A former student sent me a question via facebook and I figured I'd save it here :) This is me talking my way out of ignorance!!
I have a friend who plans to go to Europe for a month after she finishes grad school so I've got tentative plans to tag along. This would be May of 2013. She wants to just backpack her way around and stay in hostels. I wonder what your opinion about that is. Horror movies aside I'm not gonna disappear if I enter one of these things am I? Haha. At this point in my life I'm kind of use to staying in pretty nice places, but I'm not apposed to packing light and staying places cheap. In this case the trip is more important than the accommodations, but I tend to be overly pessimistic
I personally have never stayed in a hostel for a couple reasons. I get all my money before I leave so I don't have to pay for transaction and change fees. This means I either can place my money in a safe at a hotel or carry it with me everywhere I go. Hostels are notorious for being open and allowing others into your room. I am particular about cleanliness and hygiene and I'm freaky about bed bugs. This might be prejudices on my side but I'm concerned about that in hostels more than hotels where the almighty dollar (weak as it is) can be used as a threat to get a better/cleaner room.
If you do decide to go this route, do your research. Look at reviews. You have enough time. DO NOT just drop in. Know where you are going and make sure it is the place you think it is. If you are travelling to different countries I would suggest staying on an overnight train. This way you go to sleep in one country and wake up in another and it's often cheaper than a hotel. Plus you don't waste a day on travel!
Are you under 25? Look into Youth hostels and the Youth pass on Eurail. When I went when I was your age we got a 7 day pass for all of Europe. This way you have 7 days of unlimited travel. They are relatively inexpensive and very reliable forms of transportation.
I am so excited for you!! KLM and Air France offer nonstop flights out of Houston to Amsterdam and Paris so you don't waste any travel time in the states. Ask me anything and I'll help if I can!!!