How to Make the Most of Your Travel Weekends Abroad

Written by Kayla June 9, 2015

There are many reasons that a person decides to study abroad but one common one is to have the opportunity to travel and see new places. When I was determining if I wanted to participate in the CIMBA summer program, one factor that made me nervous was the length of the program (it’s only four weeks) and how that would affect my ability to travel on the weekends since we do not have any long breaks. As I have found out over the past three weeks, it is possible to travel and pack a lot into these weekends, you just have to be ready to put in some work.

  1. My first tip for making the most of your travel weekends is to plan ahead. I know that it’s easy to get caught up in the rush of activities and class during the week but planning your trips early will save you a lot of money and frustration. Your first priority should be figuring out transportation, then lodging, and last on your list should be tickets for attractions and excursions. The transportation is the most frustrating part to organize and prices change quickly and seats fill up fast. Cheap lodging is easy to find in most locations and prices stay consistent, so this should be your next priority. However, don’t put it off too long otherwise you may miss out on some of the best locations. Last on your list should be tickets for attractions and activities, if it comes down to it these can be booked once you reach your location or when you are in the airport/ on the way to your destination.
  2. My second tip is to do your research. When you arrive in your destination you should already have a pretty solid idea of what you would like to do during your stay. Having this done before you arrive saves a lot of time, deciding what to do is time consuming but booking tickets is quick and simple.
  3. My third tip is to download maps and directions before you leave campus. There are apps where you can download a map on your phone that will show your location without using data. This is very helpful when you are trying to navigate your way (usually at night) through a new city. It is also useful to have directions saved on your phone that can get you from your drop off point to your destination. Most hostels/ hotels/ bed & breakfasts are willing to provide you with directions that are very, very simple. One hostel we were staying at even specified which trains we needed to take and how much tickets would be.
  4. My fourth tip is to interact with the locals. They live here and know what you should do/ see. They also know how to avoid tourist traps and from experience they have excellent restaurant recommendations. A lot of the cities you will visit are huge and impossible to explore every nook and cranny in just a weekend, talking with locals will ensure that you make the most of the little time that you do have.
  5. My final tip is to network with fellow travelers, whether it’s your friend who studied abroad last semester (thanks Emma!) or someone you meet at a hostel, take their advice. They have the same mission as you: to see the world. My travel group found that staying in a hostel with lots of common space is the best for accomplishing this. Last weekend we traveled to Barcelona (my new favorite city) and stayed in an amazing hostel, Saint Christopher’s Inn. They have locations in a few cities, if there is one in the city you are visiting, book it and you will not be disappointed. This hostel has a bar/restaurant attached that made meeting other people extremely easy. Whether we were having breakfast or getting drinks, we met someone new every time and received valuable travel advice.

Applying these tips this past weekend made it the most successful trip so far. We visited Parc Güell and la Sagrada Familia, biked through the city, visited an outdoor market, ate Spanish street food, experienced la Rambla (one of the main streets) when Barcelona won the Champions League, went to the beach a few times, enjoyed the night life (it’s unreal), and fell in love with yet another city… all in two days. If you’re willing to put in the effort to plan it, you can experience a city in just one weekend. My time abroad has flown by. I can’t believe that I have finals this week! Once finals are done I will be headed to Croatia for the next few days. Studying abroad has been an incredible experience, but I’m excited to go home and share my pictures, videos, and stories with my family and friends.

Ciao until I’m back in the good ole’ US of A!