July is here and I’ve been incredibly and increasingly busy planning for my trip. The countdown is almost over: I leave for Paris in 2 days.
[Just to recap]: I leave Newfoundland for Paris on July 6 and arrive the following morning. My friend who is working at Beaumont Hamel Memorial Park is meeting me in Paris that afternoon and we’ll spend some time together visiting the Eiffel Tower, the Catacombs, and taking a tour around the city. Though she’ll leave me to return to northern France the evening of July 8, I’ll continue to tour the city and visit attractions like Versailles, L’Arc de Triomphe, and take a boat ride on the Seine. On July 10 I’ll meet with my tour group and we’ll proceed to visit First and Second World War Canadian battlefields while learning how to teach critical thinking and historical consciousness to students. It’s going to be a trip of a lifetime!
In preparation for this professional development group tour, I’ve had to complete several readings, prepare to lead a seminar and contribute to those of others, and write a biographical sketch on a soldier assigned to me by one of the tour leaders. I’ve learned so much through the assigned readings and the biographical sketch. I can’t imagine how much I’ll learn on the tour – I really can’t wait!
Although it’s a tour planned by the Unversity of New Brunswick’s Gregg Centre, I still had a lot to plan on my own. My travel agent helped book my ticket and possible activities but my type A personality has taken over and I have attempted to plan as much as possible. I’ve never traveled to Europe alone before so I’m trying to be organized and prepared. It’s not a bad thing, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel anxious or nervous.
Here are my tips for planning and packing for your travels:
Where are you going? It’s important to research where you’re going. In addition to researching and deciding on the location, research hotels, flights, activities and sight-seeing opportunities. I know some people who travel on a whim, but researching where you’re going ensures that you know use your time and money wisely.
Best prices vs quality vs convenience. You want to make sure you can stretch your dollar, especially when traveling somewhere expensive however, it’s also important to consider convenience. Certain destinations (like Paris) are always busy with tourists so waiting in line could a take while, costing valuable sight-seeing time. When planing activities at another end of the city or even outside of the city you’re staying in you also have to think about how you’re getting there. These things can add up quickly so sometimes paying a little more for an activity that includes transportation is the way to go. Since I am traveling alone overseas for the first time, convenience played a very large part in my decision to book several activities through my travel agent.
Planning is key. Planning is something that comes naturally to me but a lot of people hate planning especially when it comes to vacation activities. In reality, not everyone is going to be meticulous in vacation planning and some vacations require minimal planning but I would highly recommend planning as much as you can when traveling to high tourist destinations, during travel season (usually summer months in Europe), and if time is limited. This would include buying tickets ahead of time and creating a schedule so you know what activity you’re doing next. Just remember to give yourself a little free time too!
Pack light. Trust me, this is something easier said than done but trying your best to pack light is highly recommended. While traveling in high school I had to carry a very large and heavy suitcase up several flights of stairs in hotels with no elevators and it was really a struggle. This time, I’m going to try my best to keep all by belongings in my two carry ons. To do this I’m going to roll up my clothes and I’ve condensed most of my liquids into smaller containers to save space. This works out great because I will leave these small containers behind instead of bringing them home – a great space saver! Thankfully, since it’s summer my close are less bulky. I’d also recommend taking some laundry detergent to help limit the amount of clothes you’re taking. This time around I’ll have access to a washing machine part way through my trip, but washing your clothes is still something one could do without a washing machine – just be resourceful! Prioritizing any “extras” in your bag is also a good idea. These are different for everyone so I won’t comment on what you should or shouldn’t take besides the absolute basics. Just be to prioritize your belongings and consider what you can and cannot/could and should not do without while on vacation. Of course, always make sure to leave room for any items you buy while on vacation!
Dual voltage. Always, always make sure you check to see if any electronics and applicances you bring with you have dual voltage and verify if you need an adapter plug or converter. This is really important because North American outlets are different that those overseas so again – always do your research!
Cellphones overseas (optional). For those of us who can’t live withour our phones even while on vacation, call your service provider to see what kind of overseas cell phone packages they offer. When on vacation I try and use wi-fi whenever I can and only turn on my data when necessary. Some providers have apps to download onto your phone so you can keep track of how much data you are using while you’re away. The package I have for my trip only has 200mb of data. Since I’ll likely rely on my maps/gps app for directions, I came up with a theoretically brilliant plan – printscreen images of directions from your hotel to the activities you know you’re going to and download them onto your phone before you leave on your vacation. Then, when you need to get directions to one of your activities you use the map image so you don’t have to use your data. I’ve never tried this before but I’m hoping I find it useful and resourceful!
Do you have any tips for planning and packing for your travels? What’s your advice?