SkillsTravel

After living in Washington, D.C. for the past five years, I am a convert. A convert to public transportation, that is. Until I moved to this city, my gold ’95 Honda Accord (please, don’t laugh) was the preferred method of getting from point A to point B in my suburban town. I was pretty unfamiliar with how city commuting worked. I imagined confusing maps with too many colors, a lot of random numbers, accidentally going the wrong direction, and always being a few cents too short. I admit it took me a period of trial and error to get D.C.’s transportation system down pat, but once I did, I never looked back. In this article I want to tell all city-visitors and those city slickers who are still skeptical about all the great reasons to make public transportation your main method of getting around. Here are my tips on how to use public transportation like a true pro.

1. Download the app. It will absolutely become your best friend. Most metropolitan areas with public transportation systems have an accompanying app for smartphones that are equipped with maps, schedules, and a real time schedule that allow you to see exactly when a bus or metro will arrive. This means no more looking at scribbled-on posters or fading signs, just look at your handy personal guide via your phone anytime, anywhere. This is the app I use for Washington, D.C. – it’s great!

2. Buy a rechargeable card. Getting a permanent card you can reload with money is useful if you are going to be using public transportation frequently. Not only does this mean you can have a nice plastic card, as opposed to a flimsy paper card or coins, but it allows you to get right on your bus/metro quickly without stopping to add money.

3. Minimize train transfers to save money and time. Transferring can sometimes lead to extra waiting time and fees, so I do my best to avoid it completely. I like to do this by walking a few extra blocks to the line that takes me directly to my destination. Not to mention getting a few more steps in the day is always beneficial for your health!

4. Follow the unspoken courtesy rules. Sometimes these rules are written (“Save these seats for disabled and elderly passengers.”), but sometimes they are not. For example, be that kind person to give up your seat to a pregnant woman or someone with lots of groceries. Try to help someone with his or her bags and make sure to keep the seat next to you empty so someone else can sit down. Public transportation karma is real, people.

5. Keep your wallet in order. Or your pockets, or your purse, or wherever you store your card/ticket/coins for your journey. Putting these items in the same place every time you commute will help eliminate headaches and minimize impatient groans from passengers behind you as you board and depart.

6. Always travel with water & a granola bar. We don’t live in a perfect world, so sadly public transportation is sometimes unpredictable. Since you can’t predict when a delay may happen or do anything about it when it does, the least you can do is be prepared. I like to always have a drink and small snack on hand at all times because that way, I may be late and annoyed, but at least not thirsty or hungry!

I hope these tips bring you some good ideas and clarity on how to utilize public transportation and enjoy its services. Happy traveling!

Image: Flickr

Travel

This is amazing! It’s your first summer in New York City. You’re here for pre­-college classes, checking out universities, taking summer courses, interning, working, or simply shopping, eating, and being a tourist. It’s the city that never sleeps, a place romanticized by movies and glorified by those who live here.

Well. Sort of. If you know anything about NYC, you know it has its rough patches. New Yorkers are known for their direct and fast paced attitudes, always rushing around stylishly but quickly. In the summer, the tempo of the city changes. Tourists flood in and some New Yorkers leave. But those who stay, like yours truly, are forced to weather through some of the not­-so-­pleasant things about being in NYC in the summer. These are a few things you should know before coming to New York City.

1. It is hot.

That explains everything. The grouchy taxi drivers. The simmering concrete. The wet sensation under your arms and the uncomfortable chill of the train if you’ve been sitting too long. NYC summers are hot. Commuting feels nasty. This year has been pretty tame, but usually the temperature hits triple digits. NYC summers are hit­-the­beach, break-­the-­fire­-hydrant, egg­-on-­the-­sidewalk hot. Advice: drink water, stay indoors or have indoor trips until 3pm­ish, and pack lightly. Mornings around 7-­9am and evenings around 6-­8pm are commuter hours and you don’t want to be stuck next to the sweaty businessman and a woman with her crying baby. I recommend that you do your summer intensives or other courses during a more relaxed time in case you have to lug supplies or textbooks around. If you insist on going outside, keep the heat in mind.

2. Watch out for mosquitoes.

Yes. Mosquitoes. Did you think that being in a city full of skyscrapers and asphalt would save you from those little monsters? You’re sadly mistaken. I sit here telling you to beware of the mosquitoes, but I have five bites on my legs just from walking to the grocery store. What’s so unique about NYC mosquitoes? They’re intense. My friend from the West coast says that they are nastier biters here than where she’s from, so be warned!

Even as a seasoned New Yorker, I haven’t overcome this itchy nightmare. It does not matter who you are or where you’re going. If you breathe and if you have blood, you’re going to be mosquito food. You can either simply accept that you’ll get bitten (as I have) or you can avoid going outside, especially at night. The crazy thing is they seem to be everywhere, even indoors and in the middle of the day. They cling to people’s clothing, and with all the moving around, it’s no wonder they are everywhere. There are bug sprays and lotions you can use to keep mosquitoes away, but there really isn’t an escape. Best of luck.

3. Avoid moving­-in nightmares.

If you’re a college student looking to live outside the dorms for the semester, you better find an apartment, and fast! Students who are coming back for fall are going to start moving, or moving back, and you want to make sure you find somewhere to stay during this rush. Start looking for places now and if you’re lucky, you’ll find something you like within your budget.

New York is a great place to spend the summer if you know your way around. Even if you don’t, you’ll get the hang of where you are and what trains to take quickly. There are a lot of things to do and see, and as long as you’re aware of how to take care of yourself, you will be just fine. Remember to stay hydrated and to take it easy. Enjoy the city, and make it a summer to remember!

Image: Unsplash