Now that I'm all settled in my new home for the next four months in Barcelona, I decided it was about time for my first post. Being a great traveler really isn't that difficult. Despite this reality though, you're going to see a lot of idiots meandering through the airport on any trip you decide to take. Please don't be one of those idiots. Use these five tips to up your travel game, STAT.
1. BE OPEN MINDED
This is probably the most important. That's why it's numero uno on this list. If you want to have the best possible experience you can, you're going to have to burst that bubble of yours and expand your horizons. I know that can seem daunting at first, but trust me, traveling is what you make it. So, do it up right. You can thank me later.
Make an effort to learn and (attempt to) speak the local language, try that new food that somehow made it onto your plate because you didn't understand the aforementioned language and step out of your comfort zone to make some new friends.
I promise, even if you make an attempt to do any of this, your time in your new destination will only be that much better.
2. DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Part of being prepared to travel to a new place is studying up on that place beforehand. Now I know everyone hates homework. Believe me, I'm the first person to put something off if I think I can get it done tomorrow (or next week, or the night before it's due, or five minutes before it's due).
However, I can't stress enough how important it is to research the place you're traveling to. Especially if it's a foreign country and you're going to be spending an extended period of time there, i.e. my four-month stay in Spain this semester.
Before you go, be a nerd for a few weeks. Buy the little travel books and that stupid little phrase book you swear you'll never use. I promise they'll come in handy. Google up some restaurants and check out the neighborhood around where you'll be staying.
It's not hard, won't take up too much of your time and, unlike that 10-page research paper that you put off until the night before at 3am, this type of homework is actually enjoyable.
3. DRESS FOR SUCCESS
Now, I'm definitely not the first person to talk to when it comes to packing advice. That's why this tip has nothing to do with it. All I recommend doing after you stuffed your suitcase to the brim without folding anything (don't worry, no judgments here, this is a safe place) is that you set aside an outfit that you'll be comfortable and confident in when you're traveling. Even though you're not an international businessman, you can still dress stylishly and comfortably at the same time.
For my trip to Spain via DC-->London-->Barcelona and for most of the trips I go on, I usually go with jeans. While traveling in sweatpants is more comfortable and definitely the surefire way to let everyone know that you don't give a shit what you look like, jeans are still comfortable and imply that you give at least half of a shit.
I also recommend wearing a short sleeve shirt with a sweatshirt or other type of jacket. That way, if you're cold on the plane or in the airport, you can keep it on. Alternatively, if you're sprinting through London Heathrow at 7:30am trying to catch your connecting flight to Barcelona, you can take it off. Obviously make sure you wear underwear, socks and comfortable shoes. But you already knew that. Freaks.
It's also important to have the weather of your destination in mind. While it's snowing and in the single digits in Baltimore, it's sunny and 60 in Barcelona. You need to dress with both of those forecasts in mind so that you're comfortable at all times.
Note: This mainly applies to men's style because I am, spoiler alert, a man. For my readers of the female persuasion, check out Hashtag Jetlag's packing list posts for some options.
4. STACK YOUR BACKPACK
While I already admitted that I'm no packing genie like my mother, I do know a thing or two about stuffing a backpack with everything I need. First thing you need to know is that when you're flying, you don't only get your normal rolling carry-on bag. You also get what airlines affectionately refer to as the "personal item."
They say this has to fit under your seat, but I say F that. As long as it fits comfortably on the ground under you while still giving you some leg room, you're not going to get hassled by any flight attendants. So, I opt for a backpack that I strategically place everything I need in.
In my backpack for Barcelona, I had the following items, yes all in one backpack:
- Full change of clothes (for the off chance your bags get lost, more on that in another post)
- Chargers, adaptors and converters
- Snacks (more on that later)
- Medicines and liquids
- My Nikon D3200 Camera in travel case with extra lens, batteries and battery charger
- 32oz Brita water bottle
- 2 pairs of Ray Ban sunglasses, in their cases and regular glasses in their case
There was actually more, but you get the idea. Think of it like a game of Tetris. You can fit everything in there, you just have to put it in the right way and in the right spot. Before you go, think of all the stuff you want with you at your seat on the plane and try to stuff it into your backpack.
If something doesn't fit, see if you can buy a smaller version or stuff it into a different compartment. If it still doesn't fit, you might have to reevaluate and find something you could do without having with you.
5. PACK SNACKS
For me, this is an absolute no-brainer. While everyone always raves about how awesome airline food is (they don't, that was a joke), it helps to have some other options. On my flight to London, I literally saw a woman who packed herself a full, home-cooked, three course meal in tupperware containers and didn't eat the inflight meal. If that fits in your backpack or carry-on, more power to you.
On the more likely occasion that all of that doesn't fit in your backpack, snacks are more likely your best course of action. I personally like to go with pre-packed and portioned snacks that I like to think are healthy. Think Fiber One or Nutri-Grain bars, little bags of almonds and fruit leather. Also, make sure you have a pack of your favorite gum on deck for the takeoff ear-popping orchestra.