I grew up in Budapest, Hungary, and we used to have a tradition at the end of the school year. Seven days before summer vacation, we began to spell the word "vakacio" (vacation in Hungarian) backwards. On the first day, we put a big "O" on the blackboard, the next day a big "I" before the "O", the following day a big "C" before the "I", until we had "VAKACIO" spelled out in colorful chalk across the blackboard on the last day of school. Some students were so eager, in fact, that they started spelling backwards eight days before vacation with just a big "!"
Whether you are in college, graduate school or elementary school, the beginning of the summer always spells excitement. Out with the drab, grey clothes, and in with colorful Bermudas, sunhats, t-shirts and flip-flops. There is one caveat to this scenario if you are a student. Assuming you even get vacation from your thesis adviser, where do you get the money to travel? Below, you will find my favorite travel tips and online resources, but you can also find more information on the July'09 edition of my free newsletter at:
Before you jump ahead to the online resources, here are a few of my favorite tips:
- Research airfares and your destination airport.
Some airlines offer cheap tickets, but they land on airports so far from the heart of the city, that you will probably need to pay a hefty cab fare! Also check the expiration date of your passport. Some countries will not allow you in unless your passport will be valid for a certain number of months after your arrival, so renew it if it is close to expiring.
- Pack your suitcase (or backpack) wisely.
First of all, make sure you have a survival/first aid kit with you, which includes all prescription and over-the-counter supplies that you might need. If you are sharing your room with others (particularly at a hostel), bring earplugs (you might have snoring roommates) and flip-flops for the showers! It is also a good idea to choose a quality backpack, that will not tear under the weight you plan on carrying, and one that you can carry comfortably (e.g. padded shoulder straps, right size for your body). Don't forget to pack a waterproof jacket and a sweater, even if you go to a warm area.
- Plan your destinations in advance
There is definitely a sense of adventure and suspense in planning your trip on a town-by-town basis, but there are many advantages of having a travel itinerary in advance. If you travel during peak season, you will probably need to book your hotel/hostel beforehand, so you do not get stuck in a train station for the night!
- Stay in touch
Regardless of where you go, make sure that you have access to a reliable support network. For example, carry the contact information for your embassy in case your passport is stolen (it happened to me once, and the embassy was very helpful!). You might also be able to rent a cell phone, but if you do not get reception at least be aware of where the public phones are. If you like to travel with others consider going on group tours - they usually allow you to travel on your own for parts of the trip, if you prefer. Plus, they offer group discounts and do a lot of the planning for you!
In the next few weeks, I will be alternating blogs about job searching and student lifestyle. So, keep your eyes open next week for some tips on the faculty job search!
Online resources for student travelers:
Student discounts on vacations:
Information about youth hostels:
Wishing you the best,
Dora Farkas, PhD,
Founder of PhDNet, www.phdnet.org,