20 things I’ve learnt from travelling by 20

It’s not like I’ve spent the first 20 years of my life living out of a suitcase, nor am I really an expert on travel advice. However, being partial to the odd holiday and weekend trip, I have learnt a few things worth sharing (a few actually being 20 – purely to fit with the title if I’m being honest). So here are some practical packing tips, meaningful lessons, and a couple of embarrassing moments that I don’t fancy repeating.

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  1. If you’re going on a beach holiday pack a bikini/swimming trunks in your hand luggage. (It only takes once for your suitcase to be missing when you arrive in Thailand and you spend the next 3 days in a fluorescent ill-fitting bikini bought on the beach – nice).
  2. Wake up early and explore (I hate to sound like my dad, but you really do get so much more out of a day).
  3. Listen to people’s stories. It’s a common saying that everyone you meet knows something that you don’t, and someone living in a different country with a different culture is probably going to prove that saying correct.
  4. Pack less than you think you’ll need.
  5. When things go a bit wrong just remember that they usually make for better holiday stories anyway.
  6. Always take an oversized scarf or jumper on the plane – air-cons are always freezing or boiling (there’s no in between), if it’s not freezing you can use it as a pillow.
  7. Book train tickets in advance.
  8. Skip the open top bus tours and walk the city for yourself. You may not find out the factual side of the location, but you could stumble across a hidden gem that isn’t yet in the guidebooks, or find an alternative view of a main attraction (plus you can google 100 facts about the monument at home).
  9. Buy a set of little plastic bottles and fill them with your own toiletries when you’re only travelling with hand luggage and a 100ml liquid limit – so much cheaper than buying travel minis.
  10. Learn a few basic words of the local language before you arrive. It makes a better impression, it’s polite, and people usually appreciate it.
  11. Restaurants a few roads back from the main street will likely have better food at cheaper prices.
  12. Roll clothes instead of folding them – saves room.
  13. The best moments are rarely the ones that you capture for social media.
  14. Eat street food, but be cautious. (Consuming deep-fried spiders highly increases your chances of getting food poisoning – who knew?)
  15. Take advantage of the fact that your friends are at different universities and plan some cheap trips to parts of the country you haven’t yet visited – free accommodation, and visiting friends which is the main thing of course.
  16. Put cotton wool pads in compact make-up cases to stop them from shattering (If I’d learnt this one earlier I’d have saved many bronzers!)
  17. Girls/Boys trips give you some of the best laughs and teach you some of the best lessons, whether that’s during the actual holiday or the planning process.
  18. Use a google chrome incognito browser when searching for flights. Your search history can be monitored by airline companies, so do this to decrease the chances of prices increasing.
  19. Know how to use maps. Should you find yourself lost in Paris late at night with a friend who doesn’t have the best sense of direction or can’t understand metro maps, you may just be able to save the day.
  20. Sometimes it’s not about where you go but who you’re with. For as long as I can remember my Nan would take my whole family away for her birthday weekend every year. It was always to the same seaside town and I could tell you the itinerary almost to the hour. It wasn’t the most fancy of places but because of who was there I don’t think any of us would have had it any other way.
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