You are a Grown-Ass Woman, but you are not a millionaire. While you would never refer to yourself as a “diva on a dime” or a “recessionista” or anything else that “think pieces” are trying to call money-savvy ladies these days, you are for sure interested in a champagne vacation on a beer budget. (I almost typed “beer bidet,” which I think it is fair to say that NO ONE wants, but stay with me.) So, this is going to be Europe-based because budget travel in Canada is not a thing—VIA, Air Canada, I am looking at you guys with my grumpiest “You know what you did” face—and also because I don’t know if I’ve mentioned…I barely EVER talk about it…but like, I live in London, you know? Like in England? It’s not a big deal, it’s just a place I live. Pretty near a castle, actually, since you asked!*
Anyway, if you happen to find yourself overseas and are interested in doing some very cheap jet-setting, here are some tips—loosely based on the somewhat disastrous trip I took to the Netherlands last weekend—to help you do just that…without pulling all of your hair out. Here we go:
Plan ahead! (…plane ahead? Is there something there?) (No.)
The cheapest flight is not always the cheapest option overall. A $12 flight isn’t $12 if you have to take a cab to the airport because none of the trains are running at 4am. I know this because I took a £20 taxi to a £10 train at 3am the other night, and arrived at my destination so delirious from lack of sleep that I just got on any train reading “Centraal,” leading me on a delightful one hour mini-visit of The Hague when I was actually trying to get to Amsterdam. Also “the station Starbucks” is not a good meeting place because every train station in the entire world has a Starbucks and you will cry into your “moka” on the phone while trying to caffeinate your brain back to its functioning self. Also everything from train tickets to museum passes is cheaper if you buy in advance, online, and especially with three or more people. Think about it.
Would you like to buy travel insurance? No. Would you like to book a hotel through us? No. Would you like to buy extra leg room? A selected seat? Priority boarding? Overpriced plane snacks? No, no, no. You are TLC and every possible option that costs money is a scrub. You don’t want none!
Presume nothing, look it up 1,000,000% of the time.
You know what they say: when you presume you make a pres out of you and me. Also when you presume you end up rifling through your unmentionables at Gatwick airport at 5am, cursing the name of EasyJet and causing real emotional disturbance to the elderly couple nearby, in an effort to cram your purse into your carry-on because OF COURSE the “one carry-on bag” policy INCLUDES your purse, even though that is not luggage, it is a purse, which is basically a part of you and there’s almost nothing in it and oh HOW DARE YOU, EasyJet, how DARE you, oh get over it sir, it’s like you’ve never seen pink underwear before, I am going to Amsterdam, HELLO. If you have any questions about luggage limitations or seat arrangements or how early you need to be there, do NOT just assume you know how it works because you’ve taken a plane before. Budget travel is like regular travel but worse. If regular travel is being late for class, budget travel is being late for the wrong class and also you’re naked and your crush is there and you Hilary Duff-fall in front of him. Plus you can’t take more than 15kg of luggage, and the teacher is really fussy about weight distribution and assigned seating. I’ve lost this metaphor.
Go with the flow, yo!
Maybe your flight will move gates three times. Maybe you will get on the wrong inter-terminal monorail and end up zipping back and forth between 1 and 3, looking for 2, like a human ping pong ball. Maybe you will be seated in the middle of a three-seat row between two 20-year-old construction workers named Charles and Harry who are going to Amsterdam because they “love to party,” and they really want to tell you how much. Just go with it. This too shall pass, plus it only cost $25 so why are you complaining, some kids don’t get to go to Europe, etc.
Related: be a sport.
Charles and Harry (undercover princes??) will offer to buy you shots. It will be 6:15am and you will not have been to bed yet. Say yes. Trev, the world’s bitchiest cabin steward—whose actual nametag says “Trev,” like what even—will open a bottle of Jack Daniels WITH HIS TEETH and all of a sudden you will be in Amsterdam on a cozy train to The Hague. It’s fine. Embrace the nightmare. Lean into it! The people who work for these airlines and hostels deal with a lot of garbage. Plus they did not invent that baggage rule and it is not their fault that you missed your first train. Be nice to the Trevs of the world—they have to wear orange polyester to work.
Good luck, travelers! Oh, and a fun tip for anyone traveling anywhere at any cost: describing yourself as having “wanderlust” is embarrassing for everyone involved.
*There is mold on four out of four walls in my bedroom** right now
**My bedroom is a walk-in closet*** with a bed in it
***LIVING THE DREAM
Follow Monica on twitter: @monicaheisey