Anytime someone tells me they have a vacation coming up and I ask “got everything dialed in for your trip?” and they answer “meh, we’ll figure it out when we get there”, I wanna blow my brains out. Not because they don’t have a bunch of events/excursions/tours booked, but because they haven’t put thought about ANY of the details that could literally make or break their trip. Packing, food, transportation, hotels, dining, site seeing, etc. are all things you can have figured out before you head to your destination.
Being that Lacey and I are super OCD when it comes to this topic, we’re going to share our thoughts in a multi-post, Travel Prep, series.
First up – Public Transportation
Alright, so let’s say you’ve just arrived at your destination (by using our best practices for booking a free flight of course 😉 ). When you walk off the plane and out those airport doors to a city you’ve never been to, do you have a plan? If not, you’re already wasting precious vacation time and you’re likely feeling super awkward and uncomfortable…not to mention standing out like a sore thumb as being a dumb shit tourist. Not only does it totally suck to be in this position, it also lets any scam artist know that you’re a easy target.
We’ve all been there, I know I have. It is an overwhelming and embarrassing feeling. Well here’s the good news, you never have to go through this again if you spend a little time before-hand doing some public transportation Travel Prep.
Start by doing a Google search on your destination city. Get an idea of all forms of public transportation available. Do they have a metro? Do they only have buses? Do they have both? I know most cities have taxi/uber services, but why spend $50 getting to your hotel when the metro costs $2? Spend that extra cash on a celebratory “we’re here!” bottle of booze at dinner that night.
Did you pick your preferred form of public transportation? Now find out if you can pre purchase a travel pass online and have it mailed to you. Overkill? Maybe, but this will help you avoid a confused walk around the metro or bus station looking for a way to purchase your ticket. You’ll already have your pass in-hand, ready to use, like the rest of the locals. Even though it’s pretty easy to find a ticket machine at a metro or bus station, I’ve run into many cases where the ticket machines are out of order OR for some reason they only accept certain types of payment. Just a couple of the reasons to buy your pass before your trip if it’s an option.
Taking this a step further, most transportation services now have YouTube vids on how to use/swipe their cards at the station. Watch these vids a few times to get super comfortable with the process so by the time you get to the station you’re a pro. No more holding up lines while you get stuck at the subway turn style.
Below is an example vid for Chicago’s Ventra Card. Kind of a silly video, but at least you’ll feel dumb in the comfort of your own home instead of in a crowded train station.
Ok, great, so you made it to the train station and through the turn style gates. Now what? None of the giant signs have the name of your exact stop on ’em…shit! Are you in the right place? Where do you go? What train are you supposed to get on? Again, the feeling of being an awkward dumb ass rushes over you. But wait, you can avoid this hiccup too!
Here’s where the internet comes in handy again. Once you’ve decided which form of public transportation you want to use (before your trip), look up their daily routes and departure/arrival times. You’re looking for a map similar to the one I found below for our upcoming trip to Rome. I know that we’ll be starting at the TERMINI station and that we’ll need to get to the S. Pietro (St. Peter’s Basilica) stop. The Ottoviano/S.Pietro stop will NOT be on the main signs in the TERMINI station. Instead the signs will have the final destination of that route on the sign. So for the example below, I will be looking for the red line to Battistini. I know that our Ottoviano/S.Pietro stop will be the 6th stop along the way.
Making this even easier, nowadays there are TONS of public transportation apps you can download that will help with your trip. These apps will give you all of the routes and arrival times. Here is a really cool public transit app that we’ve been using lately. You can also do a simple AppStore/Google Play search for “Your City + Public Transportation”.
Simple enough right? For a lot of you, this might be common sense. For the rest of us that drive cars everyday instead of using public transportation, this can be intimidating. It definitely was for me. By spending just a few minutes researching this stuff before your trip, you can take the stress off of a big portion of your trip. Being in a new city is overwhelming enough with all of the new sites and sounds, the last thing you want to worry about is getting lost. Spend less time being lost and confused and spend more time enjoying your trip!
I hope this helps! Let us know if you have any questions.