By: Erika De La Castro
Before I went to Africa a couple years ago, I had really never left the country. My only flights had been under 4 hours, and I had no idea how America differed from other countries. When I went to Africa, I was on my own, so I was doing a lot of guessing along the way. Lucky for me, my dad has done a lot of traveling, so he was able to provide a lot of important information. Now that I've done more international travel by myself, I thought I'd share my best tips with you guys. If you do it right, it's pretty great. If you do it wrong, though, you're going to have a hell of a trip.
I'm truly not very well versed in electronics, but if you're going to travel, you have to learn a few things. First of all- if you use Spotify, download all of the songs onto your phone before you leave. I didn't think to do this, and I rarely had solid wifi during the trip, so I couldn't listen to much of my music. This is very frustrating on long flights and when sitting in airports. (Most airports have wifi, but from what I can tell, none of it is very good.) So do yourself a favor, and have music already downloaded to your phone so you can listen without wifi. This goes for movies and books too- just have everything all ready to go before you leave.
Before my first trip, it had never even occurred to me that other countries would have different power outlets. If my dad hadn't warned me, I would've had to spend a very large sum of cash on an adapter at the airport. So if you're going somewhere, be sure to google what their outlets look like, and then find an adapter that has that exact outlet on it. I actually took two, which was good because one of them broke halfway through my trip.
You know how everyone says to pack an outfit and some toiletries in your carry-on in case your luggage gets lost? DO IT. I used to barely pack anything in my carry-on, with the naive "It won't happen to me" mentality.... until I landed in Dublin with no luggage. Do yourself a favor and pack mini toiletries in your carry-on. I didn't have my luggage for like three days. If my mom hadn't been with me, I would've had to buy shampoo, conditioner, face wash, soap, lotion, makeup, etc. to use until I got my luggage back. Traveling is expensive enough, without having to maneuver through foreign stores looking for all new cosmetics.
There are three things I think every single traveler should have on them at all times: face wipes, dry shampoo, and hand sanitizer. This summer, I spent well over 36 hours at a time bouncing around airports. First of all, airports/planes are dirty as all get out. You're packed like sardines with a ton of strangers, all coughing and sniffling. Now I'm usually all for the "eh, it strengthens my immune system" concept, but when it comes to traveling, I like to put on hand sanitizer excessively. Traveling sick is noooooot fun. While stuck in sed germ-infested airports/planes, there is no showering. Face wipes and dry shampoo are necessities. Enough said, there. I always use the Neutrogena makeup wipes and this Batiste dry shampoo. I've tried a lot of dry shampoos, but this has remained my favorite. Dove makes one that is probably my second favorite if you want to go a little cheaper! (Be sure to get the travel size dry shampoo, though, so it passes through security!)
Also, I would definitely recommend a cosmetics hanger. I've never taken one, but my roommate in Africa this summer had one, and I was always so jealous of it. My bathroom stuff was scattered everywhere, spilling in my suitcase, and I could never find anything. Her stuff was all hanging neatly over her bunk bed. I'm definitely getting one before my next trip.
There are a couple things I think are super helpful sidekicks for traveling. First, a selfie stick. When you're traveling by yourself, it's really hard to get good photos with you in them. A selfie stick, while humorous, is actually super helpful.
Second, a passport holder. I used to always see these in Instagram photos and think they were a waste of money, until I came across this one. It has a slot for a couple credit cards and a place to put your tickets. This is SO awesome to me, because I never know where to put my tickets without them getting all crumpled in my bag. A little holder that keeps my tickets and my passport together seems like a dream.
Third, a journal. Writing while on my trips is something I am so grateful for. Memories will fade rather quickly, so it's incredible to be able to go back and read about each day of your trip. I promise you'll be thankful you kept track of your journey. I love to write about what I did each day, what I learned, and how I felt that day.
- On international flights, you can get beverages at any time. I'm always shy and worried about asking for too much, but I've realized that I paid a ton for that flight, and the flight attendants don't care how many waters or juices or little bottles of wine you have. (Okay, I'm not advocating getting wasted on your flight. I'm just saying if you're on that plane for 14 hours and you aren't sleeping, two little bottles of wine isn't a ton.)
- Bring snacks with you in your carry-on. That'll save you from spending $10 at every Hudson News you pass by. I always have Luna bars, fruit snacks, and candy in my carry-on bag.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions. The first time I flew to Africa, I was so afraid to seem like the girl who didn't know what was going on, so I just stumbled around confused and terrified. Now, I'm always asking what line to stand in or why there are two separate security procedures or if anyone knows where my gate is. Everyone's blindly shuffling around airports they've never been to- you're not the only one feeling lost. Ask around, no biggie.
- Speaking of asking questions, ask the locals. I try really hard not to leave America to only talk to other Americans. Talk to the locals; see what they have to teach you. Don't buy the first souvenirs you see. Ask around and find what you really like. Try to ask locals where to eat rather than reading reviews from past tourists. Immersing yourself in the culture is the best way to truly explore, which leads me to one of my favorite travel quotes:
"The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see."
Erika is the creator and blogger for Unhinged Millennial. She is pursuing her psychology degree, works two jobs and blogs on the side. Unhinged Millennial covers topics ranging from love and life, to domestic and international travel. You can follow along with Erika but subscribing to her newsletter, following her on Instagram and "liking" her on Facebook!