College Travel Tips: Spring 2017 Round-Up

I've spent the semester doing social media for my abroad program, APA Paris, which includes weekly blogging... and a brief explanation why it's been relatively quiet over here on my personal blog.

Here's a piece I wrote a few weeks ago, and I'll be migrating content back over here as the upcoming weeks bring free time and a stronger Wifi.

Originally published on Academic Program Abroad's Wordpress site April 14, 2017:

It’s spring break (vacances de printemps) here in Paris, which means that a lot of APA students are enjoying their time-off with well-earned travel. Having been on the European continent for about three and a half months at this point, with plenty of travel to boot, some of us feel like seasoned travelers. We've tried pizza in Naples, gelato in Rome, and funny cinnamon sugar pastries in Prague; others have visited the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam, and sunned themselves on the beaches of southern France. Here’s how we get from point A to point B – and the tools that help us do that:

Skyscanner or Kayak (in incognito-tab): The jury’s out on whether or not this actually works, but it’s worth a shot. The idea is that the prices will go up if you don’t browse without cookies (internet terminology, whatever that means). Regardless, use the Skyscanner or Kayak “explore” tools in a private window to figure out where to go in the first place. You plug in your home airport, dates, and the websites will do all the work for you. Can't beat those 30 euro flights to Milan! Find lodging easily; search using reviews, ratings, and price tools. Hostelworld even has its favorite hostels for different cities, leaving more time for the fun part of travel... which definitely isn’t staying in a hostel, is it?

SNCF’s “carte jeune”: Save a lot if you plan to ride the rails. The initial cost of 50 euros quickly pays for itself. For France-only travel, you can save up to 30% on ticket costs. A word on trains: take them when you can. You see more of the country, there’s usually outlets, and they can be a great place to get some work done between weekend trips. (I know, work? Who does that?)

BlaBlaCar: Train, flight too expensive? Check out this website, which helps travelers find empty seats in cars/buses for cheap. Only a little creepy. Make sure to bring a sense of humor in your duffel.

TimeOut: There’s a TimeOut market in Lisbon (one of our favorites!) but both the website and app are wonderful for figuring where to eat and where to drink, and what to do with your time when you’re not doing either of the afore-mentioned activities. The app for Paris is actually divided by arrondisement, which can be useful when you’re trying to stay local. Perfect for finding restaurants and bars.

VSCO: Edit photos for a fire Instagram. Facetune to edit out all that acne you got from a beer-only diet the past three months. (Looking at you, Eastern European students. Prague isn't looking so fun now, is it?)

Google Trips: This little-known app from Google helps you map out your travel. Create itineraries in different layers, divided by city or day. Add pins for landmarks, restaurants, or create walking paths.

Mint: You have to pay for all of this, don’t you? Track spending and set budgets you inevitably won't follow.

Some final words to the wise:

Leave the rollerboard suitcase at home. Bring a backpack (try 40-55L, do your research, and try it on in-store). Learn how to stuff it correctly. Buy an even smaller backpack and use that for day-trips... then stuff that smaller backpack in your big backpack and you’ve got not only backpack inception but tons of storage for all the stuff you'll inevitably buy with all the money you inevitably don't have. (See above.) 

Microfiber towels are your best bet: they dry quickly, are highly-absorbent and usually are anti-bacterial. Lush makes great solid shampoo, which is perfect if you don’t want to deal with a toiletry bag. Finally, as fun as the dual-wattage converters are, if you’re traveling with an iPhone and a laptop you don’t need one. They’re heavy, take up a ton of space, and fall out of the sockets themselves. Rubber flip flops: because you don't want to have to explain to your French pharmacist that you got athletes foot in a hostel in Naples. (Trop de vocabulaire.)

Happy travel!