How to plan a semester of travel

People, often fellow college students, ask me all the time how I travel so much during the semester? If you were to check my Instagram posts, camera roll, and bank statements it’s no secret that I travel quite frequently while taking 5 classes. Whether it’s big trips or small weekend get aways I’ve figured out how to manage classes while exploring the world. I’ve always told myself that I’m never not going to travel just because “whatever reason comes up” seems to be an excuse in my way. Whether that reason is a morning class on Mondays; midterm dates; or an unreasonable syllabus… where there is a will, there is a way.

Get a planner

First and foremost, you should already have one if you’re a working college students. The only way I’m sane, show up to work on time, and not miss class deadlines is with a  planner. So, add traveling to the mix and it’s easy to become bewildered. I feel like this is obvious but there are people who live everyday without a planner of some sort and I don’t know how anyone does it without missing something. Having a planner allows you to see everything laid out in a day, week, or months time and being a very visual person, this helps especially when planning trips!

Determine to time you have to travel

Fill out calendar with syllabus dates

The first thing I do at the start of a new semester is print out each syllabus for my classes and lay it all out. See when important projects, tests and dues dates are so you can make sure you aren’t missing anything that could conflict & make you fail the class when planning your travels. Although one time I did find myself registering for fall classes with low signal on my cell phone in The Keys #dedication. I use colored pens to differentiate each class and keep track of which assignments are for which professor. Work also gets it’s own color and this helps me separate school from work from travel. With how many things I have going on at any given time, color coding saves lives. Some people think this is a bit much but anyone else who is “type a” and wants to get the most out of their semester would disagree.

School schedule & breaks

It’s easy to predict that around the holidays you’ll have a week off or have an idea of when spring break is. But there are many hidden or unexpected dates when classes are cancelled that you can take advantage of. Like Martin Luther King Day, Memorial Day, Forth of July (if you take summer classes like me), Labor Day and the occasional staff days. These are prime travel times besides your mainstream spring break, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Breaks. Use them!!

Evaluate long weekends/ breaks and due dates

Mark when these breaks and days off line up so you can easily match them to your syllabus schedule. If you see that you have a three day weekend, take that Friday off from work and now you have room for a 4 day trip somewhere. By planning ahead you can make this possible versus realizing you have a 3 day weekend that Thursday and having to stay home because you have work or didn’t financially plan for it. Long weekends make the world go round and give you a break from the college hustle. It’s nice every now and again. Plan ahead to make the most of it.

Attendance policies

I am the queen of taking advantage of attendance policies. Often times professors have a 3 day max on absences or some don’t even care (which is my favorite, because if I can manage to pass the class –often pulling an A– while only attending half the semester, let me do so, so I can use my time traveling!!!!!) (rant over). But you have to find the loop holes, usually in the fine print (which I know, no one ever reads the syllabus throughly) they claim that four tardies are considered an absence. This goes for showing up to class late or leaving class early. And leaving class early comes in handy when you have a flight to catch that was cheaper to buy for that specific day/time even though it overlapped your class time (sorry, not sorry professor). I’ve played this card so many times to save money on plane tickets instead of waiting for a more popularly demanded flight that didn’t interfere with my class schedule but was tremendously more expensive.  All I’m saying is, you have to prioritize the days you miss/leave early, and it’s always worth it.

Decide where you want to go

What’s next on the list?

Now that you know the dates and time you have to travel, figure out where you want to go and when. For long weekends, I usually don’t like to stray too far and stay in the states. Something within driving distance. Sometimes saying local is just as much of an adventure if you’re discovering something new. If I have 4 or more days I might go to a city that has a lot to offer or possible out of the country to make the most out of my time. Do some research and find where some fun attractions are, hole in the wall restaurants, or somewhere you can complete a bucket list item.

Is it financially possible?

Whatever you choose, make sure your pocket isn’t burning a hole in it to get you there. Theres no point of going somewhere if you can’t afford to do the entertainment or get “the full experience” if that destination is known for one thing in particular. Maybe you want to take 1 or 2 larger all out trips or 5 low-key weekend trips.  Just remember we still have to pay tuition next semester!

Determine transportation time

Anywhere you go, you need to pick your destination base not only on price, but the amount of time it takes to get you there. You don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a plane ticket just to get one night in a town, ya feel? Consider how much driving time it’ll take to and from that place or how long it’ll take to go through airport shenanigans and fly somewhere. Travel takes time. And time takes money. Choose wisely.

Who’s coming with ya?

Solo trips vs. bestie trips vs. group trips

Depending on the trips you’ve planned or have an idea for each break, you need to decide who’s coming with ya. Do you want to make it a bestie trip? A girls trip? A Me trip? This can also depend on what you plan on doing for each trip. Maybe you take a group to the beach so everyone can split the condo. Maybe you want to drive your car for a road trip and it only seats 4 people. Or maybe you just need some time for yourself to get away from all the buzz. But pick wisely, because you’ll be with these people the whole length of the trip.

What’s their time availability & budget?

Once you know who you want to invite to go on what trip, make sure it’s doable for them. Now you’ll have to work with their school/work schedule and budget for the trip. Just make sure you’re on the same page about how you want the trip to go before you leave. If they’re trying to camp every night and you want to stay in a 5 star hotel…there’s going to be a problem. So make sure communication is clear on all aspects of the trip to ensure the best results!

Work it out with work

Thankfully I’ve always had a job that is flexible with my travel habits. This is mostly because I put my time off requests far enough in advance to ensure I can always get the dates off I need. Don’t make it a habit to do last minute time offs or you probably won’t have a job for much longer to support your trips. Since planning my trips for the whole semester at once, I usually give all my dates off at once. This makes it easy for me to have peace of mind that everything is going according to plan and my boss has a heads up. I can tell you where I’ll be for the next 6 months on each break and already know work is covered. Getting things put together last minute is stressful and work could deny last minute time off requests, and I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.

Book it!

Make reservation & book flights

You know when. You know where. You know who. Make the arrangements! Setting everything in stone is the final step to planing out your trips. Especially if you’re trying to book at a popular place or a popular time (spring break/holidays); the earlier, the better! If you wait too long to reserve a hotel or purchase a plane ticket on a planned trip, they may be sold out and you’ll have no where to go. Just put your mind at ease and get all the details settled, makes things easier in the long run!

Spread out shopping for trips

Of course you’re going to want to get a new outfit for your debut on the boardwalk, and that’s fine but space it out. Since you’ve planned ahead for months to come, you’ve got time to shop for the destination. Planning accordingly so you can buy all the swim suits and sunglasses your heart desires over the amount of time leading up to the trip. It is a more cost efficient way of preparing. This way you’re not dropping your whole paycheck on a shopping spree as if the travel plans are last minute. And if you’re constantly going on trips, you’ll constantly be shopping so give your wallet a break and spread it out!

Stay ahead in school

Now you have something to look forward to and motivate you during the semester! Planning trips act as mile markers for me. Knowing that I’m 2 quizzes and 3 class periods away from beach helps tremendously to make it through each school day. And you don’t want to find yourself taking a quiz on the beach if you had the opportunity to take it before your trip, even though I had to take a quiz at a concert one time…you do what you gotta do.

Keep up with your planner

By keeping track of due dates and departure times in my planner, I can easily manage taking 5 classes while traveling during a semester.

Repeat

Once your semester has come to an end, and you’ve gone and done everything you wanted to do, do it all again next semester! Work hard. Travel harder.

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