Some people are really good about productivity and responsibility and other such practical matters. I run with that crowd often enough. And then sometimes I don’t. Relating this now to my initial experiences studying abroad, I present a variety of advice-lets illustrating the benefits of being on top of your travel game.
*Please for the sake of all that is good and beautiful and tasty and holy DO NOT over-pack. You will not need as much as you think you do. Basics, classic interchangeable pieces, good shoes. Mark my words you will buy more, and you don’t want to be that awkward, clumsy American sneaking three brimming carry-ons onto your flight because you already bought all your family Christmas gifts in Prague and your luggage is too heavy before you’ve even made it to Spain. And then when you try to open your puzzle-packed bag while on the plane string cheese and running clothes fly out at the poor neighboring German businessman. Avoid. Too much stuff with also limit you from being able to potentially sight-see or even just stroll around the airport.
* The clinic where my mum works as a nurse has a scale for children in wheelchairs, and I was able to use it to weigh my luggage the day before I left. My bag was 12 pounds over airline limit. Back to the packing drawing board. I recommend finding some opportunity of this sort so you aren’t frantically digging and eliminating at the airport.
*Bring an extra bag for when you return home with new stuff, and various sizes of plastic bags (Ziploc, grocery, etc.) for separating dirty/clean clothes and any other items. Put sundry items in plastic bags so Bath & Body Works Vanilla Bean Noel body lotion doesn’t leak and saturate your underwear.
*Research flights a few months beforehand to compare costs, arrival and departure times, etc. So you don’t end up with a 16 hour over-night layover in Dublin on your way home for Christmas.
*Flight coordination is especially relevant to those who have additional travel plans, like I did. I spent eleven days prior to my arrival in Spain visiting family friends in Eastern Europe. Great times and no regrets, but it meant extra planning and got sticky with ISA airport pick-up since I arrived at midnight the night before. Fresh off the plane in the dead of night in a foreign city I had to get to the hotel, where I booked an extra night. That actually wasn’t bad, plus I enjoyed an aerial view of nighttime Madrid. Worth it. However, do consider where/when you’ll arrive in your country of study.
*DO NOT forget about “in-between” transport. Like cabs and buses and trains that take you from the airport to where you actually wanna go. Time and $$$.
*Let the airline know if you’re a first-time traveler – you may get upgraded to first class :)
PRACTICE YOUR LANGUAGE
*I had the best of intentions to practice Spanish all summer. It was on my Continuous To-Do List (one of my many to-do lists). I volunteered at the food pantry where I used the language some, and read a couple news articles, and occasionally translated song lyrics on the radio, even tried to daydream en español, but I have a foreboding sense this was not enough. So go forth and be diligent in overcoming that language barrier from the start.