Before you hop on this journey to passport renewal utopia, let’s just say it’s rather on brand for me to take some out-of-the-box measures to get shit done (I play by the rules, but this passport renewal experience isn’t necessarily the vibe for everyone). Tl;dr: if you have a real thirst for international travel, some extra airline miles, and friends with couches in various major US cities, this could be the solution for you!
As you might imagine, I didn’t do too much international traveling in the last year-ish. I was lucky enough to post up in Bermuda and work remotely last fall with an old Bermudian college pal, Caitlin (and holy smokes, shout-out to all my night owls—being 1 hour ahead of ET, when you work east coast hours, was a game changer). Whilst in Bermuda in October 2020, my passport was expiring, and there was an impending hurricane ahead of my return to NYC, so I was able to go get an emergency passport (valid for 1 year) issued at the US consulate on the island, in order to get home to Brooklyn.
Fast-forward to September 2021, Labor Day weekend for Caitlin’s wedding in Bermuda. I had not even thought about my passport since I was last in Bermuda, thanks to, you guessed it, COVID. For US citizens, Bermuda merely requires that your passport is valid for the duration of your stay. So, my lil emergency issued passport, expiring in October 2021, worked just fine for me to take my 90-minute flight from NYC to the island.
A few days into my trip, I received a call… from Paris. And, when Paris calls, you answer! This full story is for another time, but I was in the thick of some *virtual* discussions for an exciting new project, and needed to pop to France the following week to talk shop, IRL.
Unlike Bermuda, most countries require 3-6 months’ passport validity beyond your arrival date in order for you to enter their country (basically, so they don’t have to deal with you getting stranded on their turf). France requires 90 days. Meanwhile, I had just over 30 days validity left on mine…
Before COVID, there were third party services that you could pay a fuckton of money (~$400-$1000) and they’d help rush you a passport in 24 hours to a week’s time. Those services are no más—you now need to work directly with the US government to renew that bad boy.
Pro tip: If you have any interest in getting it renewed in this lifetime, do NOT mail it in via the standard renewal process. AND before you waste 30-60 minutes of your life calling to make an appointment, ensure you’re eligible for expedited renewal. You either need proof of an emergency or urgent travel (aka a booked international flight that’s within 72 hours of your (hopefully) soon-to-be passport renewal appointment).
To Get Your Passport Renewed In 72 Hours or Less, Follow The Steps Below:
- Pull up your confirmation email for your upcoming travel
- Call the national passport information center: 8774872778
- Wait on the phone for like 45 minutes—it sucks, but it’s worth it
- Explain your situation (i.e. your passport is about to expire and you need to travel abroad on X date). Just get to the point; there’s no need to embellish (also that’d be illegal and bad karma).
- The rep will ask for your date of travel, destination and booking confirmation code. If they don’t have an appointment available in your city, ask if any other offices in the US have availability. (This is the step where you have to be particularly committed—I flew from NYC to Houston, as it was the only office in the country that had an opening due to a cancelation.)
- Once your appointment is confirmed, they give you a confirmation code (write it down! And don’t lose it). They will give you a courtesy call 24 hours before your scheduled slot to remind you.
Prepping For The Big Day
You’ll need the below items for your appointment. I was able to take care of all of this down in Houston one day in advance:
- Passport photos
- Most CVS/Walgreens stores offer this. Check their website, but also (and I know this is hard) give them a call first, because they may have changed the services offered due to the you-know-what.
- Completed form DS-82
- Application fee (this varies slightly—mine was $60). They accept exact cash or major credit cards accepted on site
- Here’s a handy dandy fee calculator 🤓
- Printed proof of your international travel (aka flight confirmation)
- Your existing passport book (aka expired or soon to be expired passport)
The Big Day!
Just like any important meeting, show up a little early! The appointment is inside a government building—bring your ID and all of the aforementioned items, but travel lightly if you don’t want to get slowed down checking in with security (you’ll have to remove electronics, jewelry, etc).
My passport renewal appointment was scheduled for 9/8 at 8am. I showed up at 7:30am, and met some new pals on the security line who had similar stories as I. One dude was a fellow Brooklynite who was as wild/curious/reckless (call it what you will) enough as I to fly down to HTX to get things sorted for his upcoming trip to Mexico City.
After bidding farewell to my electronic cigarette at security, I headed upstairs and was ushered to a counter where I submitted my docs, paid the fee, and was given a receipt stamped with a pickup time of that same day at 1:30pm.
Depending on when your travel date is, your pick up time will be either that same day or the following days ahead of your travel. When you return to pick it up, they’ll have you verify that all the info in your passport book looks good—then you’re good to go!
Sure enough, 1pm rolled around, and I had a brand new, crispy passport in hand for my 9/9/21 flight to Paris!
Here’s the thing: best case scenario (which is what happened), I got my passport in time to cross the pond. However, worst case scenario, if things didn’t work out (i.e i forgot one of my forms, etc. etc., who knows), I was able to explore Houston, a new city I’d never been to before.
Images: Manu Prats / Stocksy; Jaime Getto
If I was to describe my pre-pandemic life, you could easily tell what I did for a living simply by seeing the suitcase by my door and the heavily stamped passport. Up until COVID-19 decided to decimate all that we held dear, I made my living as a travel writer for the past three or four years. But now that the world has come to an indefinite standstill and we’re making like hideaway hobbits, I’ve had to pull a pandemic pivot with my career, like countless others in my industry and many others.
But if there’s been a silver lining to the whole “my adventures as a travel writer coming to an abrupt halt” thing, it’s been that I’ve acquired a whack-load of introspection. I’ve taken some time to reflect upon the places I’ve traveled to (nearly 70 countries) and it dawned on me that many of my travel habits were actually toxic. This realization came from an unlikely source: my pregnancy.
In lockdown, my husband and I were grateful to have some solace in a safe space to strengthen our relationship (and as a result, why we decided to try for a baby). But in pre-pandemic times, I hardly ever saw him. I was hopping on a plane every 2-3 weeks, chasing foreign destinations, deadlines, and pitches. However, what was once exhilarating quickly became exhausting. I was always in a frenzy. While my body was physically in Abu Dhabi, for instance, my mind was elsewhere. I was obsessed with chasing that elusive notion of being a “jet setter”, someone who could boast about how she visited X amount of countries in a short period of time. And I’m not a travel influencer by any stretch of the imagination, but clearly something was causing me to dread the feeling of having my feet on solid ground in one place for too long.
Very quickly, travel became a drug I was hooked on—it became an almost toxic game of being proud that I was never home, that I was always in an “exotic” destination. As a result, I lost touch with my value systems and identity. I missed out on major milestones like loved ones’ weddings, and my connection to my homeland of Toronto, Canada dwindled. It was like I was pretending it was “cool” to treat my city like a layover, rather than a place to put down roots.
Why did I succumb to this behavior? TBH, I think it was easier to interact with strangers in foreign places. There’s nothing at stake, no risk of judgment or fear of their reactions. Additionally, at that point in my life, I was going through a LOT of life changes. I was severing ties with abusive individuals, attending more intensive and draining therapy sessions, getting used to my fiancé’s side of the family and contending with all those new dynamics, feeling pressured to have and honor large wedding traditions and plan the wedding, dealing with the expectation of moving into a larger place shortly after, being asked about having babies and starting a family—all at the same time. It was all-consuming and overwhelming. It was too much for me. I went from a life that was manageable and comfortable, me and my boyfriend living in our cozy apartment, to suddenly being handed this chaotic tsunami of life-altering stuff. So what did I do? I escaped. I fled the country as often as possible. But clearly, this was not a sustainable solution, because every time I touched down from my latest trip, real life was becoming more fractured with many unresolved issues I didn’t want to deal with.
The worst part was that this travel-based blur never fully afforded me a sense of purpose: I didn’t appreciate the opportunity enough to absorb the incredible nuances of each destination I was in, which included the people, culture, and beauty that surrounded me. I remember being on a four-hour sailing excursion in Croatia bobbling along the Adriatic Sea. Instead of soaking up the sights, sounds, and smells, I felt frustrated, restless, and anxious. I decided that this was a waste of time and that I could have used these precious minutes instead to be on land and hit up as many landmarks as possible. I was too preoccupied with this arbitrary checklist, and having a “what’s next” mentality almost stopped me from enjoying it at all.
I guess it’s true what they say about getting your priorities in check when you have a mentally and physically life-altering experience such as having a tiny human grow inside you. The surge of hormones, the more frequent Zoom sessions/calls with my midwife, the slew of regular phone/virtual therapy sessions—all coupled with being in lockdown—acted as the catalyst to the introspection I needed to reflect upon my life. Lockdown has been a blessing in disguise for me. Without it, I wouldn’t have had the time or opportunity to figure out my travel habits weren’t good for me. Ultimately, I realized that I need to grow up and be a responsible adult (and future parent) who can teach my child about travel being an incredible privilege and not a right. I’ve also realized that less is truly more. When it comes to exploring new places now, I’m going to focus on quality over quantity.
When I first began traveling for a living, I hoped travel would shape my core being, but in the past year, it dawned on me that it actually caused me to lose touch with myself. It also explains why, when I was abroad, I would fill my arbitrary agenda with random stuff to do. When left to my own devices, I was super uneasy in my own skin. In previous stories I’ve written for Betches, I mentioned that I’ve contended (and still do) with a myriad of mental health issues. In a nutshell, these elements hijacked my identity and I was filling the void with travel (in addition to using it as a form of escapism from IRL problems). It will take some time, but this realization was revelatory, and now I’m taking time to rediscover who I am, simply by trying out and testing random activities and determining what appeals to me (so far I’ve tried pottery, painting, strategy-based board games with hubby, and archery). With a renewed sense of wonder, I will now approach travel with more thoughtfulness and grace I probably couldn’t have conceived of in my pre-pregnancy and pre-pandemic days.
Imags: Clement Souchet / Unsplash
We’re approximately two months into quarantine and everyone’s going a little stir-crazy. We’ve started dreaming of where we will travel once restrictions are lifted and we enter back into society, emerging from our homes as little house gremlins in need of vitamin D and sobriety. Over the last 10 years, the travel and tourism industries have grown exponentially with the help of technology, making it easier than ever to plan a trip. But this expansion has stalled as a result of travel restrictions and isolation in response to the global coronavirus pandemic. As we stay home and try to flatten the curve, many people have started to consider how to travel in the future—while praying that their 2020 vacation days will carry over to 2021. While it’s difficult to predict when we’ll be able to travel outside of our one-bedroom apartments again, there’s no doubt the industry will change as a result of the pandemic. So, as travelers, how will we spend our holiday time and how the f*ck is the industry going to bounce back?
Can We Get A Refund On 2020?
The travel industry supports nearly 10% of the world’s global jobs, and that doesn’t even take into account its supply chain for things like farmers who provide food to hotels, and restaurants who rely on the tourist season for foot traffic. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, 75 million jobs and $2.1 trillion in revenue in the travel and tourism industry could be lost due to COVID-19. With such an impact to a large global industry, the vicious cycle of people having less disposable income to spend on travel and people in travel-related jobs being laid off, begins. Travel influencers are shaking in their latest ShoeDazzle collection clear-heeled boots.
No sector of the industry will go untouched, meaning we’re about to experience a huge change in how we travel as companies try to adapt. Many organizations in travel were ill-equipped for a financial crisis, only preparing for a positive trajectory continuing from the last few years. A recent article from National Geographic on how coronavirus is impacting the travel industry states that “international carriers, including Delta and United Airlines, had less than two months of cash on hand to cover expenses before the coronavirus hit.” I mean, same, but I’m a millennial with student debt so that’s to be expected, not a gigantic company. Plus, I don’t think my stimulus check compares to their $25 billion bailout. I guess all those oversize bag fees and change fees were a lot more important than we thought.
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Hotels are another part of the industry with unprecedented losses. Seventy percent of hotel employees have been laid off, and the projected occupancy rate for 2020 is worse than during the Great Depression. Yikes. Hotels also may have more difficulty bouncing back and recouping losses than other sectors, since they will likely need to offer steep discounts to entice travelers. While offering cheaper rates is probably necessary to draw us out of our sweatsuits and into swimsuits after months of a 90% carb diet, doing so is not exactly sustainable for hotels, putting them between a rock and a hard place.
the biggest lesson I’ve learned from all this is that I should continue to not go on cruises
— Betches (@betchesluvthis) April 2, 2020
Cruise lines have essentially been the face of the pandemic with horror stories all over the news about onboard quarantine of infected passengers and ships unable to dock. The cruise industry has faced the most intense struggles of any sector and is not currently part of the government bailout. One saving grace for the industry could be its affordable lines for those looking for a cheaper travel option. And things appear to be looking up for cruises, as a rep for Carnival Cruise Lines told TMZ that its bookings were up 600% from the previous three days once the company announced they would resume travel in August, and that their bookings were 200% higher than those Cruise Planners received during the same period last year. Just when I thought we would all wake up and realize that cruises are basically floating environment-killers that spread disease.
The Year Of Realizing Things
While projections are looking bleak for the travel industry, there is a lot of optimism around the opportunities for change and growth in every industry, especially travel. This might seem hard to believe right now, since all anyone is doing is baking banana bread, but they say this is how innovation starts.
In a recent webinar with LinkedIn, Co-Founder and CEO of Airbnb Brian Chesky predicted that we’ll see decades of revolution condensed into weeks. Confident in people’s desire for travel and need for connection, Chesky is certain that we’ll see a resurgence in the industry. He sees it resurfacing slowly in a few steps, starting with domestic vacations, and traveling by car rather than plane. This means that smaller towns and remote areas would return to normal levels of tourism faster or even see growth (plus, cars are less bad for the environment than planes). We may also see a change in travel itineraries. Pre-pandemic, traveling was all about visiting landmarks (getting the best Instagrams) in high-density cities and checking off bucket-list destinations (the places everyone else in your feed has been to). Chesky claims we’re likely to see the end of that mindset, so be prepared for lots of rolling unpopulated hills in your Instagram feed. We’re not saying Iowa is the new Mykonos, but like, maybe we are.
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We can also expect leisure travel to resume before business travel, as conferences and large events are not expected to go forward in 2020. Additionally, with everyone adopting remote work, there may be a huge shift in the need for these events at all. With so many people working remotely, and companies realizing that you can be productive outside of the office, more people will likely relocate or not be tied to a city. As a result, there will be more demand for long-term stays in places like hotels and Airbnbs, as people take their work anywhere in the world.
We might also see emergence of new technology as we start traveling again. Think about it: Uber and Airbnb rose from the 2008 financial crisis, looking to provide more affordable ways to travel and for others to generate income. So we could see new innovations rise from the ashes of the pandemic. This could be in the form of robots in airports or start-ups looking to better handle travel disruptions or detect fevers. Maybe we’ll finally get hover cars, who knows?
Another important change will be people’s increased concern regarding health and safety, which would affect every aspect of travel. That girl Clorox-ing her armrests and tray table before take-off is no longer a crazy germaphobe, she’s doing the bare minimum to avoid getting sick. You were concerned about the cleanliness of your Airbnb when booking? You can bet this is much more of a concern post-pandemic. *Googles the dirtiest part of an airplane*
Part of the industry most heavily affected by new sanitization standards and personal space could be the activities and adventures sector, valued at $254 billion in 2019. Some companies might not be able to adapt. Can you imagine going zip-lining and using the same gloves or helmet as the person before you? Or sleeping on a cramped boat with 20 other strangers during Yacht Week? These activities were hotbeds for germs before the virus, now we’re just hyper-aware of them. We might consider our own, more spacious accommodations over experiences like sailing along the Dalmatian Coast or the through the Greek Islands on a cramped boat with 20 strangers.
Wake Me Up When We Can Leave The House
Over the last 10 years, the travel industry has grown exponentially with the help of technology. This has made it easier than ever for people to hop on a plane, but that growth has come to a halt in 2020. However, in areas like China where the virus has already peaked, domestic travel has resumed and brings some hope.
Unfortunately, with the current state of the U.S., it doesn’t seem like we’ll be back to “normal” anytime soon. There are few that industries have suffered as much as travel since the beginning of 2020, but the challenges bring opportunities for change. While it may take time to rebound, we will return to travel and see new breakthroughs in the way we visit our own countries and the world. Maybe if we keep ordering tie-dye loungewear, we’ll accumulate enough travel points for a trip in 2021. For now I’ll settle for margaritas in my living room and making my Zoom meeting background a tropical location.
This article has been updated to reflect the correct amount of the airline bailout.
Images: Russ Widger / Unsplash; betchestravel / Instagram; betchesluvthis / Twitter
Quarantining for this long can be hard. Let’s be honest, as much as we’re all enjoying drinking any time of the day or “bettering ourselves” by learning a new skill (is anyone actually doing that?), being stuck at home still sucks. As someone who travels full-time, like many of you, I’m bored with being home all the time. Taking walks in my neighborhood just isn’t cutting it, so I’ve decided to travel—travel from home, that is.
In this fast-paced digital work-from-home age, we can do almost anything from home. It’s time we started traveling from the comfort of our own homes too. Below, I’m sharing several ways you can satisfy your wanderlust without ever setting foot outside your house. No need to shower, get dressed, or pack a bag. Just sit back and enjoy these travel experiences from your bed, couch, or other indoor destination of choice.
Virtual travel may be the next best thing to actual travel. Destinations and attractions do not want to be forgotten about while we’re all stuck at home, so many of them have set up ways you can “visit” from wherever you are. Capture the essence of Santa Barbara, explore Australia, or even visit one of my favorite UNESCO World Heritage sites, Angkor Wat, all without having to put on pants.
Virtual tours of Santa Barbara allow you to drop in on a wave at Campus Point, stroll the Santa Barbara waterfront, or get a glimpse of the animals at Santa Barbara Zoo or see what’s blooming at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.
Ventura Harbor Village offers webcam viewing of the harbor, plus a nightly live stream from the Ventura Harbor Comedy Club.
Italy’s Emilia Romagna region has crafted a list of virtual tours and experiences for those of us who would rather be in Italy right now. Tour art exhibits, street art, or take a virtual history lesson. The City of Bologna broadcasts filmed concerts every Friday and Saturday.
Prefer to travel down under? Australia Tourism has curated a YouTube playlist of 18 quintessential Australian experiences. Ride along the Great Ocean Road or go underwater at the Great Barrier Reef.
If you missed out on your bachelorette party, the City of New Orleans also has several virtual tours, including the New Orleans Museum of Art, National WWII Museum, the Audubon Zoo, and many others. Okay, so that’s probably not exactly the bachelorette rager you had planned, but there’s something to be said for a little cultural enrichment (and you can bring your mixed drink along for the tour).
Did you know you can use Google Maps to travel virtually? Yeah, it’s not only good for directions. Google Maps Treks offers street-view treks of some of the most amazing spots on the planet. One of my personal favorites is a trek through the temples of Angkor. You can also raft down the Colorado River, head out on a polar bear safari in Canada, or visit the Taj Mahal. Your solitary walk around the block just got a little more interesting to look at.
Movies & TV Shows To Inspire Your Wanderlust
I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a basic bitch when it comes to my favorite travel movie: Eat Pray Love is one of my biggest inspirations that led me to a life of full-time travel. I’m pretty much living proof that a movie can do more than satisfy your wanderlust temporarily; it may just lead to a lifetime as a travel addict.
Catch Me If You Can – Follow Frank Abagnale Jr (Leonardo DiCaprio) as he forges and fibs his way around the world, impersonating an airline pilot. Just don’t try the cons at home, ok?
Midnight In Paris – Starring Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams, this movie takes you back to the Jazz age of Paris.
The Motorcycle Diaries – This 2004 film is based on the memoirs of Che Guevara as he and his friend travel from Brazil to Peru by motorcycle.
Up In The Air – After months of quarantine, even business travel sounds exotic. Watch Anna Kendrick and George Clooney navigate the world of corporate downsizing and the road warrior life. Honestly, I would kill to pay $15 for a beer at an airport bar at this point.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – This British comedy-drama takes you to India with a group of British retirees that includes Dame Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. This is a great movie for those who want to move overseas for a simpler life.
Under The Tuscan Sun – The Eat Pray Love before Eat Pray Love. Diane Lane plays a middle-aged American divorcée who buys a villa in Tuscany. Goals, tbh.
The Bucket List – Follow Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as they stare down mortality by knocking items off their bucket list. From the French Alps to the Taj Mahal, this movie will definitely feed your wanderlust.
Parts Unknown – Anthony Bourdain breaks down borders around the globe while breaking bread with people from every walk of life.
Bizarre Foods – Andrew Zimmern travels the globe and eats anything and everything.
Booze Traveler – This Travel Channel show follows Jack Maxwell as he travels to learn about local drinks and the stories behind them.
Places to Love – The OG solo female traveler, Samantha Brown, shares all of the places around the world that we should check out. Watching her show is like getting the inside scoop on the best non-overdone places to travel, before it becomes saturated by everyone on Instagram.
Online Cultural Experiences
Looking for a more interactive cultural travel experience? Look no further than Airbnb Experiences Online, where you can experience the local culture and connect with locals. Learn magic tricks, musical instruments, or learn how to make Mexican street tacos with a professional chef.
Travel By Taste
Nothing helps you dive deep into a culture quite like the local cuisine. One of the best parts of travel is trying authentic dishes and drinks in each destination. Recreating one of your favorite travel meals at home is a great way to relive memories of your trip. Check out some of these international inspirations and start making your grocery list.
New Orleans is one of the best foodie cities in the world, and they’ve compiled a list of traditional New Orleans dishes that you can make at home.
My Switzerland has a huge list of Typically Swiss Recipes, from Rack of Lamb to fondue and meringue.
If cooking seems a bit overwhelming, how about this recipe for the Original Cuban El Floridita Daquiri recipe?
Or you can try these easy travel-inspired recipes that don’t require a ton of ingredients or equipment.
Plan A Trip
The anticipation of an upcoming trip has been proven to make you just as happy as the trip itself. So now is the perfect time to start planning your next vacation—just maybe hold off on making any non-refundable purchases. Not only will trip planning boost your mood during quarantine and give you something to look forward to, but travel has never been cheaper than right now. Airlines are being super flexible with flight credits, so you can book a trip now and get a flight credit if you have to cancel. I’ve spotted round-trip flights from New York to Paris for less than $300. If that’s not an instant mood-boost, I don’t know what is.
Images: Valerie Wilson
Raise your hand if you’ve felt personally victimized by COVID-19. Now raise your hand if this pandemic caused you to miss out on a long-awaited vacation. (You can’t see them, but both my hands are raised right now.) If you’re like me, you might be wondering WTF our rights are when trips get canceled for any reason, whether it’s coronavirus related or not. Do we pull a Karen and ask for the manager? Should we accept that voucher credit or fight for a full refund? Allow The Points Guy CEO and founder, Brian Kelly, to fill you in on everything you need to know about canceled trips, especially during this pandemic.
When Are You Entitled To A Refund Or A Credit?
Great news! Thanks to a recent update from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Kelly says, “airlines must refund passengers in the event flights are canceled, significant schedule changes are made, or government restrictions prevent flying due to the coronavirus outbreak.” This means that if they cancel your trip to or from anywhere in America, you’re entitled to get your money back. If you cancel first, you might only get a voucher for the face value of what you paid. So before you call JetBlue to bail on your trip to Aruba in June, he recommends waiting it out as long as you can (in hopes of scoring that $$$).
If you do wind up getting a voucher, Kelly says it’s always worth asking for additional value. I can confirm that I’ve done this in the past and 100% will do it again because it works. So yes, we WOULD like to speak to a manager, TYVM.
What About Canceling Hotels & Airbnbs?
Right now, Kelly says, “most home sharing companies and hotels are being more flexible than normal, even allowing cancellations of no refund, pre-pay reservations.” So if you need to be the one to cancel your Airbnb lake house or Hilton suite next month, NBD. He claims the best way to get in touch with someone is by calling customer service or reaching out to the brand on Twitter.
“You can typically cancel a trip directly on the site, but if you’re looking for a full refund, getting typically isn’t automatic and will require you to call and speak with a representative,” he adds. “Some airlines like Delta allow you to text via app so you don’t wasn’t time on the phone. There are also apps out there, including one called DoNotPay, that will wait on hold for you so you don’t have to.” Whoever came up with that app idea is a genius, just saying.
Are you one of the lucky ones who always reaches the least forgiving associate? Join the club. If you run into any trouble with a certain phone agent, do one of Kelly’s favorite tricks: politely hang up and call back. He says sometimes you can find a nicer agent who’ll be more likely to help after you end the first call and try again… which is a brilliant idea. Why didn’t I think of that sooner?
Oh, and as hard as it may be when you’re stressing over potentially lost money, don’t forget to be nice to all customer service members right now. “It’s important for travelers to remember that these airline representatives are going through this pandemic, too,” reminds Kelly. “Try to be as kind and patient as possible.” Fine. I guess I won’t flip out on Susan when she tells me I need to be put on hold for the third time in five minutes.
So What’s The Deal With Travel Insurance? Should You Get It?
Trip cancelations are exhausting. Contacting companies and waiting to see if they’re going to give you back your hard-earned cash is way too much of a hassle. Is travel insurance the tripsaver we all need from now on to save us from these future struggles? Well, better question… WTF is travel insurance?
Basically, Kelly explains that people invest in travel insurance to protect their purchase in the event that they need to cancel or modify their trip for whatever reason. Bad news, though: Epidemics and pandemics are rarely covered under travel insurance policies… because let’s face it, how often do these crises happen? Before buying anything, Kelly reminds to “always make sure to carefully read the terms and conditions of the policy you’re planning to purchase and what it does and does not cover” to make sure it works for you. “If you’re nervous about booking upcoming travel or you just recently booked travel, you may want to consider a cancel-for-any-reason (CFAR) add-on policy,” he suggests, “Typically, you’ll get back 75% of your trip and you can cancel for any reason within a set time frame.” That sounds great and all, but just be prepared to shell out a pretty penny for a policy like that. The investment might be worth it for anxious travelers, though.
Can You Get Perks On Your Next Trip If Your Last One Sucked?
Whether you had endless COVID-19-inspired delays on your last flight or your hotel room wasn’t sanitized enough to make you feel safe from exposure, you might be able to score some benefits on your next trip. “If you complain appropriately to an airline about a past experience, you’re likely to get a voucher,” says Kelly. It might be tempting to turn this into a habit if
you’re a thief you keep having mediocre experiences, but try to complain only when you NEED to. “Some airlines who equip their flight attendants with iPads or devices can check to see if you’ve had a bad past experience, but don’t count on it. It never hurts to give feedback regardless so they can work to make the experience better.” From personal experience, complaining about bad hotel stays and flights (when warranted) almost always scores you a free stay, refund, credit, or an incentive to come back, too. If you need help writing a lovely ~feedback~ letter to a company with just the right amount of passive aggression, DM me. I got you.
Does It Make Sense To Sign Up For A Travel Card Right Now?
If you recently had a negative experience but you’re not a big complainer (who are you?) but still want some kickbacks, Kelly also suggests “opening an airline credit card, which will give you perks like early boarding, free checked bags, and/or more legroom seats.” Down to sign up for a new travel credit card to prepare you for future trips once this pandemic is over? He claims your best bets right now are flexible currency cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or American Express Platinum card, where you can transfer points to a variety of hotel and airline partners. Once you get enough points and miles, you can redeem them for cash, rewards, trips, or flight seat upgrades so you can be a bougie b*tch in first class while the old you would’ve begged for another bag of “free” chips in Row 26.
Ugh. All I know is I can’t wait to be back in the air in cheap AF Row 26 again. After two canceled trips and being cooped up inside for months because of COVID-19, I’ll never take traveling for granted again. Ever.
Images: @stilclassics / Unsplash; GIPHY (3)
If you’ve recently watched the news, listened to the radio, or heard a terrified old woman in a Best Buy warning her kid not to take her mask off because she might die (like I did the other day), then you know the Coronavirus is a super hot topic RN. WTF is the Coronavirus, anyway? Well, coronaviruses have existed before this year, but the newest strand of the virus, COVID-19, is what’s been freaking everybody out since it hasn’t been previously identified in humans and doesn’t have a treatable vaccine or antiviral therapy yet. According to Cassie Majestic, MD, the Coronavirus is a common virus that typically “presents as a respiratory illness consistent of cough, fever, and shortness of breath and can appear from 2-14 days after exposure.” She adds, “Symptoms range from mild to severe. These symptoms can progress to pneumonia, fluid buildup in the lungs, and stress on other organs such as the kidneys.” Yikes. And if you’ve kept any sort of tabs on COVID-19, you know this sh*t is basically all over the world, and people, especially travelers, are freaking out. So if you’re traveling anytime soon, what should you know to stay as safe and healthy as possible? We spoke to Cassie Majestic, MD and Eudene Harry, MD to get the lowdown.
Which Travelers Are More At Risk?
Old people? Babies? People who don’t wear masks? WHO’S AT RISK HERE? “Travelers over the age of 50, those with chronic illness, and those with compromised immune system may have a higher risk of contracting and getting sicker from any virus, including the COVID-19 strain,” warns Eudene Harry, MD, who’s board certified in both Emergency Medicine and Holistic Integrative Medicine. Believe it or not, she says being in an airplane may not increase your risk as much as you’d think. “Based on research, using the flu model, your risk of contracting a respiratory illness on an aircraft is very low. To be at risk, you’d most likely have to be sitting directly behind, in front of, or right beside the infected person,” she explains. Thank god, because the chorus of sniffling kids on my recent flight made me veryyy nervous. Dr. Majestic adds, “patients who are immunocompromised, elderly, or have other complex medical conditions are typically at higher risk for a poor outcome” (aka getting the virus or presenting worse symptoms of it).
Should You Reschedule Your Vacation?
I just flew to California last week and I’m still alive to write this article. I’m also heading to Quebec in a couple of weeks. IMHO, I’m not going to let this outbreak stop me from living my life, but less skeptical people are debating canceling their upcoming trips. So is that smart, or an overreaction?
It depends on where you’re going. “The CDC has established areas that it recommends that you do not travel to unless it is necessary. So far, these areas are Iran, China, Korea, and Italy,” says Dr. Harry. “These areas seem to currently have the most amount of active transmissions. The CDC has classified these countries as Level 3 areas of concern and recommends rescheduling visiting these countries, if possible.”
Dr. Majestic also suggests regularly checking your flight status and airline website for Coronavirus updates, airline tips, and restrictions that are being modified on the daily. “Consider postponing travel to countries with a significant number of outbreaks. I only say this because you risk being exposed and/or infected and then seen as high risk when you return to your home location. This could, in turn, lead to request for quarantine and days off from work without pay or disruption in your daily schedule.” So you’re saying I could go on vacation and then get another 14 days off work? Hmmm….
In all seriousness, if you’re supposed to visit any of those spots in the near future and you may be more susceptible to COVID-19, maybe consider like… not going until the hype dies down? But whether you wanna play it safe or play a game of serious Risk is up to you.
How To Stay Safe While Traveling RN
If you can’t cancel or reschedule your trip, or you just don’t want to, don’t go into a stress spiral (not at all speaking about myself). “Do yourself a favor and be aware of any restrictions in the area you are traveling to and how you can be best prepared,” says Dr. Majestic. Here’s what you can do to reduce your odds of contracting the Coronavirus during your travels.
1. Practice good hygiene.
There’s a lot more to “good hygiene” than regularly showering. “This means washing and sanitizing (with an alcohol-based sanitizer of at least 60%) your hands often. It’s also helpful to wipe down any public surfaces you may be using, especially if you’ll be eating there,” says Dr. Majestic. Dr. Harry adds that you should be washing your hands frequently with soap and water for AT LEAST 20 seconds. So sing your ABCs or the “Happy Birthday” song at least twice and get those hands clean.
2. Avoid touching your face.
Especially your mouth, nose, and eyes. “Refrain from touching your mouth or nose at any time, unless your hands are clean,” warns Dr. Majestic. “ spread through respiratory droplets coming in contact with mucosal surfaces. It’s not spread by simply breathing in the same air as someone else,” says Dr. Harry, which flawlessly leads us to our next tip…
3. Don’t wear a mask.
Yup, you read that right. Both docs do NOT recommend wearing a mask to prevent catching the virus, so don’t worry about the mask shortage everyone’s flipping out about. “CDC does not recommend wearing masks to prevent getting the disease. In fact, there’s concern that this may have the opposite effect,” explains Dr. Harry. “People wearing masks tend to fidget with the mask, thus frequently bringing their hands in contact with the face. Also, most masks are designed to keep droplets in, not keep them out. So, masks are best worn by people with an illness.” Only wear a mask if YOU are sick. Otherwise, don’t do it.
4. Keep your distance from sick people.
Stay FAR away from anyone constantly sneezing or hacking up a lung. “Maintain your distance (approximately 5-6 feet) from those who are coughing or sneezing. If you cough or sneeze, do so into a Kleenex or into a flexed elbow,” says Dr. Majestic. First of all, you should be doing this anyway. Avoiding crowds can help, too. Hate people? Perfect. All the more reason to voluntarily quarantine yourself for the sake of ~good health~.
5. Drink plenty of water and get plenty of rest.
Keep your immune system high by resting and hydrating as much as you can before, during, and after your trip. All the more reason to nap and drink (water, not margaritas… sorry).
Moral of the story: stay safe out there. And “if you experience respiratory symptoms and fever, and have traveled to an area with coronavirus outbreak or have close contact with someone who has traveled to these areas or tested positive, you should seek medical care for testing,” says Dr. Majestic. Don’t be a hero; if you feel sick, stay home. If you travel anytime soon, may the healthy odds be ever in your favor. (Wish me luck.)
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Not to literally be the f*cking worst, but I can definitively say my semester abroad was the best semester of college so far. Admittedly, it could be because I didn’t cry over boys, have stupid drama, or fall down the steps of a frat house. I might not have gotten a Madonna-esque accent or pulled a Meghan Markle and married a prince during my three months abroad in London, but I’m still chuffed with the way I spent my time here.
While London may not be every student’s first thought when picking where to go abroad, it should really at least be in the top of five (if not top of the list). During my semester across the pond, I balled out in pubs, shopped waaaay more than I should have, and ate some of the best food I’ve ever tasted. London is a crazy, huge, exciting place, and I sadly didn’t experience everything. However, whether you’re thinking of a semester in the best city in the world (seriously, don’t fight me on this) or you’re just taking a short trip, think of this list as a starting point. Cheers!
One of the significant perks of studying abroad in London is that it’s pretty much New York, but with accents. While the U.K., and, specifically London, is definitely more western and modern than places like Madrid or Rome, some random things may be confusing at first.
Your home in London will likely be a dorm or a flat (aka an apartment). I really lucked out and lived with three other girls in a 2br/2ba apartment. While this may have made things difficult when we were getting ready to go out, it was a perfect set-up for a transition between on-campus and off-campus housing.
Your flat will likely have some weird washer-dryer hybrid (if you have a dryer at all), and you’ll probably have a dishwasher, which is honestly super nice.
If, upon arriving abroad, you discover the sheets and towels your program gave you are grimy and insufficient (seriously, we were each given one small hand-towel and that’s it), don’t freak out. The city is littered with home goods and department stores. While literally nothing could ever compare to Target, chains like M&S and TK Maxx (the British TJ Maxx) will have everything you need to get.
If you’re looking for something like Walgreens or CVS, I have great news for you. Boots, my new favorite store, is basically what I imagine CVS and Ulta’s love child would be. Seriously, I got my eyebrows done in a Boots that was located in a Tube station. I could write an essay about it and will go on for days, but truly, where else can you buy Calpol (British Tylenol) and YSL products in one place?
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As far as food shopping goes, the most common grocery stores are Sainsbury, Co-op, Waitrose, and Tesco. M&S is the closest you’ll get to something like Target since they carry food, clothes, and a ton of random things. There are also a few Whole Foods locations scattered throughout the city if you’re into that, but they tend to be far from where students are based. When you go grocery shopping, they do charge for bags, so I found saving bags or purchasing reusable ones to be both fiscally and environmentally responsible.
While London has a thousand amazing restaurants, many of them are pretty expensive, so I recommend saving those for when your parents come to visit. London can be a pretty expensive city overall, so it’s essential to keep track of your spending, especially as it pertains to food. I promise that while the local cuisine is good, it isn’t worth bankrupting yourself within the first month.
When it comes to electronics, sh*t gets dicey. Due to my lack of understanding of voltage conversion, I accidentally blew the battery on my laptop during my first week here. Do yourself a favor and make sure you’re getting the right type of chargers that will properly adapt to the outlets, and won’t break your stuff.
Keep in mind the outlets in the U.K. are different from those in the rest of Europe (because I guess having different currency isn’t already enough of a pain in the ass). If you’re planning on traveling during your time abroad, which you should, I recommend getting one of those converters that let you change its settings so you don’t have to buy separate ones.
London is very walkable, and there is ample public transport thought the city, which makes it easy to be sustainable and to ball on a budget! While the transportation system is admittedly confusing at first (I accidentally got on the Tube alone my first week and had a minor panic attack), it is super easy to adjust to and figure out. I recommend downloading the app CityMapper. It has minute-by-minute updates of line closures and shows you every way to get to a location by comparing the costs and travel time.
Flying: While London isn’t the cheapest place to travel to and from, flying is definitely the easiest way to get to most cities in Europe. Flights in and out of Heathrow are pretty pricey, but there are a ton of other, more affordable airports surrounding the city. Look for flights on Ryanair and EasyJet, they’re basically the European equivalents to Spirit.
When it comes to getting to the airport, I recommend taking the train from the city. Train times are predictable where London traffic is anything but. If you decide to Uber, give yourself tons of extra time.
Trains: Trains are great to get anywhere else in the U.K. and places like Amsterdam and Paris. I took the Eurostar to Amsterdam and flew back, and the train was 100 times more pleasant. Make sure you book a ticket beforehand, and I recommend paying extra for a seat; otherwise you might end up standing for three hours, and I know from experience it’s the f*cking worst.
Buses: Public transport is everywhere in London, and there’s a bus stop every hundred yards. While the buses are super convenient, they aren’t the fastest way to move around. Again, traffic in London is literally terrible.
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Just put the finishing touches on this lovely destination for a very special VIP family. The kids will be so excited when they “receive” their travel plans to London this Christmas morning! I love designing the perfect holiday gift to put under the tree. What would you like to have waiting under your tree this year? Be sure to tag your significant other so they get the hint😉!
The Tube: The crown jewel of London’s public transport system. Seriously, picture the subway but way cleaner and way more chill. The Tube is usually the fastest way to get from place to place. We were given oyster cards (aka transit cards) at the beginning of the semester and refilled a few times before we realized we could use Apple Pay to get in and out of the stations.
Uber: Uber is a little uncertain in London right now, as there’s an ongoing legal battle about whether they can keep their license to operate there. However, they left before and made a comeback. There are a variety of ride-share apps that are specific to the city and similar to Uber if it isn’t around when you visit. Uber can be a necessity, especially late at night, because public transport stops around 1am.
One of the most significant aspects of culture shock I experienced in London is that people actually dress up for class. Leggings and the frat sweatshirt you stole from the guy you hooked up with freshman year won’t cut it. I obviously dressed cute on the first day to make a good impression on hot guys from across the pond, but I was shocked to discover my classmates wearing, like, dresses to class in the second week. People in London tend to dress really well, so be prepared to step up your game a little bit when it comes to daily attire.
When it comes to hair and skincare in London, there are a few essential things to remember. The weather is somehow frigid, humid, and dry all at the same time. The air quality is also no friend to sensitive skin. While drinking water might combat some of this, I also highly recommend investing in a few good face masks (I like Drunk Elephant’s Babyfacial and Glossier’s Moisturizing Moon Mask), deep conditioner, and some sort of hydrating hair product.
If you’re like me, and super reliant on your heat tools, I highly recommend investing in those made explicitly for European or British outlets. It’ll save you a whole lot of heartbreak when the flat iron you’ve had since junior year of high school burns out on the first week. RIP.
Breakfast and Brunch
There are many fantastic breakfast and brunch places here. While I’m not huge on breakfast, there were a few spots almost every study abroad student will consider a “must.” I recommend exploring your area to find breakfast places because there are cute cafes all over the city.
EggBreak: EggBreak, located in Notting Hill, is the best brunch I had in London. We ordered half of the menu to split, but I honestly wish I had gotten everything. The neighborhood is super cute, which makes the long wait bearable.
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The Breakfast Club: There are a few locations throughout the city, it’s pretty affordable and has a huge menu.
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If you’re of the mentality that there’s no point in going to London if you aren’t going to high tea, you’re not necessarily wrong. Most of the time, champagne is included, which is super fun, especially if you’re not a huge tea drinker. Tea will typically eat up a few hours and take a sizable chunk of your abroad budget, depending on the place. I recommend a nicer, more traditional tea with your parents if they visit, and one of the trendier ones with your friends.
Sketch: THE place to go for bathroom mirror selfies. It is super vibey, and the restaurant is totally gorgeous, and the tea itself is also great. As a bonafide allergy kid, I really appreciated their nut-free option, mainly because most high tea places have set menus.
Beas of Bloomsbury: This place is super cute and there are a few locations. It’s a pretty traditional tea, but definitely worth going to.
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Mad Hatters (Gin &) Tea Party: No words can do this justice, but it’s a crazy-fun experience. You’ll never do anything else like it, and it’s a must if you’re visiting London.
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Head to the @secret.london post for details of our giveaway where you can win a pair of tickets. Comp closes at 4pm so don’t be late! ⏲️ Or book tickets from the link in the bio. • • • • • #madhattersginteaparty #cocktail #london #wonderland #cheshirecat #popup #gin #immersive #theatre #aliceinwonderland #mixology #madhattersteaparty #cocktails #happy #secretlondon #madhatter #londonlife #teaparty #madhattersgtparty #mixologist #bar #gintonic #drinkporn #drink #londontown #instagood #fever #feveroriginal #kitandcaboodle #purveyorsofwow
Peggy Porschen: We went here for tea on my friend’s birthday. It was super cute and the brunch food was delicious. We didn’t get the high tea menu, but the atmosphere was super pretty.
CocoChan: CocoChan is hands down my favorite restaurant in London. Its Asian fusion menu has something for everyone, even super picky eaters. The restaurant is aesthetically pleasing, and the drinks are amazing.
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VEGAN EVERYTHING! ✨ With our sharing towers you get to try all the best #vegan dishes! Check out the Garden tower with #veggietempura, mushroom #dumplings, Robata #grilledtofu, #japaneseseaweedsalad, #moromimiso broccoli and #enokifritters! You heard it here first! 💕 #foodvibes #veganinlondon #madewithmeaning #cocochanlondon #veganvibes #sharingplates #marylebone #bondstreet #londonfoodie #panasian #asianplates #cocktails #stchristophersplace _______________________ www.cocochan.co.uk
Coppa Club: Coppa Club is super yummy, if a little expensive. It’s perfect for sharing a ton of stuff. They have igloos you can dine in that fill up months in advance, so make sure to plan ahead.
Nandos: Your London experience isn’t complete until you’ve had a cheeky Nandos with ~the lads~. It’s really just chicken and variations on normal chicken dishes with killer sides. Get the Peri Chips; you won’t regret it.
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Dishoom: There are a few locations of Dishoom around the city. It’s really great Indian food.
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Gloria: This is part of a restaurant group that has locations in Paris and other cities. It has incredible Italian food and is great for both brunch and dinner. The second location in London is called Circolo Popolare, and it’s equally as amazing.
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Santore Italian: We found this place on the second day of the semester by accident, and it was our go-to. Tbh, it isn’t, like, the best Italian ever, but it’s close. The thing that really drew us in was the pizzas—you can order a half, ¾ or full meter pizza which can be split up with whatever toppings you want. I’m not saying three of us finished the full meter, but I’m also not not saying that.
Gordon Ramsay Bar and Grill: Honestly, I’ve never watched his shows, but if they are half as good as the meal I had at his restaurant, I might have to start. Save yourself the stress over what to order and go with the Truffle Burger. Trust me.
Quick Bites and Others
Ben’s Cookies: These cookies were THICC. Always ask for them fresh out of the oven.
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Hummingbird Cupcakes: We got my friend’s birthday cake here, and it was terrific. Honestly, it’s similar to Magnolia Bakery in NYC but still worth visiting. They have a few locations around the city and are very accommodating with allergies.
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Here’s our lovely Star of the Month, Maria-Chiara Carra, recently promoted to Front of House Team Leader at our Islington bakery! If you’d like to join our bakeries in any role, kitchen or front of house, send your CV to [email protected] 🌟 . . #mariachiara #maria #islington #bakery #baking #kitchen #frontofhouse #cupcakes #starofthemonth #career #jobs #londonbakery #londonjobs #newstart #apply #jobhunting #bakerylife #teamhummingbird
Itsu: Itsu is a chain sushi place. It might not be Nobu quality, but the food is good and the service is always fast.
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🎶 i’thai to say goodbye and I choke Try to walk away and I stumble Though i’thai to hide it, it’s clear My world crumbles when you are not here 🎶 Full disclosure, Macy Gray came up on shuffle yesterday whilst I was eating an i’thai udon for lunch, and now here we are. That’s my creative process. 🤯 I’ll take any excuse to rave about this little beauty though – creamy, crunchy, spicy…and it’s steamed, not fried! ♨️ Bow down to the enviable photography skills of the @foodtease_ gang 📸 #vegan #ithai #healthy #noodles #itsu
Harrod’s Food Hall: These are fantastic food stands on the first floor of Harrods. It’s so worth a visit, and you can find literally every type of food there.
I’m not a huge club person, but London has an incredible nightlife with a ton of things for everyone. Clubs, bars, and pubs are all different things, with pubs being the most chill option.
If you’re looking for a good night out and don’t want to spend a ton of money, check out Wicked Student Nights. It’s a website that shows you all of the deals in the city for students, and where you’ll have the best chance of meeting people your age and other students who are abroad.
Barrio: I have a few friends who are local to London, so when I went out with them, they always tried to take us to places tourists tend to stay away from. Barrio was one of my favorite places we went out, and I definitely wish we went more often. It’s almost a frat party vibe and is the perfect mix between a bar and a club. However, it’s weirdly 21+, even though the legal drinking age is 18. Nevertheless, we were friendly to the bouncers and ended up not having any issues getting in as 20-year-olds.
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Did you get to try Barrio Brixton’s special Chillirinha?! What were your thoughts? It was voted London’s Best Exotic Caipirinha by you in this year’s London Caipirinha Festival and of course, we’re absolutely thrilled! Thank you for your love, support and votes. 🤗🏅 - - - #londonbars #londonvenues #cocktailbars #latinbars #brasiltolondon #londontobrasil #spirits #cocktails #mixology #drinkoftheday #whatsonlondon #caipirinhafest #london #brazil #cachaça #caipirinha #brasil #londoncocktails #londonbylondoners #cocktailsanddreams #drinkpretty #cocktailoclock #boozy #cocktailsarealwaysagoodidea #londonsbest #friendswhodrinktogetherstaytogether #LondonCaipirinhaFestival
Big Chill: I wish I went here the first night, but I waited till my last week to visit. It’s in Shoreditch, which is the best area in the city to go out because it’s super easy to hop around from place to place. Like Barrio, it’s a mix between a bar and a club and has a really cute outdoor area for the rare nights it’s not negative 100 degrees! The drinks weren’t crazy expensive, and the atmosphere was (excuse the pun) very chill.
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ICE BAR London: Very hyped up, but way worth it. Really, we paid like, 20 pounds for one drink and an Insta pic. However, I’m totally comfortable saying that I did it for the ‘gram. This is a place you go with a small group of friends, and not somewhere you stay all night. You book your ticket in advance, and it includes a drink, a jacket and gloves, and forty-five minutes inside the bar.
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The Alchemist: One of the coolest bars I went to, with locations scattered around London. If you know anyone who’s basic and ever visited London, I’m sure you saw 100 pics and Boomerangs of a smoking cocktail on their Snapchat and Instagram stories. All of their drinks have some science element to them and taste amazing. It isn’t the cheapest option, but truly worth every penny.
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Join us for a masterclass in mixology at the Eat & Drink Festival at Olympia on the 10th and 11th of April! On Friday join us for a science lesson you won’t want to miss! Our Head of Bar Training & Development, Elliot will be talking all things molecular mixology 👨🔬⚗️ If you manage to bag a seat in the front two rows you’ll also nab a mini cocktail concoction ✨ On Saturday get stuck in yourself* with an hour-long cocktail masterclass where you’ll learn how to make some of our theatrical showstoppers! 🍹Bag your tickets via the link in our bio! *Ts&Cs apply – sample volunteers selected• • #Olympia #London #Hammersmith #eatanddrinkfestival #foodies #drinks #mixology #londoneats
Old Street Records: I’ll be honest, I never went here, but plenty of people I know did. It seems fun enough and similar to Big Chill. From what I’ve been told, it’s good vibes and pretty relaxed.
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Join us for a night of live tunes from James Willard this evening, washed down with a cocktail or three 💥 . . . #shoreditch #eastlondon #londonders #hackney #hoxton #oldstreet #visitlondon #timeoutlondon #oldstrecords #oldstreetrecords #DMNDrinks #MyFavouriteCocktail #CocktailsUK #ttcocktails #CocktailPicsDaily #timeoutlondon #londonscocktails #foundlondon #londonder #igerslondon #londonblogger
Slug and Lettuce: I said it to my friends, and I’ll say it here: scatter my ashes in Slug and Lettuce. There are dozens of locations throughout the U.K., and all of them are super different. Still, the drink menu is pretty much the same at all of them (order the Pornstar Spritz, it’s the best drink I’ve ever had). My favorite location is located right next to the Gherkin. It’s always filled with cute finance boys who just got out of work.
Ballie Ballerson: Similar to ICE BAR, Ballie Ballerson is more the type of thing you do for the experience and isn’t the move for a real night out. It’s best with a small group of people as you have to book your tickets in advance. Ballie Ballerson is the type of place you go to for good pics and good company, not for a clubbing vibe.
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Leap year babies! Time to make up for all those missed birthdays with free ball pits, a cocktail and a sweet cake on 29th February at Ballie Ballerson. Just give us a call to get booked in, phone number in bio 🥳✨ #leapyear (please note, ID is required to prove leap year birthday)
O’Neill’s: This place is an American student magnet on Thursday nights. Seriously, almost everyone you see here is someone studying abroad or a creepy older guy. Go with a big group and pregame hard, and you’ll have an enjoyable night. If you go there earlier in the night, you can expect to see a live band playing classic rock.
Tiger Tiger: If you’re looking for a place to peak, look no further. Tiger Tiger was one of the most fun places I experienced. It has several floors, an entertaining crowd, and is great for a proper night out.
Piccadilly Institute: Similar to Tiger Tiger and O’Neill’s. I loved Piccadilly Institute and wish I had more chances to go. They frequently have deals for students and are always playing good music.
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Join us for happy hour 🍻🥂 • • • • • #drinks #goodtime #friend #happyhour #friendship #dj #cocktails #goodtimes #memories #birthday #cheers #edm #bestfriend #bartender #mixology #cocktail #instafun #besties #nightlife #bff #club #bestfriends #rave #mixologist #crazy #chill #bf #booze #laughing #goodfriends
Markets, Sights, and Activities
There are more things to do in and around London than there were days I had studying abroad, so I sadly didn’t get to visit every single attraction. Something I wish we’d done at the beginning of our time abroad was list everything we wanted to do so we could make real plans and fit in all of these sights. London has tons of museums, many of which are free or affordable for students, and are totally worth taking advantage of.
Abbey Road: Home of the famous Beatles album cover picture, f*cking obviously. If you’re super committed to taking the perfect Instagram pic there, you better get there as early as possible because it’s just a normal crosswalk and is located at a pretty busy intersection. There is also a store dedicated to the record label and The Beatles that is super cute.
Big Ben: The entire thing is under construction until next year, so there’s scaffolding everywhere, but I couldn’t just not mention Big Ben.
Borough Market: Okay, this was the BEST food market I went to in London. When my mom visited me, we got spiked cider and walked around the market for a little bit. It’s excellent for artisan food shopping (if that’s your thing) and even better for getting a few things to split for lunch. Honestly, some of the best food I had abroad was in Borough Market.
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In @kitchenstories_official new travelling web series ‘To Market We Go’, they visit some of Europe’s very best markets to show you how to find, cook, and enjoy the very best produce back in your own kitchen. In this episode, chef turned tour guide @rocketandsquash journeys through the Market to uncover some of the not-so-hidden gems it has to offer. Head to our Stories to watch the full video now 🍴. #boroughmarket #ourboroughmarket #producemarket #foodmarket
British Museum: The British Museum is a super cool place to visit. They house the Rosetta Stone, which, if you’re like me (aka a huge nerd), is a pretty big deal.
Buckingham Palace and the Changing of the Guard: They don’t do the Changing of the Guard every day, and it’s honestly kind of confusing if you aren’t able to see the whole thing. Make sure you check the dates and get there early enough to get the right spot. If you aren’t able to see the Changing of the Guard for whatever reason, the palace is still really cool to look at.
Camden Market: Camden Market is one of my favorite places to go in London. There is an art market and a dozen or so food stalls that are all, like, out of this world. As the Taylor Swift song suggests, Camden is a really cool place to walk around and explore.
Churchill War Rooms: I can’t say enough about this. The Churchill War Rooms are tunnels and rooms underneath Westminster that protected Winston Churchill and his team while they strategized during the Second World War. It was easily the best thing I did in London, and I may or may not have been so moved by the museum inside that I cried a little. This is a major must-visit. Seriously, you have to go.
Covent Garden: A little bougie, but super fun to visit. There’s a ton of small, cute restaurants and an art market surrounded by high-end stores. It’s a great place for people watching and walking around.
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Sparking joy and spreading love, that is what Le Pink Figaro is all about. The love bug was given a Valentine’s Day makeover and is sharing the love this weekend. Have you spotted Le Pink Figaro in Covent Garden? #CoventGarden #LePinkFigaro #PrettyCityLondon #VisitLondon #ThisisLondon
Football Games: I’m not a huge sports girl, but, when in London, right? There are a ton of Football Clubs (teams) in the area, and while one of my frat guy friends passionately told me which team to root for, I had no idea what he was saying. Anyway, if you want the authentic British experience, it is definitely worth attending a game.
Hampton Court: While not quite as far as Stonehenge, Hampton Court is still pretty far from the city. I recommend carving out a little more than half a day to tour this stunning palace and the gardens. Since most of the palace and the coolest things to see are outside, I’d recommend doing this in warmer weather.
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On 25 February 1723, Christopher Wren died. He was one of the most distinguished and popular architects of the 17th century, and he was appointed Surveyor of the Royal Works in 1669. Fountain Court at Hampton Court Palace was designed by Wren and building began in 1700. It was part of an ambitious rebuilding project of the palace commissioned by William and Mary, creating a fashionable baroque palace to replace large parts of the Tudor building. His gravestone inscription reads “If you seek his memorial, look around you.” Read on about the building of Hampton Court Palace – follow the link in our bio . . . #history #baroque #baroquearchitecture #architecture #christopherwren #otd #onthisday #thisdayinhistory
Ice Skating at the Natural History Museum: If you’re abroad in the winter, going ice skating is totally worth it. Honestly, there are a ton of places to ice skate, including a really gorgeous rooftop bar.
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London Bridge: It’s right above the Borough market, and the coolest thing about it was the view you get of Tower Bridge. Nonetheless, the cool history makes it worth a visit.
London Eye: The London Eye offers an incredible view of the city (duh). As someone who is terrified of heights, I can confirm it’s not as scary as I thought it would be!
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Museum of London: The Museum of London takes you through decades of London’s history and has incredible exhibits featuring musicians and other interesting Londoners. It’s no Lady Gaga’s Meat Dress, but it’s still awesome.
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We’re so excited to have reached a new and important milestone on our #NewMuseumforLondon journey: the planning application is IN. Find out more about our plans via the link in our bio. 📸: Atelier78 . . . . . . #NewMuseum #museum #museumoflondon #planningapplication #cityoflondon #movingamuseum #westsmithfield #farringdon #london #news
Parent Trap House: My mom and I were really excited to go to the Parent Trap house for obvious reasons. However, it turned out to be a bit of a letdown. Someone actually lives there, so it’s not like you can tour the inside or even get that close to the house without being super awkward. While I recommend going if you love the movie and have the time, it isn’t a must-see.
Portobello Market: This market is in Notting Hill, and honestly has the best crêpes ever. There are tons of food and art booths, and it’s a great place to walk around for a while.
St. James Park: Right near Buckingham palace, this park is super pretty to walk around when you visit the palace or are in the area.
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There’s a little slice of Japan’s famous cherry blossom in St James’s Park at the moment. The blossom is treasured because it’s so beautiful but so fleeting. 🌸 📸: @wayoutwest2015 . #park #parklife #london #visitlondon #lovelondon #thisislondon #londonlife #igers_london #igersengland #nature #mothernature #naturephotography #naturelovers #instagood #beautiful #photooftheday #ukpotd #gloriousbritain #hanami #cherryblossom #sakura
Stonehenge: Ok, full disclosure, I didn’t make it to Stonehenge, and that might be my biggest regret of abroad. It’s super far from London, but I genuinely think the trip would have been worth it.
Tower of London: This is where the Crown Jewels are. The line is always super long, but it’s worth the wait, and it moves really fast.
West End: Seeing a show on the West End is a must. The tickets are waaay cheaper than Broadway, and the shows are just as good, if not better. If you go on a Wednesday afternoon, you can stop by a ticket office to find really cheap tickets.
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Westminster Abbey: This historical church is totally stunning. A trip to London isn’t complete without a visit. Seriously, no words can do it justice.
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If you’d like to explore the Abbey after dark, we offer reduced rate entry on Wednesday evenings Take a self-led tour and see highlights including the Coronation Chair, Poets’ Corner and Grave of the Unknown Warrior Visit our website for more details – link in bio #Museum30 #AfterDark #WednesdayLates
As I mentioned above, living in London has a few similarities to living in Manhattan, and many of the workout class options are similar (if not the same) as what we have in the states.
SoulCycle: I don’t really think this needs an explanation. My friends usually went to classes at the Mayfair location, but there is a Soul in Notting Hill.
Barry’s Boot Camp: Similar to SoulCycle, this really doesn’t need an explanation. My understanding is that Barry’s is a HIIT-style workout where you run on the treadmill and then lift weights. There are a few Barry’s locations in London, and I’ve never been to a single one, but I have friends who are obsessed with it.
KoBox: KoBox is the hardest workout I’ve ever done. If you are familiar with Rumble boxing, it’s pretty similar. You’ll spend your class split between bodyweight workout and hitting the bag. I frequently go to more traditional boxing classes at home, and while this isn’t what I was used to, it is my new favorite. There are a few locations throughout London, but my favorite studios are Mayfair and City.
Studio Lagree: Again, this studio has locations scattered throughout London. It offers a traditional mega-former workout, so if you’ve hopped on the SLT bandwagon, this is your best bet at finding something comparable when traveling in the U.K.
Fitness Clubs: This is what gyms are called in the U.K. I recommend looking into joining whatever your Uni has to offer, since they tend to have the best student rates. However, although my roommates and I all joined our Uni fitness club, it was really far from our flat, so we rarely used it. Distance is essential to consider if you’re going to sign up for a gym.
London is enormous, and there’s no way to experience everything the city has to offer in one semester. It can be hard to truly take advantage of everything in the city and still maximize your weekend trips. Like I said before, studying abroad in London is really the best of both worlds. You get close enough to a real ~European~ abroad experience, without having to deal with language barriers or people who like, really dislike Americans.
Honestly, and I know it’s so obnoxious to say, but abroad did change me, and I wouldn’t trade a second of my time here for the world.
Pip pip, cheerio, mates!
Images: Aron Van de Pol / Unsplash, Santore Restaurant, Harrods, Giphy (3)
Hey! Global warming is real! ICYMI, it’s January, and it was literally just 70 degrees one day then 40 degrees and snowing the next over here on the east coast. IDK, I just feel like I shouldn’t be able to wear a crop top and ripped jeans without freezing my ass off in the dead of winter in New York? This is just one of many obvious signs of climate change. travelhorizons™ is travel marketing brand MMGY Global’s quarterly national survey designed to learn more about American travelers’ habits and intentions with current events in mind. Their newest report, which explored the travel habits of American adults in the global warming age, shows a TON of us are hesitant to travel because we fear adding more fuel to this metaphorical (but also literal?) fire. Time for us to discuss WTF our Instagrammable vacays are doing to our planet and how we can act more responsibly so we can continue bragging about our trips on social media 20 years from now!
How Traveling Impacts Our Planet
Let’s cover the bad news first: your Instagram vacations are definitely f*cking up the planet. “Over-tourism, climate strikes, and global warming are major issues with serious ramifications for the global travel sector,” says Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes, CEO of the Aruba Tourism Authority, adding, “plastic and food waste from the tourism industry is another major concern.” Basically, we’re being careless and reckless by overcrowding tourist spots, littering, and not acting mindfully when we travel… and we need to f*cking stop.
On the bright side (there’s always a bright side, right?), MMGY’s study shows that travelers are down to change their behaviors when traveling to benefit the planet. Yay! According to the study, 34% of travelers believe traveling plays an important role in understanding the impact of climate change on the world, and 32% say travel increases their desire to help people in other parts of the country or the world. I feel like Googling is a way cheaper method for learning how to save the world, but all the power to you if you can afford to learn about Japan in Japan instead.
Anyway, sounds like traveling is a problem AND a solution to fighting against global warming? Kinda confusing, but OK. Moving right along.
WTF Is Sustainable Travel?
“Sustainable travel means that locals and visitors of a destination are ensuring the protection of the environment for generations to come,” explains Asjoe-Croes. “In order to achieve long-term sustainability, it requires an investment from all parties (government, hotel properties, tourism board, etc.) in order to shift the cultural mindset, which takes time.” Fortunately, a bunch of countries are already ahead of the sustainability game and have implemented really awesome programs to reduce waste, rely on renewable resources, and educate visitors on how to save our planet, one town at a time.
Aruba is just one of many places at the forefront of sustainable travel, but they’re ranked 4/10 (right after Bhutan, England, and North Macedonia?!) on Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2020 list which highlighted destinations that are progressive in terms of sustainability. “We hope to introduce visitors to the greater community, immerse them in our culture, and help them understand that the island’s nature, beautiful beaches, and culture need to be preserved,” says Asjoe-Croes. Before I visited Aruba last year, I personally volunteered to e-sign the Aruba Promise to pledge I’d be responsible and preserve the island during my stay. I don’t mean to brag, but I’m like, such an eco-friendly traveler.
Costa Rica also ranks #8 on Lonely Planet’s list of top 10 countries leading in sustainable travel. Depending on where you go, you can visit local organic farms, go fishing, and hop in on tours of the island to learn about their green programs. “We want our guests to connect with nature and experience first hand the quality, smell, and flavors of organic and sustainable farming. We want to educate and inspire everyone that visits La Senda the importance of sustainable farming,” says Federico Pilurzu, general manager of Costa Rica-based luxury hotel Cala Luna Boutique Hotel & Villas that offers farm-to-table dinners.
One more place worthy of a shout-out as far as sustainability goes: Dubai International Airport (DXB) and Dubai World Central Airport (DWC), the two busiest airports that see over 90 MILLION people passing through every year, recently announced that they’re instituting a ban on all single-use plastic starting in 2020. This effort alone will reduce tens of thousands of single-use plastics every day.
As awesome as these nationwide programs are, though, sustainable travel is also on you and me—the travelers. So what can us little people do to pitch in and do our part?
Tips For How To Travel More Eco-Friendly
Time for us to step TF up and travel more responsibly! Here’s what you can do to be a sustainable traveler, whether you’re heading to California, flying to Switzerland, or thousands of miles away to sip piña coladas in the tropics:
1. Avoid using single-use plastics
Not to bring it back to elementary school, but in case you forgot: reduce, reuse, recycle. According to that MMGY study, 54% of travelers are willing to use less single-use plastics. That means using reusable straws and utensil kits and BYOB (B as in bottle)! Most hotels have free water stations where you can fill up your old bottle so you don’t have to go buying new plastic bottles every day. Nomader and que bottle are two of my favorite reusable bottles that I bring along with me every day and whenever I travel. They literally collapse into themselves so you can pack them in your carry-on or your purse (do people even call bags purses anymore?).
2. Wear reef-safe sunscreen
Oxybenzone and Octinoxate are two of the (unfortunately) popular chemicals found in most sunscreens, and they harm coral reefs. STOP USING PRODUCTS WITH THOSE INGREDIENTS. A quick Google search for “reef-safe sunscreens” will give you a bunch of alternatives from popular brands like Neutrogena, Aveeno, and Drunk Elephant that are good for your body and the environment. Just make sure to read full ingredient lists and check labels before you buy.
3. Walk or rent bikes wherever possible
27% of travelers will either rent bicycles or walk more instead of taking automobile transportation. Be more like them. Save your $$$ and the world by skipping an Uber and enjoying the fresh air on your trip… aka stop being a lazy bitch and walk one mile to the bars or rent a complimentary bike from your hotel. I promise you’ll be fine (as long as you’re staying in a safe location, obv).
4. Stay at environmentally-friendly hotels
Almost one-third of people will intentionally avoid booking stays at non-sustainable resorts and opt for environmentally-friendly hotels and tour companies instead. Depending on where you’re going, dig around online to find which sustainable hotels are in the area… then stay there. Some use solar energy, treat and reuse sink and shower water, feature local, organic products in the resort, and even host beach clean-up programs. I know, cleaning beaches on your vacation sounds like a bummer. But you know what else is a bummer? Beaches filled with litter that eventually float out to sea and kill cute sea turtles. Yeah. So think about that next time you’re chugging White Claw on the sand.
5. Travel during off-season to avoid overcrowding
Around 4/10 American travelers agree that tourism overcrowding is a serious issue. That same amount of travelers will consciously visit destinations in the off-season to reduce overcrowding. Hate crowds? Perfect! Not only is it eco-friendly to visit hotspots in the slower season, but it’s prob cheaper to travel then, too (especially if you book on a Tuesday or Wednesday). Sooo… win-win.
6. Learn about green travel programs where you’re going
You know how you check to make sure there are good bars and brunch spots where you’re headed? Spend that same amount of time researching how you can be an eco-conscious visitor wherever the hell you’re staying. If you’re heading out of the country, at least visit a tourist center and ask questions about what you can do to help while you’re there. Again, I know. BORING. Grow up. It’s 2020. It feels good to be a good human.
7. Don’t Fly If You Can Help It
Last but certainly not least (probably foremost, actually), try to limit air travel. Even though we’ve all been taught that cars are the devil, traveling by car (provided you’re not driving just yourself), train, or bus are more sustainable options than hopping on a flight. We all know planes are f*cking terrible for the environment, but okay, let’s say your next flight is unavoidable—there are still ways to fly smarter. Fly direct, don’t fly business or first class (who even are you if this is an option), and pack light (it makes it easier on both you and the plane’s fuel expenditure).
These tips might sound like NBD, but they’re a good start—much like I tell myself when I go to the gym just to spend five minutes walking on the treadmill, something is better than nothing. And although traveling more sustainably is important, that’s not the only thing we can do to make sure the planet is like, inhabitable for our grandkids. “Beyond just travel, there’s pressure for all of us as humans to look at our footprint and preserve our planet,” reminds Asjoe-Croes. So don’t just take the bus one time and pack it in. We all better start making moves and going green before it’s too late.
Images: Giphy (6)