Since I’ve just recently returned from a two-week trip to the United Kingdom, I thought I would share some tips for travel (especially international!). I travel a lot, so I promise that these are good tricks to have up your sleeve.
BUY A PHONE CHARGER BEFORE YOU LEAVE: seriously. I did not do this when we went to the U. K., and I ended up having to borrow one from people every day, and for some reason, I couldn’t find one in a store until the trip was almost over! Sure, adapters are helpful, but they’re expensive, they take up more space than just a regular cube, and it’s another thing to lose. Just go online and order a charger that will work wherever you’re going before you leave, and then you’ll be all set when you arrive!
PACK LIGHT: oh, you might think you packed light, but trust me, you didn’t. Put on your backpack and pick up your suitcase, walk a mile, and then take out that pair of shorts that you may or may not wear once. (invest in a suitcase with wheels. I had a duffel bag, and we walked around with those things way too much. wheels are your friend.) If your trip is long, just find somewhere to do laundry! Take pieces that can be worn many different ways (a flannel as a shirt by itself and as another layer over a t shirt, etc), and don’t bring more than one other pair of shoes. Those puppies take up some space.
LEARN HOW YOUR TRAIN TICKET WORKS: before you get on and have one minute to sit down. We were lucky and only had this problem twice, but the first time it happened, it was bad. My family ended up scattered all over a train car because we didn’t know that with Virgin Rail, you have an assigned seat based on your departure and arrival locations. So, when you get a train ticket, reserve a seat, or ask about it at the ticket booth in the station.
DON’T BUY BIG SOUVENIRS: this is more directed at myself, honestly. Most of my souvenirs were small: postcards, magnets, a canvas tote bag, etc. However, I did buy a print of a castle in Orkney, and it was almost too big for my backpack! It fit, thank goodness, but it was really inconvenient for the remainder of the trip. I also bought new Doctor Marten boots in London, which I have no regrets about whatsoever, except for the fact that I didn’t have room in my suitcase for them. So, on our last day, I had to wear them for 12 hours and walked over 5 miles in them. My boots are beautiful and I love them, but I have never had bigger blisters in my LIFE. So maybe stick to t shirts and postcards if you don’t have a lot of room.
IF YOU CAN, RENT A BIKE: London was full of bike stations (thanks for the ride, Santander!), so on our last day, we took advantage of them and pedaled around. Thankfully, the city has a bunch of bike paths, so we didn’t have to be with the cars and busses the whole time (but if you’re really not a fan of that, avoid the bridges–they’re SCARY). It’s a different way of seeing the city, as opposed to walking or driving, which was interesting.
LEARN THE LANGUAGE: okay, yes, they speak English in the U.K. But I still had to consciously make an effort to say pounds instead of dollars and chips instead of fries. Just because you’re visiting doesn’t mean you can’t try to adopt a bit of the culture and language.
TAKE THE BUS: Or subway! Public transportation is much cheaper than a taxi or renting a car, and you get to be like a local! Or, take a tour bus if you’re trying to cram everything in, it’s a great way to see the sights, hear some facts from your tour guide, move through traffic and take pictures, and all while sitting down? Sounds good to me.
DOWNLOAD MORE THAN YOU THINK YOU NEED: Music, Netflix episodes, iBooks, you name it. I bought an iBook on my phone for the trip and rented another two, and I finished one by the time I got to the airport in Boston. I ended up rereading the same five books I had on my phone the whole trip. I also downloaded the entire first season of Twin Peaks on Netflix, only to arrive and realize that the U.K. Netflix doesn’t have it, so I couldn’t watch it. if you really want to watch a show, look it up to see if it’s available where you’re traveling, but if you want to be safe, buy the episodes through iTunes or Google Play, or download a Netflix original series, since they’re available wherever Netflix is! For music, take advantage of Apple Music or Spotify free trials for Premium! But no matter what you have, make sure you have a lot of music.
GET A NEW SIM CARD WHEN YOU GET THERE: Definitely do this. I wasn’t able to, since my phone is so new, but it’s always good to have a phone number that actually works to give people, whether it be at your hotel or your travel companions in case you decide to split up. Also, data! So you can put all your new experiences on Snapchat 😉
Alright, that’s all I’ve got for you as of right now! Let me know if you have any questions, and I’ll be happy to answer.