As a rising senior, I have recently been asked one particular question on multiple occasions, “Knowing what you know now, what would be your advice for incoming freshmen?” While I would not change anything about my wonderful college experience, I can certainly think of some things I wish I would have known sooner. As a world traveler myself, here are some travel tips that would have made my first journeys that much easier:
1. Never wait until the night before to pack. I don’t care how many times you tell yourself you will “start packing tomorrow”, you won’t. Save yourself the headache; as soon as you think to pack something, do it…item by item.
2. If at all possible, limit your luggage to one bag and one carry on. If you can’t limit it to these two, reduce what you’re packing. I’m always amazed by these sturdy business men adorned in their tailored suits, followed by the smallest suitcase possible. I imagine it’s something out of Mary Poppins; as soon as you open it there is infinite space for everything one could possibly need.
3. Really like those Vera Bradley or Nike Duffels? You won’t anymore after having to lug it through various airports and security checkpoints. Bags with wheels are so much more beneficial than they are given credit for. A wise man once said, “How could we send a man to space before having invented a suitcase with wheels?”
4. Speaking of airport security, I don’t care how tired you are or how early or late your flight is, be friendly to officials. Border control officers do not get sarcasm. Your journey can go so much more smoothly if you just smile and show them a little of that “southern hospitality.”
5. Plan your time. The key is knowing your airports. For example, I cannot tell you how many times I have been told to arrive 2-3 hours early for an international flight. While 2 hours is about the time it takes to get from the ticket counter to a gate at Washington Dulles, Memphis airport is about the size of Mud Island in comparison. So, while I’m not saying to arrive at the last minute, I advise to not be too conservative with your time (unless you want to browse Twitter for hours waiting for your boarding call).
5. Always check-in online, print your boarding pass, and choose your seat in advance. (Window seats are the best sleepers; aisle seats have the best leg room). I cannot stress how much of a time saver this is the day of your flight.
6. Whatever you are doing, wherever you are, bring snacks. If you love food as much as I do, nothing can go wrong with this precaution.
7. In regards to food, please for the love of everything diverse, do not set foot into a McDonalds or any fast food joint for that matter when traveling. Always hit up a local café or restaurant. “But Melanie, I am a college student. The cheaper the better!” I understand, I really do. In Cambodia, my dinner cost all of $2; while in Europe, one can get a decent culturally acceptable breakfast for as little as 5 euros. Be creative. Your beloved Spicy McChicken will still be here to greet you upon your return.
8. It is inevitable that you will forget to pack something. Just take a moment to accept this reality now and move on. Let’s just pray it isn’t your medication.
9. ALWAYS attempt to speak the local language. Neither I nor the locals will care how much you butcher it; they will most likely be amused at your efforts. You would be surprised how many people don’t even try to immerse themselves into the culture in which THEY are the visitors. Long story short, manners are universal. Use them. Plus your mother would be SO proud.
10. Just like you would research to write that ten page paper, research your top sights you want to see, or that local restaurant that received rave reviews on Trip Advisor. However, if you aren’t feeling quite that motivated, I promise there will be some “hole-in-the-wall” treasures you will stumble upon when abroad. Just don’t be afraid to be a tourist in your first weeks. (That’s the reason you’re even traveling, right?!)
While these don’t cover everything, I’ll leave you with the most basic, applicable advice I can possibly think of…Be open-minded,flexible, and fearless. When abroad, you can be whomever you want to be.
- Melanie Horne, Psychology ’14