I can say with a certain level of confidence that all study abroad students enjoy traveling (otherwise why are you here?). With that shocking revelation all sorted out, I can guarantee that most of you potential or future study abroaders will be traveling most of your weekends. This is especially true for us Europe folk who have access to an overwhelming amount of countries to visit within a semester. A weekend might not seem like much time to explore a new place, but if I could ski the Swiss (and Italian) Alps in a weekend, then you can, too! Follow these steps to ensure an unforgettable experience!
Before you drop $100 a plane ticket, please do your research. You don't want to end up in the middle of a violent political revolution, do you? While most major cities in Europe are plenty safe, it's important to know what you're getting yourself into so you don't look like the ignorant American upon arrival.
|If you plan on skiing, make sure to check the usual snow conditions to ensure you're going at a good time|
2) Copies on Copies on Copies
Whenever you leave your host country, have copies of your passport and visa (if you have one). Luckily, the most common criminal activity over here is pickpocketing. Unfortunately, that means you better watch out because most likely you'll stick out as a foreigner and your passport is worth a lot. But, even as someone who is never seen without her DSLR camera around her neck, I have never been pickpocketed (fervently knocks on wood).
Besides critical documents, make sure to print your shuttle tickets, boarding passes, hostel/hotel confirmations, etc. You might not need all of this information, but you'll be grateful that you have them.
|Remember to keep track of your belongings (especially after a few fantastic Belgian beers)|
While it's best to avoid a strict minute-by-minute schedule of your holiday, an idea of what you want to do is helpful
|Bet your itinerary doesn't lead you to cool and mysterious doors|
4) Time to Buy
After you have a sense of where you want to go and what you want to do, it's time to put your money where your mouth is and book. Skyscanner.com will become your best friend; it is a wonderful little search engine that automatically sorts out the cheapest flights for you. Pro tip: Once you find the perfect flight, go to the airline’s website to book it, versus a potentially bogus third-party website.
5) Pack It Up
Don’t check a bag—it’s a waste of money and you only need clothes for a few days. Instead, grab a duffel bag/backpack (make sure it is within the airline’s regulation size) and use that. Carry any coats and wear larger, heavier shoes, such as boots. Also, Easy Jet only allows one carry-on, meaning that you either have to wedge your purse into your bag or find a way to sneak it on.
|Avoid flying altogether and take a day trip (picture in Bath, England)|
6) Emergency Information
Your credit card just got stolen—do you know who to call? Make sure to write the emergency contact number down (it’s on the back of your card) so you don’t have to worry about a pickpocket going on a spending spree. While it might seem excessive (I am the unofficial “mom” on trips, if you haven’t guessed that), I also like to have the addresses of the US and British Embassy in case of a serious emergency.
|All the effort is worth it when you realize you get to do things like ski the Matterhorn|
7) Have Fun
Don't stress too much! If you are prepared, you will have an incredible weekend, even if there are small snafus. You will miss a train, you will forget to print a ticket, and you will forget your phone charger, but if you plan ahead, these will be nothing but small bumps on your otherwise unforgettable trip!
Karly Sandsmark is the Spring 2014 CEA MOJO in London, UK. She is currently a junior at Colorado State University.
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