Thursday, May 25, 2017

Mastering All the Travel Tips

When going on a major vacation, it is important to go in with as much travel knowledge as possible. I have followed that advice to the letter when going on my many Walt Disney World vacations! Because I glean as many tips as I can, my vacations are full and fun.

Going overseas is an entirely different matter. I can't use many of my Disney tips and tricks when touring a major European city. I need to get an entirely new set of trips that are centered on the places where I'm about to go.

I am not a world-traveling rookie; I have been to Mexico, China, and the Czech Republic before. In all of those trips, there were things that I know could have been done better had I done a little studying beforehand.

So what are the most important tips I've been seeing, and which ones am I going to try to follow? Read on:

Use Public Transportation

I did a mini-trip to Chicago back in January, and I bought a Ventra 1-day card to use on Chicago buses and trains. I was anticipating a cold day where I would want to avoid being outside too much. Instead, the weather was in the 60s and the sun shone brightly! I ended up barely using the bus. 

That was for a 1-day trip. I will be spending quite a few days in London proper, so an Oyster card is going to be a very important purchase. It will allow me to use the Underground and the bus system all around central London for a low fee. 

Unlike Europe, the United States doesn't use a whole lot of public transportation. I am going to have to get very wise very quickly so I don't look like a dumb American when trying to keep up with the hustle and bustle of the big city!

Phone - Unlock? Buy One There? SIM Card?

A big headache I am still trying to solve is how my phone should be used. I know for sure that I need to keep up communication with my friends and family on a daily basis (otherwise how am I going to keep updating this blog?). But I also don't want to spend an insane amount of money purchasing a travel plan with my phone provider in the US. 

I have looked at many, many, many articles and videos from travel bloggers, each with his or her own opinion. Some recommend switching to T-Mobile, where the international plan is very reasonable. Some say to unlock a phone and purchase a SIM card at a local pharmacy. All of them make sure you don't think your data from the US will carry over.

The one suggestion I seem to think will work best for my shorter, country-hopping trip is to take my phone and work with wifi. Many of the places I will be have wifi access, so I can still stay connected.

The nice thing about working with only wifi is that it keeps me off my phone. So many people go through life staring at a screen, and if I'm forced to limit myself, I can really enjoy the things around me! I can still post stuff but I don't have to constantly be texting, calling, and checking social media.

Planes, Trains, Automobiles

I will be flying several non-American airlines, and that is something I'm very excited to do. I usually fly on budget airlines like Southwest or Frontier, and I'm ready to upgrade a little bit in my global excursion. What's this about USB ports by every seat? The dinner is included with the flight? I get how many channels without swiping a credit card?

I am going to be taking the train all over the place, too. Train travel isn't popular in the US, but in Europe it's very commonplace. I'll be able to go through the Chunnel thanks to high speed rail travel!

And while I won't be driving, I'll have family and friends that will be taking me around in their vehicles. I have no desire to drive - even on the Autobahn! I'll just be busy trying to figure out some of the awesome signage that is on the roads.

Luggage

I think this is my biggest challenge. Since I will be hopping from place to place, I need to keep my luggage to the minimum. Instead of a rolling suitcase, I went with a lightweight backpack. There is no extra weight due to wheels and frame, so while I can fit a decent amount of stuff inside, it won't already be heavy thanks to those additional items.

Best of all? This backpack is a carry-on size! If I can fit everything into it, I won't have to check a bag and can just get off the plane, go through customs, and be on my way.

Of course, to achieve this, I really need to cut down. I'm someone who tends to pack for every scenario (What if there's a blizzard?!), and I just have to be more casual. I can buy toiletries at a local supermarket, and I can wash my clothes to wear again on the trip. Wear colors that can be worn over and over, but matched with other accessories. As my aunt says, "Black is best!"

Embracing Tourism

I can recall in my first trips out of the country how terrified I was. I spent most of the free time in Mexico on the Martin Luther College Choir tour in my hotel room. My apartment in China was freezing, but I bundled up and hunkered down because I like my alone time, and if I wasn't visiting a major tourist attraction, I didn't want to be anywhere else. 

Mexico was a short trip, and China was long, but this European vacation is right in the middle. It will allow me to get out and be adventurous while at the same time taking a few moments here and there to decompress. I like where I will be spending the night, but I will need to get out and find my meals. Those adventures in ethnic cooking will undoubtedly lead to others! (Other adventures, I mean...and other ethnic cooking, I'm sure.)

It's definitely a mental thing. I need to convince myself now, before I leave, that I am going to get out and love stuff. I did that when I went to the Czech Republic in 2011 and had the most amazing experience. I've done that on travels to Chicago and San Francisco. I want to channel that energy every time!



Have you ever been overseas? Do you have any tips to share? Please comment and let me know. (Especially if you have any advice on the phone thing!)

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