Last-Minute Tips for Preparing for Spring Break

For students studying at the ICP through API, spring break officially starts after class tomorrow. Like many, I have taken full advantage of the two weeks off by planning trips to Germany, Denmark, and England. By the time spring break rolls around, students will have been in their host countries for about two months, so what better time than ever to quit your “home turf” to explore other cities and countries? Seeing new places will once again instill you with a newfound wonder for the world, harkening back to the early stages of the study abroad experience where everyone walked around with eyes widened and mouths agape.

At this stage, it may seem like the only thing I have left to do is wait, letting the excitement and eagerness build up with every passing minute. Although the biggest (and most stressful) part of my spring break planning is over, I can, in fact, use this last night in Paris to my advantage. There are plenty of little tasks that I need to do in order to ensure that I start off spring break as prepared and organized as possible.

Below is a list of 4 last-minute things to do before your mini-adventures commence!

1. Organize and store all of your important documents in a safe, easy-to-reach place.

Imagine this picture quickly in your mind: you, putting the already-stifled flow of airport security traffic to a halt as you kneel on the dirty airport security floor, frantically pulling out practically everything you have packed in order to find that pesky boarding pass or passport. The security staff, as always, is not amused. I know, you’re probably stressed out just thinking about this. In order to avoid this very common and anxiety-triggering scenario, make sure you have a special place to put all of your tickets, boarding passes, and, of course, your passport, and remember to put that in an easy-to-reach place. This will make going through security a much smoother process. I plan on putting my boarding passes and passport in my passport necklace, and other bus passes and tickets in a manila folder so that I have all of them in the same place. If I can keep track of the folder, I know that I have all of the documents I need with me. Taking a few minutes to get your papers organized will eliminate any potential panic-inducing moments in the future.

Spring Break Image 1

My passport necklace with my passport tucked inside!

2. Make a list

Although everyone has their own method of packing, a good place to start when packing for any trip is to make a list of things that you’re going to need. In its nature, packing is a rather unorganized activity, and being a scatterbrain myself I have the tendency to get distracted easily. When this happens, I have a higher chance of forgetting to pack something that I meant to pack, which will, of course, lead to problems down the road. Making a list will help you keep on track as you’re packing. In terms of what exactly to pack depends, of course, on the countries that you are visiting, but always remember to pack lightly. A lot of the airlines that offer cheap tickets have strict policies when it comes to the amount of bags that one can carry on. You want to make sure that your bag is small enough to fit the company’s standards so that you won’t have to check it! If you can jot down a short list of the items that you absolutely need and stick to it, it will absolutely help you in the long run.

3. Do research

Even if you are only going to be visiting another country for a short while, it is always a good idea to do a bit of research on the culture and expected etiquette of that country. Although it is as easy to travel to other countries in Europe as it is to travel to other states in the U.S., each country’s customs and culture can certainly differ, even if subtly, from one another (for example: it may be typical to kiss on the cheek three times rather than two when meeting someone). Taking the time to research those differences is a great sign of respect to your temporary host country and will help to put the rather negative image of an American tourist into a new positive light. If you are a language buff like me, you can even try and learn some key words and phrases in the language of the host countries you will be visiting. I recently downloaded Duolingo, a language-learning app, and am in the beginning stages of learning German and Danish!

Spring Break Image 2

Practicing very basic German on Duolingo

4. Make sure you have a way to communicate

There is no worse feeling that being stranded in an unknown country with little to no cell phone service! Depending on what international cell phone plan you have, you may not have data outside of the country you are staying in. If this is the case, it is important that you solidify your communication plans before you leave your home country. This is especially true if you plan on meeting someone else during your travels, like me. Since I do not have data outside of France, I have planned to bring my personal Wifi hotspot that I purchased before going abroad. If you don’t have a Wifi hotspot, make sure you have communicated your plans with whomever you are going to meet, so that you don’t find yourself lost in a place you are even more unfamiliar with! Better yet, do both! There’s no harm in being extra-prepared.

Spring Break Image 3

My handy-dandy WiFi hotspot!

I hope at least one of my last-minute tips have been helpful for all of you excited travelers!

Bon courage et bon voyage à tous—don’t forget to have fun and be safe!

Abby Snarski is a student at St. Michael’s College and an official API student blogger.  Abby is currently studying abroad with API in Paris, France.

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