SOYOUWANNA BACKPACK THROUGH EUROPE?
If a landmass can be said to be sexy, then Europe is the one. For years, it was a rite of passage for aristocratic youth to take a tour of the continent, staying in the best hotels and getting pampered. It was wonderful... assuming, of course, you were of blue blood.
Those days are gone. Now anyone with a small pool of cash and some smarts can get to know Europe up close and personal. All you have to do is strap a backpack on your back and go where the European winds take you. Not only is backpacking across Europe tons cheaper than being a Tourist (with a capital "T"), but it also makes you sound really cool and dangerous - much like a homeless drifter, but without the homicidal tendencies.
Let's start you off with a shocker: contrary to popular belief, you don't need to know where you're going in Europe beforehand. In fact, one of the greatest joys of backpacking across the continent is arriving at a train station and deciding right then and there where you want to go (not to mention the appeal of flying by the seat of your pants). That said, you do need to have an idea when you'll be traveling, and for how long.
Time of year
Most people do their traveling in the summer, and with good reason; everything is open and the weather is usually perfect. However, because the summer offers such nice travel weather, it can be tough to get into a hostel, the tourist sites have long lines, and the prices are at their highest.
If you choose to travel in the winter, you'll have an easier time getting in everywhere but there'll be less open. Many hostels are seasonal and most museums operate under shortened hours from September through May; smaller ones may close altogether. This is partially made up for by the discount rates offered across the board.
If you want to check into any particulars (that is, find the schedules of some places that you'd like to visit), then pick up the latest edition of a budget travel book, which you'll need anyway; the three biggest sellers are Let's Go, Lonely Planet, and Rough Guide. They will give you info on all the tourist attractions of every major and most minor cities, as well as accommodation information and food and market recommendations.
Length of stay
You should also have a rough idea of how long you'll be traveling. Some people go for two weeks, some for two years; most people fall somewhere in between. Obviously, packing and planning will be greatly affected by how long you must live off your back, but if you're a first-timer, we recommend 3-4 weeks - this'll give you enough time to get around and see lotsa cool stuff, but you won't get too homesick - or poor.
It's very difficult to really peg a cost, but you should calculate all of your travel/hostel costs in advance, and still give yourself about $30 per day (and that's the CHEAPEST you'll get!). Try to use credit cards whenever possible, as you never know when you'll go someplace that only accepts cash. But back to the main point: you should be prepared to spend about $4500 (most of which will go to paying for airfare and train passes).