A School Break Travel Guide
Student traveller? Lucky you. The travel world is brimming with great deals, discounted vacations, and free or reduced-price entry to the must-see landmarks if you can answer just two questions - where do you want to go and can you afford it?
First things first
Read our top 10 destinations for student travellers for inspiration and to get an idea of what you can do on your gap year.
Get a Maple Leaf (Canadian Flag) decal and sew it on your backpack. That way you can benefit from the goodwill that generations of intrepid and well-mannered Canadian travellers have built up around the world.
Where do you want to go?
Luckily, your schedule is flexible so you can hit Europe or Asia in the off season and save big. Asia has the beaches and emerald islands. Europe has the world cities - London, Paris, Madrid - timeless villages and must-experience festivals.
Can you afford it?
Work out your budget. Figure out how much you will need each day, then multiply that number by the number of days you'll be away. And put a few dollars on top of that, to cover incidentals - the souvenir your mom would love, departure taxes at an airport, having a cafe au lait at a pavement cafe with a view of the Eiffel Tower.
Investing in an International Student Identity Card (ISIC) is essential. The ISIC is the only card recognized internationally as proof of student status. It will get you discounts on meals, tours, bike rentals, museums, international phone calls and shopping.
Do your homework on the type of flights you need. A round-the-world? A multi-stop? And then shop around. Shop around. And do this some more. We'd be remiss if we didn't say compare the cost of flights here at cheapflights.ca. Statravel.com, studentuniverse.com and Travelcuts are other, student-focused travel sites.
Book accommodation as far in advance as you can. It's often the cheapest option. Crashing on a dorm room is okay, but a bit of planning will turn up exceptional places to stay - a parador in Spain, a pousada in Portugal or a casa particulaire in Cuba. The YHA in Sydney’s Rocks district has five-star views of the Harbour for budget prices. Factor in what's included in the price of a room. A free breakfast and free WiFi will save you money.
Do not consider travelling without
A couple of different ways of accessing your cash. Set up a separate bank account for your travels, one that can be accessed, without penalties, around the world. Traveller’s cheques, a Prepaid Currency Travel Money Card, Credit Card or Debit Card are all ways of carrying your money.
Up-to-date travel documents - a passport valid for at least six months after your return to Canada; photocopies of travel documents, or a scan of them (that you have emailed to yourself); an International Driving Permit.
A little local knowledge - familiarize yourself with the local conditions and laws and try to have a couple of words in the local language - thanks, hello and goodbye will do.
Insurance - when you’re searching for a travel insurance policy, check the fine print. What’s the medical coverage? Are you covered for winter sports? That bungee jump you plan on taking in New Zealand? What if your flight is grounded due to a Volcanic Ash cloud?
Shots - do you need immunizations for where you are going?
A sleeping bag. It's bulky, but you never know when you'll need it for warmth, or maybe to make that airport seat a little more comfortable while you catch a nap.
A basic first-aid kit with painkillers, travel sickness pills and, if you're going where the tap water is not safe to drink, purification tablets.
Call your mom
Keep in touch with family and friends at home. What will you use? Letters? A blog site? Skype? Facebook or Twitter?
While you're away
Stay safe. Don't be flash and walk confidently. Try to blend in, you don't want to be the obvious tourist. Avoid trouble spots. Check out the Travel Reports & Warnings on www.voyage.gc.ca. As well as the general risk to life and limb, travelling to a country with a travel warning may impact on your health insurance and/or your trip cancellation insurance.
Free your mind. Try to build in a little flexibility and enjoy it. Opportunities to travel will not come around often.