Moving to a new country and exploring the world from a new home base can be daunting, but don’t worry, AAU’s seasoned third-years have made mistakes, so you don’t have to. 

After adventuring around Europe and beyond for three years, those about to graduate have learned a few handy tricks vital for travel as students.

“Do spontaneous things, whether that’s a hang out with people you just met at your hostel, or booking a trip the night before you’re supposed to fly out, it’s important to step out of your comfort zone with spontaneity,” said Vanessa Manirak, an American-Slovak third-year.

Photo by: Gabriella Burgess

Manirak isn’t the only one with this sentiment. American student Ethan Fite said it’s important to immerse yourself with the locals as well.

Fite, who has been to 33 countries, also explained how bringing a second bag to carry around day-to-day items and a portable charger is essential. He also advised against overpacking which Manirak mentioned, too, as it can overcomplicate things like tacking on fees and being difficult to carry around. 

“Go with one other person you feel really comfortable with because a group can be stressful with conflicting opinions on where to go and if you are with someone you feel safe with it just makes the trip more enjoyable,” said Camille Smith who is in her final year in the business school.

Photo by: Gabriella Burgess

AAU Student Council President Simone Stansbury, who has been to 20 countries, has another tip for packing for cheap airline flights that don’t allow more than a backpack without adding on extra costs. 

“[The] pillow hack (my holy grail) works best if you’re on one of those Ryanair-esc flights and can only bring a backpack. Pillows fly for free! But they don’t check what your pillow is full of. The hack: take a pillow case–zippered one preferred–and fill it up with clothes! You’ll have almost double the space you had before. Carrying it around can be a bit annoying but it’s worth it especially for longer trips,” said Stansbury.

Everyone has different travel habits, and finding people who match that style can make or break a trip. Some questions to ask yourself or travel partner(s) before embarking on your trip are:

  1. How much walking is too much walking/how much down time do you need?
  2. Do you prefer waking up early and exploring or staying out late to see the nightlife?
  3. Would you rather travel with a large group or a small circle of friends?
  4. How much money are you willing to spend; would you rather spend it on food, experiences, or souvenirs? 
Photo by: Gabriella Burgess

“Try to travel with people who have similar traveling styles to you. Some people prefer to lay back and chill, while others want to visit a new museum every hour. It’ll make the trip easier if everyone has similar expectations,” said Manirak adding on to the points above. 

A tried and true app proposed by the third years is Skyscanner, recommended by Fite, which checks for the cheapests flight options. Other similar apps are Google Flights and Omio, but it is best to check multiple websites to make sure you’re getting the best deal. 

Smith recommended checking the weather before the trip and planning accordingly. She has been to eight countries and suggests Accuweather which shows the weather a month in advance.

Aidan Quigley has been to around 30 countries, and his top three tips are: make sure to do a little research on the culture and customs of the place you’re visiting to respect the local people; don’t let a schedule dictate your trip, go with the flow; and “be patient and laid back.” 

Something is bound to go wrong at some point during your travels but staying positive is essential as everything will get figured out somehow, according to Quigley. 

Some tricks I have personally found helpful in my three years of exploring 21 different countries is to download directions on the Google Maps app before your trip. Wifi isn’t always reliable and you never know when you’ll be without it.

This trick prevents the stress of being lost in a foreign city where you don’t speak the language. You can also download languages on Google Translate before a trip in the language of the country you’re visiting.

Photo by: Gabriella Burgess

While most places rely on cashless interactions, I have found myself in multiple scenarios where cash is needed to use public transportation or even the restroom. Bringing a small amount of the local currency or exchanging money upon arrival can be a lifesaver. But beware of exchanging money in airports and watch out for steep ATM fees.

“Make sure to get some cash out, enough to cover a meal, just in case. So many places I’ve been to have a lot of restaurants, shops, etc. that only accept cash (shoutout Berlin) and I’ve had to end up paying expensive atm fees to get it out on the spot. Also saves you in case you lose your card or something,” said Stansbury.

Most college students have to travel on a budget, making hostels a great option. However, hostels aren’t always the most pleasant accommodations. To make it somewhat more bearable, Stansbury has one more tip to help.

“If you’re staying in a hostel, bring a sleep mask. You’ll likely be on a different sleep schedule than the people you share a room with. I personally love my Bluetooth headband–it’s headphones built into a headband so it’s more comfortable for sleeping. You can find it online for 300-500 CZK,” the Student Council President said.