How I Planned My First Trip Abroad!
I still can’t believe I am back in the states and after my trip I realized the 13% of European ancestry (ancestry provided by 23 & Me) wants to get back to Europe. A lot of you will be like “ummm I already have 57 stamps in my passport so I don’t need to read this." Well that’s good for you but for those that have not had the opportunity to travel abroad; I hope you appreciate the insight from my experience planning my first international excursion.
"Well it is if you know how to stretch your dollars (euros, pounds, quids, whatever your currency of choice is). I don’t typically like traveling with people because, as we know, people can flake. Whether it is unintentional or not, it can be a huge source of frustration."
Where to Go!?
The World is an enormous place and with so many amazing options to choose from, it can be a very daunting task figuring out where to go. It was my first time out of the country so I wanted to pick places that wouldn’t be too “foreign” to me. I wanted to pick places that were popular destinations but also had a sense of familiarity in the sense of foo, language and overall culture. I swear by Google Flights and Hopper to find great deals on flights. If you don’t have the Hopper app, download it immediately. It’s basically tells you when you should or should not book your tickets based on pricing trends. Spain was calling to me so I went to Google flights and found myself a nice ticket for $165 dollars one way! Hold the phone! WHAT? You read that correctly, Norwegian had super cheap flights that day. From that ticket, I built the rest of my itinerary using google flights over the course of the next 2 weeks monitoring flights. (It is super cheap to fly internationally when you are already abroad...which is just not fair.) Starting from Barcelona I decided to go on a ‘European Sampler Platter’. I managed to get to 9 different cities in 2.5 weeks by staying in each place 1-3 days and taking small day trips to other locations.
What’s your budget?
Ok, I am the first to admit that I am not the BEST when it comes to making a budget and sticking to it. However, I had been saving up because I knew I wanted to go on a trip so I gave myself 2500 dollars to spend on travel expenses. That’s not a lot, right? Well it is if you know how to stretch your dollars (euros, pounds, quids, whatever your currency of choice is). I don’t typically like traveling with people because, as we know, people can flake. Whether it is unintentional or not, it can be a huge source of frustration. However, travelling with folks can drastically cut your costs and allow for a more lavish experience. You could do hostels or Couch-Surf to save some coins and gain experience. I only paid for my own lodging in Florence and Venice, the rest was split between two people making it very affordable.
One VERY important thing to considering when factoring in your budget is transportation. Keep in mind that unless you stay in the central part of the city or close to metro/lines; even if you know you wouldn’t want to take the metro late after a night of drinking, you may have to pay for cabs. Let’s be real, no one likes lugging around suitcases more than you need to. Especially having to go up and down subway terminals so typically the mode of transportation from the airport to your destination is by cab or Uber. Those rides can get expensive so be sure to keep that in mind when building your budget. Also, there are some cities, like Paris and London for example, that have fairly pricey day passes for tourists and if you lose that pass you have to buy another one. (They are TINY in Paris, I definitely lost mine.)
What to pack?
This was probably the most difficult part of the entire process. My AmazonBasics Hardside Luggage was PERFECT. It’s so durable and easy to maneuver which makes it perfect for constantly being on the go. I love clothes and implementing personal style wherever I go. I was warned to make sure to dress comfortably while in Europe because you will be doing a lot of walking. (This is very true so keep that in mind when packing) I wanted to try to avoid wearing shirts more than once, you know for the gram, but bottoms I planned to make adaptable to a few different looks. Check out this really awesome packing tip video I used to maximize the space in my luggage here.
Where to Stay?
Air BnB is usually my go to when it comes to travelling. They are typically cheaper and provide more authentic experiences than hotels. As far as location is concerned, you have to decide what you want out of your trip. If you only have a few days in the city and no car, try to stay closer to the city center close to the popular attractions. You could also opt to choose a locale close to public transit so you are able to commute more efficiently. I wanted to be able to walk to the city center and avoid taking transit to save some coins. Because I waited very late to book my lodging in Rome, we were stuck in a not so great hotel on the outskirts of the city. That meant getting an expensive cab and a decent walk to the train station which was a 30- minute ride. You can imagine how that could get old while on vacation. I was trying to travel on a budget as have semi easy access to the sites. If you use the Air Bnb map feature, it will help you narrow down the area that is right for what you want to get out of the city.
What to do?
I literally had no plans of things to do (outside of seeing major sites). My travel companions were talking about tours they would want to do, and events to go to and I nicely smiled and nodded because I was not about to commit to something like that before I even get there. The best experiences are had authentically and spontaneously. I love a good recommendation especially if it’s something to do with logistics or delicious food on a budget, but I much rather go and find my own experience. That being said, keep a look out for my next few blog posts with my recommendations from the cities I visited! I will say that using Yelp in Europe is not really the same as in the states so don't rely heavily on reviews so much as a starting place to discover places close to you.
Money Money Money Money!
It seems to be a common thing that first time international travelers have questions about before the departure; figuring out how to best get spending money. The first thing that people think is going to the bank and having them convert it for you. I would personally stay away from that method as banks charge a fee for the conversation and you end up losing money. The best way to do it is to wait until you get to your destination and find a ATM. By doing that, you only spend about 5 bucks max to use an ATM not affiliated with your bank and you can take out enough for your trip. Another option is to opt for a credit card that has no international transaction fees. Chase has a great card with great travel benefits!
Traveling in Europe really isn't that difficult. You can easily make your way around without reading this incredibly helpful article but I hope you found something that could help you on your next adventure! HAPPY TRAVELS!!!