How to make the most of your Topdeck Trip


#1

How to make the most of your Topdeck Trip

So you’re going on a topdeck trip hey? Lucky you. I was fortunate enough to go on the Mega European in 2015, and I want to do it all again. Best memories of my life!

When I was researching my trip I found that there wasn’t much out there on the internet. Most of it was about the places you visit, or what bag, clothes, or camera you should take. I have to admit I also asked questions like that, and found Coggo’s page on the topdeck forum very helpful in planning. However once on the trip I found that it didn’t really matter what bag you took, or what sim card you got, or what camera you used. It was more about the people you were with.

I want to give back to the forums that helped me in planning my trip. These are my tips on how to make the most of your trip, because you have paid a lot of good money for it. These are things I learnt from my trip. Things I did, things I saw others do, and things not to do.

  1. Choose your travel partner very carefully, or go by yourself. I went by myself and loved it, none of my friends had money or time to come, and I am glad they didn’t. Travelling by yourself forces you to get out of your comfort zone and make new friends. It doesn’t take long either; by the first day you have made lots of friends and good mates. It’s easy to make friends, just remember everyone is in the same position as you, not knowing anyone and everyone is there for the same reason. To have fun and see Europe. By the end of the trip you will be so close to your new friends. Probably even more than your friends back home.

  2. Make a Facebook group; post it to the forums or on the topdeck meet-up page. You can then meet people from your trip, stalk their Facebook profiles, and get to know some people even before your trip starts.

  3. Be friendly, especially on the first few days. Smile, it makes it easy for people to come and talk to you. Be open, go and introduce yourself to everybody. Where are you from? What do you do? What place are you looking forward to the most? These are some of the easiest conversation starters. If you put a little bit of effort in and be open, you will be friends straight away, instead of two weeks in when you finally open yourself up. We had a girl we all thought was really odd. She was really shy and closed off. However, near the end of the trip, when she opened up, we realised that she actually was really funny and awesome.

  4. Get involved in the bus games. Most of the time they are introduction games run at the start of the trip or when new people join your trip. Put effort in, don’t be too shy, it’s really awkward when someone refuses to get up. Everyone is nervous, it looks worse if you don’t get up then if you do and butcher it. Also if you can, make it funny.

  5. There will be some bitchyness on the trip. You will have been together for a while and conflicts are bound to happen. It’s natural. Stay out of it, and don’t isolate yourself to one friendship clique. Spend time with as many groups as you can, because if something does happen to one group you still have people to hang out with. There were some girls on my trip who were really mean and would mock everybody behind there back. By the end of the trip tho no one would talk to them and they would just sit there by themselves looking miserable, while the rest of us were having an awesome time!

  6. You will start questioning your decision in the first few days. Why am I here? I don’t really fit in? I am going to be with these people for 7 more weeks! Everyone has these thoughts, by the end of the trip you will look back and laugh.

  7. Get involved. Say yes to everything, if people are going out go with them, memories will be made and friendships will be formed. You will also have lots of stores to laugh about the next day. If the group is going out, and the tour leader is going as well, go. They make it so fun and can get you into places and get free stuff for you. The sights are awesome but the best memories you will have will be ones with your tour buddies. “That time Johnny did this or that night in Mykonos”. One sure way to have a bad trip is to isolate yourself, no one here knows you from back home, you can re-invent yourself if you want to.

  8. Even if you don’t drink, still go out. No one will really care. They will still include you and not pressure you into anything. Again this is where most friendships are forged.

  9. If you are going as a couple. Get involved. Laugh. Don’t just hang out with your partner all the time.

  10. Learn a joke or two, and laugh at yourself.

  11. Go in summer

  12. Don’t join a tour halfway through if you don’t have to, especially if you struggle to meet new people. Cliques are already formed by this stage. If you do tho be friendly, smile, talk to people. They are excited for new people as well. Everybody on my trip would always get excited when new people were joining. “I wonder if they will be hot? How many girls? More boys (we had a very strong girl to boy ratio :stuck_out_tongue: )”? By the end of the trip I was hanging out with mostly new people. However we did have one girl who joined late, wasn’t too friendly, and wouldn’t get involved in group things. One day she had a go at her roommate for being noisy and turning the light on and soon all the girls on the bus didn’t like her. She decided to leave a few days later.

  13. Sleep on the bus. Sleep is for the week. At the start of the trip I would try and get good night’s sleep. Forget it, go have fun, watch the sunrise over the Charles Bridge in Prague. Everyone sleeps on the bus. Bring an iPod or have music on your phone.

  14. Have respect and show it to your topdeck tour leader and bus driver. They work really hard for you; don’t be a bitch to them. Be on time for the bus and meeting places. You’re not going to make any friends by being late. You may even get left behind.

  15. Act like an adult, not a child. Be responsible.

  16. Pack light. But I do wish I had brought more singlets and more then one smart shirt for going out. Also you dont really need a sleeping bag, I didnt bring one and for the sailing part just used two sheets, which I threw out afterwards.

  17. Bring as much money as you can. I probably used on average about $30 Euro per day, but wish I had more to play with.

  18. If most of the group is doing an optional extra do it as well. Great memories are made and everyone will be talking about it later. Budget to do all the optionals.

  19. When you come back home you will be motivated to do things. Capitalise on it. Join a gym, learn something new. Go be a tourist in your city or town.

  20. Give yourself a few days rest before you go back to work, you will be more exhausted when you arrive back then you would have been when you left.

  21. Post travel depression is real. The best way I found to get over it is to talk to your tour mates and laugh about things that happened, and start planning your next adventure.

I hope you will get something out of this and make the most of your trip. It is mostly common sense. If you have any questions about anything feel free to ask, it helps me to remember things and reminisce about the good times!

Caleb


#2

Thanks for sharing your experience @caleb. I am going to do the Mega European tour next year (19 April - 06 June) and I’m really looking forward to it. I haven’t found anyone doing this specific tour but I suppose I’ll find one eventually.

The points that you have covered are exactly what I had given some thought to and it’s nice to see that my thoughts are in sync with what you’ve written.

If I may, I have a question around budget - how expensive is food in Europe? I am planning on putting aside around NZ$20 per meal. Would this be sufficient or should I allocate more? (Note: I am vegetarian)

Cheers! :smile:



#3

Hi @shikha. Thanks for the kind words.

The cost of food depends on where you are in europe. In the more expansive places like london, paris, spain, germany etc. the price of a meal is around 10 euros, not sure of conversion rates at the moment, but probably around 15 NZD. Breakfast are always covered and quite a lot of dinners are to. when you get to Greece and all the countries till around Austria food will be extremely cheap. like a couple of euros for take away food. For example, a Maccas Big Mac meal in paris is around 8 euros, while in Bulgaria it was around 2 euros. You will save a lot of money in the second half of the tour.

Budget was one of the big things i thought about before the tour and asked around to different people. I budgeted for all the optional extras (except skydiving), 30 euros (I see i wrote 30 AUD instead of euro above, ill try and edit it) per day spending money. 100 euro/pound per day for the 4 days when i wasnt on the tour (to cover accommodation, food, travel, and sight seeing etc) and a little bit extra encase of emergencies. In all i took about 4200 AUD, with my other card and some cash as back up. I was pretty frugal on the first few weeks of the tour and didn’t spend to much extra, and by the end of the tour i had about 1000AUD left. If i was to do it again I probably would budget around $5000 AUD and not be so tight at certain times and buy more souvenirs. But if money is tight you could get by on 2000-3000 AUD if you tried to.

Hope this helps mate


#4

Oh yeah. 20 NZD per meal should be a good number over all, some meals may cost more and some will definitely cost less, but over all you will have plenty of money left over to spend on other stuff.


#5

Hi there
Your post really helped answer some questions I had so thank you. Doing the European getaway June next year and can’t wait
Thanks again :smiley:


#6

Thanks @sarahd7. June is a great time to go! Be prepared for the heat tho! :slight_smile:


#7

Thank you for this caleb. I’ll be doing he mega European in June-August. This is my first trip anywhere by myself and I’m pretty nervous but excited at the same time. Will be good to make new friends and push myself to go out of my comfort zone to make friends as I’m quiet shy at first. :slightly_smiling_face: I cannot wait!


#8

Thanks for the reply mate; yes this definitely helps - a very thorough answer! :smile: I have put aside about NZD 5-6k as spending money - by the sounds of it, it should be plentiful.

Re souvenirs, do you get enough time to go about “shopping” (for souvenirs i.e.)? The reason I’m asking is because while in the itinerary there are free days here and there, most days appear to be travel and / or sight-seeing or activities.


#9

@maryanneeeee Thanks. Yeah going by yourself definitely pushes you out of your comfort zone. You will make friends straight away, don’t worry about it. I travelled solo, and i think i only spent 2 days by myself out of 54 i was away… and those were the 2 days flying back to Australia!
You get so use to having so many people and friends around it can be hard to adjust when the tour is over haha. My advice would also be to add a few days extra after the tour finishes to relax and hangout with quite a few other tour mates who are still around, that way you can explore London with your new friends, instead of by yourself if you plan to do it before the tour. :slight_smile:


#10

@shikharb Thanks! Yeah that should be plenty, dont forget to include extra days before and after the tour in your budget as well, but im sure you havent!

I didnt really buy souvenirs to much, I wish I had bought something from every city we went to like some people did in my group. Most common ones were shot glasses, key rings, t shirts, cloth patches from each city/country. It depends on the place with regards to time. on your free days it is up to you to spend your time, normally you have a full day in the major citys so it should be an issue there. When you get to the smaller cities where you stay 1 night, or just stop for a visit like the leaning tower of Pisa you have less time, maybe an hour or two, but you will walk past the tourist area and there will be heaps of people selling the normal souvenirs and junk.

You do get sick of seeing bridges, churches and museums after a while and by the end of the trip we would find our selves doing a little bit of exploring, going on the walking tours and hearing seeing the stuff, but then go to the shops in Prague or to get a haircut in Berlin.

Just a tip: If you are after good looking but cheap clothes then check on the shop Primark (I think its spelt) there is a huge one in Berlin and I went to one in London as well… someone had told us that Prague was the cheapest place to buy clothes so we spent a bit of time and money there… its a lie, go to primark!

hope this helps. Keep the questions coming, im enjoying thinking back to my trip! :slight_smile:


#11

Yeah, second staying on a few days post the trip before flying back. I’m staying on till 08 June (flying out late in the evening) so should get a chance to explore a bit of London as well.

@caleb do most people stay at Wombats or are they more scattered? I got myself a bunk at Wombats both before and after the trip so should be swell I reckon.


#12

Yet again does! I’m not sure how much spending money I’ll have to spend on things like clothes but will certainly add that to my list of places / locations to visit. I’m going with a carry-on only and will return with check-in - so really it’s just my bank account that might cry :stuck_out_tongue:


#13

Yeah most people stay at wombats @shikharb. Thats a good idea with the luggage. I took a good quality duffle bag with wheels, took over about 11kg and came back with about 12kg. You do have to carry you bag a bit, but i had no problems. some girls had like 30 kgs and heaps of bags, not very wise when they stuggled to carry them up stairs. Most people just had back packs or suitcases.

You wont spend to much. unless you are a big drinker!


#14

It honestly sounds like you had an amazing time!
I have met someone already from that’s doing the same trip and we are actually sight seeing before for about 4 days :slight_smile: so that should be good. Unfortunately I have to be back at work so staying a few days after isn’t an option :frowning:
What was your favourite place while on this trip? Did you do all/most of the optional tours or your own thing?


#15

Wow that is a LOT of luggage! I’ve essentially packed for a week that I’ll watch and recycle whenever I get the chance.

Re being a big drinker, I’m not really so I think I’ll be able to spend it more on exploring the places :smile:

On et another topic, did you manage to do all the optional activities? I read in another post that it’s impossible due to the time constraints?


#16

Thanks it was awesome! @maryanneeeee Thats good, yeah same with me I only had 2 days after the tour then had to come home and go straight back to work. You feel so lost, being in London and then next minute being back at work and nothings changed, feels like you didnt even go!

Favourite place would probably have been Greece, sailing and on Mykonos. A few of us guys hired quad bikes for a day and rode all around the island, was really amazing!

With the optional extras, see the post below. Most of the time in the places we would go on a optional extra/ a walking tour/ or something and then have time afterwards to do our own thing, so we would split into small groups and explore. Sometimes its worth doing the optional tours because that is where the bus will be and your ride back to the hostel, but you can always find your own way back. Dont spend to much time worry about it now but most of them are worth doing.

@shikharb Yeah good idea. Bring plenty of underwear tho because at times you can only wash every 2 weeks or so. we had this one guy join the tour and he only had 2 changes of clothes and they were long pants and long sleeve shirts and steel capped boots, it was so funny because the weather was around 35-40 degrees Celsius and he was always drenched in sweat… so dont be “that guy” on the bus.

I pretty much did all the optional extras. It is impossible for some of them when they are scheduled at the same time… like skydiving and going up jungfrau in switzerland. Your tour leader will announce them on the bus a week or so before you get there and then a couple days before they will get you to sign up and collect money for them. If no one or only a couple of people are keen on an optional extra then the tour leader will cancel it. for example, no one on our tour did the seine river cruise in paris. The only optional extras I didnt do was the Seine river cruise, Skydiving, and the orchestra in Vienna. The tour leader will also throw in some other ones as well that they may organise along the way, like group dinners or winenary tours that arent included and they book a place and you pay separately… if most of the group is going to these then I would recommend you do it as will be worthwhile.


#17

I really wanted to do both the skydiving and jungfrau tour when in Switzerland. Sucks that it’s only 1 day spent there.
What did you do in terms of a phone with data and all?


#18

Hi Caleb, some really good pointer here! with the optional activities do you need cash for them or can you use credit/debit cards for some of the more expensive ones?
Thanks :smile:


#19

@maryanneeeee I did read somewhere that someone did both, It was either on a blog or on the topdeck forum somewhere.How they did it was they organised with their tour leader to do the skydiving in the morning and then go up jungfrau later (or maybe it was the other way around) but they managed to do both in the same day. Yeah I would have liked an extra day there too!

In regards to phone, I took my smart phone with me from australia and put it on flight mode for the whole 2 months. Pretty much every place you stay at will have wifi, except for avignon, and it is always available at cafe’s and other places around town. What I wish I had known about before the trip was the english cell phone provider ‘3 mobile’. quite a few girls on my tour brought pre paid sim cards through them when they were in london, they got around 15gb or so for a pretty cheap price (and it worked through most of the big countries in europe. Some other people stayed with their normal providers and paid a lot extra… like 5 dollars per day every day to use global roaming… but to me that adds up to way to much. Also because of the time difference you wont be txting/calling much home anyway. I just used facebook messenger on data. If I was to go again next time I would explore the ‘3 mobile’ deal because i was jealous at times of people having data on the bus. There is wifi on the bus but it costs a lot and never really worked.

Hey @Tuff Thanks for taking the time to comment! Most of the time you will need to pay in cash to your tour leader in the local currency or euros. I think the only one you can pay on card directly is for skydiving because it costs so much. The tour leader collects it in cash because they organise it all before hand and then pay the operator directly in a lump cash payment.

What I did for my money was to only use cards to withdrawn money from an atm and then use the cash to pay for everything. Even though back in australia I never use cash. I did this basically to keep my card details safe, avoid any extra card usage costs, to keep track of my spending, and encase my card was declined when paying for things. If you have any more questions on the money side feel free to ask because I know when I was researching my trip I couldn’t find to many answers.

Have fun!


#20

@caleb Re my packing, thanks for the tips. I unfortunately do sweat but I’ll combat it :stuck_out_tongue: Though you can expect me to not be in steel-capped boots or long anything majority of the time.

Good question and good answer re the cellphone use because I was considering doing something similar to what you did with using WiFi wherever possible. Do you just ask for wifi where you go or is it just freely available in the area?

Money question is great - so if I’ve understood you correctly, you paid by cash everywhere is it? I’m not a cash person at all so I was planning on having some notes handy for random transactions and using my Visa Debit in most places. Do you think this could work? (other than for the optional activities of course).

Here’s another aspect - what was the accommodation like - is it basic or well-equipped enough? (thinking from a food and laundry perspective)