So instead I thought it would be cool to talk about some travel tips I have picked up along the way if anyone else is interested in touring Europe or studying abroad in the future.
1. Pick your travel companions carefully.
I cannot stress this enough! This is so important. One of my trips was a wee bit disastrous because of this and it seriously damaged a friendship for me. It's like picking roommates--just because you are friends with a person does not mean you can travel together. Find people with the same attitude as you towards everything that are on the same page. It also helps if you have similar budgets or are aware of each others budget and priorities because that can limit certain activities. Make sure you talk about your goals for the trip and what you want from it before planning. If you're not on the same page then it may be best that you go on this adventure separately. Tainted memories are never fun, and it's hard not to allow them to ruin a trip.
2. Travel light.
For nearly all of my trips I have just traveled with a single backpack. I may be changing that for a week-long Spain/Portugal adventure I am going on at the end of April, but that's a bit different. If it's a 5 day long trip I just bring a backpack and keep one pair of walking sneakers on my feet at all times. I may re-ware a pair of jeans or something and make my life easy. A backpack can hold all essentials and have enough room to bring home the souveneirs, it's easy to store in lockers as you travel around, you don't have to pay to bring it on a plane, and there's no hassle of waiting at baggage claim.
3. Plan ahead.
Look up when things close, how much they'll cost, and everything else of the sort. It's important to plan ahead so you know what you're doing. If you are only in a destination for a small amount of days, you want to make the most of it instead of wasting your time there planning when you could be out doing stuff. With that in mind, you don't need to plan out every restaurant you're going to go to because I am a firm believer in not going out of your way for food when on vacation unless it's a local delicacy, but plan your activities. There's nothing more unfortunate than showing up to a place and it being all booked up or closed because you didn't check timing, or returning home only to regret not doing something because you didn't know it existed until after you got back.
4. Do not rely on your phone.
Sure, I am guilty of using my cell phone a lot on vacations because it is my camera. Occasionally I'll Instagram a post or two, but I don't find myself firmly on my cell phone at all until I am in for the night or if I am in the airport. Live in the moment! I have a rule that I won't use my phone while wandering around unless I'm using Google Maps to get me somewhere, but that's because I am fortunate to have a phone plan that extends to 18 countries in the EU. When I am in countries that are not part of this plan, the hunt for wifi to get Google Maps working is on. Pro tip: if you have wifi and map out where you are going, the blue dot on Google Maps will still move with you once you turn your wifi off and put your phone on airplane mode as long as you don't close your app.
5. It's okay to travel alone.
I have not properly traveled alone yet in the sense that I was 100% alone. I have several trips where I am flying out on my own, but meeting up with people there. My first solo trip is a Germany/Belgium adventure coming up in the beginning of April. I'll have 2 days in Munich where I'll be spending one with Nicole of The Quiet Concert, 2 days in Berlin, and 1 day in Brussels. So 4/5 of these days I'll be alone. I am terrified and exhilarated at the thought. Being alone gives you time to set your own schedule, move at your own pace, and learn a lot about yourself. It's okay to travel alone. If you want to do something, do it, and don't allow a lack of travel companion to leave you with any regrets. If there's one thing I am determined not to have on this trip, it's regrets.
6. Hostelworld.com is bae.
Seriously, this website is amazing. Reviews from fellow travelers, relatively cheap prices, info on locations, and more. Just spend some time on here doing research and you're good to go. My musts when traveling: free wifi in the hostel for communication purposes (my parents like to know I'm safe and I can't blame them), lockers for my stuff when I am not there, A+ location because I can stand a not so great set-up in favor of location, and any free or discounted food is always a plus. Remember to read reviews to make sure your standards are met in regards to cleanliness and bathrooms. Everyone is different with what they are and are not willing to endure in situations like this.
7. Remember to treat yourself when necessary.
Budgeting is important. I am guilty of it as are many of my friends, but it's important to remember when to treat yourself. For example, my last night of my Germany/Belgium excursion I'll be staying in a hotel in Brussels because I'll want a comfy room to myself with a solid shower after dealing with not so solid showers for the previous four days. I've earned it, so I gave it to myself when I found a discount thanks to a friend. At times you have to blow the budget for comfort's sake.
8. Cheap flights aren't always ideal.
I have noticed that flying out ridiculously early in the morning towards your destination will nearly always get you cheap flights. Similarly, flying home in the evening (especially on budget airlines like EasyJet and RyanAir) will also get you very cheap flights, but this doesn't always mean it is what is best. You may have to pay more to get to and from the airport if any of the airport express trains don't line up with your schedule or if EasyBus isn't functioning properly at your arrival or departure hour, which may further exhaust you more. Look up transportation to and from the airports before booking instead of treating it as an afterthought. You may end up losing money by paying for all of this stuff instead of looking it up as you book and treating yourself to a slightly more expensive flight in exchange for an easier commute to and from the airport.
9. Always try at least one local delicacy wherever you travel.
It is part of the fun! As a vegetarian I am a bit limited in this category, but I make a point to always do this. In France I had an abundance of croissants, crepes (both from the street and fancy restaurants), creme brulee, macarons, and more. In Switzerland I had a lot of chocolate, raclette, fondue, etc. I'll definitely have a waffle in Belgium and a beer in Germany despite my general dislike of beer. It's part of the culture and you'll regret it if you don't. Although I hear French escargot is delicious, I do not have any regrets about not trying it. Thank you, vegetarianism!
10. Openness is key.
When traveling, it is important to be open. Open to the fact that your schedule may not work out because you can plan everything out and something will still most likely go wrong. Open to trying new things, meeting new people, and learning about new cultures. Open to overcoming stereotypes. Open to discovering yourself. Open to the fact that a lot of people may have preconceived notions about you, and that you can't help it (ex: I encountered one instance of xenophobia in Switzerland and you just have to let it roll off your book). Just be open because that's what helps you make your memories.
Have you traveled Europe? Do you plan on traveling Europe soon? Do you think these tips are helpful? Do you have any of your own to share? Comment below with your thoughts! <3