Summer. That wonderful long break, and sigh of relief, after handing in those final few assignments at the end of every academic year (yes!). Four months is a great amount of time to gain some valuable travel experience – especially once we enter the world of employment after graduating, four month breaks won’t come up very often…
With the lovely sunshine we’ve been having lately, and Easter being the final half term break of the year, now is the perfect opportunity to get our brains ticking about summer plans or aspirations. With that in mind, I’ve put together my top picks that may help you with your own summer travel adventures.
Combining travel with work is one of the best ways to spend summer. Not only do you earn a few bucks working in a different country, you also gain a valuable cultural experience. Working abroad can strengthen interpersonal skills such as confidence and independence, as well as industry skills. Plus think of how much fun you will have!
American summer camps remain a firm favourite with many students. However, companies recruit for seasonal workers around Europe, too! From destination reps, to chefs, sports instructors and hospitality staff, there are a variety of different summer jobs available. Applications should be filled in sooner rather than later, as employers are recruiting for the summer season now. Why not make an appointment with one of our Careers and Employability Advisors at hired@UCB? They can go through lots of options and provide you with all the help you’ll need in finding the perfect summer job. Some of the best websites to find and apply for seasonal work are Bunac, Season Workers, TUI and Thomas Cook.
MY TOP PICK: WORK AMERICA
Having the opportunity to spend up to four months working in the states (cough New York cough) would be the ultimate American dream! Organisations such as Bunac provide students with information and packages where they help set you up with a job and all the assistance when it comes to applying for a J-1 Student Visa. Many jobs are in the hospitality service and there are placements all over the States. Plus, you can use those extra dollars to travel for up to 30 days after you’ve finished working! Road trip anyone?
FOR THE FESTIVAL WORSHIPPER
Festivals are a summer staple. Partying on the beach all weekend, slugging through the mud in wellies, quirky food and merchandise stalls, being part of the world’s biggest food fight, traditional German music, making tent buddies… there is a festival for everyone! When it comes to deciding the best one for you have a look at the location, line-up (for a music fest) and how much it will cost to get there. Festivals are amazing since you can often split some of the costs with friends (driving to locations, food, accommodation etc).
MY TOP PICK: FIESTAS EN ESPAÑA
Benacàssim is a four day music festival in Costa Azahare (on the eastern coast of Spain, between Alicante and Barcelona). Having the whole day to enjoy before the festival starts enables you to stock up on sun, sea and sand just before the sound starts later in the evening. And with the festival being held in mid July, it’s a great base to venture out to Spanish cities such as Barcelona or Valencia, before families flock to the Spanish coast for their holidays.
If Bencàssim dosen’t appeal, then maybe the cultural festival La Tomatina will!? It is known as the world’s biggest food fight, where 20,000 people take part in throwing tomatoes at each other in the streets of Buñol, near to Valencia. Sounds very slippy, but so much fun! It happens on the last Wednesday in August every year (31 August, 2016). Accommodation sells out fast in Buñol, so it might be worth looking at Valencia when booking somewhere to stay. If you’d like to find out more about La Tomatina, including the history, just click here!
TRAVEL WITHOUT TAKING OFF
Who says you have to leave the country in order to get a little adventure? Personally, I think failing to explore what your own country has to offer in terms of a tourism destination is one of the biggest mistakes a traveller can make. The UK offers lots of amazing things to experience and can be very cost effective, even if it means taking a gamble with our famously temperamental British weather. Cornwall and Devon are two regions that are very popular during the summer season for students, and it’s not hard to see why. Gorgeous coastlines are flagged by surfers, there are cute farmers markets and villages to be explored, followed by beach parties at night. If the south doesn’t appeal, how about renting a car/van with friends and taking a road trip to explore the Highlands of Scotland and camping by night.
MY TOP PICK: NORTH WEST WALES
North Wales is well known for Mount Snowden (the highest mountain in Wales) in Snowdonia National Park. Hiking and climbing through the National Park is a popular activity, but how about getting wet n’wild in Wales? The newest attraction to the area is Surf Snowdonia – a man made huge surf lagoon, where visitors can surf, kayak and go stand up paddle boarding! Snowdonia is a fabulous destination if you’re looking for fun, adventure and nature! In terms of accommodation,there are plenty of hostels in the local area – I’d recommend checking out YHA(Youth Hostel Association). If you become a member it entitles you to extra discounts on stays in any YHA hostel, not forgetting other cool benefits. If you are under 26 it costs just £5 for an annual membership!
Travelling around Europe is a must on any bucket list of student travel plans! Interrailing is a flexible and great way to get around between countries and cities. Depending on time scales or destinations, there are various passes available to purchase; including youth passes for under 25s. If travelling solo, or even with a small group of friends, and not exactly sure how to plan out the perfect European backpacking adventure, tour operators such as Contiki specialise in trips for young people. Packages include accommodation, activities, transportation and a guide. Tours are great for solo travellers, or a small group, as you make lots of friends, and they take the stress out of planning an adventure!
MY TOP PICK: BALTIC TO BALKAN!
Cities such as Amsterdam, Paris, Barcelona, Rome are undoubtedly beautiful, however during the peak of summer they will also be heaving with tourists and can get a bit on the expensive side – even when travelling on a budget. Instead why not consider Eastern Europe? Lesser travelled countries such Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia are equally if not more beautiful than Western European countries. They are rich in culture and history, have accessible public transport systems, and offer so much in terms of tourism. There’s something for nature lovers, beach goers, adrenaline junkies, and sightseers; the Balkans are not to be missed, and are easy on a student budget!
The Baltic countries are also often overshadowed in terms of tourism. Latvia was recently listed number five in Lonely Planet’s top 10 countries in 2016, yet only receives around two million visitors per year. Estonia is a firm favourite on my list of destinations I want to travel to this year. Where else can you experience Nordic and Eastern European culture in one country? There are charming towns, national parks, remote islands, festivals and beach life in Pärnu. The medieval capital city Tallinn has many bike paths and trails making it the perfect place to explore for bicycle folks (yay!). And if you wanted to head further north, a ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki in Finland takes two hours!
BUDGET LONG HAUL
There’s nothing like taking advantage of four months off to go much further afield. Travelling in the peak season can often mean a higher expense and busier crowds, although if you want to go long haul this summer consider destinations currently in the low season. Countries in South East Asia such as Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia have various seasons simultaneously depending on which areas of the county you are in. June to September is widely regarded as the rainy season in many parts of the region, but don’t let that stop you from planning a trip during these few months. While there can be heavy downpours, it is still hot and humid, and the benefits outweigh the rain and cloud. Airfares, accommodation and tour operators are way cheaper during the low season and there are less crowds which means more tranquility when visiting sites such as Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
MY TOP PICK: VIETNAM
Vietnam is a personal fave and is in top three destinations on my bucket list. Imagine exploring ancient cities such as Ho Chi Minh City, taking a trip to the floating markets along the Mekong Delta, the intriguing town of Hoi An. And, no trip to Vietnam would be complete without a trip to mesmerising Unesco World Heritage site, Ha Long Bay. Just talking about it makes me want to go!
For any adventure in South East Asia, or other long haul travel plans, I recommend taking a look at STA travel as starting point, as they specialise in student travel.
Volunteering can be one of the most rewarding ways to spend summer, or even just a few days per month. If you read my posts back in January, you’ll of seen how I spent two weeks as a volunteer for the Atlantic Whale Foundation (AWF), along with 30 other students from UCB (you can read all about my AWF experience here). Two weeks may not seem very long, but contributing my time to an organisation is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.
Let me know if this has helped you when thinking about your own summer plans. If you’ve got any more suggestions, I’d love to hear them! I’m excited for summer just writing this – not long left to go now….