People always tell you that your experience at university is about much more than just your lectures and seminars. And they’re right.  They also tell you to take advantage of the UK’s location close to some of the world’s most famous cities. They’re right again.  Here are my tips on how to get away on short breaks and weekend trips.

Alright, Let’s Get Started: The Travel Part of Travelling

#1

You could fly everywhere….

How to Book Student Flights

Fancy going to Paris, Prague, Berlin or Barcelona? Everything starts with booking the right way.

The Skyscanner website is a gift from heaven.  Simply type in where you want to go and / or where you’re coming from – and the cheapest flights from all airlines will be loaded on the very next page.

A word of advice: Opting for flights with one stop-over or more can seem a great deal. But if you’re going away on a short break, do you really want to spend your precious hours hanging out at airports?

#2

…or, catch a coach or train

Student travel by train

Of course when I talk about weekend trips I don’t just mean outside the UK – there are so many amazing places to visit here.

If you’re travelling fairly close by you can catch a bus or train – this is usually the cheaper option.  Book trains at least 3 weeks in advance, coaches and buses can be caught anytime really. The National Express coach and bus service website is great for this.

#3

Book a practical departure time

Should you take that 5 am flight

Be careful about booking flights or coaches for 5am in the morning just because they’re cheap. Sometimes transport to the airport or meeting point in the very early morning hours can be very expensive, dangerous or impossible.

#4

When in Rome, do as the Romans do

Taking public transport while away on a student trip

I’m sure you’ll have heard that phrase before but what it essentially means is: once you get to your destination, do as the locals do.  And that’s a motto I live by!

Use public transport or walk. Buy day passes for buses as they are much cheaper than single ride tickets.  It’ll not only save you money, it’s also the best way to experience a place and really get to know it beyond the famous landmarks.

Unless you’re the Incredible Hulk, you might want to look here

“20 pairs of underwear, clothes for each day of the week, books, enough soap to last, shampoo, conditioner, hair straighteners…”.

This much stuff is not necessary for travelling!

Firstly, most small airlines in Europe will not let you check in any bags unless you pay crazy fees. Secondly, backpacking has its name for a reason.

how-to-pack-student-trip

Packing light

Travel suitcase fail

You only need a backpack for travelling around Europe, no matter how long you go for.  Here’s what I’d recommend:

  • Bring 2 pairs of shoes max, you only have one pair of feet!
  • Buy travel wash/use laundromats to wash your clothes often. This way you do not need to bring too many items.
  • Wear heavy/large items on the plane, this saves room in your bag.
  • Speaking of room, leave some! Europe has so many awesome, cheap places and the temptation to buy things when travelling may kick in.
  • Bring merino clothes. This fabric is very lightweight, it keeps you warm in the heat and cool in hot weather. Plus, it will dry quickly when you wash it.

Travel packing tips

And Now to Your Accommodation Options

hotel-meme

When it comes to accommodation, you’ll be spoilt for choice!  The options range from luxury 5 star hotels to hostels – and everything in between.  It really depends on what you prefer and how much you’re willing to spend.

Here are some options that I’ve tried and tested.

#1

Hotels from 5 Stars to 1 Star

Luxury Hotel

There are plenty of hotel comparison websites where you can enter your city destination, date of stay, price range and other specific preferences you may have.  My favourite way of booking a hotel is searching for top reviewed hotels but then trying to book a room via the hotel’s own website as often you get the best deal – but do always compare rates.

#2

B&Bs: Home Away from Home

breakfast b&b

Who of us hasn’t stayed or loves the idea of staying in a Bed & Breakfast? They’re just a perfect alternative to hotels as there’s much more of a ‘personal touch’.  I prefer them because they’re smaller, less busy – and, yes, also because you get a home-cooked breakfast.

You can search for B&Bs on most hotel booking sites, and of course there’s always AirBnB where you can rent someone’s home for a few nights.

#3

Hostels:  Cheap and Cheerful

Hostels are just fun

I’m literally staying in one as I’m writing this!  Hostels are a popular option with us students not only because they’re cheap – but also because they’re fun!  Hostels are generally a great place to meet people and to live the tourist experience.

There are different options, depending on how much you want to spend on a room. Shared rooms and shared bathrooms will be cheaper. If you’re female and you’re travelling alone, ask for a female-only dormitory.

But don’t expect too much from your hostel as compared to a hotel or B&B it will be messy, crowded and may not be well maintained.

Your Personal Safety Is Key

that awkward moment when you walk through metal detectors at airport (1)

The word ‘safety’ often sends us into a state of alert and worry.  But although the UK and rest of Europe are perfectly safe places to travel, it’s important to take some precautions – as you would anywhere.

DOs

  • Always be aware of yourself and your belongings. Think – “Okay I am going out with one backpack, my phone, money belt, passport, waterbottle” and once in a while tap your pockets to check that everything is there
  • Keep your phone, wallet and passport on your person.  Have a decoy, cheap handbag filled with less important items, like an extra hat or scarf – and 10 Euros or Pounds in cash. This way if someone is looking for an unsuspecting tourist to rob then they will probably reach for your handbag.  Give it to them without arguing and run away.
  • Bring a padlock for hostels – they have places where you can lock your possessions, like your notebook or bag, when you’re out.  It’s generally also a good idea to lock your bag when leaving it in your hotel room.
  • Check if your hostel provides wifi, bed linen and towels. Some hostel will provide these free of charge while others will charge you extra.  Also check if there is a curfew time, meaning you can’t enter the hotel after a certain time.

DON’Ts

  • Don’t believe everything you read about the location of your accommodation. Many descriptions say ‘great location’ or ‘close to major tourist attractions’.  Always read the reviews to make sure your accommodation is in a safe part of the city and isn’t located in a dark or deserted road.
  • Travel Insurance is a no-brainer. Do not be deterred by how much it costs, just get it. If something happens you do not want to be forking out thousands of pounds/euros/dollars that you don’t have.
  • Don’t trust strangers and especially if they are offering you something that is too good to be true- like a free drink at a bar!

And most important of all, don’t forget to HAVE FUN

one direction having fun

You know what the best secret is for having a great short break or weekend trip?  Forget about your studies and have a great time!  There’s no point in thinking about deadlines or coursework while you’re away – there’s nothing you can do about it now.

I mentioned safety earlier, and that’s important as any unfortunate incident could spoil your trip for you.  In saying this, don’t spend your whole time being scared. Most locals are kind and helpful!  If  anything happens, like your phone gets stolen, of course that’s a pain – but it’s not the end of the world.  You will have tons of unforgettable experiences and that’s the most important thing – so enjoy your trip, you’ll have an amazing time.

Meet me, Briana!

Tips on how to book student weekend trips and brreaks

Born in the UK, I moved to New Zealand when I was 18 months old. I came back to the UK as an international student in 2016.  I’m reading for a degree in Neuroscience (which includes the study of psychology and physiology) at the University of Manchester.

Anything to do with travelling, dancing and unicycling, I’m down for! I know that everyone will have a different adventure overseas but I love sharing my experiences to help you make the most of yours.

Showing 2 comments
  • jane
    Reply

    love this!

    • Antoinette
      Reply

      Thanks Jane, great post by Briana.

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