A student’s guide to travelling over Reading Week

Tips to make the most of your upcoming vacation

During Reading Week, some students travel without their parents for the first time.
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When winter semester rolls around at Queen’s, things tend to feel a little dreadful. First-semester burnout is never fully cured over the holiday break, and the temperature keeps dropping lower and lower. It’s no wonder so many people are scrambling to migrate somewhere warm this Reading Week—and, three weeks into the term, are already dreaming about doing so.

For a lot of students, Reading Week is one of the first opportunities to travel without parents. First-time solo travel can be liberating, but having to get from one country to another, or even hopping provinces for the first time, is never without its problems.

If you have travel plans for Reading Week or are in the midst of making them, here are a few tips to help you make the most of your vacation.

Research your destination

Travel is all about discovery, so pick a few hotspots to visit in the country, city, or town you’re travelling to, but also allot time to wander around and see where you end up.

Although our professors have told us a million times that Wikipedia isn’t a good information source, reading the Wiki page for the city or town you’re visiting is a great way to learn what they’re known for, including popular destinations and local cuisine.

Over this holiday break, I went to Finland to visit a friend. Before I left, I did a lot of research on places to check out while I was in her town. Wikipedia was the last place I looked, but it was there that I easily found the best local museums, information about the transport system, and the average temperatures for when I would be there.

Always have your passport on hand

When I was a kid, I always wanted to hold my own passport while at the airport with my family. It was like turning on the car lights at night while your parents were driving: the forbidden fruit. But now I realize why they safeguarded it so much while we were on international trips.

Your passport is one of the only things that you should not—and really can’t—go anywhere without. Having a special pocket in your coat or backpack where you always store your passport on your trip is an easy way to avoid the panic of misplacing it.

Try to pack light (just a carry-on)

Unless the airline you’re flying with has free luggage check-in, prices to check bulky suitcases can put a dent in your bank account. Pack only the essentials when you travel—trust me when I say that you won’t need four swimsuits and five pairs of shoes.

Plus, having to wait at baggage claim after a long flight is up there on my list of the most boring activities known to man.

Get a phone plan with data

Buying a prepaid phone card while on vacation can make leaving home feel a little less isolating. I know it’s important to not rely on technology and to be one with nature and all that jazz, but being lost in a foreign city is not something I recommend. Being able to keep in contact with family and friends at home is also an added safety net in case there’s an emergency.

This trip lifesaver is worth splurging on if you aren’t just staying on a resort with WiFi and are planning to explore a new city. Canada has one of the highest phone plan costs in comparison to other countries, so don’t worry about breaking the bank with this tip.

Acknowledge the privilege you have to travel

When you and your group of friends pack for a week-long resort vacation this Reading Week, take a minute to appreciate what a privilege it is that you have the opportunity to travel. The expenses of travel really add up and, more often than not, those expenses just aren’t possible for everyone.

So try not to come back and tell everyone that they simply must go to Hawaii or that they haven’t lived until they’ve seen Europe. While travel is life-changing, it’s not an accessible activity for all Queen’s students.

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Travelling can be stressful, but make sure to relax and enjoy the break. The second semester will be back in full swing before we know it, and you’ll wish you had stopped to smell the roses for a little longer.

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