I just got back from a two-night trip to Barcelona, Spain, and it was one of the best weekends of my life (apart from getting my iPhone stolen in a club). What made it so great, though, was that it was a mixture of planning and spontaneity. And contrary to popular belief, you have to plan so that spontaneity can happen!
This is what I mean. Because we were organized and planned for time, we had the freedom to do what we wanted and explore. When you travel, before you can start thinking about what hot clubs you’ll hit and which beaches you’ll tan on you have to lay down the groundwork of your transportation and lodgings. We researched a lot on the Internet for hostel reviews. Everybody says this, but it’s important and should be repeated: don’t pick the first hostel you see! When some girls and I traveled to Cinque Terre, a resort area on the coast of Italy, a few girls picked a hostel and we went right along with the hostel they chose. If we’d done any research before booking the rooms, we would have found out that the hostel is known for being unaccommodating, unhelpful, dirty, and possibly having bed bugs. Not the kind of environment you want to be in when you’re already stressed out from being in a new place. Along the same lines, do your research on trains and airlines. Find out what your baggage allowance will be before you pack up and head to the airport! Book as much as you can online and in advance.
Once you get to wherever you’re going, you’re probably going to want to see the sights and do what the tourists do. Tourist sites get a bad rep, but they’re touristy for a reason –they’re often extraordinary! Pick your top sites that you must see, and decide which ones you’re okay with scrapping if you run out of time. And definitely schedule in a little wiggle room for exploring. You never know what you’ll find when walking from one stop to the next – we’ve gotten wonderfully sidetracked in clothing boutiques, candy stores, gelaterias, parks, and even whole neighborhoods.
Here are some other good, general tips for traveling, especially for short trips.
- Pack light, and leave room for souvenirs.
- Ask the locals where to go, but not just random locals off the street. Ask your waiter, your bartender, or locals you befriend. Insist that you want to do something special, not just what “all the Americans do.” I heard that one a lot!
- When you pack for abroad, bring travel-size toiletries and a weekend-sized duffel or small suitcase. Though these may be inconvenient to pack, you’ll thank yourself later when security throws out your jumbo size shampoo or your large suitcase can’t get checked.
- Learning a new metro system or bus system can be intimidating, and it’s tempting to just take cabs everywhere, but get past the discomfort and brave public transportation!
- Prepare to live with some seriously weird random people in hostels.
- Withdraw as much cash as you can before you leave, especially if you’re worried your credit card company or bank might notice you’re in a new country and freeze your accounts.
- Eat the local food and drink the local drink. When I went to Munich, I was so excited to see non-Italian food that I ate Thai food twice for dinner, but now I’m wishing I’d tried some more German food.
- Lose the shame and take pictures of everything!
If you want to see more photos and read more in depth about my travels, you can read my personal travel blog here. Bon voyage and happy travels!
Photo Source: Madi Tsuji