Monday, April 21, 2014

What to Pack: Red-Eye Flight

What to Pack on a Red-Eye Flight

If you're planning to spend the night on a red-eye flight, you might be tempted to stuff your carry-on with a bunch of unnecessary junk. Resist the urge. You only need a few things to help get you through the night and wake up refreshed in your destination.
  • You might feel like a bit of a diva, but eye masks are crucial for keeping you sleeping, even if your neighbor is watching a movie or the cabin lights come on unexpectedly.
  • Load up your device with guidebooks, novels, and a movie or two to keep you entertained until you doze off.
  • Don't forget a pen for doing the crossword puzzles in the back of the in-flight magazines.
  • Skip the questionable airline blankets and bring your own cozy scarf.
  • Keep yourself hydrated with plenty of moisturizer, lip balm, and water throughout the flight.
  • I'm trying this for the first time, but I've read that Melatonin helps reduce the effects of jet lag.
  • Be ready for landing with a small brush, mints, and anything else you need to freshen up.
P.S. How to pack for Europe in one bag

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What Not to Do: Europe

It's been almost seven years since Todd and I last went to Europe, but we still talk about the trip on a regular basis. It was an incredible experience.

That said, we made some stupid rookie mistakes. We were young, poor, and neither of us had any serious traveling experience. We had fun regardless, but next time we go, here's what we'll avoid.

Slap-happy and sleeping in an airport warehouse in Milan because we'd missed our flights.
Don't over-extend yourself. Todd and I had both been to Europe once before, but this was our first time to really explore the continent—we wanted to pack in as much as possible. In less than two weeks, we visited Dublin, Bilbao, San Sebastian, Barcelona, Cinque Terre, Rome, Milan, Paris, and back to Dublin. In hindsight, I'm glad we got to see so much, but while we were there, we were basically walking dead. And I don't think we gave any city the attention it deserved.

Oh, RyanAir, you did us wrong.

Don't be wooed by the budget airfares. There are a few budget airlines in Europe that make it incredibly cheap to fly between countries—we literally bought one flight for a penny. We decided to fly between most of our destinations, which was a huge mistake. There's usually a reason the flights are so cheap. For one, the airports were generally located about an hour outside of the city center. So while we thought we were flying into Paris, we ended up in the suburbs and then had to figure out how to actually get into the city. All of our flights also left ridiculously early, meaning we had to get up at 2 or 3 a.m. a couple of times to get there on time. We slept in the airport more than once.

Camping in Rome.

Don't sleep with other people. No, Todd and I didn't turn into swingers in Europe. But we did stay in some very interesting places in an effort to save money. The worst were the dorm-like hostels in Dublin and Barcelona. Staying in a room with several strangers, it was almost impossible to sleep because A) we were surrounded by strangers, and B) people would stumble in loud and drunk throughout the night. We also very randomly stayed in a tent in Rome, sort of a hostel camp. We were awoken at 3 a.m. by some crazy Italians playing tag around our tent. I thought it would be a fun experience. It was not.

Yes, that's me eating Cheetos in Spain.

Don't eat crap food. This is an obvious one, right? You'd think so, but we were so exhausted and hungry and lost at various times during our trip that we ate at a McDonald's in every country we visited. I am so ashamed to say this, but it is true. We craved something cheap and familiar, and the golden arches appeared. That's not to say we didn't have some memorable meals on our journey, but I really wish we'd taken a chance on a random brasserie in Paris rather than ordered chicken nuggets at the McDonald's near our hotel.

Taking a quick nap in Dublin.

Don't forget to sleep. Between the sketchy hostels and crazy travel schedule, we got very little sleep on our trip. And I refused to nap because I didn't want to miss out on any daylight. By the end of the trip, we were constantly cranky and biting each other's heads off.

Cranky because my camera was dying and my bag was heavy and I was tired.

Don't stick to the tourist sites. Don't get me wrong: We enjoyed rambling around Paris, Rome, and Dublin. But our most memorable moments happened off the beaten path. Like when we rented a car in Spain, stopped for pintxos in Mundaka and then explored the stunning San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. We also found a secluded beach full of sea glass in Corniglia, Italy and a small castle outside of Dublin.

Don't forget your most basic toiletries at home. Because we were flying so much, I wasn't able to bring my shampoo and conditioner with me, and I couldn't find travel-size bottles anywhere. I didn't want to buy full bottles if I was only going to use them for a day or two. So because of that, my hair was an unbrushable mess the entire trip.

This hill in Cinque Terre was so fun to walk up with a giant bag.

Pack light. This doesn't just apply to your bags, either. I carried my medium-sized camera with me everywhere we went along with a rather large shoulder bag. Walking for hours each day, even the camera alone started to give me backaches. Think about what you really need and pack accordingly.

Yay rain!
Don't be a bad sport. It rained pretty much every day of our trip. We missed flights and trains and spent more than we planned. We were running on fumes. But we were absolutely thrilled to be on an epic adventure.

Have you made any rookie travel mistakes? What are your best tips for newbies?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Costa Brava, Spain.


For the last leg of our upcoming trip to Europe, we had planned to spend a few days driving from Barcelona to Provence and then exploring the land of lavender fields and Pastis on the patio. But then I realized just how incredible the northern coast of Spain is. So the plans were changed.

The Costa Brava is a stretch of coastline on the Mediterranean between Barcelona and the French border that's dotted with charming fishermen's enclaves, medieval villages, and pristine beaches. We booked a hotel perched on a cliff overlooking a small harbor in Begur to be our base of exploration. The plan is to mosey up the coast, stopping anywhere that looks interesting, and to indulge in plenty of fresh Spanish seafood and wine.

Have you explored the Costa Brava? Let me know if you have any suggestions!

Tossa de Mar