So. You’re all set to plan one of your ILP vacations but have no clue where to start. How are you supposed to find a place to stay in Prague without visiting first? How are you supposed to get there in the first place? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
If you didn’t know, you’ll get vacation time during your ILP semester so you can adventure in different cities or even different countries with your ILP group (we’ve got a blog post all about how vacationing and volunteering works right here). You’ll be able to explore different places on any regular weekend, but will also have long weekends and longer trips to plan. ILP doesn't plan all your vacations for you - you get to choose! We'll help you make sure you're not venturing off into unsafe areas by approving your destination requests, but we're not going to say "Okay you're staying here and going on this tour." Your group gets to plan and decide. Woop!
Wait — haven’t signed up for an ILP semester living abroad yet? We’ve got the application right here.
Whether you’re set for a semester abroad in Lithuania or have your eyes set on Thailand, use this checklist to outline any vacation you might take in your semester.
- Pick A Place
- Plan Your Transport
- Book a Place To Stay
- Do Some Research
- Figure Out The Details
Pick A Place
This first step makes sense, right? You’ll need to pick a place to vacation before figuring out all the other details. This may be the trickiest part of the whole process … While in Mexico, you need to decide between World Wonders and ah-mazing beaches, or painted towns and hot air balloon festivals. Volunteers in Europe have dozens of countries to choose from … and hundreds of cities! Volunteers in the Caribbean need to choose between jungle trips to waterfalls or beachy getaways. And don’t even get me started on the fab. cities to explore while living in Asia. Rough life, right?
It’s time to get out your bucket list and pick where you want to go. Do some research on Pinterest and write down places that grab your attention. Get together with your ILP group and see where everyone else wants to go and then narrow it down. You've also got tips from ILP alumni who taught before you and can tell you the places they loved most.
Plan Your Transport
Alright, now you know you want to visit Budapest (or wherever you decided on) … how are you supposed to get there? Lots of countries have tons of ways to get around. You may decide to get there quicker and fly, or save money by hopping on a train or overnight bus. You could even pick a city to visit because it would be cheap to get there. (Pst: Here’s a post about the cheap flights you can get from Romania) Just know that flying isn’t the only way to go — don’t forget about trains, buses or even ferries.
The biggest thing to know is that this is the first thing you want to plan, as early as you can, as soon as you know where you're headed. You'll often be able to find better deals and avoid tickets selling out if you arrange transportation at the start of your semester abroad. But before you commit to your transportation we have a tip so keep reading...
Book a Place To Stay
Now, you’ll need to do a little multitasking: you don’t want to book your flights only to realize that the only hotel there is way out of your price range. Do a little research once you pick your city and check out housing prices and availability for your dates. If you want to sleep for cheap, I recommend looking at hostels and Air BnB’s before looking at hotels — you’ll likely get a much better rate.
One thing to think about is location — check out addresses (or general neighborhoods) of where you want to stay and see how far it is from what you want to see. If most things you want to visit are in the Old Town or city center, it makes sense to either book a hostel there, or at least find an Air BnB by a metro stop so you can easily head into London for a day’s worth of site seeing. When you're exploring a new city, staying somewhere within walking distance of the must see places is so so so convenient.
Past guests will also write reviews about the place and give it a rating so you can find a place that maybe has free breakfast and awesome WiFi … reviews will also let you know this is a legit place to stay that has good safety ratings.
Do Some Research
Now that you've got your transportation and housing set up, let’s figure out what you wanna do while vacationing. Websites like Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet can help give you an outline of what there is to do in your city. You can figure out things like cost, good places to eat, local foods to try, pictures to take and places to visit. I like to come up with a big long list and narrow it down later on, depending on how much time I have in each city.
Figure Out The Details
Now’s the time for the nitty gritty details — You’ve got the big stuff figured out, so now is when you plan the details. Choose the top sites you want to see then figure out what bus to catch from the airport, and where to meet for the free walking guides in the city, then the address for that awesome place for lunch. Research the times when museums open and close, write down the address of your hostel, how to get from the cathedral to the coast for sunsets, etc.
I like to start day by day and create a loose itinerary of things I want to do that day. I’ll copy all the info onto my phone so I can just pull my page for “Friday” and see everything I need to know for that day (bus numbers to get to that museum, the address of my hostel + the confirmation code, and the address for the cool restaurant I read about online). Then when I flip to Saturday, I see that day’s itinerary. It’s nice to build in some flexibility in case you hear about a cool open air market that’s only open on Sundays, or miss your bus and end up thrift shopping while you wait for the next one to arrive. But as long as you have a basic outline of what you want to see and how to get there, you’ll be set no matter what happens on your adventure.
Ready to test out this trip planning checklist yourself? Come spend a semester with International Language Programs — every volunteer is set up to travel with their group during weekends and scheduled vacation time so you can really explore whatever foreign country you call home. We’ve got exchange programs for those looking to teach English abroad and humanitarian programs for those wanting to give more back to the community. Either way, you’ll make a huge difference (and be able to see some ah-mazing cities and countries along the way).
Come talk to a representative about apply and to get any of your questions answered by clicking that button: