You should see the vein pulsing on my forehead right now.
It’s currently my Fall Break during my semester abroad in London, and naturally, my roommate and I are jet-setting – I mean EasyJet, discount airlines style – through Lisbon, Barcelona, and Marrakech. I won’t lie about getting a certain satisfaction with every customs stamp that lands in my passport or with every potential insta-worthy photo opportunity, but behind my super fabulous (read: super edited) Instagrams, there are about a dozen things that go wrong.
I’m talking about the things that make me grind my teeth and indulge in that extra drink at the bar because sweet baby Jesus, do I need it.
Some problems could have been avoided with better planning. Some problems are only because we rushed ourselves and made mistakes. Some are inevitable.
Stay in the city center. I owe my roommate, Caroline, credit for this. It makes ALL the difference when you’re trying to explore the nooks and crannies of a new city. If you have to add a commute to everywhere you go, it’s time to re-evaluate. You’ll have more incentive to explore if your Airbnb isn’t a 30 minute metro ride.
Uber when you can. There are times when it makes more sense to Uber because splitting the fare with your travel buddies is the same as all of you taking public transport. Also, I love watching my Uber car drive on my app because I can call out the driver if he/she tries to scam me by taking a round about way. If you do Uber, always match the license plate of your car to what is listed on the app, and wait for your driver to ask, “Hi, are you Shannon?” Let’s avoid hopping into random black cars.
Triple check if your phone plan includes data. This sounds overkill because you can just run into Micky D’s for free wifi right? No. Most European carriers have plans where you pay for data per day when in other countries, and data becomes invaluable when you’re trying to coordinate dinner, find a lost friend, and heck, find yourself when you’re lost. Realistically, there may not always be a Starbucks or McDonalds around every corner to give you free wifi.
Put your laptop/tablet and toiletries on the top of your carry-on. Breeze through security by stashing your laptop and liquids bag in top pockets or, if you don’t have pockets, on top of your clothes because the last thing you want to do is have to dig through your favorite pair of jeans and your lacy bra to find them. I’m that impatient person behind you in line, by the way.
Sneak extra liquids past security. I have a pretty extensive skincare regimen. Some people call it excessive – it’s necessary, trust me. So beyond buying everything in travel size or using travel sized containers, I always have one or two items of overflow that do not fit in that tiny plastic bag. I put those in a small ziplock and keep it in my purse, not my carry-on, and when it is my turn to play the security game, I always rely on this trick: put one bin with your laptop and full bag of liquids, slide your actual carry-on bag/suitcase on the conveyer after, fill a last bin with your purse, scarf, and that tiny little bag of overflow liquids. They never catch me – heehee.
Always buy tickets online. Waiting in queues is the biggest waste of time. Avoid it when possible by buying museum tickets and the like online, and try to breeze by all those newbs in line without a smug smile. Also, don’t forget to take advantage of student discounts – they’re offered almost everywhere.
Don’t let high expectations ruin your day. Everyone enjoys each city a different way. If Susie told you Paris would change your life and you would dream about it for the rest of your bland life subsequently, don’t be surprised if you aren’t blown away. High expectations are a double edge sword, and it’s ok to not fall head over heels for the Eiffel tower.
This is me kicking people out of my frame #notimpressed
Do it for the Gram. I used to be self-conscious about posing and taking 30 shots for that perfect picture. I’ll have none of that anymore. I may never make it back to Barcelona again, so I’ll be darned if I don’t get awesome pictures to commemorate my pilgrimage here. Those people judging you? You’ll never see them again. Also, as soon as you move from your perfectly chosen perch, they’ll take it over after recognizing that you just got a great photo from it. You’re welcome.
If you’ve made these mistakes too, come join me at the bar and raise a glass. If you haven’t, go forth young grasshopper with these tips in mind.