On March 29th I headed off to Ireland to start my Easter break adventures with my best friend, which also included stays in Cardiff and London. It’s been almost a week since my return, enough time to fully recover from and reflect on my travels. I thought I’d share some travel tips based mostly on our mistakes and successes, but also what I have learned over the years.
1) Buy tickets for major legs of your trip ahead of time. This was definitely the biggest mistake that we made. When we first looked up ticket prices for a bus from Cardiff to London they cost £5.5, but we didn’t want to commit to a time, so we waited to buy them at the station before boarding. The price at that point? £27 each. Yikes!
2) A lot of money can be saved by eating cheap. Hostels usually have a free breakfast. Take advantage of that. For lunch we bought food at grocery stores, primarily bread and cheese. It was amazingly cheap, and plenty filling. For dinners we would buy something cheap (like soup) at the store to cook at the hostel. Of course it is also fun to treat yourself to a night out to try local cuisine; just keep that to a minimum.
3) Look into CouchSurfing. We CouchSurfed in Cardiff and it ended up being one of the best travel experiences I’ve ever had! CouchSurfing is a website where you make a profile and then either offer your couch to travelers or request hosts. We ended up having a room to ourselves and the nicest host ever who made us breakfast every morning. Best part: It’s free! Start building your profile early and add anyone who you know has a profile as a friend. This will increase your chances of getting hosted. If you have any hesitations, look for hosts with many references who are verified and/or vouched-for.
4) Go on free tours when possible. We never made it to a free city tour, which is a shame. They can give you a good glimpse of the major sights as well as information that you wouldn’t learn otherwise. Also take advantage of tours at attractions. We went on two tours at the Tower of London and one at the Globe Theater, each of which taught us new things and enhanced the whole experience.
5) Look for deals. The bus that we took to London offered reduced admission to certain attractions in London (like the Tower of London) as long you we kept the bus ticket. This got us in to the Tower for less than half the listed price. The Tower of London also includes a voluntary donation in their prices, so check if any admission prices include that and decline to save money. Also look up what museums are free in the cities that you visit. And always look for/ask about student prices!
6) Don’t over-plan, but don’t under-plan. We obviously knew what cities we’d be in when, but we usually planned what we were doing each day the night before. You should know what there is to do in the area, and then decide when you want to see what. However, do make sure that there is enough there to fill your time. By the end of our stay in Cardiff we were lacking in ideas. Luckily our host was able to help.
7) Don’t be afraid to ask for help! This is something my mom is always telling me: “Ask. The worst they can do is say no (or in this case “I don’t know”). If you are lost, ask for directions. If you need an idea of what to do, ask the reception at your hostel (or go to a tourist information center which is always a good stop wherever you are). If you are confused about bus times, ask a bus driver. Seriously, don’t waste time being timid. Believe me, I’m very shy, so this was hard for me. Just remember, when traveling there really is no such thing as a stupid question. When will you see these people again?
8) Last but not least: Take care of yourself. When traveling it is easy to get sick. I came back from the trip with a cold. Wash your hands more than usual and carry hand sanitizer to use before eating. Eat a piece of fruit every day and sleep in until 9 some days. Also, be nice to your feet. Yes walking is a good way to save money. But it’s not worth it if you are limping to the British Museum.
I hope this was helpful!