Travel is a huge part of studying abroad, and to be quite honest, I had no idea just how big traveling while abroad was until I got here. I chose London because I knew I would absolutely love living here, and the opportunities that I got to travel while abroad would just be the cherry on top of things. Really, I only had three places that were absolute must-dos, and for the rest, I really didn’t know what would happen. Previously to coming abroad, I didn’t have a lot of travel experience that wasn’t me packing up my car and spending the weekend somewhere. A type of travel that doesn’t really present many restrictions, and is normally spent at a friend or family’s house in pure, 100% comfort. Because of this, I have had to learn as I go when it comes to traveling, and I have genuinely learned so much. Aside from all of the tips that I’ve gathered from traveling that I’ll walk through later, something really important that I’ve learned about myself when traveling is that it often poses a lot of anxiety for me. Dealing with uncomfortable situations, so many unknowns, stressful timelines, language barriers, etc., have all been strong forces against my anxiety. At first, I couldn’t help but think that maybe traveling just isn’t for me, but if that’s the case then why did I love every destination so much and reflect on the trip so fondly? I’ve really had to reflect on the saying “your anxiety is lying to you” when traveling. When I look at my travel anxiety in a different light and realize that the feelings I’m experiencing are not forever, I allow myself to have a much, much better time while traveling. If that could be number 1 on this list of tips, it would be. Aside from the emotional tips, here are some more literal (and maybe untraditional) tips I’ve learned:
#1. Hostels can be your best friend or your frenemy:
Though I haven’t traveled to all of my planned destinations yet, all of the trips I have planned will be spent at a hostel. Prior to this, Id never stayed in a hostel before and frankly, I had no idea what to expect. Thankfully, even in the worst hostel I stayed in so far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised compared to my previous assumptions. Honestly, I had no idea what a hostel really was and I envisioned them in a much worse light than what they really are. However, it is so, so, so incredibly important to read reviews and make sure that you’re staying somewhere that has good reviews and is safe alongside being affordable. One of the things that I’ve noted most with a hostel is that you’re not going to feel the cleanest you’ve ever felt and you’re probably not going to have the best sleep ever. But sometimes that’s the sacrifice that has to be made to stay in another city for under 40 pounds!
#2. Buy a small, packable towel:
I know this tip is very niche, but it has been something that I wish I would’ve done! This tip is specifically related to if you’re going to be staying in a hostel while traveling abroad (which I definitely recommend) as many hotels do not provide towels, or they will cost money to rent. Due to most airlines’ baggage allowance, you’ll only be bringing a personal item with you on the plane, and trying to fit a full-size towel alongside 4 days worth of belongings and clothes is practically impossible. To save yourself the hassle, either bring with you or buy once you arrive in your host city a small packable towel that can be used while traveling. My friend has a small towel that she has brought with her while traveling and every time I am so jealous!
#3. Do some research on cash usage in cities:
Living in London definitely comes with being a bit spoiled. Practically nowhere even accepts cash in London, so it’s not something that really comes to mind in terms of necessities to get me through my day. In fact, I’ve never even held or owned UK currency! However, this was definitely not the case in all of the other cities I’ve visited. When I visited Paris, most of everything was contactless payment, however smaller souvenir or food vendor shops would get outwardly frustrated or upset with you using contactless payment. During my time in Vienna, I visited Naschmarkt, and every stand I saw required cash. In Prague, most of the public transport required cash. Similar to Prague, my friends who visited Dublin told me their public transport was cash only as well! All of these things I did not know before being in the moment of needing cash, which is definitely a stressful moment that could’ve been avoided.
#4. Book reservations beforehand (especially if traveling in bigger groups):
The very first trip I took outside of the UK was to Paris at the beginning of February. Due to the craziness of the first few weeks of being abroad, and just simply not knowing what to expect, we were extremely ill-prepared during our Paris trip. Unfortunately, due to being unprepared, the trip itself felt sort of a mess and I don’t think it reached its full potential. This all could’ve been avoided if we had booked meal reservations prior to our arrival in Paris. After a long day of walking around a foreign city, the last thing you want to do is have to hunt for a good place to eat that has good reviews, is affordable, and will fit groups bigger than 4 at the last minute. Believe me, it is not an easy thing to find. After this trip, I have been much more on top of creating not only a detailed itinerary to follow while in the city, but also booking reservations about a week in advance. Doing this has made everywhere else so much more enjoyable.
#5. Accept that you’ll have to pack light:
I am an over-packer at HEART. Somehow, my brain convinces me that I’m going to need 5 tops, three pairs of shoes, 4 pants, every makeup item I own, and 15 pairs of underwear for a 4-day trip. Obviously, this is absolutely not necessary at all. On my first trip, I splurged a little and paid extra for a carry-on, and though it was nice to have the wiggle room it was absolutely not necessary at all and I easily could’ve put the money I spent on baggage fees somewhere else much more enjoyable. Take into consideration the cheesy packing light tips that you read online because they genuinely will come in handy and will save you a ton of money and hassle. A tip within a tip is that, unlike many US airports, UK and EU airports are still very strict when it comes to fluid allowance. This got me when I flew for the first time while abroad as I went into it with an American mindset. Wrong! I had to check my bag with the liquids in it in order to not throw away all of the things I had brought. Don’t be fooled by the leniency that often happens in American airports, it will not be that way while abroad!
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Hi! My name is Emma Crawford. I'm a sophomore comm studies major from Pennsylvania and Ill be studying abroad in London. I am a lifelong Swiftie, lover of coffee, and always down to try something new. I am so excited to explore London and other countries in Europe!