Almost unbelievably, it has been a full year since Richard and I left New Zealand. We’ve had an action packed 12 months filled with a remarkable amount of travel, fascinating experiences and excellent food. Life in London itself has not been a smooth ride, pitted with stress and frustration that has exhausted us more than any of our travels could be capable of. These experiences have hardened our soft antipodean skins and taught us a great deal about the amazing country we left. Half way through our adventure, we’re torn between a desire to return to the comforts down under, and the knowledge that there is so much we haven’t explored yet – 12 months to go!
As evidence of what we’ve learned, I want to take this opportunity to share a few travel tips from two people who have quickly become accustomed to airport, train and plane life.
- No need for checked bags!
We have not had checked bags on any of our trips so far in Europe. By packing smart you can fit everything you need for a few days, even a week, into a cabin-sized bag which means you can purchase cheaper tickets and also don’t waste time waiting at the baggage carousel when you arrive. Often airlines will say that on busy flights, you can check your bags into the hold for free but we have never taken them up on this offer due to the time factor. It’s easier to have everything in one bag and then be on your way when you land – waste as little of your exploration time as possible!
Something to watch out for: when flying on low cost airlines (e.g. EasyJet), it is worthwhile making sure that you only have ONE bag. That means no extra handbags or backpacks. These airlines will often make you try to squeeze everything into one bag before boarding, or make you check in one of your bags if you try to get an extra one on. Save yourself the fuss and get it all nicely packed into your suitcase before you get to the boarding gate.
- Have somewhere to eat on arrival
During several of our earlier trips we decided to wing it on arrival, believing we would find something to eat with no trouble. This is not always the case, particularly when you’re unfamiliar with a city. Now, I always make sure to mark one or two places in advance so when we arrive we have somewhere we know we’ll get something to eat. This is probably most important for people prone to hangry-ness.
Another point is to make sure you know where a local shop is where you can buy water – it’s very easy to be dehydrated when you travel!
- Consider the costs
Initially Richard and I felt out of Gatwick airport because we flew EasyJet all the time. The flights might be cheaper but we realised that the time and money we spent travelling to the airport wasn’t trivial. We would have to wake up at 3am or 4am to catch an Uber (too early for the tube) to Victoria train station and get on a Gatwick Express train. The name ‘Gatwick Express’ is somewhat misleading since it rarely left as frequently as advertised and always took longer than the promised 30 minutes. Also on several occasions the trains weren’t running due to ‘engineering works’ meaning our journey home took even longer (on the ‘Easy Bus’, which is actually a van…). The extra time was often longer than the flight itself, and the additional costs were no paltry sum. We’ve since clued on that when we take into consideration these factors, it’s about the same price for us to fly out of Heathrow airport on British Airways. Lesson learned.
The travel bug is real and we have caught it big time. There are so many places to explore over the coming year and I’m really looking forward to sharing them with you all.