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Hey, what’s the GP?

Rohan Anand | Thursday, September 6, 2007

I was frequently asked this by my beloved traveling entourage (moment of silence) that I met during my six-week immersion program in Toledo, Spain, this summer. No, the “GP” didn’t stand for “good paella,” but “game plan” a desirable plan-of-action for the group.

In travel context, a “game plan” includes the smallest excursion to the pharmacy (a.k.a. boxed-Sangria runs) to the most treacherous (and dumbest) idea of participating in the Pamplona bull runs. My dad was the original master of the GP of my yester-years of family travel. So, I stuck to my lineage so that whenever I had to rally my friends (or at least was nominated to do so), I suggested we stick with a GP.

The GP took us atop a beautiful rock overlooking Toledo (where we trekked up before sunset and enjoyed our pharmacy purchases), late into the bouncing nightlife of Barcelona dancing on platforms ’til sunrise, and miles offshore Costa del Sol on a sailboat into the clear-blue Mediterranean.

The GP became our staple, a passport to sites and memories. Many fellow Domers will depart soon to study in Spain for this semester or in the future. So, when time comes for you to formulate your own GP, you might recall some of the following things I learned (or wish I had known before) along the way.

Inter-European travel: Student hostels and low-cost transportation services makes securing the weekend getaway much simpler with less planning time and tighter budgets. However, do your research before booking a seat on a sketchy-sounding airline like “Compania Low-Cost.” Many discount carriers like EasyJet fly to unheard of “alternative” airports for major cities that may be 50 miles away from the actual city. Double check to make sure that the $10 seat you bought isn’t a cardboard box, either. Always carry your passport even for a domestic flight (I learned that the hard way).

Nightlife: Admission into clubs is expensive, but drink fees are exorbitant. Since most clubs don’t get packed until around 2 a.m., stick to bars before and you’ll still have money in the bank. If you are in big groups, enter by staggering; otherwise bouncers won’t let you in because of overcrowding.

Post-party: You may return to your inexpensive hostel at 7 a.m. and kick yourself upon discovering that some do not provide towels or bed sheets free of charge. Some also have curfews, so if you call it an “early night,” at 4 a.m. and miss the deadline, you’ll be banging outside the door and be mistaken for the drunken village idiot.

My best advice can be heeded before departure. Gather everything you plan to take with you, unpack half, and leave it at home. Airlines are no longer generous with baggage allowances. Leaving room in your bag prevents you from worrying about paying extra baggage fees for all of the sweet schwag you bought for your friends on your inward journey. Plus you’ll be too broke to pay them anyways.