Do you know what's a really crappy part of studying abroad? FLYING!
Okay, okay - flying isn't always crappy. At least, it doesn't have to be. Sometimes, it can even be fun! However, it won't be fun if you're a dingus. An unprepared, ignorant, poorly-packed dingus.
Good news: you don't have to be a dingus like that! I've compiled a list of helpful flying tips for all the future Harlaxton students out there. If you follow the tips on this list and use a lil common sense, your chances of being a dingus will be greatly decreased, and the many flights of your Harlaxton semester may be blessed.
1. PRINT. DAT. BOARDING. PASS.
It's rule #1 for a reason, guys. PRINT YO BOARDING PASS BEFORE YOU GET TO THE AIRPORT. Budget airlines hand out some dirt-cheap flights, but they will charge you left and RIGHT for the little things - like printing off your boarding pass for you. Do you know how much money airlines make off of charging people for printing boarding passes? No?? ME NEITHER BECAUSE I NEVER DID IT. AND NEITHER WILL YOU.
2. If it says one bag, BRING ONE BAG.
Look, y'all. We may be gallivanting around Europe for a semester, but we're still a bunch of broke college students. Even though we'll drop an absurd amount of money on those Birkenstocks in Germany or that Longchamp in France, we're still gonna go for the cheapest fare possible on our flights. That's okay! However, with the cheapest fare, a lot of budget airlines only allow ONE carry-on bag. Like, we ain't talking one carry-on and one personal item, - you get ONE BAG. I mean, you can definitely upgrade to "economy plus" or whatever and get that extra bag, but such a luxury does come at a price, my friends. And if it says one bag on your confirmation email or your boarding pass - girl, you BETTER only bring one bag. EasyJet is particularly adamant about this. (RyanAir allows a personal item even with the cheapest fare. Luv u RyanAir.) For my flight to Paris, the EasyJet personnel were insanely strict about this - if your personal item wouldn't fit into your carry-on, you had to get rid of it or pay for it.
Now, guys proooobably won't have too much of an issue with this bit. For my ladies, though, this is irritating as actual h*ck. For me and my pals, we would bring our purses and carry-on bags (tryna see if we could sneak two bags onto the plane, of course) and wait until a worker told us to get rid of the purse, and we would proceed to cram our purses into our larger bags. And then we would board the plane and immediately take our purses out of the bags. Because the flight attendants give 0 cares how many bags you have.
It makes little to no sense, an you know why??? They just tryna con you outta your money, those budget airlines. They're simultaneously a Godsend and a horrible trap where your money dies. Moral of the story: bring one bag, or make sure that you leave enough room in your carry-on for your purse to be sadly crammed into.
3. Early Friday morning flights? NO.
Early morning flights are almost always the cheapest flights you can get. And by early morning, I'm talkin' 6am departure. Do you know what 6am departure means?? You need to be at the airport by, like, 4:30am - which means that you either need to sleep in the airport the night beforehand (let's be real - you ain't tryna spend money on a hotel near the airport for that night), or arrange a taxi to take you to the airport absurdly early.
Do. Not. Do. This. Fly out Thursday night. THIS is where you spend that extra money, guys. Our weekends are precious; we only get two full days to explore these exciting new cities and countries we're visiting. Going through security at 5am and boarding a plane at 6am will KILL the rest of your day. My friends and I did this to save some money because the Friday morning flights were cheaper than the Thursday evening flights, and it ruined our entire Friday in Munich. We were tired, unenthusiastic, and super lame.
Now, if you want to fly out at 6am on Sunday morning to get back to the manor, be my guest. That's not too bad. But starting out your travel weekend with a 6am flight on Friday morning? No. Bad move. 0/10. Would not recommend.
4. Get to the airport earlier that you think you need to.
Y'ALL. Is it REALLY the end of the world if you have extra time to kill in the airport??? HELLO, NO, IT IS NOT. You should always give yourself AT LEAST an hour and a half in the airport before your flight boards. AT LEAST. My friends and I usually strived to get to the airport two hours early. Security and passport controls lines can be INSANE, and they have definitely been known to cause flight dilemmas. Just get there early, guys. I don't care if it's the end of the semester and you've successfully navigated ten different airports at this point. You aren't Raven Baxter, and you don't know what you will run into in that airport. Get over yourself, and get there early.
5. Security: prepare yo'self.
6. Don't you DARE pay extra money just to sit by you friends.
Okay, honestly???????? YOU GON' SEE THESE PEOPLE EVERY SINGLE DAY THIS EMESTER. DON'T DO THIS.
7. Check to see if you need to get a visa stamp before leaving the country!
Sometimes, you will have to get your boarding pass stamped before you fly out of the country. Do that. Usually, it will specify on your boarding pass whether or not you need one, but if you're unsure, ask a knowledgeable human because you don't want to get the gate and be told that you can't board because you don't have your visa stamp.
8. SPACE BAGS, Y'ALL.
Wow, okay, this is the pot of gold, guys. You can buy really nifty travel space bags that don’t require a vacuum, and they are LIFE SAVERS. Packing for an entire weekend, especially a long weekend, in one carry-on bag can be a real-life struggle, but these guys will save the day! Mine are Ziploc brand, and I bought them in the States before coming to Harlaxton. Because packing for an entire semester is also a real-life struggle, and space bags give you room to pack fun things like Chacos.
9. Sleeping in an airport? Maybe not.
According to a poorly executed poll of Harlaxton students, sleeping in an airport sucks. Some airports are better to sleep in than others, but ya know, you just probably shouldn’t do it at all. However, if you feel that your Harlaxton semester will not be complete without an airport slumber party, the majority of students recommend Heathrow (#1) or Gatwick (#2) as the best places to do so. The worst? Luton. Don’t you dare try to sleep in Luton. Because you won’t. Your night will end in sadness.
10. Go to the right airport.
I mean, it should go without saying, but it has happened before…. If you tryna do multiple cities/countries in one weekend, you may actually fly into one airport and leave from a different one. Go to the right airport. Make smart decisions.
11. Don’t crack under pressure. (No pressure, though.)
Look, y’all. Something is going to go wrong during your travels this semester. Maybe you’ll miss your flight after you had already checked your bag. Maybe you’ll go to the wrong airport. Maybe you’ll get stranded in France or Greece because your flight got cancelled because the air traffic controllers are literally always on strike. Whatever happens, don’t freak out, guys. You’ll get your luggage back eventually, you’ll get to where you need to be, you’ll get out of France or Greece somehow. Employers love study abroad kiddos for a reason – because we can solve problems. We learn while we’re traveling abroad how to deal with missed flights and overcome obstacles and fix the problems we run into. Don’t crack under the pressure of these problems that you will run into, because it’s overcoming these problems that makes studying abroad such a rewarding and transformative experience.
Wow, sharing all of my travel knowledge + tips has been pretty exhausting, guys; I think I’ll have to leave it there for now. I hope that all of the future Harlaxton travelers reading this feel SO PREPARED to get out there and tackle the beasts that are airports and budget airlines. Sorry, though – you’re on your own for the trains and buses.
Written by: Lindsey Moore