Living abroad in Europe is an endless case of FOMO. Every day so many worlds are at your fingertips. Rome is a quick flight away, Paris is a few hours by train. Back home, I rarely traveled unless it was for a week or longer. I always travelled by plane and 100% of the time I would check my luggage.
When I got to Spain, I found myself tempted daily with super cheap flights, weekly group trips throughout the country of Spain, and endless opportunities to visit friends and family all over. I consider myself a seasoned traveler with a few stamps on my passport and a few thousand disposable airline travel points, I decided to take advantage of a short-haul trip to visit a friend with only two weeks to prepare.
While the destination was wonderful, the journey definitely humbled me! I’m going to pass on what I learned so you can know what not to do for your short-haul adventure.
Invest in Carry-On Luggage
I had come to Spain with all the giant luggage I could bring, even paying extra to check another suitcase. When it came time to bring a carry-on for my four-day excursion, I didn’t have anything small enough for carry-on luggage, nor large enough to carry all that I needed. As a chronic over-packer, this is my curse. My roommate loaned me her carry-on, and while I was appreciative, it quickly proved to be an unpredictable liability. It wasn’t four wheeled like most of the luggage I have, so I had to grow re-accustomed to pulling it behind me. An awkward transition that took too long to get used to, with me tripping over myself and knocking things over, forgetting that it was behind me and not alongside me.
The poor little suitcase kept up with me as long as it could, but over the cobblestone of Berlin it lost the rubber to one of its wheel. The blown tire hobbled my two-wheeled suitcase, making the rest of my trip even more awkward as I tried to work around it. Bring luggage that you’re familiar with and luggage you like.
Go Easy When Packing Liquids
Humility is your best travel companion! Believing myself to be a pro-traveler, I approached the security checkpoint in the airport with confidence. Automatically loosening my shoelaces, pulling out my laptop and other electronics to put in a separate container, and waltzing through the metal detector with ease. As I waited on the other side of the conveyor belt, I heard the security agent gasp. I instantly knew what I did wrong. Forgetting that I only had carry-on luggage instead of checked luggage, I put all my new and favorite beauty products into my carry-on. The security agent pulled me to the side and showed me five bottles of brand new hair products, lotions, and perfumes. “I am so sorry,” they began to say, but knowing what was up I immediately stifled my tears and said, “I understand. It’s no problem.”
But it was. Watching that stuff get thrown away hurt my heart. Don’t be like me. If you have to bring your staples, put ‘em in the appropriate airline approved mini-containers.
Come Prepared, and Avoid Suffering Later
I should have printed my ticket up front, but had to pay for that expense at the gate. I should have prepared for an unruly flight, full of people playing music on their cellphones and putting their feet where they shouldn’t. But no, I didn’t, and didn’t have earplugs or any sort of eye mask. I also should have planned things to do during my six hour layover starting at 12am. But I didn’t, and spent hours wandering around trying to sleep or stay awake until my 6am flight. Prepare for your flight and airport visit like you would any other. Act like you’ve never flown before, cover all your bases.
Be a minimalist – Just this once.
I’m an over-packer, and my poor little carry on was bursting at the seams full of clothes that I can assure you, I did not wear. I also had a backpack for under-seat storage, that was too unwieldy and heavy to use properly. Had I just taken less stuff, my experience would have been so much smoother getting around my destination, and getting on and off flights. Not to mention, walking around airports with dense and heavy carry-on luggage gets old – fast. Leave the Jeffrey Campbell platforms at home, you won’t miss them, I swear.
On a related note, if you organize your packing, you’ll see how much stuff you need and don’t need when it can’t fit into your luggage cubes. It’s also another opportunity to downsize your beauty products so they’re not thrown in the trash at the airport.
Throw out all expectations
Short-haul flights and weekend getaways are a whirlwind of movement, new faces, new language practice, and new sights. If you pack light, you can catch the wind and fly anywhere. But if you bring your worries, stress, and “I have to see this monument/museum/restaurant/club” woes with you, you’ll be weighed down by expectations. Give in to your freedom of movement, and go with the flow.
If you’re preparing for your first short-haul getaway, following these tips will probably keep you from looking a hot mess wherever you find yourself. Take your time, keep a level head - and a level suitcase - and enjoy your trip!
Anyhing that you wish you knew before your first short-haul? Leave ‘em in the comments section to save some lives!
Kris’tina is a language loving, two-step dancing, videogame playing, fast-talking, English-teaching, perpetual student and traveller from the USofA. When she’s not blogging she’s probably eating, drinking wine, and relishing the big ole world we live in. Find her at ATicketForTwo.com.