Hangin' out by the train station...again
THINGS I LEARNED THIS TRIP ABOUT TRAVELING:
- Waiting around is boring. But pretty much inevitable. Try not to make more than 2 connections a day, because you end up sitting around a LOT and it's ultra boring after the first two hours (yes, even if you're hanging out with your friend/partner, the one who you have endless chatter with, plus an iPod, plus knitting...trust me, it's hard to fight the boredom)
- On European overnight trains, if you have no other option but the 6-person couchette, always reserve the top bunk, because these cabins are TINY! There is much more space (height) up there, and you can enjoy watching the havoc happening below you as others shuffle and grumble about their luggage and so on. More importantly, you will actually be able to sleep relatively well since you won't be constantly woken up by people going to the bathroom. If you're hopping from city to city frequently, you'll be grateful that you are semi-rested. And don't be afraid to ask for a correction if your ticket is printed wrong (which happened to us...and we had to go back to ask for a change in seats, which they didn't like)
- Leave yourself lots of time (more than two hours) between connecting modes of transportation in case of lateness, screw-ups, surprise schedule changes, etc.
- Don't be one of those people that don't like asking for help because you think you've got it all figured out. Ask the ticket people for help and tell them exactly which cities you want to travel between, because there might just be a direct train that you don't know about. We booked a round trip from Paris to Milan, because the schedule didn't say there was a train from Venice directly to Paris, and we ended up having to make two trips back to the station to exchange our tickets (which really pissed the agents off). Oh well, better that we didn't have to change trains twice in a day.
- If you haven't figured it out already, staying near the train station is a good idea if you have lots of morning trains to catch, or if you keep screwing up your reservations and need to go exchange them a lot.
- PACK LESS! Seriously, I should have taken out half of what I threw in the suitcase. The packing guides you read about in travel books are right. You never wear all the things you bring, because you will always choose the clothes that are most comfortable. Plus, you end up buying at least one or two items of clothing on holiday.
- Bring some sensible (running) shoes. Preferably some attractive ones that don't make you stick out like a sore thumb or feel embarassed about wearing. I know this seems like a stupid point, but I am forever caught in the situation of having the wrong footwear on vacation. (I admit, I never learn - I have at least 4 pairs of shoes I bought holiday for the same reasons) It's because I have this obsession with wearing stylish shoes on holiday, but inevitably I end up buying a pair of sensible shoes in the new locale because my toes and heels feel like they're gonna die. This time, it was a pair of black Puma sneakers (they are nice, but I didn't really need them). I am also never bringing high heels on vacation again, unless I know exactly where I'll wear them.
- Pack less books. This is probably our biggest weakness when traveling. D loves to buy books, and acquires a few on each trip. Between the new books, the travel guides, the magazines, and other reading, we're like a mini library. And I don't have the heart to just throw away books. And I don't like the idea of ripping apart guide books, either, which is suggested by some travel experts. It would certainly reduce the weight, but then you end up with a bunch of pages that look like garbage that you have to throw away. What a waste! I still haven't figured this one out, so let me know what ideas you have.
- Leave the hair dryers and ceramic straightening irons at home. They're bulky, kind of heavy, and pretty useless if you stay somewhere that doesn't have the right sockets. I couldn't use it in Paris because the sockets had a ground. In Milan, when I actually had the right converter for the right socket, the whole thing started smoking and smelling very, very bad and I had to leave it behind (wah).
- Try to stay at least 3 days in a city, because you never know what the weather will do, or when your body will decide to get sick. If rainy and sick are both in the picture, you will be seriously grumpy. It probably won't rain three in a row (unless you live in Columbus, Ohio), and you will probably have at least several 'good' hours each day even when you're sick. Milan wasn't as fun because we were wet and chilly the whole time, plus we were coughing up a disgusting storm. The weather was just getting better as we were leaving, which was maddening. We were lucky in Venice, but it would have really sucked if our one day was a rainy, dreary one.