Ultimate Guide to Weekend Travel

11 Useful Tips for Weekend Travel:

Immersing yourself in your host countries culture is one of the most influential aspects of studying abroad. Learning the language, meeting the people, visiting the museums and eating the food are just four experiences that will contribute to the enlightenment that is gained by living in another country.

I am a huge fan of really settling in to your host city rather than traveling to different places every weekend. With this said, some of my favorite experiences were my weekend trips to different countries in Europe! Definitely take advantage of the cheap air fair and proximity; but remember making your host city your home is fundamental for growth and stability!

Below are 11 useful tips for planning your ventures out of your host city! 

1.  Start planning early

This is something that I have done and sadly, have not done. I know from experience that planning your trips early not only will be less expensive, but less stressful! Finding hotels, hostels, flights, trains, buses, etc., will all be much simpler if you plan a month rather than two days in advance.

2.  Use comparison websites

Hit up kayak.com or bookingbuddy.com to find the best flight and hotel offers for your travel dates and location.

TIP #1: Make sure that you are using private browser when searching as your location may change the price.
TIP #2: Check out different dates and times. Often, early in the morning flights are less expensive than midday and Tuesday or Wednesday may be less expensive than Saturday or Sunday.

3. Read up!

Studying pre-trip will not only boost your excitement, but will also help you discover what you want to do, where you want to go and what you want to see before you arrive.

Check out lonelyplanet.com for some simple and informative pages on practically every city you can imagine!

4. Lodging

I am one of Airbnb’s biggest fans. Depending on the location and amount of people in your group, you can actually find an Airbnb for around the same price as a hostel or hotel. However, of course there are situations where a hostel is your cheapest and most convenient bet.

I stayed in BCN GO hostel in a twenty-person room in Barcelona and it was inexpensive, clean and my friend and I were able to meet other travelers which is great if you are traveling alone or in a small group.

Tip #1: 100% read reviews pre-arrival, regardless of where you are staying. Bedbugs and hostels are often heard in the same sentence so research to avoid anything along those lines! I recommend hostelworld.com for it’s clarity and options.
Tip #2: If you are staying in a hostel, pack a lock. Most hostels provide large lockers if you are sharing a room with strangers. However, since locks are most often not included, I would purchase the 3 euro lock and significantly limit the risk of your items being taken.

5. Be okay with being a tourist

I’ve struggled with this over my travels. I dislike when people automatically speak to me in English or jack my prices while we barter because they know I am not a local. However, I’ve come to realize that who cares! I am a tourist and I want to see the attractions that make this vacation destination desirable. Of course, I am going to see the Colosseum when I am in Rome, the colorful houses in La Boca while in Buenos Aires and the Eiffel Tower during my trip to Paris.

With this said, I recommend finding a city walking/biking tour if you are unfamiliar with your destination. These are great and inexpensive ways to see all of the city’s major attractions if you are short of time!

6. Use travel programs

I have had amazing experiences using companies like Bus2Alps that are geared towards helping study abroad students get the most out of their weekend trips. Forget about lodging and transportation as these travel programs will have everything already planned.

I have found that the tour guides are fun, informative, not much older than the average college student and in most cases studied abroad during their college years. You are on a pre-planned schedule, which is great for soaking in a new city in a short amount of time. In my opinion, the only downside is the lack of free-time. However, the organization and convenience that is included with these travel programs may be worth the lack of a few extra hours of free time depending on the location and the group!

7. Don’t overpack

Chances are, you are going to be shopping during your weekend trip. Whether it is a ceramic bowl from Morocco or a leather jacket from Italy; it is always a good idea to leave some space in your backpack or suitcase. Especially since you will have to pay a fine if your suitcase is over the weight-limit on your flight back to your host city.

TIP: Most Airbnb’s will be equipped with at least a washing machine and I have found a couple hostels that provide a laundry-cleaning service!

8. Research public transportation

I am guilty of taking an overpriced taxi because I didn’t research public transportation. Finding yourself unable to take the metro or bus won’t be what you want after a day of traveling!

TIP: Find your metro or bus stop pre-arrival. This is always good to know if you need to ask for directions or if the maps are in another language!

9. Bring a copy of your passport

I recommend bringing not only your real passport but a copy of your passport as well when you travel out of your host-city. I have always felt more comfortable having my real passport in my purse with a copy stored somewhere safe in the situation that you are robbed.

TIP: Girls, always bring a small over-the-shoulder purse. They are perfect for security while walking through a busy crowd!

10. Pack shampoo, conditioner, soap, etc.

Unless you are staying in a hotel, chances are shampoo, conditioner and other toiletry products will not be included. Also, if you really want to be prepared I suggest packing a towel. I have been towel-less in a hostel and had to resort to my clothing as a substitute. 

11. Learn a little of the language

Although it is easy to assume that almost everyone in a large city will know a little bit of English, it is always good to know basic vocabulary before arriving in your vacation city; whether it be “do you speak English” or “where is the bathroom”.

Use these tips to prepare for another adventure in another new part of the world that you are lucky enough to discover! 

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