If you’re like me, then you’re probably thinking of planning your next trip any chance you get. I’m always on the lookout for new adventures and traveling to far (and not so far) off places that excite me and allow me to learn from people and places that are different than I am accustomed to. The idea of traveling alone or in a small group used to daunt me, and I wouldn’t have considered it due to my own fears as well as some of the safety concerns due to events happening all around the globe. However, I had my first almost-solo international adventure three years ago, and it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. My first international trip I went to London, Edinburgh, Paris, and Barcelona. On my second trip, which happened a few months ago, I went to Paris, Rome, Milan, Pisa, and Florence. I’ve grown to appreciate travel and seek any opportunity I can to fly away and explore. I have a few traveling tips for those of you who have the passion to do so, but have some ideas as to how you can plan for a trip this grand, and how to be safe abroad.
Planning your trip
The first matter of business is the plane ticket. On both of my European trips I found my cheap flights through Google Flights. They allow you to pick your dates of travel, and also compare them to other days in the same months to find out which dates are the most affordable to fly. I highly recommend it. Also: don’t be afraid to branch out and take other means of transportation. Train tickets and bus tickets can be much cheaper when it comes to traveling to multiple places within your desired country. We took a train all over Italy for as cheap as €11! Definitely a steal. Next, I suggest going on Pinterest and looking up travel guides for the cities you want to visit. My friend and I found pretty much everything we wanted to do through Pinterest. We then uploaded our ideas and expenses (both separate and combined) onto a Google Doc that we shared. If any of us booked a hostel or museum tickets, we recorded it on the Google Doc to keep track. We also created a rough itinerary that got more specific as time went on. We started off with the bare bones- we knew we wanted to go to Paris and Rome. The more we found out, the more we added in restaurants, hostels, and museums and churches we wanted to visit. Soon enough, we had our entire days planned out! The next task is to share this Google Doc with a member of your family or a friend- that way they have a copy of your itinerary and can be aware of which city you are at any given time. We created a board for each specific trip. Right before you go, be sure to call your bank if you’re bringing your credit or debit card with you. Let them know the specific dates you’ll be gone and countries you’ll be in during your trip. If you don’t call, they’ll cancel your card. Better to be safe than sorry!
When it comes to packing, make sure you print out tangible copies of all your vital travel documents– passport, ID’s, reservations, etc. This way, if you were to lose anything, you’d have a copy of everything you need and it’s much easier to sort things out at the consulate. Be sure to bring extra U.S. cash and cash of the country you are traveling to. Some of the restaurants and hostels only accept cash, and you never know when you’ll have a problem with your bank. Cash is key. Also: be aware of what type of trip you are taking when it comes to bringing luggage. I made the mistake of bringing a roll-away carry on when in reality, I should’ve brought a large backpack like my friend. I was constantly rolling that thing through the cobble-stoned streets of ancient cities. By the end of the trip, my luggage was beat up, and I was exhausted. If you’re going to be constantly on the move every couple of days, I suggest bringing a backpack.
Both times I’ve been to Europe I’ve brought a carry on luggage as well as a smaller backpack for everyday use. You’ll want to bring a sturdy back with practically no pockets on the outside. Unfortunately, due to many pickpockets, you’ll want to ensure that you always have a hand on your bag at all times– in all places. Whenever I was in a museum, metro, or monument I swung my backpack around to the front so I could see it at all times. Backpacks can be tricky since they’re on your back, so I suggest putting it in front of you (although it may not be the most fashionable of options). I suggest trying to use public transportation and familiarizing yourself with the local subway or metro. They can be a bit confusing, but it’s so rewarding, fun, and not to mention cheaper, when you finally grasp their schedule. You feel like a true champ. Also, the typical advice- be wary of telling others where you’re staying. Just be cautious when it comes to giving out information, but that’s anywhere. Let’s all practice stranger danger techniques, alright? I know when I’m in the States I’m always asking strangers to take pictures of my friends in I, but when you’re in an unknown place, just be cautious of handing others your phones or cameras.
That’s it! It’s all about being communicative to your travel buddy, as well as a friend or family member back home, about where you’ll be at all times. It’s about knowing your surroundings and being cautious. With all this to say, have fun and don’t let your fears hold you back from stepping outside of your comfort zone and experiencing something new. Like I said before, these past couple of trips have been some of the most rewarding experiences in my life. I highly recommend international travel. Let us know if you have any travel tips and tricks of your own, or any wonderful travel memories- we’d love to hear it ✈️?