One of the most stressful parts of preparing to move abroad for a year was the packing and the actual travel! Suitcases and airports can be crazily overwhelming so I just wanted to go over a few things that I learned through my experience.
1) The Flight
Tickets to Europe can be EXPENSIVE. When I first started planning my trip, I had no idea how I was going to afford a $1000+ ONE WAY ticket. However, I managed to find a reasonably priced ticket just by going about my search a different way. First of all, I am a huge proponent of Expedia.com. I’ve found that their prices are usually the best and their website is easy to navigate. They make it easy to fiddle with dates and times to find the best ticket for you. However, do be careful with Expedia. Before you book your ticket, make sure your Expedia account has all of your correct personal information. I found out the night before my flight that my information was incorrect and somehow my middle name was listed as my last name on my boarding pass. So no one every has to go through what I did to get the name changed, just double check your account info before booking.
When actually looking for tickets, I found that I was able to save hundreds of dollars just by looking at flying out of another airport. Although it can sometimes be more of a pain to make the drive to a further airport, the price difference in tickets can really be worth it! I found that instead of flying out of Pittsburgh International, flying out of Toronto airport was significantly cheaper and AirCanada runs a non-stop flight right into Glasgow. I was lucky enough to have my parents joining me for a week in Glasgow, so it was not much an issue for us to make the five-hour drive to Toronto. We even found an extremely cheap place to store the car for a week (under $50!!!) who also provided a complementary shuttle over to the airport. So moral of the story here, don’t feel locked in to flying out of your local airport. You might find a cheaper flight elsewhere, or even be able to build your own layover. So before I knew my parents would be joining me, I considered booking a cheap flight to Toronto and then another flight into Glasgow. Creating my own flight plan would have still be significantly cheaper. Being flexible could safe you quite a bit!
If there was one thing I was the most stressed about aside from leaving friends and family, it was the packing. I had no idea how to fit my life into two suitcases. It can be quite overwhelming, so here’s just a couple of tips for packing for Scotland in particular. You ABSOLUTELY need rain boots and a rain jacket. Don’t wait until you get there because chances are you’ll need them as soon as you arrive. However, do not try to shove those boots in your suitcase; they are way too heavy. You should definitely wear your rain boots to the airport. Not only is it an easy way to bring a heavy object without having to carry it, they also slip on and off easily for going through security. I also tried to wear my heaviest jacket and sweater to the airport to save space and weight in my suitcase(s). When I got too warm, I just tied them around my waist. I was also pretty grateful for this when it felt like subzero temperatures on the plan. Seriously though why is it always freezing on planes?? Okay moving on, also you should pack a change of clothes in your carry-on so you have something easily accessible to put on if you’re feeling grimy after the day (and night in our case) of traveling.
Okay so let’s talk about the suitcases. Remember, for the majority of airlines, your luggage can only weigh up to 50lbs, and trust me clothes can get heavy. You need to carefully consider what outfits you will be wearing. Try to pack versatile clothes that match with a lot of outfits. And no, you can’t bring 20 pairs of shoes. I tried to stick to shoes that were waterproof and good for walking. If they aren’t comfortable, leave them at home. One travel tip that really saved me while packing was rolling my clothes. I rolled everything from shirts to socks to underwear. It’s amazing how much space you can save that way. I also took small articles of clothing that I rolled (such as underwear, socks, and camis) and stuffed them into the shoes I packed. Shoes take up a lot of space, so why not fill them with stuff? This left me with a lot more room, although the shoes were pretty heavy!
Aside from clothes, there are a few things that you should be sure to bring and others that can stay at home. Most importantly, make sure you have all of your documents easily accessible and in your carry-on. I needed SO much documentation to support my student visa, so I found it better to put everything in a folder that I kept in my carry-on. And please, please, PLEASE, if you’re told to print paperwork and show it to the immigration officer, DO IT. While entering the UK, I was shocked at some of the students that only had their passports and none of the documentation the schools provide. Some things that you should leave at home are any personal hygiene product. I only brought travel sized shampoo, conditioner, etc. to get me through the first day or so. All of those products take up precious weight in your luggage and are all easy to purchase when you arrive. Also, don’t bother bringing electronics like a hair dryer or straightener. They won’t work here even on an adapter because of the voltage difference. I was able to find a cheap curling iron at Sally Beauty and a reasonable hair dryer at Boots Pharmacy once I got here. Also just food for thought, it rains almost everyday here, so hair dryers and curling irons/straighteners are pretty useless.
Finally, don’t forget to bring a little of home with you. I chose to stay in university accommodation, so my room is pretty stark. I printed out pictures of friends and family before I left so I had something to decorate my space. Being away from home is hard enough, so you need to find a way to make your dorm have a little slice of home.
Well that’s just a few things to keep in mind. Soon I’ll talk about my first impressions of Glasgow and what I’ve learned so far!