1. PICK YOUR OWN SEAT
Economy class is basically a guarantee that you will be uncomfortable for the majority of your trip. With this knowledge, why oh why would you let fate (aka the airline) pick where you will be stuck for who knows how many hours?! Many airlines allow you to check in online a couple hours before the flight and change your seat. Seatguru is a great website with comments and suggestions from real people about hits and misses regarding seating. Think of it as Yelp for airlines.
2. PACK YOUR OWN FOOD
I don't know about you, but after a couple of long-haul international trips, I just can't stomach airline food anymore. Even the smell makes me nauseous. A great solution is to bring your own stuff! You control how cleanly, healthy, and tasty it will be. Some ideas include cheese/crackers, dried/fresh fruit, hard boiled eggs, spring rolls, etc.
3. GOOGLE IS YOUR BEST FRIEND
I have found some amazing websites about anything and everything related to travel. I created a separate bookmark folder on my browser just for these pages. For example, while googling how to pass the time during a layover, I found out that Charles de Gaulle in Paris was a confusing airport to navigate and required at least two hours to get from point A to B. My top two finds are NomadicMatt and SoniasTravels. Matt travels full time and does it in the most budget conscious ways. Sonia makes videos full of personality and great tips.
4. PACK EARLY
This one is a no brainer, but sometimes procrastination gets the best of us. Do a practice pack and then get rid of any items that you aren't 100% confident are necessary. PACK LIGHT because honestly, half of those outfits will go untouched. Can you believe I had nightmares about not having enough time to pack? LOL In your carry-on, remember to pack an extra outfit in case your luggage is lost. The weather app is also your friend. Check, double check, and triple check what the weather will be like at your destination and pack accordingly. I remember bringing only shorts and tanks for my summer program in Berlin....and then it rained 90% of the time. Learn from my mistake!
5. TRAVEL WHEN YOU'RE UNDER 25
This tip is more relevant for travel to Europe because being under 25 is considered "youth" and a lot of things are generally cheaper. For example, I snagged my round trip plane ticket to Greece during late peak season for ....(drumroll please)......$1005! This was thanks to Studentuniverse. They have the lowest fares because they only cater to students and youths.
I understand that being this young usually means $$$ is the biggest obstacle. When budgeting, I found this excellent Excel template for business trips that I use to calculate my expenses (you just need to customize based on your trip). My budget was approximately $2000 per person which includes round trip airfare, lodgings for 8 nights, transportation while island hopping, food, etc. Not impossible to manage right?
6. SAVE SAMPLES/DONT BUY TRAVEL SIZE
In colleges, I acquired quite a collection of miniature things (aka freebies). These are proving to be quite helpful for my upcoming trip. If you don't already have them, I warn you to STAY CLEAR OF TARGET'S TRAVEL SIZE SPOT. You will end up buying a whole mess of $1 stuff that you have convinced yourself are necessary but are actually a ridiculous waste of money. Let's compare the St Ives travel vs full size face wash. You can either pay $1 for a 1oz or $4 for the full 6 oz. It's a no brainer! I suggest that you purchase those travel containers (Daiso has them for only $1.50) and siphon some of your full size product into them. Problem solved, wallet saved!
When looking for accommodations, my goal was to skip the hotels and go straight for the hostels. Europe has an abundance of hostels that can be just as nice at a cheaper price. And then ... I discovered Airbnb.com. The benefits include paying per night instead of per night/per person, the feeling of being at home, and a friendly and knowledgeable host/local.
8. BUY SOUVENIRS EARLY
I can't even count how many times I procrastinated buying souvenirs and resorted to picking up inauthentic knick knacks at the airport to gift friends and family. The only things you get from procrastinating are unwanted stress and unhappy recipients.
9. TRAVEL ESSENTIALS
Comfortable shoes: Blisters and soreness definitely ruin any trip. Invest in a good quality shoe and remember to break them in beforehand.
Wet/baby wipes: So many uses from refreshing your hands and face, bathroom duty, and sanitizing.
This is a bit #firstworldproblem but honestly, I have been stressing way too much about this vacation. I just want everything to be perfect. Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and appreciate this amazing journey you are lucky to be on.
BTW it was extremely difficult to finish these tips because I was simultaneously watching the #fatalefinale of Pretty Little Liars. Any fans? I'm in shock....