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When you’re deep into the semester and maybe exams, your future travel and vacations are likely not high priority. But the summer is not so far away, and looking forward to it can feel good now, as well as helping to set you up for a change of scene later. Most students want to travel, according to a recent Student Health 101 survey. And you’re pretty clear that the benefits of travel (including study abroad programs) go way deeper than a tan.* “Travelling allows me to gain independence and have more confidence,” says Rachel W., a student at the University of British Columbia. “Travel encourages me to appreciate the unknown while recognizing the familiar,” says Joe Foley, a second-year undergraduate at American University in Washington DC, who in 2014 became the youngest-ever National Geographic Traveler of the Year.
What’s blocking your exit route? Not surprisingly, by far the biggest barrier to travel is cost. “Travelling costs a lot of money that students often don’t have. Also, planning and making time to go on a trip can make it difficult to commit,” says Bradley R., a student at Brock University in Ontario. In our survey, 93 percent of students who responded said lack of funds was a barrier; only 4 percent said they were uncomfortable with the prospect of unfamiliar places.
*And, by the way, there’s no such thing as a healthy tan. Use SPF 30+, whatever your skin colour or tone.
What you love about travel
“Travel is the adventure of a new place and new people. Shortly after the earthquake in Haiti, I went on a cruise that visited a private beach in Haiti. I was taking an excursion to zip line across the ocean, which was amazing, but on the drive there, we drove through some rural areas of Haiti. Seeing the devastation of the population was just as impactful as the zip lining was. Now I’m all about helping people who need the help!”
—Laura B., second-year undergraduate, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Newfoundland and Labrador
“Travel offers a chance to learn about people, human nature, culture, physical geography, and God. It takes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to try new things and grow as a person.”
—Rebecca H., undergraduate, Trinity Western University, British Columbia
“I’ve found it is great for broadening your opinions of the world, and the exposure to foreign cultures is very enriching. Plus learning to love new foods is great!”
—Michael M., student, Concordia University of Edmonton
“You meet the most wonderful people and hear the most interesting stories.”
—Sophia R., graduate student, Nipissing University, Ontario
“Travel makes you less ignorant. It fascinates you how we can all be so similar yet so different in terms of our culture, history, etc.”
—Mahlet T., undergraduate, University of Waterloo, Ontario
“It’s an educational experience as much as it’s a vacation. It can break many preconceived notions or ideas you once had about a certain culture”
—Jonathan Z., undergraduate, Saint Mary’s University, Nova Scotia
“You get some really great stories!”
—Niamh K., undergraduate, University of Waterloo, Ontario
“Travel experiences are built by the little things. The smiles, the first bite of a foreign country’s food, the hostel chitchat. Although the globalized world of Facebook, the golden arches, and American TV shows exist in every major city, the local cultures remain vibrant. The world today is as fascinating as it’s always been, and in most places it’s safer than ever to be a tourist. Travel gives us the thrill of adventure and somewhere new while reminding us of our shared humanity across cultures and encouraging us to push our horizons.”
—Joe Foley, second-year undergraduate, American University, Washington DC; National Geographic Traveler of the Year 2014
Stuff you might not think of
Before you go
Check which currencies are performing badly against the dollar—your money buys more in those places.
If you need vaccinations, go to your student health centre.
Check the insurance that comes with your credit card. Check your health plan for international coverage too.
Let your bank and credit card company know your travel plans so your account isn’t flagged for fraud and possibly blocked.
When you go
Search online for free stuff to do in any tourist-friendly city (e.g., “New York free”).
Electronic guidebooks and maps (not books) reduce the schlep factor. Use Google Maps offline by typing “OK maps” in the search bar; the current area will be saved.
Check the comments on Foursquare for passwords of free Wi-Fi in local shops and cafés.
Keep your electronics charged. If you’re going international, bring a converter outlet plug.
Source: Student Health 101 survey, January 2017
Your barriers to travel
“Never wear heels when you have a short layover. If your first flight is delayed in air, and you have to run to your connecting [flight], heels are not conductive to that.”
—Ashe M., second-year undergraduate, Lakehead University, Ontario
“A downside of travelling is that many people only visit the ‘touristy’ spots. These places are heavily commercialized and designed to be attractive to foreigners, not to accurately depict what a country is truly like.”
—Jonathan Z., undergraduate, Saint Mary’s University, Nova Scotia
“Stress of airports and the need to use credit cards everywhere you go.”
—Josue K., undergraduate, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Newfoundland and Labrador
“Dietary reasons. You have to be very careful what you eat unless you have an awesome GI tract.”
—Ashley D., undergraduate, St. Clair College, Ontario
“Jet lag and sometimes some level of discomfort as a result of adjusting to a new environment and culture.”
—Ashley A., undergraduate, University of Victoria, British Columbia
“Travelling can bring exciting new experiences, but I am uncomfortable with all of the ‘unknowns’ that come with venturing away from what is familiar.”
—Carrie G.*, student, Concordia University College of Alberta
*Name changed for privacy.
How to land cheap flights
Flexible fliers get the best last-minute fares; be open to a variety of destinations.
Use a travel search engine: ThriftyNomads.com recommends Skyscanner, Airfarewatchdog, Google Flights, and several others.
Try searching for airfare deals around 1 a.m. The unsold deals from the day before will be reposted.
Before buying any ticket to anywhere, check for student discounts.
Spend less to go farther
Find out how far your money can take you
Sort fares from your city by price
Get the Flight Out – free iOS app
The cheapest fares leaving from your city today
Expert travel itineraries and student discounts
Lower-cost airfares for students
Cheaper flights for students
More cool tools
See Find out more today.
Hotels, hovels, homes, & habitats
Stay with a family who lives in the city you’re traveling to
Be a guest at someone’s house; check out the reviews
Find over a million rental lodges, which may offer more space than hotels
Recommendations and red flags from real people
B&Bs, apartments, and spare rooms for rent; try to negotiate the price.
35,000 hostels in 180 countries (including US)
Hostelling International USA
Youth-geared US hostels
Need a place tonight? Deals start at 50 percent off
Parks Canada Reservation Site
Beautifully habitable campgrounds across Canada
Way more to do than you realized
More cool tools
See Find out more today.
Why travel? Here’s how to talk yourself (and others) into it
Be a better person
Most students who participated in an international exchange program felt it helped them become more trusting, open-minded, flexible, confident, and tolerant, says a 2006 study by the International Student Travel Confederation.
Students expect travel to make them more “global”—in other words, expand their knowledge, perspective, and social and cultural connections, according to a study at California Polytechnic State University (2010).
Students associate travel with freedom (e.g., a break in academic and work expectations), a boost to emotional health and relaxation, and an opportunity to experience nature (CPSU study).
Step it up
Students who have taken a gap year, a year off between high school and post-secondary, perform better academically and report greater job satisfaction than do those who haven’t, research suggests. They even increased their chances of getting a job by eight percent, according to a study by the Canadian Council on Learning. Gap-year experiences can reignite a passion for learning and influence personal goals and values, including career paths, say Karl Haigler and Rae Nelson in The Gap-Year Advantage (Macmillan, 2005).
Physically active leisure helps us maintain physical and mental health, especially during times of stress, according to a study of 20,000 people in the Canadian Journal of Public Health (2001).
Knowing people from other cultures makes us more creative in tasks that draw on multicultural influences and more receptive to new ideas from outside our own experience, suggests a study from Harvard Business School (2011).
Love your life
Even the anticipation of vacation travel makes us feel good about our lives and health, according to a 2002 study in the Journal of Vacation Marketing.
Your best Instagram
“Climbing sand dunes in the desert of Al Ain (United Arab Emirates) made me push myself to the limits. I climbed until I literally couldn’t go further, and then I sat down and let the wind whip around me. I felt strong and at peace.”
—Jamie Teal, graduate student, Arkansas Tech University
Follow us on Instagram, and don’t forget to use the hashtag #SH101Travel
Meghan Horne, travel marketing coordinator, AAA Northeast, Providence, Rhode Island.
Charlotte Nichols, director of business development and travel marketing, AAA Northeast, Providence, Rhode Island.
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