Last week I returned from a short international trip. United Kingdom, Denmark, and Sweden in seven days. We travelled for over an hour every day except my last full day in the United Kingdom. It was tiring, but so worth it.
I have been to Mexico before and went to the United Kingdom last year, but somehow I managed to make a few rookie mistakes of varying importance.
I DIDN’T PRINT MY RETURN TICKET
When I landed in the United Kingdom, I thought I'd breeze through passport control with my carry on bag in tow, hurry and get to Luke before I burst with anticipation. However, I got hung up a bit at passport control. I went up to the open desk and began what became a near 10 minute interaction. The man intensely questioned me about my occupation, where I was staying, Luke's occupation, the last time I had seen him, if I had been to the UK before, how I planned to support myself during my stay and my plans to return home. He asked for my return ticket, which I hadn't printed because I got my boarding pass at the Icelandair desk at DIA. I was unable to connect to the wifi at Gatwick Airport to show him the email confirmation of my return trip. "You understand you're asking an immigration officer to just believe you that you have plans to return. You said you've been here before, why wouldn't you know to have your return ticket?" he asked over and over again. "I'm sorry. I didn't have to show my return ticket last time. I didn't anticipate that I would be unable to connect to wifi to get into my email," I replied, my hands shaking as I tried to refresh my email yet again. He eventually let me through, but I was thoroughly shaken up. Lesson learned: Print your full travel itinerary and keep it in an easily accessible place while travelling. I wasn't questioned that way when I landed in the UK from Copenhagen, but you never know who you're going to speak too. And while you're at it, maybe even bring bank statements showing you have financial means to support your trip. I had read that before I left, but naively believed I wouldn't be questioned on my finances for just a week-long trip. Honestly, I don't know what you do if you buy a one-way ticket to Europe. My guess would be you need to show you have plans to leave that specific country (whether it be a plane or train ticket), but please don't take my word for it.
I DIDN’T GET MY BOARDING PASS STAMPED AS NON-EU AT THE TICKET COUNTER WHEN CHECKING IN
I was travelling with someone who lives in the EU, so I followed him through the Luton airport when we flew to Copenhagen. We didn't check in for our flight at the counter because we had already checked in with Ryanair online beforehand and had our boarding passes printed. When we got to the gate to have our boarding passes and passports checked, the woman told me that I should have checked in at the counter to get a stamp as non-EU before boarding. We were sure to do that at the Copenhagen airport when flying back. And let's talk for a second about how annoying it is to fly with someone who gets to breeze through passport control and you're held up behind people being questioned and are questioned yourself.
I DIDN’T TELL MY BANK I’D BE IN MY LAYOVER COUNTRY
I was sure to contact my bank before I left the country. That's a travelling must! I told them I would be headed to the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Sweden. I was exchanging currency to have cash and Luke also has a card that gives him the ability fluidly exchange currency, so I wasn't anticipating using my card much, if at all. Still, you can never be to careful. So when I landed in Iceland for my layover, I quickly realised three things: 1) It was lunchtime. 2) I was starving. 3) I didn't have Icelandic Kroner and I hadn't told my bank I'd be in Iceland. I decided to risk it and bought lunch at a little grab-and-go in the terminal with my card. After all, it was the last day of my trip and I was headed back to the States. If my card got cancelled or was frozen, at least I'd be home and would have other means to pay for things. I definitely had some anxiety about it and it almost stopped me from buying anything. So next time when I travel to the United Kingdom, I'll be sure to include Germany and Canada when I talk to my bank since my layovers are in Munich and Toronto.
I DIDN’T CARRY WATER AT ALL TIMES
Sorry, but it's just not fashionable to attach your faded Nalgene to your cute cross body bag, am I right? But that was a huge mistake I made. I know how much water my body is used to getting throughout the day, and that's not considering walking through various European cities and raking up over 15,000 steps before dinner. Water isn't served at European restaurants like it is in the States. We were either charged for it, only given one small glass that was never refilled, or told they only sold bottled or sparkling water. And most of the time we weren't even ordering other drinks. This may be TMI, but I have a history of getting UTI's while travelling because I'm not drinking enough water (in the States, it's probably because the local water isn't as good as Colorado's). Luckily I didn't get one, but I was often parched and or spending money on bottled water because my water bottle was back in the hotel. So whether it's cute or convenient or not (spoiler alert: it's neither), carry water every where you go and fill up when you can.
I SECOND-GUESSED WHAT I WAS PACKING BEFORE I LEFT
My mission was to pack for a week in Europe during the winter in just a carry on. Mission: accomplished. But it was a tight fit. And it was a tight fit because I second-guessed myself and my plan to make a week's worth of outfits out of 10 items. I only had one item that I didn't wear, but I could have made do with leaving at least 2 others at home, including a pair of shoes. Had I wanted to get anything while abroad, I wouldn't have had room in my suitcase to bring it back to the States. In addition, I over-packed my rucksack and ended up leaving a book with Luke. (And more conveniently all of my carry on toiletries because my next trip will be back to visit him, so I won't need them in the meantime.)
I CHOSE STYLE OVER COMFORT
As I just mentioned, I over-packed and took a pair of shoes I didn't need. I wore the unplanned pair on the plane, so I ended up walking around London for hours in them. A few hours in, I was sure my adorable English booties were filling with blood. (They weren't.) I relished any moment to sit down and took them off as soon as we got back in the car, subjecting Luke to the wonderful smell of my socks that I had been wearing for over 24 hours. I didn't wear those shoes again until I flew home, but my feet were sore and tender the rest of the trip. I took a pair of simple black flats that proved to be my most comfortable shoes and my beloved Everlane oxfords, that did pretty well, but I needed plasters (BandAids) for my heels thanks to my other shoes. Last time I was in England, I went for more of an athleisure look pairing my black and gold Nikes with jeans and tees. Needless to say, my feet were in much better shape. However, I've got my eye on a pair of Allbirds for a good travel investment. They're durable, comfortable, stylish, and washable.