour some compromises have to be made as it is only a short tour and only stops at one place in Portugal and Morocco, but this was needed to fit within the 6 week plan, so it was perfect.
4) If time permits, have some flexibility…
I’m a major planner and need to know the where, when, who, what and how of every day when planning a trip (which pretty much goes against the flexibility of Busabout), however with all my Busabout tour plans and festivals I had five of the six weeks planned and ready to go, leaving the final week free. I wanted to make sure this final week was spent in one location and was just all about relaxing and taking in the sights whilst not feeling like I would be rushing around. Originally I had Santorini pencilled in, this then changed to Santorini with a Dubai stopover for a few nights and then that changed again to some more time in Switzerland or a road trip in Germany. Finally it was settled that I would simply spend six nights in Budapest, although it is still planned it was still a week that could have been spent anywhere and was never set in concrete.
So what are my plans with Busabout in 2015 and how does it all link together in better detail…
I’m undertaking four Busabout tours/festivals from August until the end of September, these are the Busabout Flexitrip Hop On Hop Off, Busabout La Tomatina, Busabout Iberian Adventure (Spain & Portigual) and Busabout Oktoberfest. The beauty of doing all of these tours through Busabout is that the Flexipass links up to all of the other tours and festivals, it is just a matter of putting the pieces of the puzzle together.
BUSABOUT Flexitrip (Hop On Hop OFF)
The most recognisable part of Busabout is their Flexitrip Hop On Hop Off bus network around Europe, every second day a bus will depart from outside the predefined stops within the network. It is then up to you where you start, go and end the trip as long as you make a minimum of six stops you can take as little or as long as you like to travel around.
For my 2015 Europe trip I’m joining the Busabout network in Barcelona and will be travelling along what is called the West Loop until I reach Switzerland for the last leg joining the South Loop. The Hop On Hop Off network links up with other Busabout trips and this is how you can take full advantage of the service. It’s important to know how many stops you’ll be making so you can budget ahead, you can add more stops on later whilst on the bus if you wish, my plans are for seven stops which include…
Barcelona, Spain –> Valencia, Spain (Linking up with La Tomatina) –> Madrid, Spain (Linking up with Iberian Adventure Tour) –> San Sebastian, Spain –> Tours, France –> (leaving Busabout to catch a TGV Train to Paris) –> Paris, France –> Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland –> Lucerne, Switzerland –> Munich, Germany (Linking up with Oktoberfest).
Busabout La Tomatina
La Tomatina is the annual Spanish event where locals and tourists take part in the ritual of being involved in the world’s biggest food fight, throwing mushed up tomatoes at each other. The festival takes place on the last Wednesday of August every year in the small town of Buñol outside of Valencia.
There are a couple of options with Busabout when it comes to the La Tomatina festival with accommodation based in Valencia… HOTEL STAY 3 days or 5 days, HOSTEL STAY 4 days, CAMPING 3 days or 5 days.
I have opted for the 3 day hotel stay option with an extra day in Valencia the day before the official tour kicks off. The programme for the 3 day hotel stay includes…
DAY 01: Orientation walk of Valencia, welcome party and then hitting the Valencia bars.
DAY 02: Guided tour of Buñol for the La Tomatina festival food fight followed by a chilled out afternoon by the beach before the Busabout after party.
DAY 03: Check out after breakfast (continue on the Busabout network to Madrid).
BUSABOUT Ibearian Adventure
The Iberian Adventure tour from Busabout takes in the sights of Spain, Portugal and even has a one night stopover on the African continent in Morocco. The tour begins in Madrid so it links up easily with the Busabout Hop On Hop Off network, from here you are taken to the town of Seville for one night and then head over the border to Portugal and the town of Lagos. The tour then leaves Portugal and heads across the Mediterranean to Morocco for one night in the town of Tangier before heading back to Spain and to the town of Granada for two nights.
The tour then ends up back where it all started in Madrid and links back up with the Hop On Hop Off network again.
DAY 01: Madrid to Seville
DAY 02: Seville to Lagos
DAY 03: Lagos
DAY 04: Lagos to Tangier
DAY 05: Tangier to Granada
DAY 06: Granada
DAY 07: Granada to Madrid
It’s the most celebrated beer festival in the world, Munich’s Oktoberfest swings into full action at the end of September every year and Busabout is there too with its bus network linking up with four day hostel and camping trips dedicated to the beer festival. The great thing about doing Oktoberfest with Busabout is that they also include an optional day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle and Swan Lake before heading back and resuming your post within the beer halls of Oktoberfest.
DAY 01: Check in from 2pm and go on a walking tour of Munich and a visit to some shops to buy traditional clothing before heading to the Beer Halls of Oktoberfest.
DAY 02: Hit up the Beer Halls once again and also have the opportunity for an optional bike tour of Munich.
DAY 03: Continue exploring the Oktoberfest ground or take the optional day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle.
DAY 04: Check out by 10:00am.
Post Busabout, Hungry for a Little Hungary
In 2015 I have six weeks of travel available and the above outlines about five weeks of travelling with the majority of that time taking advantage of Busabout. At this stage we end in Munich and this presents a lot of options for more travel being in central Europe, it’s now a decision on whether to go north, south, east or west.
Many considerations took place with the first option being a chilled out week on the Greek Island of Santorini. I could think of nothing better at the time than lazing about close to the ocean after spending five weeks circling Europe. I haven’t been to Santorini yet and understand it to be the pick of the Greek Islands, previously I had visited Mykonos and had mixed reactions to that island.
Another consideration I had was doing a road trip around Germany, leaving Munich and exploring the different regions from Munich up to Frankfurt and experiencing the adrenaline rush of driving full throttle on the world renowned Autobahns. These were just two of the many ideas I had, but finally the decision was made to return to one of the cheapest and arguably one of the nicest cities architecturally in Europe, Budapest.
Getting to Budapest from Munich is relatively simple and there are several options from a cheap budget airline flight, travelling by high speed train taking around seven hours or driving. However I’m opting to kill two birds with one stone on this leg of the trip by combining accommodation and travel by departing Munich at 11:30pm on the Munich-Budapest overnight train and arriving in Budapest at around 8:00am.
This won’t be the first time catching an overnight train, I did the very same thing a couple of years prior when travelling from London to Edinburgh on the ScotRail Caledonian Sleeper Train before heading off on a Haggis Adventures Tour (another company aligned to Busabout) from the Scottish capital.
The plan is to then spend six nights in the Hungarian capital before making the long flight back home to Melbourne. All up the trip will be six and a half weeks long and would have taken in some of the best sights and events in Europe. Whilst most of the hard work is done and dusted in preparing for this trip, there are still some other details to figure out so not everything is set in stone. Other considerations still are the accommodation at each of the Busabout stops, the overnight train can only be booked 90 days in advance and also booking a TGV Train from Tours to Paris which can only be done in a certain amount of time in advance.
Attached below is a PDF copy of my travel plans in full listing where I’m going day by day, hopefully this will be a valuable tool for you to use and allow you to get an idea of how you may want to plan your Busabout adventure.
Also… If you’re looking at travelling to Europe but still cannot decide what you want to do, check out some of the links below to some other tours I have been on through Europe that may help to make up your mind, and of course check back here towards the end of 2015 to see how the Busabout Europe trip went down.