— Feathers and Wax

Overseas travel tips + Belfast love

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My trip to Ireland in May was my first overseas trip ever, so I won’t pretend to be an expert, here. But you can definitely learn from my rookie mistakes. Read on for ways to make traveling easier on yourself…as well as to find out why Belfast was one of my favorite parts of our trip!

1. If you really wish you could travel but can’t seem to follow through with it, go ahead and get your passport now. Seriously! Get it out of the way. Holding it in your hands in real life will give you the kick in the pants you need to actually plan a trip.

2. When you look at the passport offices in your area, focus less on which one is nearest and more on which one might be the best place to spend a few hours in. I went to the Houston Public Library to get mine (can’t beat comfy couches and free reading materials while you wait).

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3. Once you’ve bought your plane tickets begin to book your airbnb(s) as soon as possible. For some destinations a hotel is much more practical, but otherwise, my experience so far has shown me that airbnbs are often much cheaper than hotels and are sometimes even nicer. But the good ones tend to go fast! Keep in mind that the ones that don’t have the “instabook” feature might show up as available on the site when they’re actually not available. I’ve had my heart broken a few times finding this out.

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4. If you’re a planner like I am, once you have your itinerary set, book as many things as you can ahead of time. We pre-bought our tickets for the Guinness Storehouse, our Old Jameson Distillery tour and tasting, the Book of Kells and a few other things. The ticket confirmations I printed out and put in my wallet gave me peace of mind and saved us a lot of time.

5. Order a wifi hotspot in advance of your trip to avoid paying cellphone roaming fees. We used tep, and it worked great. You simply put your phone on airplane mode, connect to the wifi, and you can use a chat program like google hangouts or kakao to stay connected to people back home (or if you both have iPhones you can text as usual).

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6. If you’re planning to go on a trip to Europe, it’s probably not a great idea to blow your feet out just days prior to your flight by walking all over some other city. I might have learned that the hard way on this trip…but in general you should wear comfortable shoes and bring bandaids, nail clippers and blister treatments just in case things get ugly.

7. Buy electrical adaptors before you fly. I stupidly didn’t do this, and ended up spending the entire week in Ireland with my phone precariously on the edge of dying at all times.

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8. Plenty of other bloggers have given a go at the “how to survive a long flight” post, and they’ve done better than I could with my limited experience. But I will say that if you come from a humid area like Houston, you should upgrade your facial moisturizer and lotion to something super rich before your trip, and apply liberally on the plane. Don’t be stupid like me and end up having to use your pricey eye cream all over your face later that week!

9. After you’ve boarded the plane look at what time it is at your destination and act accordingly. Would people at the place you’re visiting be sleeping right now? Then try to sleep until it’s a somewhat decent morning hour there. The combination of sleep aids, a sleepmask, thick socks and a neck pillow will work wonders for making this happen.

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10. Once you arrive try like hell to stay awake until at least 9 p.m. For this reason it’s probably best to stay away from your hotel room or airbnb for the whole day, lest you be too tempted to rest your eyes. Walk around, sightsee, keep moving, drink coffee, do whatever it takes.

11. If you’re renting a car, get an automatic that has GPS. You already have to get used to driving on the left side of the road, and navigating turnarounds, and reading difficult roadsigns…don’t make your life any harder on your jetlagged brain than it already is.

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12. Be flexible! Even though I like to plan, I try to roll with the punches. Sometimes that amazing restaurant you read about will be closed when you get there. Sometimes your map is wrong and that cool shop you want to see isn’t where you thought it was. Don’t worry. Remember that you’re in a whole other country experiencing a different culture, remind yourself how cool that is, and carry on.

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13. Try the food that is traditional for that region or culture. These days hipster-foodie culture is pervasive and there are truffle-oil drizzled dishes everywhere. While it’s fine to dip into that a little during your trip (because no lie, truffle oil IS amazing), don’t forget the whole reason you visited in the first place: to experience something different from what you have at home.

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14. I know you want to see ALL THE THINGS but try to not overload your schedule. Take some time to relax and savor being on vacation! Not only will this result in you being less stressed out, but you’ll become more immersed in the culture while you’re there instead of ignoring it as you rush from monument to monument.

15. If you’re going to Ireland, visit Belfast!

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After we visited Skellig Michael and The Burren, we headed into Northern Ireland and then finally reached Belfast. We then checked into what was hands-down the cutest airbnb of our Ireland trip. That entry hall and courtyard are so amazing!

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After getting settled, our first stop was The Crown Liquor Saloon in downtown Belfast, open since 1885. The woodwork and stained glass windows were so detailed and gorgeous that I had a wandering eye the entire time we were there. They certainly don’t make them like they used to.

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Even though Belfast clearly appreciates old architecture, the city at large is much more modern than Dublin is. I came away feeling like Belfast is the Brooklyn to Dublin’s Manhattan. During our stay there I saw so many cool looking shops and restaurants, and although we didn’t have time to indulge in it, the city has a strong arts scene and plenty of art museums as well. I vowed to stay longer in Belfast next time so I can explore the city life more.

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I already can’t wait to start on my next adventure: to Paris in a week and a half! I’m so excited. Stay tuned!

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More about my trip to Ireland:

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Thanks for reading Feathers and Wax! x

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3 comments
  1. […] Overseas travel tips + Belfast love […]

  2. […] Overseas travel tips + Belfast love […]

  3. Blitz says: September 1, 20158:46 pm

    I love this post! Great tips for me to put in my pocket for our next international trip. I would also add researching hostels as accommodations if you are on a budget. Eli Roth really ran them through the mud but like most things, you get what you pay for. A really nice private room can run you around 30 USD a night while a dorm room can be as low as 14 USD a night and provides a great way to meet other travelers if you happen to be traveling solo. My favorite site – http://www.hostelworld.com

    Also, bring a reusable water bottle with you. Fill it after youve made it through security and chug that shit through out your flight. Airlines can be a little stingy with water depending on who you’re flying and international trips can really dehydrate you.

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