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Travel 101

       Recently I have come to be more and more grateful for my childhood. Growing up, my family and I traveled a decent amount and our vacations were always exciting and jam-packed. I didn’t have a care in the world. Basically as a kid, you just show up to the party when your parents tell you to and have a great time. Unfortunately, growing up is inevitable and every day we gain more of the responsibilities our parents once had for ourselves… like planning trips for example. This is especially relevant/ stressful/ important if you choose to study abroad for a semester or a year, since you will be given the opportunity to travel often in short increments of time.

Vacations are so much fun, at least to me. Traveling and seeing the world and experiencing history, art, and culture first hand is a gift. Sometimes though, these gifts come in the form of lessons to be learned, and as they say, sometimes you gotta learn the hard way. And ain’t that the truth.

Below, I have gathered tips and tricks that may or may not seem obvious to you but believe me it’s easy to forget to check these off when you’re ecstatic about traveling anywhere alone with friends. I’ve made several of these mistakes myself along with my roommates and I want let the the world know as to lessen the amount stupid decisions that could’ve been avoided.

 

Asof’s Travel Survival Guide

 

  1. Plan ahead and be reasonable

Alright, while it might seem like a good idea at the time to book weekend trips that depart between 6-7 a.m. on a Friday morning, don’t do this. If your flight leaves around 6am, it means you’ll have to be awake by at least 4am. This also means that you left early in order to give yourself the day to sight see. No. Be reasonable, travel is exhausting. You’re going to be so tired by the time you arrive to wherever you’re going. Even if it means spending a couple more bucks, consider leaving Thursday afternoon or night instead. You will be so grateful for this choice if anything goes unexpectedly at the airport. Also the extra time means you’ll be well rested so that you can get up early and make the most of your day the following morning.

 

  1. Make sure you know where your plane lands

This sounds stupid. You probably read this and were like “Ana-Sofia, you can’t even book a flight without setting a destination duh”. True, but listen to this. Many cities have multiple airports within them. When you’re just quickly trying to find the next plane available so that you and your best friend can get to Paris, you don’t realize that the flight you just booked will land approximately one hour and a half by bus away from the actual Paris city center- I speak from experience here. This also happened to my friend when she flew in from Milan to meet us in Brussels, her airport landed an hour away from us and we took a train to another city in Belgium as well so homegirl rode at least 6 trains that weekend. Double and triple check to see the location of the airport from which you leave and the airport in which you will arrive.

 

  1. Read the fine print

You know how once you book a flight you eagerly await a confirmation email? And you know how once you get it you just open it star it and go on with life? Well you’re going to need to change up this process a bit. Instead of just stopping once you’ve read “Confirmation” or “Congratulations! You’re going to Paris” maybe read on until you’ve gotten through all of the annoying paragraphs of the email. Not every airline is the same so each will have it’s own individual set of policies and pre-departure protocol. For example: Ryanair does NOT have check-in kiosks at the airport. If you do not check into a Ryanair flight prior to two hours before your flight is set to leave, you either pay 50 euros (if you’re lucky) or they give up your seat on the plane. Luckily I just paid 50 euros, but I didn’t feel very lucky at the time.

 

 

 

  1. Check your e-mail religiously

Sometimes you may find that you’ve booked a flight and you’ll get notifications from your email, which may seem to be enough for you to know that everything went well. Wrong. A simple email notification doesn’t necessarily mean you can go to bed and go on with your week as per usual. My flight to Portugal was set on “pending” after I booked it and then the booking was cancelled and I didn’t even notice because I hadn’t cared to open the emails and read through them until five days had passed. When I noticed this I called the travel agency that I used to book my trip and they said “for technical reasons that are unknown at the time, the airline cancelled my booking.” Well, next I found myself booking the exact same flights again for 100 euros more than the original price I was going to pay.

 

  1. Make an agenda

It’s easy to just go on Google and type in “Must see in Rome” or rely on that one friend of a friend’s study abroad list that she sent you over Facebook from where she spent a semester in Italy years ago. This isn’t enough, I repeat not enough. Sure it’s a good foundation, but take the time to be proactive and patiently research prices, hours, and methods of transportation in the city. Sure most study abroad programs only require a four-day school week, but while three days seems like a decent amount of time to see a place in Europe, it’s definitely not. Three days will allow you a mini, cheap, crash-course-like version of an elaborate vacation with your family. Time is the scarcest resource in the world, so organize and schedule like there’s no tomorrow.

 

 

  1. LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION

Be sure you have looked into where your airbnb or hostel is located (or I guess hotel if you’re a high roller but I don’t know that life). Make sure it’s a convenient place. Is there food nearby? Sightseeing at walking distance? Maybe even a convenience store or pharmacy? Double check this because you don’t want to have to go very far to see each and every museum, monument, or bridge. Your body is going to hate you if you make it take 30,000 steps in one day, trust me.

 

 

  1. Ball on a budget

With the exceptions of a few counties, Europe is not exactly affordable. BUT, if you’re a smart spender, it can be. There are several programs that take students on all inclusive trips to different places within Europe or within their specific country of study. They are usually very good deals that include transportation, housing, some food, tours, and excursions. Definitely look into these options, some of the ones I’ve seen in Madrid are CityLife and DiscoverExcursions. Also when you look up food, hostels/ airbnbs, or even sight seeing, make sure you are checking the promotions or benefits you might receive. You’d be surprised how much your student visa will allow you to see for free.

 

  1. Buddy system

Cell phones and portable chargers will only last so long in the midst of a crazy snapchatting, instagram-posting day. You need to make sure you’re always with at least one other person when you are traveling in a major city that way in the event that your phone does die you have someone else with you who maybe can use theirs or can write down any phone numbers you may need before their phone dies too. This way you’re staying safe and have a way to contact any other people you may be trying to meet up with later.

 

 

  1. It’s always better to be over prepared than under prepared

I know this better than most other people on my program thanks to my Texan roots, but sometimes you’ll experience four seasons in one day. Make sure you come ready for anything. Look up the forecast before you go obviously, but also just go ahead and cover all bases. An umbrella or light jacket could go a long way if you find yourself needing it.

 

  1. Get a good night’s sleep, eat well, shower early

Again this seems like a given but honestly I cannot stress it enough. Too many times we’ve said we can handle it and gone out or stayed up later before a flight. Wrong. I mean technically you can handle it. But your functionality is going to be at “barely-alive” not “ready-for-anything.” That’s not how you want to feel right before one of the most exciting days of your life. Be well rested and make a nice breakfast or lunch before you leave that way you save time and money for later.

 

 

Also go ahead and just shower the night before or morning of your flight… sometimes it’s really cold in the airbnb or your hostel bathroom is outside during rain and you can’t exactly shower… for a couple nights. It’s the life of a backpacker, hate to break it to you. You’ll see your shower again soon but definitely bring deodorant haha.

 

 

Hopefully you heed my words and take this advice with you or at least share it with someone you know who is traveling abroad. I really wish someone would have made these things more apparent to me but you get carried away, especially when you’re new to planning your own trips.

 

From now on I will work smarter not harder.

 

GO RUNNERS!

 

#AsofTakesMadrid

 

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