Back in September, a friend and I were experiencing some major wanderlust over Instagram photos from abroad. “Wouldn’t it be amazing to spend New Year’s Eve under the Eiffel Tower?” she asked. At first, it was a fleeting idea; we both have demanding jobs, and neither of us had much money to spend. But, after some quick research and budgeting, we realized we could actually make it happen. Because, as a wise man named Drake once said: YOLO.
And, that’s how the YOLO trip was born. Ten days with two other girlfriends split between London, Paris, and Barcelona. But, traveling abroad with a group of girls — each with different interests, in a short period of time — takes some strategizing. Still, if you’re ready to take that once-in-a-lifetime, whirlwind trip abroad (because, hey, you only live once!) here are some tips to consider.
Photographed by Arianna Davis.
Don’t do it alone.
At first, we thought we could manage booking a three-city, 10-day trip on our own. But, we quickly found how stressful — and confusing — trying to find the best deal on your own can be. We ended up booking with Gate 1 Travel
, who helped us (over the phone! Hooray for human interaction!) arrange the best flights within our budget — and safe, convenient hotels for every city. Plan ahead.
Everyone in our group had different priorities for the trip: For two of the girls, it was shopping; for another, visiting all the churches; for me, historic landmarks. With only three days in each city, the only way to make everybody happy was to create somewhat of a schedule. So, a few weeks before the trip, I hosted a planning party. With wine bottles and laptops open, we created a shared Google doc of our must-sees. We each added to it in the coming weeks and printed the final doc before takeoff. Make peace.
Let’s face it: Even when you’re the best of friends, six-hour-plus plane rides, jet lag, and cramped hotel rooms can sometimes fuel crankiness. To avoid any potential showdowns, we agreed to switch roommates in each city to make sure we each got equal bonding time. And, whether there’s two of you or four, try to snag some moments alone — both for your sanity but also to breathe and soak everything in.
Photographed by Arianna Davis.
Find your role. To stay safe (especially in countries where you don’t know the language) it helps to assign each person a responsibility. In our group, two of us were the navigators, reading maps and learning the subways; another was the style guru, making sure we were all dressed appropriately for the weather and occasion; the last, the self-described hustler, helping us get better rates and serving as lookout during any ATM or money transactions. When everyone has a role, you spend less time figuring things out and more time on the go.
Don’t be afraid of guidebooks. Many websites steer you away from the tried-and-true guidebook, but it was immensely helpful on our trip. We learned fun facts about every site we visited (did you know that it would take 64 stacked red phone booths to reach the height of the London Eye? Thanks, Lonely Planet!) and also found local bars and attractions we hadn’t come across on Google.
Sharing is caring. Sometimes, I have trouble with sharing (I’m a middle child, okay?!), but on this trip, I learned that it helps with suitcase space. I lent cardigans for balmy weather that didn’t require heavy coats and borrowed a scarf when I got chilly. When one friend injured her foot and her Zara boots no longer cut it, another lent her sneakers so she could sightsee in comfort. (Note to travelers: Break in your shoes before your trip; it’s kind of hard to YOLO with sore muscles and blisters.)
Photographed by Arianna Davis. Cross over. A trip abroad is not the time to break out that oversized tote — a crossbody keeps your belongings close. I brought along my trusty leather Lucky messenger and a black, vintage bag I’d picked up during my last Paris trip (and I may or may not have purchased the nano Céline I’d been crushing on for a year. We did say YOLO, after all…). Overseas sophistication does not eliminate pickpockets, so keep your bag toward the front of your body with any zippers facing you.
Indulge in one statement piece. I’d always dreamed of frolicking around Paris in an over-the-top tutu à la Carrie Bradshaw in the SATC finale, so this trip, I decided to make it happen. I had my eye on Alexandra Grecco’s beautiful tulle skirts — but also on their $190 price tag. After some Etsy digging, I ended up ordering a lovely custom, gray number from SweetPeaandButtercup that arrived just in time. A week later, I was feeling romantic and très chic under the Eiffel Tower. That one piece gave me a jolt of French je ne sais quoi; I don’t think the experience would’ve been quite the same without it.
Go for gel. As much as I wanted to pick a signature Parisian nail color for the trip (I swoon for OPI’s We’ll Always Have Paris), a chipped mani drives me nuts, and I knew I wouldn’t have much time for touch-ups during our travels. If you don’t want to go full-on gel, try Vinylux; with a midweek topcoat, it really does last for seven days.
Photographed by Arianna Davis.
Party hard — at the end. Our plan was to hit the town every single night of our trip. But, it didn’t take long before jet lag, eight-hour days of walking, and late-20s, past-our-college-prime got the best of us. We quickly realized (with the exception of New Year’s Eve, of course) that to avoid collapsing from exhaustion, we should leave our twerking for the last few nights of the trip. (And, twerk, we did. For the record, Barcelona might be the real city that never sleeps…)
Heels, honey! Yes, bring ’em — but just one pair. As tempting as it is to show off your entire stiletto collection when you’re out of the country, sticking to one versatile pair will make your life easier. I limited it to some Louboutin booties that were edgy enough for a night on the town but sophisticated enough to dress up. And, avoid anything clunky; you want something you can throw in your purse if the time comes to kick them off.
Think day to night. This might sound nearly impossible, but planning one outfit per day will make your life that much easier — both for suitcase space and your schedule. After all, you won’t always have time to run from the museum back to your hotel room before dinner. Dresses are easiest: In the winter, add tights, accessories, and a sweater; in the warmer months, just jewelry and shoes, and you’re good to go. Spruce up makeup, peel off layers, and add those heels (if preferred) for a nighttime look.
Pack an emergency kit in your carry-on. By emergency, I mean Band-Aids and medication. But, I also mean essentials like an extra top, pair of underwear (thanks for the tip, Mom!), toothbrush, and moisturizer. We learned on a previous trip that sometimes we might make it to a destination, but our bags don’t (or sometimes you end up stuck at LaGuardia for 12 hours trying to get to Jamaica — but that’s a story for another day). So, even if your bag is tied up with an airline, you have the essentials you need to hit the streets (in a clean pair of undies!) and not lose any time.