Amy Williams, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Obviously, studying abroad so I could travel after wasn’t the reason I chose the exchange year course, but I’m not going to lie, it was a perk. Considering a lot of people do this, I figured I’d write down some things I learnt about planning travelling, and actually travelling.
Plan, plan, plan. You can’t plan too much. There are times where you might want to leave things to fate as it were, but other times things need to be booked in advance. A lot of things like hotels and flights are cheaper when booked in advance, which I’m sure you know. It also means that you’ve looked in advance for things to do in the places you’re going to, and so know what to book in advance, and what to leave to the day etc. It also means that you’re more likely to stick to your budget.
BUDGET! If you have saved up and have plenty of money, you will be fine, but I’d still suggest having a budget. You never know, you may wander into a Sephora (or another shop you like). Don’t forget to add suitcase expenses to your budget. I made an excel spreadsheet, with the rows of the places I was going, and then columns of hotel, airplane, food, tours, cash. You can do your own, but it’s a basic one. It might seem a bit too far, but it meant I knew I wasn’t going to get stranded in the middle of America with no money. It also means you know how much you’ve spent, and don’t have to check your bank account a lot, or carry around a lot of receipts with you.
Make a quick list for family. It can be very simple – just the place you are, where you are staying, and the dates you are there for. Gives them peace of mind, and means someone will always know where you are.
Hotels vs. hostels vs. Airbnb. Saving money vs. decent living. In some places you are limited by where you can stay. I went to Yellowstone, and I really didn’t want to camp, it was airbnb. There were some hotels, but in this case they were more expensive, especially as they were closer to the car. If you use money saving websites to book hotels, then set your rating of cleanliness to a decent level, that way you can hopefully find a cheap but acceptable place to stay.
Arguments. People do differ, but as a person who needs time to themselves to recharge, I knew being with the same person for 5 weeks was going to be difficult. My advice would be get it out. If something annoys you, or they do something you dislike, say something fairly quickly, That way, when you get tired, you’re less likely to have a massive argument where everything spills out. Also make sure you agree on most things, and compromise when you can’t. A larger group can make this difficult, but at least you’ve tried to include everyone in the planning.
Lastly, a few more singular things I’ve learnt, mainly for America:
- Car hire for under 25’s means an additional charge is added on top of the original car hire
- If you go to New Orleans, have one day where you do very little, that way you can really experience the night out before, the heat is terrible when you don’t have a hangover, so I wouldn’t try it with one
- When are you coming back? So try it whilst you’re there
- Pack as lightly as possible – souvenirs
- Travel with old towels – you can give them away before you fly home
- Share toiletries, and have small bottles that you can refill rather than big ones that don’t run out
- If you want to see moose in Yellowstone, they’re most active at sunrise so it might mean a very early start
- You can never drink too much water in Vegas, or at the Grand Canyon
- America is bigger than you think it is…
I’m sure I’ll think of other tips once I’ve posted this, but as a quick list I travelled to: Nashville, Orlando, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Yellowstone, Seattle, Vancouver. If you go to any of these places, feel free to contact me if you have any questions.