How to spend New Year’s Eve on a budget? Hitch-hiking guide.

You can spend New Year’s Eve on a budget, in a great location abroad, with awesome people, travelling long distances and without spending a lot of money? How? Read on!

Yeah. How to do it? Some people think, that New Year’s Eve is supposed to be the time of big parties, elegant dinners, expensive champagne. “Can you actually NOT spend a fortune to have a great New Year’s Eve Party?”. Yes, you can. And it doesn’t necessarily need to be another party on the market square in your hometown.

2010 was a year of changes for me. I met wonderful people, hungry for life and new adventures. We were at one of the Autumn parties when someone asked: “So what are we doing for New Year’s Eve?”. No one had any plans yet, and suddenly someone suggested – “Let’s go to Barcelona!”. Crazy? Maybe? Fun? Sure! But how? Of course by hitch-hiking!

And so we were gone.

However, the post today is not about the trip itself. I want to share with you some of the most important things about organising a trip like this. I want to show you that it’s totally possible to travel and have fun, with not much money, even if you are a broke student (hello to me at uni!). Those tips will be especially useful for those who never used hitch-hiking before.

How to spend New Year’s Eve on a budget by hitch-hiking

#1 Is that even for me?


If you’ve never hitch-hiked before you can feel a little bit lost. Unsure of how it all looks. Especially in winter. Do you stand by the side of the road? Are you not cold? How would people stop? Where do you go? What if something goes wrong? There are a lot of questions and even more answers. But if you already have an idea of doing it – that’s great! Everyone was a beginner one day, so it needs to be a first time for you as well. Despite the fact, that I recommend this kind of travelling a lot if you are starting, you need to remember about few things. Especially when it comes to hitch-hiking in winter.

Hitch-hiking often means long waiting and some walking

Hitch-hiking is unpredictable. You can’t really decide, that you’re going to arrive at your destination at the specific time because you don’t know how long it is going to take. Sometimes you can get stuck by the side of the road and wait, wait, wait and wait. Other time, you can catch a ride very quickly, and straight to the point. Unpredictability, a bit of adrenalin and the risk in travelling that way – are the best parts of it.

At other times, the driver might not drop you off in exactly the best place for catching the next ride. And you would need to walk quite a bit to the next suitable spot. Better pack light!

It’s cold in winter

I know, hello captain obvious. But I mean it – it can get very cold when you stand and don’t move for a long period of time. Before you leave your country to go for this crazy New Year’s Eve hitch-hiking adventure, expect low temperatures. Of course, if you live on the other side of the world when it’s always warm or the summer happens to be in December, then skip this point ;) In other cases – you need to be prepared for the low temperatures. And low temperatures + long waiting are not the nicest things in the world. Therefore, it’s good to plan some stops on the way. At least at the beginning of the journey. Locate yourself close to the petrol stations, shops, restaurants or places, where you can go inside for a while and make yourself warm. You can also consider choosing the route for your trip with the bigger number of that kind of places – i.e. highways, where you usually travel from one petrol station to another.

You will be meeting people

If you don’t like talking to people and you just want to sleep the whole way, closed in your own bubble – don’t choose hitch-hiking. This way of travelling, you want it or not, gives you a great opportunity of meeting new people. You’re going to meet a lot of them. The drivers will be curious who you are, where you go, why, what for, how, with who, where you are from, how old you are, do you like pancakes? You will also hear this quite often “How can you still hitch-hike? Nowadays nobody takes hitch-hikers any more…” from another and another person, who gave you a lift. You’re going to meet people of interesting personalities, you will hear stories of their lives and you will get involved in the discussions about the topics, that you’ve never dreamed about before.

#2 Plan ahead

Have I mentioned, that hitch-hiking is unpredictable? Yes, it is. But it has some time constraints anyway. Or rather – you have them. Unless you plan to go for your New Year’s Eve party together with a trip around the world and nothing limits you – then I’m jealous. However, if you only have the Christmas break, couple of days, one or two weeks, and then you need to come back home/to work/school/wife/kids, then you need to think how much time you can spend on the journey itself, and how much for the actual New Year’s Eve time. In need for more time? Check out my tips on how to travel more with limited time.

#3 Choose the destination

When you know how much time you have, then you can decide where you can go and still be back on time during that period. If you have only 3 days, then probably going to the other part of Europe is not the best idea, and it would be better to travel somewhere close. But if you have one or two weeks, then you can go somewhere further. Remember, that reaching opposite sides of Europe by hitch-hiking can take from 2 until 4 or even 5 days. One way. Depending on what route you choose, if you know what you are doing and if you are lucky enough. Therefore, keep it in mind and plan it accordingly.

#4 Who should you go with?

If you want to travel alone – that’s fine. However, the last day of the year is a party time, and the more the merrier. Especially for the beginning of hitch-hiking trips, it’s good to have a partner. Someone, who will support you in any need, be there when the waiting is getting too long, assist you to get mad together on not stopping cars, smiling to the drivers, share crazy happiness when you finally catch a car and reach the destination and to meet new people together.

Travel partners can be found among your friends, but if you don’t have those at a hand now – internet always helps. There are many websites, where people look for someone keen to travel with them. You can always try different groups on Facebook and forums.

It’s also important, that you get along with your travel partner because you don’t want to have only fights during the trip. For short travels, like this, it shouldn’t be the biggest problem, but it’s always nice when you understand each other and have a good time. It’s good to meet in advance before going on a trip and talk about the details. Also – always be safe and trust your instinct! If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Better be safe than sorry.

#5 Venice today, Beijing tomorrow

Plan the general route, possible places to stay and “planned” times of arrival/departure.

Did I say, that you can’t plan anything in hitch-hiking? Well, actually, you can. A bit. But it’s highly probable that nothing will work from those plans. However, I usually prefer have some things planned, especially when I go somewhere for a short time. I usually want to see and do many things and I don’t have time for changing them on the go. Of course, you can also do everything spontaneously, which has its charm, as well. On our New Year’s Eve trip to Barcelona, we didn’t have anything planned. However, we weren’t in rush, so we were travelling around as we wanted to, going from one place to another. It was a great feeling to choose our route day by day, only because suddenly it turned out that we could stay in friend’s friends’ place, somewhere in the north of France.

If you want to have a great party in the New Year’s Eve itself, it’s good to check what these days look like in the place that you’re planning to go to. It also depends if you want to go to the party, spend the night on the beach or to do something else. When we were going to Barcelona, we didn’t know much about the way that Spanish people celebrate New Year. As it appeared, it was totally different from what we thought. There were no fireworks at midnight, only a few people on the market square – not drinking, but eating grapes. Fortunately, we had a lot of Sangria and we made our own party together with another 150 Polish people, who arrived with us to Barcelona for that purpose.  Barcelona was a great city to visit, with beautiful beach, stunning architecture and many budget tapas restaurants to try out! It was a great choice for our New Year’s Eve trip nevertheless.

When it comes to the places to stay – you can try with Couchsurfing or hostels. During the way, you can decide to not to stop for a night, just travel all day and night, sleeping in the cars or waiting on the petrol stations. Just remember, it’s a special night in the year, so finding the couch could not be that easy as usual. But it doesn’t mean it’s impossible (we found one for tens of people on the roof in Barcelona for one night ;)), so it’s worth trying!

#6 Be safe

Never done it before? Before hitch-hiking in difficult winter conditions, try to pair up with someone who has more experience in this topic. It’s always nicer to start with a bit of the guidance, as you want to know what to do in case something happens, where is the best place to stand by the road, where to go when it gets dark etc. During my countless years of hitch-hiking around different countries, I’ve travelled with many people. Some of them became my best friends, with others I just have great memories. But I was always safe. I was following my gut and behaved responsibly in every situation. It is possible!

#7Just do it!

Just pack your stuff and hit the road, Jack ;)!

And after you are back – let me know how it was :)

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