“Cheeeeers to the freakin’ weekend, I’ll drink to that…”
When the weekend hits in college, it’s like students everywhere breathe a collective sigh of relief. Brunches are planned, naps are taken, and life is good.
But when you’re studying abroad, weekends become even cooler — they’re the perfect opportunity to travel the world.
Suddenly, instead of choosing between going to the mall or the movies, you’re stuck with the task of deciding whether you wanna visit London or Lisbon. Ugh, life is hard.
Whether you’re heading across the pond for a summer, a semester, or a year, odds are you’ll spend a few of your weekends exploring different countries. Here’s what you need to do to make sure those weekend trips go off without a hitch:
Book a Room You Actually Like
Hostels can be wonderful and usually offer really cheap fares, but if they’re not your thing, you’ve got other options! Look into Airbnb and I promise you can find a place to crash that’s both hip and affordable — especially if you’re splitting the cost with friends. A lot of Airbnb rentals offer private bathrooms, free WiFi, and sometimes even toiletries, so you’ll have everything you need for a comfy weekend away. Plus, you can get firsthand recommendations from your host of what to eat, drink, and see while you explore their city! Just make sure you book with a verified host and scope out the rental’s location to make sure it’s in a safe neighborhood. And if you’ve got friends who are studying abroad in other cities, hit them up and plan a visit! Not only will you get to catch up with them and have so much fun, you’ll also probably be able to crash with them — for free.
Pack Your Bags…Efficiently
Raise your hand if you’ve ever sat on the floor, stared into an empty suitcase for thirty minutes, and called it “packing”. Same. The best way to never do that again is to make a master packing list specifically for when you’re jetting off for the weekend. Jot down all of the essentials you need to bring and save this list throughout your time abroad so you’ll be golden no matter where you’re heading — just adjust your clothing items based on the weather and vibe of the city you’ll be visiting. You’ll probably be packing a bag more times than you ever thought you would in your entire life while you’re abroad, so having a list to refer to will make it like second nature. That way, you can make sure you don’t spend your weekend in Copenhagen battling blurry vision because you accidentally forgot your contact solution (like I did).
Learn the Rules of the Road Air
You’re going to develop a love/hate relationship with Ryanair. On one hand, you’ll be pretty hyped when you book a roundtrip flight to Amsterdam for under €100. On the other hand, you might get a headache once you realize you have to print out your boarding pass, wait in a massive line at the airport to get a visa stamp, and comply with annoyingly specific size and weight regulations for your baggage. You win some, you lose some. But seriously, save yourself a bit of hassle and read up on your airline’s requirements so you can avoid steep fees and unnecessary stress when you’re dashing through the airport.
Go with the Low…est Ticket Prices
In 2005, Hilary Duff said, “London, Paris, maybe Tokyo…there’s something going on anywhere I go…” Well, girlfriend was right — you can find adventures anywhere. So when you’re planning your weekend trips, be open-minded about your destinations. Pull up Skyscanner on your laptop, pick a weekend, and set your destination as “everywhere” — then browse away. You might not have ever dreamed about visiting Budapest before, but if the airfare is cheap, you might as well go, right? Duh. And who knows, it just might become your new fave place.
Have a Budget, but Live a Little
No matter how cheap your plane tickets or accommodation were, traveling can still be seriously expensive. It’s tempting to spend money on souvenirs from every city you visit, but try really hard not to — instead, stock up on as many pictures and memories as you can (those are free!). That being said, sometimes you gotta splurge and treat yo’ self since you may not have the opportunity to shop abroad for a while once you return stateside. So if you see a pair of sparkly shoes in a little shop in Madrid and you honestly can’t continue your life without them, buy ‘em. Or forever wish you had.
Don’t Let Mishaps Get You Down
The most important thing you can bring on any weekend trip is optimism. You can do travel prep for dayzzz, but there are still plenty of things that can (and unfortunately, sometimes will) go wrong. Your flight’s delayed, the language barrier sucks, or the weather app predicts rain the entire weekend? Don’t panic. Arm yourself with a good attitude and you’ll be able to turn even the worst travel nightmare into an epic adventure.
Bon voyage, babe.
Image via Meredith Kress