You have arrived in your host city and are ready to plan some weekend travel; now what? Use these guidelines to experience trips you will never want to end!
One of the most important parts of planning a trip, outside of booking a flight or a train ride, is finding a place to stay. Plenty of people immediately count out hostels as an option, but there are some important factors to consider. Do not spend more than what is necessary for your housing. It is simply a place to sleep and shower because you will be spending all of your days exploring a new city! Three factors I consider to be crucial when booking a hostel are safety, cleanliness, and proximity. On my recent trip to London, I chose a hostel with lockable baskets underneath each bed, 24-hour security, and clear images online of what their facilities look like. Instead of paying to be in the city center, I stayed for ten dollars less each night to be right near a train station and took an extra twenty minutes each day to travel into the city center. Simply consider what factors you cannot live without and find a place that meets your basic needs – use the money saved to buy yourself some delicious local cuisine or a ticket to a museum!
For as long as I can remember, I have been someone who plans everything out. Studying abroad has shown me that sometimes the best things cannot be planned, and I am so grateful. My roommates and I booked our flight to London a week beforehand and arrived with zero plans or expectations. We were so busy with school that we simply forgot to research things to do, so we grabbed a map at our hostel and picked a place to start. The result was an amazing weekend! On our first full day, while walking between destinations, my friend spotted an adorable tea room across the street. Since drinking tea is a classic staple of London, we decided to go inside. It was a great way to get out of the rain and experience some local culture that following a schedule would have prevented.
When you are traveling with anyone other than yourself, it is natural to clash when deciding how to spend your time, especially with large groups. Almost everybody ends up having to compromise something because the group wants to stay together. That will work to a point, but it easily crosses the line of compromising your own satisfaction of the trip. You will likely find yourself looking back with regrets, wishing you had gone to that event or that unique restaurant that none of your friends cared about. You have decided to travel to that city for a reason and are spending time and money to be there. Do not hesitate to do what you want to do, even if it means going on your own. London was on my list of places to go specifically because of the West End where you can find incredible shows. Les Misérables is my favorite show, and I asked all of my friends go with me, but nobody was interested. I decided there was no way I was letting that stop me from watching my favorite story come to life, so I went by myself. I purchased my ticket two days before we left, and the show was everything I could have hoped for. My trip to London simply would not have been complete without it. I encourage you to trust your instincts and enjoy traveling to its fullest, even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone and doing something by yourself.
I want to leave you with this last bit of advice. One of the best parts of visiting a new city is allowing yourself to be mindful of all the sights around you and to fully appreciate each moment. Go with the flow, and laugh off mistakes. You will notice your travels becoming significantly less stressful.
Olivia is a spring 2019 SAI Paris student from the University of Tampa.