Monday, 8 December 2014

Travel Tips & Tricks

Hello, all! My name is Sydney Rae Davis, and I am a member of the Harlaxton College class of Fall 2014. After spending a semester here at Harlaxton and traveling around Europe, I've learned a few things about how to make travel as easy, safe, and fun as possible. And I'm going to share them with you in the hope of making your semester abroad as awesome as possible.
1.      Pick your top 3-5 places you want to visit.
Do this before you begin your travels, and then talk to people to find out who else wants to go there. Make plans, and go. It's easy, and picking you top 3-5 can prevent you from being upset at the end of the semester because you didn't get to go to that one place you've wanted to see your whole life.

2.      Know how many weekends you have to travel
Mark them down in your calendar. Also, be aware of the fact that you won't be able to travel every weekend (well at least not somewhere far every weekend). Look at the Harlaxton calendar to see which weeks you have class on Friday, and when your British Studies field trips are.

3.     Pay for a trip 4-6 weeks in advance if possible
This is when plane & train tickets are usually the cheapest. Also, you'll be sure to get a hostel if you plan far enough in advance. You don't want to wait, because plane tickets that were £30 become up to £120 the week of your planned travel. Also, hostel availability can run out.

4.     If you're going to a non-English speaking country, learn the basics:
"Hello, yes, no, thank you, & bathroom." In the Netherlands and France, most of the people I encountered spoke English (Amsterdam more so than Paris), but there is the occasional person who will have no idea what you're asking if you say "bathroom?"

5.      Get to the airport 3 hours early for an international flight
You won't always need 3 hours to get through security and such, but sometimes there are security lines (or queues, rather) literally a mile long.

6.      Put all your toiletries in a plastic bag before you get to the airport
When going through security, all liquids/creams/gels have to be 100 ml or under, and they all have to fit into ONE small plastic baggy. Taking care of this before you get to the airport eliminates the stress of fumbling with your coat, laptop, backpack, and travel documents all while not trying to hold the line up. Don't be that person. Come prepared.

7.      Get a portable phone charger
This is one of the two things I really wish I had while I was over here. The other is a self-filtering water bottle.

8.     Check the app store before you go
A lot of big European cities have phone app maps that work without Wi-Fi, which you will not have during 75% of your weekend travels. These are great.

9.     Don't pack shoes for the weekend
Unless you’re going somewhere nice and absolutely must have a pair of heels or ballet flats, just wear the shoes on your feet for the weekend.

10.Don't rush through a city
You'll get exhausted, you won't enjoy it as much, and your feet will hurt. None of these makes for a fun weekend.

11.Never leave your bag unattended
Because pickpockets. If you have to sleep in a public area like an airport or a ferry, make sure your arm is through at least one of the loops of your bag. And make sure your passport is in a carrier around your neck.

12.Carry cash & a credit/debit card
A lot of places like markets and stands accept cash only, while some places only accept cards with a minimum purchase of about £5. Also, using cash helps you better gauge how much you're spending. But if you lose your cash for whatever reason, you still have your card(s). Get money out of the Harlaxton ATM before you go. You'll still be able to use ATMs in the places you're going, but they'll charge you a fee.

13.Scarves become pillows on public transportation
Need to keep warm and sleep well? Check.

14.Pack sunglasses
Sunglasses are the one thing that I forgot on every single trip and almost always wished I'd had. Even though it's not summer, the sun can still be pretty intense, which can get annoying if you're walking around outside all day. Also, they protect your eyes. That's cool too.

15.If you're lost, ask a police man/woman
If you don't know where you're supposed to be going, you can ask a police man or woman, and 99% of the time, he or she will be able to point you in the right direction if not give you detailed steps of how to get there. Be sure to say thank you!

16.Have a folder for travel documents
Print all documents needed for your trip (boarding passes, bus tickets, etc.) and put them in your bag two days in advance.

17.Do not fill out surveys
In a lot of touristy places, there are people who will first ask you, "Do you speak English?" and then proceed to ask you to fill out a survey. Don’t. A lot of these people are pickpockets who double-team tourists, and have their friend take your cell phone or your passport out of your bag while you're busy filling out their survey. It sounds crazy, but it happens. So, if someone holding a clipboard near the Eifel Tower asks you if you speak English, it is best to say no (No is the same in many languages) or just don't respond at all and keep moving.
Well, thank you for reading, and I hope this list will help you in your travel endeavors. I wish you all well!

-Sydney Rae

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