As I briefly mentioned before, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Jonathan in Spain for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. I'm still getting over the jet lag (ugh), but I'm so excited to share some of my bookish and not-so-bookish travel essentials. First, let me say that Spain is amazing. I would endure any amount of jet lag to go back, even tomorrow. It was that great. We did a whirlwind trip with stops in Madrid, Seville, Málaga, Granada and Barcelona. Each city had its own merits, but I was captivated by Seville most of all, and the Gaudí sights in Barcelona.
Because this was my first European vacation (hopefully of many!), I did a lot of research about not only our travel destinations, but also on how to survive international flights. I'd love to share some of my travel learnings with you.
- If you can afford it, spring for business class tickets. For someone like me who has trouble sleeping on planes, having a fully reclining seat made all of the difference in me not only getting sleep, but starting my vacation off on the right foot.
- Even if business class isn't in your budget, small things like a sleep mask, ear plugs and compression socks will make your life much easier. Also, even if you don't like to wear pajamas or workout clothes in public like me, I highly recommend changing into something more comfortable on the plane before going to sleep.
- Don't skip your other nighttime rituals on an overnight flight. Taking the time to remove makeup, take out contacts and brush my teeth before settling down made me feel ready for sleep and also more refreshed upon waking.
- Bring snacks. While airlines will provide snacks, they're not always healthy or appetizing. Packing a few key snacks like trail mix, peanut butter, crackers and granola bars will keep you full and happy on a long flight, and they're also great to have on hand between meals on the entire trip.
- Charge your Kindle or bring a book. (You knew there had to be a bookish twist.) My international flights did not have wifi, so I made sure to download several books before leaving. Check with your local library to see if they have ebook lending. It's been a huge bonus for me to be able to "check out" free Kindle books. I'm a big fan of paper books too, but as a quick reader, the number of paper books needed to sustain a ten day vacation would have taken up all of the space in my bag.
- Find a travel guide you like, and bring it along. My phone didn't have service in Spain, so we relied heavily on our travel guide and the included maps. I looked at a lot of different books before going to Spain, but the one I brought with me was from PBS legend Rick Steves. His books rank sights in order of priority, provide sample itineraries, and give practical advice about crowd-beating and cultural norms. While there were one or two misses (no one's perfect), overall we found this book to be a lifesaver. When we go back to Europe, we'll be bringing Rick with us again.
- If you're not a native speaker of the destination's language, make an effort and look into language apps. We found everyone to be very gracious and helpful, especially when we made an effort to communicate in the native language. I also downloaded SpanishDict before our trip. Their in-app dictionary doesn't require wifi, so it was great for looking up random words in the moment.
- Just go with it! We were lucky to have minimal travel delays, but as with any vacation, there are always surprises or things that don't exactly go your way, especially if there's a language barrier. Having a positive attitude and not sweating the small stuff allowed us to make the most of this incredible vacation.
What are your international travel tips? I feel like we learned so much on this vacation, and I can't wait to do it again!