I see that I really don’t give this blog as much attention as I would like to, there’s always something else on my mind that keeps me busy. Since my last blog posts I have done six trips to five different countries (France, Poland, Netherlands Latvia and Serbia and France again). I don’t think I will write anything about those trips any time soon, so instead I thought it could be a good idea to share what I have learnt in all these travels, and what I try to remember before travelling, during the travel and when I have arrived to my destination.
I always begin to plan a travel months before I leave. At this point I decide on which days I will leave and come back, and how I will travel. I don’t think about the details like the airport bus or hostels yet, that comes closer to departure. Then I look for tickets using several websites like Finn.no, Kilroy travels and Skyscanner, and also look directly on the flight companies websites (not all companies show up in the search pages, like Ryanair). Buying tickets early is the best way to get cheap flight tickets on the days you want to travel. I also search for alternative ways of travelling (train, bus, ferry) for the whole trip or a part of it. I have found that it’s a lot cheaper to fly from Oslo airport than from Trondheim, so I have taken the train or an evening flight to Oslo a few times.
Closer to departure (1-3 weeks before leaving) I book nights at hostels if I have to stay a night somewhere, Hostelworld works very well for this. At this point I also make a more detailed plan on how to travel in the other country if I have to get to somewhere inside the country. Usually I buy bus or train tickets when I get there, but I try to have a plan on how I will travel and at what time. When I travel to geography congresses I also make agreements with others so we can stay at the same hostel and take the same train/bus to the final destination.
A few days before leaving I start writing a pack list, and then I add or remove things from that list until I pack everything. By doing this I’m sure to not forget something important, and the actual packing goes a lot faster. For each item I have packed I then
strike out the item on the list, so I immediately can see what is missing. I don’t always do this, the last t time I travelled I had only been home one week after another travel so I just washed the clothes and packed the same things again. I also begin recharging the batteries for all the electronics I take with me when I travel, like a camera, mp3-player, cell phone and headlamp.
The day before travelling I go to an exchange office or an ATM (for Euros) and take out what I think is necessary for my first day of travel. I have always found an ATM at the destination airport,so this isn’t required. But I like to have some cash available just in case something happens (for instance that the ATM at the airport doesn’t work), or just to do the first payments like the airport bus or the hostel. At the same time when I’m in downtown I also go to the pharmacy and other shops to get things I might need, like Antibac, sunscreen and some food for the travel (food is really expensive in planes and airports).
I also check when the airport bus leaves town so I know when to wake up or when to leave if I leave to early to sleep. I also weigh my luggage to make sure it doesn’t weigh more than what I have paid for (usually written on the ticket). I also print out all the documents I see necessary to have during my travel. In my case this is usually flight tickets, boarding passes (if possible), hostel booking papers, contact information if I know someone at the destination or if I will meet someone and a copy of my passport and travel insurance card in case I lose it.
On the way
Bring food and water! It’s important to eat and drink enough while on the way, and crucial if you have a low blood pressure as I have. This will make sure you have enough energy all the time and stay happy. Security checks and dragging luggage around uses a lot of energy and can also take a lot of time, and then it’s nice to have something to eat or drink easily available. As I have mentioned earlier food is expensive in airports, but no one stops you from bringing your own! Check if you get any food in the plane, because you can travel for several hours before coming to a place where you can buy food. The food you get in the plane can also sometimes be only a small snack, in which case it’s nice to have something like an energy bar in a pocket to help you survive.
An important point is to not miss your flight/train/bus. I have never lost a flight, but I have lost a few trains. Luckily I was able to take a new train in all cases and only lost some time and money. But in one case I could have lost a flight to another country had there not been another train one hour later. I only lost a lot of money buying a new train ticket. So the next time I’m travelling I will make sure to be on time for the train.
Make the most of your trip! If you travel by train here in Norway you have electricity under you chair and also free wireless internet, so it’s possible to plug in a laptop an work or have fun all night (on a night train). Norwegian airports like Gardermoen also have free internet now, so once I had to stay a night at Gardermoen airport I just stayed up surfing all night. A fun airport to wait in is Amsterdam Schiphol. With a lot of shops, places to eat and even a small park it’s difficult to get bored. Take all the free things you can get, like the blanket on Norwegian night trains or free newspapers. Then you have something to be a little more comfortable later on your trip or something to read. If you don’t want to bring a laptop or don’t need one while travelling I will recommend a mp3-player with a full battery. I have 18 gb of music and a few movies on mine, and with that I’m never bored.
Know your travel itinerary well! If your travel includes several trains or buses you should check before leaving where to find them and what line/number you should take. If not, find a tourist office or someone who speaks English and ask for help. That’s a lot easier than wandering around looking for what you think is the right train or bus. I managed to find an apartment in Amsterdam on my first travel there just by asking in the tourist office which tram I had to take to get there (I only had a map and an address).
When you get to your destination
Find your hostel! Hostelworld hostels provides good maps/directions for finding the hostel. If public transport is good use that, if not it’s easy to use a taxi (especially if you’re in a country where taking a taxi is cheap). When arrived check in and leave your luggage in a locker (bring a padlock) to not get it stolen. Ask in the hostel for a map of the city, they will most probably have free maps. Then go out and explore, have fun, take photos! After all these preparations you can finally do what you came to do, and you will be happy you were prepared so nothing went wrong on the way. And if you’re travelling with someone else they will hopefully be impressed by your travelling skills.