How To: Travel on Weekends like a Pro

This past month has gone by fast. That is most likely due to the fact that I’ve been traveling on my weekends. I’ve been to Berlin, Brussels, Italy (Rome, Florence, and Bologna), and London all since mid-February.

Each city has been amazing, and I find myself critiquing and assessing each one I visit; are these streets too big? What is the biking infrastructure like? Is there life and eyes on the street? Can I imagine myself living here?

For example, Berlin was a super cool city, but I couldn’t deal with the city scale. The streets and buildings were way too big, making the city fee intimidating and imposing. Italy was beautiful but didn’t fulfill its potential for utilization of public space. Where were the benches or steps?!?!

Thank to my urban studies mind, I can’t help but leave with these takeaways. It can make my travelling experience different from others’, but it helps me realize what I like and what I don’t like in cities.

So, what else do I do besides critique cities? Well, I go to museums, parks, popular streets, go on walking tours or boat tours, eat local delicacies, or just wander around neighborhoods

From traveling to so many different cities in such a short amount of time, I think I’ve become pretty good at planning successful weekend trips. So, here are my tips for planning a weekend trip:

  • Be sure to book museums and tours, but…
    • Don’t overbook yourself
    • Scheduling every single second will lead to a stressed experience and leaves out the possibility for spontaneity
  • Give yourself some free time to explore!
    • These are my favorite experiences because I get a sense of the different neighborhoods and stumble upon hidden gems – cafes, bookstores, local stationary stores
    • Eg. Wandering around SoHo in London was the best way to spend an afternoon. I loved exploring the little alleyways that led to a secluded courtyard. Made me want to spend days just familiarizing myself with the neighborhood since it has so much to offer
    • Eg. While in Brussels, we were lucky to experience really nice weather! Wanting to take advantage of the sun and warmth, my friend and grabbed some food and drinks from a local supermarket and headed to a nearby park. When we got there, we were met with tons of people – friends, families, teenagers – who had a similar idea. It was so fun to see locals enjoying their city while relaxing in the sun after a busy day of walking around
  • It’s okay to travel by yourself!
    • I had a free weekend during travel week 1 where I planned on meeting up with a friend in Rome on Sunday. Instead of staying in Copenhagen until then, I decided to go to Rome early and spend two and half days there by myself.
    • I enjoyed making my own schedule and doing what I wanted – I got to treat myself to a nice dinner where I met some very kind strangers
    • I also experienced some discomfort because I spent a couple of hours without any conversation. This can be a lonely experience, so I had to push myself to talk to the waiters and bartenders, and anyone else I came into contact with in order to get that human contact
  • Ask Locals for tips on what to do!
    • While tripadvisor and lonelyplanet are great tools for tourists, I have found that I get a very commercialized and inauthentic experience
    • I luckily had some family friends in a few of the cities I visited so I asked them for what they recommended I see/do. This way I got to see some really cool and unique things that were not super popular, giving me a better idea of what daily life is like in these cities
      • In London, my family friends recommended I go to the Columbia road flower market. As per their recommendation, I grabbed a pastry at a local bakery and headed to the market. I had an amazing time! I loved seeing all the flowers and other booths set up. It was a great way to spend my last morning in London
  • Stick to a budget
    • Check out skyscanner for cheap flights and utilize the extensive train system around Europe for deals on transportation
    • If you’re going with friends, try a private room in a hostel. This way you still have a budget accommodation but still get some privacy and don’t have to worry about living with strangers!
      • If you’re a bit more adventurous, then do a shared room! I know people who have met some very cool people at hostels so it can be a great social opportunity

I’ve become a pro in packing for two and half days in both my backpack and a cabin roll-on. Since budget airlines can be notoriously strict with baggage allowance (looking @ you Ryanair), I’ve had to cram and strategically pack so that I don’t have to worry about size and weight while on the go.

Packing for a weekend trip:

  • Pack clothes that you can mix and match, rather than plan daily outfits (you KNOW something’s going to come up that makes this seemingly smart plan fail – eg. Weather)
    • For example, stick to a color scheme so that all your shirts/sweaters work with your pants
  • Bring comfortable walking shoes! I cannot stress this enough. My feet have died about six times already and have gone through three boxes of band-aids so do yourself a favor and invest in supportive, cute, and comfortable shoes
  • Give yourself some space – if you’re anything like me you can’t resist buying a scarf or postcards. Make sure you leave enough space in your bag so that you can fit in abroad purchases
  • Roll your clothes! Forget folding! Rolling is the way to go to save space and see all of your clothing
  • You don’t need as much as you think you do. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve brought clothes that I haven’t worn so be sure to only bring what you need
  • Keep your liquids in a small, clear plastic bag
    • This will help you move through security quickly
  • Bring an umbrella! The weather app is never accurate so bring an umbrella just in case!  

Traveling is a great part of study abroad because you get to experience other cultures and new environments. While I highly recommend taking advantage of this opportunity, I am also really grateful for my weekends in Copenhagen. After March, I’ll only be traveling once more for Easter break, but otherwise plan on enjoying Copenhagen weekends since hopefully the weather with be nicer (fingers crossed!). I’ve been in Copenhagen for two months now, and still have so much to see so it’s important to find a balance between traveling and exploring locally.

Until next time,

Anthea

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