Grab your suitcase, sunglasses and cameras, collegiettes! Whether you’re embarking on a spontaneous weekend road-trip with your best friends to the city next door or a once-in-a-lifetime semester abroad, we have the five strategies you need to upgrade your travel experience from “economy” to “first class.” The train to Amazing Vacation Station is now boarding…
1. Do some social media research
Unlike our assignments for class, this is one time where using Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to do research is totally encouraged (and an awesome idea). Welcome to the wonderful world of hashtag recon!
It’s super easy to discover the hottest spots or little-known local secrets of wherever you’re going; just search #(insert destination here). For example, if you’re going to Malibu, search #Malibu on Twitter or Instagram to see what people are doing and where they’re going! If you want to see results from all the platforms at once, use Tagboard, a site that will display every social media post with the common hashtag of your choice.
If you have friends or acquaintances that have visited your destination in the past, you should definitely check out their old posts (it’s not stalking if it’s educational!). Ingrid Marquardt, a junior at Boston College, did exactly that. “I did social media research on Orléans and Île de Ré in France before I went!” she says. “We did a kid-swap with a family friend, so I went and stalked Florentine (my French twin for the summer) on Facebook to get a feel of where I'd be staying. I also paid attention to what she was wearing in the different albums. My picture scrolling not only made me more excited about the trip, [but] it [also] informed my packing and helped me create a list of things to expect while there!”
Bonus: if your friend has geotagged a post, you can click on the location and see everyone’s pictures from that spot. That means you can get an inside look at a popular café or nighttime hotspot, tourist destination or famous beach!
2. Create a (loose) plan
Don’t get us wrong: we’re all about impromptu adventures. How else would we stumble upon hidden gems and have crazy stories to share once we’re back with our besties? That said, having an approximate idea of each day’s activities is super helpful and will keep you from wasting time figuring out what to do once you’re actually in Vaca Land.
“Even if you're not a planner,” says Sophie Dodd, a senior at Middlebury College, “I definitely recommend creating some sort of outline of what you want to do while you're traveling. When I studied abroad in Edinburgh, I knew I wanted to hike up Arthur's Seat, tour Edinburgh Castle and visit the Highlands. Having a list of things I wanted to do and places I wanted to go helped me to get the most out of my trip!”
With a list like this in hand (and any reservations you need for activities made in advance), you’ll leave your vacation knowing you did almost everything you truly wanted to do. Plus, the last thing you want to do is have to make big decisions while you’re trying to relax, so make those in advance! Who needs stress?
3. Scout out the location with Skout Travel
One of the best parts about travel is the people you meet—and now, thanks to the app Skout and its popular Skout Travel feature, meeting people is much, much easier. Skout is the world’s largest network for connecting with new people (nearby or around the globe)! You can use it for all kinds of things like finding friends in your college town or getting to know potential dates, but if you’ve got a city in mind you’d like to visit, Skout’s Travel feature is the first of many in this cool app that you’ll want to try.
Here’s how it works: Once you’re signed into the app, you can use the Skout Travel feature to travel anywhere virtually for 24 hours by searching for a location or picking one of the “go-to” destinations like Chicago, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seoul, Shanghai, Sydney or Tokyo. No need to buy a ticket or hop on a plane! Once you “arrive” on your phone, the app shows you people either close by or with similar interests, along with location-relevant news. In the past eight months alone, Skouters have taken more than 3.4 million “trips” using the Skout Travel feature. Why? Essentially, using Skout allows you to scout out (pun intended) the place that you’re going so you can get the inside scoop from locals and prospective travelers alike about the best spots to visit (and maybe even make plans to meet up)! Sounds like the best vaca ever to us!
If you’re looking for the most amazing vacation ever (and a social one at that), this app is the key to having your best trip yet. Plus, the basic version of the app is free! Whether your trip is right around the corner or only in your daydreams (at least for now), you can make friends and scout locations starting today!
4. Make a realistic budget
Something about being on unfamiliar terrain can make even the most practical collegiette lose control of her wallet. The combination of fun souvenirs, new-to-you stores, amazing (and expensive!) opportunities and tons of restaurants (plus the adrenaline rush of being somewhere different) makes it beyond easy to spend more than you’d like. Way, way more than you’d like.
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but better us than your credit card bill, right?
Keep your expenses in line by creating—and sticking to—a travel budget. Decide in advance how much you’re willing to spend on the trip, then give yourself a realistic amount for each day, taking into account food, shopping, gas or transport expenses, travel knick-knacks and activity costs. This will help you make good decisions on the go: if you’re eating somewhere with $25 entrees, you’ll probably have to skip the parasailing the next day to stay on budget.
5. Don’t wait ‘til the last minute to pack (and pack the essentials)
Let’s admit it: We’ve all done it. Even though we were beyond excited for our trip, we thought we could get away (literally) with procrastinating on our luggage duties. Next thing we know, we’re on vacation with nine pairs of socks and no underwear. Convenient!
In order to avoid this debacle, pack early and wisely. Gabriella Diniz, a senior at Bridgewater State University, recounts that one of the students on her study abroad tour didn't plan ahead and almost missed their flight out because she left her passport at home! Her whole group, in turn, felt her stress as they waited until the very last minute for her mom to come drop it off. Don’t let this happen to you!
When you do pack, don’t forget to bring along all the documents you need along with your other vaca essentials, like your driver’s license, passport, flight confirmations, insurance papers, hotel bookings, etc. We’d recommend making copies of all of these and storing in a separate compartment (not the same one where you’re keeping the actual documents themselves), so if something happens to your first copies, you won’t have an utter disaster on your hands.
Aoi Asano, a junior at Syracuse University, says that she always abides by this tip. “When I travel, especially [to] foreign countries, I usually bring a copy of my passport with me and put the actual passport in the safe at the hotel where I’m staying,” she explains. “Carrying my passport all the time is very stressful and makes me worry [about pickpocketing].” Having everything you need (and keeping it all in a safe place) will make your trip so much less stressful!
We’ve given you all the tools you need to have a fabulous vacation—now go jet set your little heart out!