How to Start Planning Your Summer Vacation | Top Universities

How to Start Planning Your Summer Vacation

By Julia Gilmore

Updated April 7, 2021 Updated April 7, 2021

It might be cold, wet and windy outside the uni library, but it’s never too early to start planning your summer vacation.

One of the major perks of university life is the long summer breaks, and it’s important to take advantage of them before you enter the real world, whether that means backpacking around South America or lazing on the white sands of Ibiza.

Read on to discover our top tips for how to make the most of your summer vacation and plan the best trip ever.

What sort of summer vacation do I want?

Before you start planning for anything else, you should decide what kind of summer vacation you want to take – or even how many trips you want to take! As a student with a long summer vacation, the world is your oyster, provided you plan for it effectively.

If you’re the adventurous type, think about travelling with a company like Real Gap Experience, Outlook Expeditions or World Challenge. Group travel with a company takes away a lot of the hassle of planning an itinerary, with much of your trip organized by local experts.

This is particularly useful if you’re travelling to a far-flung, unfamiliar location as the company can advise you on visas, currency conversions and vaccinations.

Most of these companies base trips around helping local communities, whether through wildlife conservation, teaching English, or helping with building projects. Not only will this mean you’ll be giving back to the place you’re visiting, but it’ll also give you valuable life experience.

Groups are usually formed of about 10-20 people, meaning you’re likely to make lots of new friends. It’s also a great way of travelling independently but not alone.

If you’re living or studying in Europe, consider InterRailing. This is where you buy a ticket that allows you to travel around Europe via train for a set period. It’s more environmentally friendly than travelling via plane and allows you to see multiple countries in a much more scenic way.

InterRailing is budget-friendly - tickets start at €185 for travel to over 40,000 places in 33 countries, making it perfect for those of you who want to fit in as much sightseeing as possible. You have the freedom to customize your own itinerary and aren’t strictly bound by travel arrangements, provided you stick to the terms of your ticket (you can see more about various ticket types here).

You could also combine travelling with working and learning new skills. Workaway connects travelers with individuals, families and organizations around the world who provide bed and board in exchange for voluntary work. This can range from childcare in Italy, helping to run a surf hostel in Namibia, to farming in Nepal – there truly is something for everyone.

How should I budget for my trip?

As a student, budgeting for your summer vacation (and everything else, to be honest) is a necessary evil. But with some careful planning and clever bargain hunting, you can have an amazing trip without breaking the bank.

Plan your itinerary smartly. If you’re visiting cities, many attractions like museums and galleries will offer reduced or free admission at certain times (in Europe, this is often the first Sunday of the month). Bring your student ID along to get discounted rates at other times – some countries even do reduced rates for under-25s, regardless of student status, so make sure you have proof of age.

Eat away from the main tourist drag to get cheaper, and often far superior, meals. The same goes for accommodation – if you’re visiting somewhere with good public transport links, consider staying outside of the city center to save money. Try Airbnb or Couchsurfing to find cheap (or free!) rooms in cities across the world.

Hostels are a perennial favorite of the broke student – you can stay in dormitory-style accommodation for an extra cheap trip or share with friends in a private room if you want a bit more personal space.

Try and book hostels with shared kitchen facilities so you don’t have to eat out for every meal – using communal spaces can also be a great way to meet other travelers and socialize.

When it comes to booking travel, it’s no surprise that booking in advance is usually much cheaper. For flights, set up alerts on websites such as Skyscanner or Secret Flying to get the cheapest prices for your chosen dates. If you’re travelling within a country or continent, coach or train travel is often a lot cheaper than flying (and often much less hassle).

When should I take my vacation?

Students get long summer breaks (up to four months in the UK, for example), so you have a lot of freedom when it comes to deciding when to take your vacation. Flights and accommodation are more expensive in July and August as families take summer breaks, so you might be able to get some good deals at the start or end of your summer vacation in June or September.

You might want to take advantage of your long break to earn some cash to fund your holiday, and to get some valuable experience on your CV. It can seem boring to be working when everyone else is having fun in the sun, but more money means more mojitos on the beach when you do finally go away!

This article was originally published in February 2020 . It was last updated in April 2021

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