Monday, 19 October 2015

The Unspoken Class

When I anticipated my time at Harlaxton, I never thought I would be taking four classes when I only signed up for three. The fourth class isn’t another history, science, or math course; it’s the unspoken class of travel planning.

As students at Harlaxton, we all spend a huge amount of time planning for weekend trips. It can be a daunting task, especially without much guidance. We all learn as the semester progresses how to efficiently plan weekend trips, but the first few attempts are certainly difficult. Not to mention, the amount of time put into travel planning each week never really decreases.

For future students of Harlaxton, here are a few tips to hopefully ease the struggle of your first attempts at travel planning and to make your time spent at travel destinations worthwhile.

1. Transportation

First of all, how are you going to get where you want to go? Decide if you’ll be taking a train or plane, depending on the location, then begin your search. My favorite sites to use are for flights and for trains within the UK. Since there isn’t an airport in Grantham, you also have to consider how you will get to London or nearby East Midlands Airport. Trains often run directly to the airports, but sometimes a taxi can even be the better choice of transportation from Harlaxton to London. If your flight is very early or very late, you may not be able to find a train from Grantham to the airport.

To get to Stansted Airport in London, Street Cars will charge a flat rate of 90 pounds, which is sometimes a better alternative to a train if the cost can be split between four or so people. Allow yourself plenty of time between your arrival at the airport and your flight departure. Also, in order to save a little money, buy a railcard for discounted train tickets, and use Street Cars taxi service in Grantham as much as possible because they guarantee a flat rate of 6 pounds to get to Grantham train station from Harlaxton.

2. Accommodation

Whew! Now that you’ve finally found a flight at the perfect time, on the perfect day, for the best price possible, let’s talk about where you’re going to stay. The ideal hostel, hotel, or airbnb apartment would be within walking distance or a short taxi ride from the train station or airport, as well as the center of the city you’re visiting. If you don’t get that lucky, then it’s time to prioritize.

Decide if you would rather be further from the train station or airport or from the sites you want to see. Being near an underground or bus station is a good factor to consider as well. Usually, a hostel will be the cheapest option, but if you’re traveling with a group of people, splitting the cost of a hotel room or airbnb apartment is often cheaper than the price per person to stay in a hostel (and will probably be a bit nicer accommodation too).

3. Map It Out

Once you have booked your hostel, hotel, or airbnb, it’s time to plan the fun stuff. There are apps that can almost completely do this for you. Tripomatic is my favorite, which lets you choose what you want to see, on which days, then creates a printable itinerary based on the places you choose.

If you decide not to use an app to help with your planning, you can also print a map of the city you’ll be visiting, use a highlighter, and map it out for yourself. Doing it yourself will help you better understand the layout of the city and how to get around once you’re there. Ulmon CityMaps2Go is an app that allows you to download city maps when you have wifi, then navigate them later using GPS when you don’t have wifi. If you plan on using underground trains to get around, it is a good idea to print a map of the underground system for the city, research which stations are closest to the sites you want to see, then go ahead and mark those stations on your printed map.

4. Relax

Most importantly, realize that no matter how much you plan for your trip, something is bound to go wrong. It happens – almost every time. This isn’t to say that planning beforehand is useless. Planning your weekend trips can save you precious time when you’re actually in the city. Even ten minutes trying to navigate an underground system are ten minutes you could be spending at the sites you have always dreamed of seeing. The perfect balance of planning and learning to go with the flow will result in some incredible weekend trips!

Written by: Casey Rice

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