When my college-age sister declared she wanted to backpack Europe but, "it just seems so big," this is the first place I turned. In the introduction, the author tells you that this book is based on his personal experience, that it is aimed towards budget traveling, and that it was never intended to be a comprehensive guidebook. Use this to get a rough game plan and supplement it with other more detailed Rough Guides on specific personal areas of interest. The full-color, glossy "20 Reasons to Visit Europe" in the Introduction will give anyone more than enough ideas for exploring the continent.
The guide open with invaluable advice about prioritizing your itinerary, the importantance of flexibility in your itinerary, and a reality-check on how long it takes to visit and travel to the hot spots. His budget chapter is not to be missed, along with the finance info scattered throughout the book. Unlike many other authors, the author doesn't use the cop out of saying "prices change and I'd hate to quote you wrong, so I'm going to be intentionally vague." He doesn't quote prices for specific locations, but he lets you know that an insanely cheap hostel is $6, while the most expensive he's seen is $28. This gives the novice travel a reference point to do a reality check on any price a vendor quotes them. He provides realistic, economic, and rock-bottom overall itemized trip budgets up front, so the reader can decide how to scale their travels and expectations.
Other topics covered include a detailed packing list (don't wear brand new shoes!), transportation info to Europe and once inside, accommodations, communications, medical information, safety information, and references to tourist bureaus, airlines, insurance providers, and online resources. The text is supplemented by CasaBianca's own personal narratives and examples of tourists who made mistakes.
One of my favorite sections reads as follows [p. 39]: "You WILL go to and eat at a McDonald's when you are in Europe. If you are an American, yes, I know that you wouldn't be caught dead in one in the States. Yes, I know that you are going to Europe to experience authentic foreign culture, not transplanted American food. Why [will you go]? The bathrooms will be the initial lure. Semi-clean, free, convenient bathrooms with guaranteed toilet paper will be few and far between in some cities. Once you have crossed the threshold...the battle is all but lost...Smells pretty good, and I can get something familiar, in a hurry, and it's not too expensive....' The Golden Arches will triumph in the end."