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.
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.