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Your Guide To The Perfect International Weekend Trip

Around The World In 80 Hours

Travel

Have you ever had that moment in the midst of your 9-to-5 grind – dealing with a long day of phone calls, difficult personalities, and never-ending emails – that you stopped, looked around, and said:

"I need to get out of here."


You didn't necessarily know where you were going but you knew you were going somewhere?

Last December, after working a Saturday and several late nights, I was tiredt. I felt strangely claustrophobic in my own city and felt an indescribable need to get out of New York. As I was scrolling down my Instagram feed, I came across several photos of Oxford Circus and Buckingham Palace and was swept away in this fantasy of sipping tea with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Before I knew it, I had impulsively booked a 4-day trip to London, England. Before you judge me, let me mention that my ticket was only $380 round trip. Yes, you heard me.

When I first told my friends, most were confused but not totally surprised. 2018 was my year of spontaneous trips – Switzerland, France, Mexico, Vegas – all further feeding into my growing travel obsession. However, many of my friends complained that I would not be able to fully enjoy my London trip given the short time frame. Such a short trip abroad surely had to be a waste of money.

Wrong.

This mini-trip, just 4 days, was everything I needed and more to recharge and get a change of scenery. The week of my trip, I flew out of New York City Thursday night (US time) and arrived in London Friday morning (UK time). After taking a nap through the afternoon, I was rested enough to go out and explore all of Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday, before flying out later Monday afternoon. By the time I arrived back in NYC, it was the early evening (US time) and I was able to sleep through the night, allowing me to be refreshed for work the next day.

Oxford Circus, London, UK

While I have been to London several times, like New York City, there is always something new to discover and entirely new things to try every time you return. On this particular trip, rather than fighting the touristy crowds swarming Big Ben and the London Eye, I met friends for brunch in Shoreditch, went to a *dope* late night rollerskating party, and took a hot tub boat cruise down the Thames River. It was incredible.

Although this London getaway was my shortest international trip to date, it certainly made my Top 3. Let's just say there are a lot more international weekend trips in my future.

Here are a few tips to help you plan your own international weekend trip.

Book Cheap Flights When You First See Them

Have you ever seen a ridiculously cheap flight, be it domestic or international, and you put off booking the flight just for it to double in price the next day? In my experience, I have a "book now, figure out the details later" approach to travel. With my London trip, I booked the flight in mid-November and didn't nail down my itinerary until a week before my trip. It's not an entirely foolproof method to travel, but 75% of the travel bargains I've secured have come from booking cheap flights before the tickets sold out or increased in price. Sites like Skiplagged, Skycanner, and Hopper can also be great resources for finding cheap and "hidden flights".

Don't Cram Too Much Into Your Itinerary

This just might be the key to short trips period: Do less. It can be so tempting to cram a million and one adventures into your 3- or 4-day trip, especially if you haven't been to a particular city before, but try to resist. As queen of doing the most, I acknowledge my own hypocrisy and admit that I have often tried to see everything in one trip and ended up biting off more than I could chew. More often than not, cramming too many activities in a mini-trip will cause you to crash, meaning you will either lose a day or two on your trip sleeping, or you will have a hard time readjusting to work/school upon your return.

I can honestly say that I had more fun and was a lot more present in each one of the activities I engaged in this time around by making the decision to do less. Less was truly more.

Pack Light, Pack Smart

On a similar note, don't cram too much in your suitcase – travel light. I flew Low-Fare Economy via Norwegian Airlines, which is like the equivalent of flying Spirit Airlines of London. No drinks, no snacks, no leg room. I never said I traveled like the Kardashians, okurrrr.

One catch with taking cheap flights is that you are often limited in weight and often suitcase size. My combined luggage had a weight maximum of 10 kg (22 lbs), which is totally feasible if you pack smart and pick outfit pieces that can be worn multiple ways. But, always read the fine print. I misunderstood that for Norwegian, combined luggage also includes your purse/ tote bag, leading me to pay $100 in overweight fees at the time of check in. Talk about heartbreak. Cheap flights can add up in different ways, so be aware.

Maximize Friends & Family

There is nothing I love more than traveling to locations where I have friends or family. Why? Free room and board. I'm like the Maxine Shaw (Living Single) of international and domestic travel. Circumventing hotel costs when able is a major game changer since you can reallocate those funds towards entertainment or even additional flight costs. When crashing with friends is not a reliable option, do your research! I have found great success in finding cheap (nice!) places on Airbnb and know several friends who recommend European hostels.

Plan Your Next Trip

Feel tired? Feel inspired? Book your next international weekend trip today!

Featured image by Getty Images, photos provided by Writer Lydia Lee.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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