With the pesky “study” part of my study abroad program, most of my trips were limited to the weekends. However, after spending many weekends abroad, I like think I had it down to an art, and here is how I did it:
How to get there: With such limited time to spend on holiday, it’s best to weigh your options on timeliness of different modes of transport and cost. For all my weekends away, I flew, and with budget airlines such as easyJet and RyanAir, it can be quite affordable. If you’re taking a weekend away based in mainland Europe to another country in the mainland, I would suggest looking into buses or trains if it’s 300 miles away or less (that will take about 3-5 hours). However, if you’re traveling from the British Isles to the mainland (or vice versa), flying is your only timely and budget option.
What to pack: I usually travel with just carry-ons because budget flights usually charge quite a bit for checked bags (that’s where they get you). Be sure the check baggage size restrictions for carry-on luggage. I find it really useful to make a list so you can pack quickly, not forget anything and use it for future trips. Here is a list of my travel essentials.
Where to stay: If you’re hoping to travel while you study abroad, you’re more than likely going to want to travel on a budget. With that, I highly suggest you stay at a hostel. I use HostelWorld to find my accommodation, I wrote a bit about staying in hostels here (I have also written about every hostel I’ve stayed in here, as well). As a quick recap: I (personally) search for the city, filter by rating and price, then use the map to choose hostels close to public transit and then, finally, compare pictures and facilities of the remaining hostels. Your own search method will differ by your priorities, however, I highly suggest you stay somewhere close to public transit routes. I can’t tell you how great it was to live near local train lines in big cities like Berlin and Paris.
What to know: Before traveling to a new country, there are some things you should know a bit about it to avoid any faux pas. Be sure you understand the currency and its value, tipping, main words in the country’s language, appropriate gestures and greetings (as well as inappropriate ones) and perhaps appropriate dress. The easiest way to find out how most people dress is to Google “people of [the country you’re traveling to].” This is important because you don’t want to offend anyone or stick out as a tourist waiting to be scammed.
What to do: Before you go, you’re going to want to figure out what to do. Use travel sites like TripAdvisor or Pinterest for ideas. Especially if you’re just going for the weekend, I strongly suggest against taking daytrips to other cities. Stay local, there will be plenty to explore! Most everywhere you go (from my experience in western Europe), there will likely be some sort of “free” walking tour offered (ask your hostel or look online). Again, these aren’t really free, they’re tip-based, so have your cash ready. One last note: I like to find a balance between booking and not booking things in advance. I like to leave time open in case I get tipped off about something I didn’t think before I left.
What to take on a day out: During your days out, beside the obvious, you’re going to want to be prepared with a water bottle, hand sanitize, tissues, portable charger and anything you’ll need for a change in weather (sunglasses, windbreaker, gloves, etc.). Also, be sure to leave room in your day bag for any souvenirs you buy on your day out.
How to eat: Like accommodations, you probably don’t want to splurge on eating while you travel. Personally, I like to choose a hostel that provides a free breakfast, which often is simple breads, fruits and juice or coffee, but hey, it’s free. I try to eat cheaply, having small portions and sticking to foods I’m familiar with. However, for a few meals, I will indulge myself in a nice dinner with local delicacies. On a similar note, I avoid drinking in access when I travel to save money and avoid late nights (and the hangovers the next morning that will make walking around and exploring a bit miserable).
Here are some bonus pieces I wrote about study abroad tips (there are some traveling while studying abroad tips in there), the pros and cons of traveling alone, what a good travel buddy looks like, quick travel tips and special tips for solo female travelers.