By Kiana Lim
Nursing student, Villanova University, United States of America
I believe that everyone who decides to study abroad should make time to travel to other countries. It can seem daunting, especially because you’re still trying to adjust to a brand new country you have just moved to. But my mom reminded me before I left that I probably won’t get an opportunity like this ever again. This is especially because, for me, it can get pretty pricey to travel to Europe from America. From that point on, I knew that I wanted to make time to travel during my study abroad experience.
While traveling to a foreign country can look pretty glamorous on Instagram, there’s a lot of planning and preparing that goes into every trip. I had no experience with planning trips prior to this year, and so I thought I would share 3 basic steps to start your planning as well as my tips and tricks for anyone else wondering how to start.
Step 1: Where
The first thing you should figure out is where you want to go. This might seem like an easy and obvious question, but there are a lot of factors that need to be considered such as where you are currently located, the time you have available to travel, and how long you would want to stay wherever you choose to travel to. You should also keep how much you are budgeting for your trip. The price of your transportation can vary depending on where you are and where you want to go. Before I came to Manchester, I wrote down a list of places I wanted to visit before the end of my stay. This allowed me to have a better idea of where I wanted to go and how I could plan my trip around the destination.
Step 2: Who
Since this would be the first time I would be planning a trip for myself, I wanted to make sure I would be able to find someone to travel with. Unfortunately, I was the only one who chose the specific study abroad program I am currently on. This meant that I didn’t have a group of people who had the same desire, and limited time, to travel as I did. But if you do, be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to make new friends and see the world. I ended up reaching out to one of my friends who was studying abroad in Vienna. I was also able to meet other people studying abroad in Manchester through mutual friends. The best advice that I can give about finding other people to travel with is not to be afraid to ask!
Step 3: When
Depending on where you choose to travel to, you might only need a 3 day weekend or a whole 2 weeks. This is why the sooner you plan your trip, the better. If you’re traveling with someone, be sure to keep in mind your travel partner’s schedule as well. You may need to be flexible with dates as certain flights could also drastically change their prices if you leave even just a day earlier or later. The weather is also something that you should consider. I went to Italy and Spain in early April and the weather was warm, but there were definitely cold and rainy days. Pack smart!
Once you have answered these basic questions, you’ll have a solid foundation for planning your trip. In addition to these steps, I also have a couple of tips that might come in handy before or during your trip.
Tip #1: Leave a little extra room in your suitcase for souvenirs
Unfortunately, I didn’t think about bringing back souvenirs for my family until I had landed in Italy and my sister texted me, reminding me about what she wanted. But hopefully, you’re reading this before you embark on your journey! Luckily, I was able to squeeze a couple of smaller gifts for my family in my carryon bag.
Tip #2: Research where you’re going beforehand!
The week leading up to the day I left for my 2-week trip I was so incredibly busy, I didn’t have time to research the cities I was going to. Thankfully, when I was first researching places I wanted to travel to, I looked up different tourist attractions and compiled them all on a Google doc that I had shared with the people I would be traveling with. This made sightseeing easier, and more enjoyable! Knowing about the history behind the buildings or paintings you see can enhance your travel experience.
Tip #3: Use Tripadvisor to your advantage
When I was home, I would usually use Yelp to figure out where I should eat. However, I noticed that Tripadvisor was more popular in Europe, which made it a better resource to find good restaurants. At the beginning of our trip, my friends and I would sit down at any restaurant, as many places had someone standing outside trying to convince you to eat there. But whenever we did that, the food wasn’t usually that great or the service was bad. Tripadvisor helped us find really great places with amazing food!
Tip #4: Google is your best friend
If you’re like me and have downloaded Duolingo only to delete it after giving up on learning a new language, this tip is for you. The Google Translate app has a feature where you can download a language to access even when you’re offline. This saved my life while I was traveling! I took French in high school, so that didn’t help me too much in Italy and Spain. With the app, I was able to look up menu items or read signs without internet. I didn’t use it as often as I thought I would have, but when I did, it definitely came in handy. Another app from Google that was a huge help was Google Maps. This app also had an offline feature where you can download a certain area on the map so you can get directions even when you’re offline. I used this every single day! It made finding my way around a new city much easier. There were definitely times when I didn’t have wifi or data, but I was still able to figure out how to get around with the help of these apps.
Tip #5: Only take pictures of things you really want to remember
This last tip might seem like a super obvious and cheesy one, but you’d be surprised! During my travels, I witnessed a lot of tourists who seemed to take pictures of everything they saw. It seemed that at most times, they were looking at all of the different sights through their camera lens rather than experience it in person. Now I did take a lot of pictures, but I made sure to enjoy what I was experiencing in person but putting my phone away and just appreciate the view. Some moments can’t be captured on camera, and are better enjoyed in person.
I hope you find these tips helpful in planning your next trip!