Tag Archives: planning

New: Travel Planner Website!

I found an excellent resource for planning your travel abroad. You can use www.tripwolf.com to load interesting locations that others have voted on into a printable/downloadable trip planner. You can use it to search for nearby hotels and food places as well.
It creates a map to help you plan your movement and make sure you use your time efficiently, especially if you are are getting around by foot and do not have much time in which to see everything.

The link has been added to the list of links near the bottom the website’s pages.


Q: It’s two months before my study abroad program starts and…

Q: It’s two months before my study abroad program starts and parts of the program still don’t seem finalized. Should I be afraid of participating in my program?

In answer to a student who wished to remain anonymous,
The short answer is no. I am not suggesting that you not be vigilant in making sure that aspects of your program are comfortable for you, but I would say that certain things are outside of our comfort zone not bother us, but simply because that’s just the way things are.
Study abroad programs are a perfect example of this. If your program involves academic credit like mine where the teaching portion abroad is assumed by an institution external to your home one, then you must consider the steps involved and the length of time and planning needed for each interaction.

For instance, my program is hosted by the Instituto Franklin at the University of Alcalá in Spain. That University already has its own insurance, identification, and enrollment procedures set up. So, unlike other programs where everything is determined by your home institution, these ones require an almost doubling of the tasks involved. What are these tasks you ask? Well, they include things like identification for accounting, and governmental purposes, proper documentation of travel arrangements with schedules and unique record identifiers. This means passport copies, flight itineraries, ticket numbers, emergency contact forms, and the like need to be collected by not only your home, but your host institution as well as the entity providing your lodging.

Why are these important?

A few things come to mind such as:

  • Well, if you get lost or stolen the civil authorities need to know where you had expected to be and where they can hope to find you. This would be where the schedules come in.
  • If you lose your passport, having a copy on you, or safe at one of the institutions gives you more safety than having nothing at all. (Many hostels in Europe, for example, require you to leave your passport with them as a form of collateral or for identification purposes for locked away items).
  • Your ticket also shows that you actually intend to travel and that your study abroad coordinators are not investing money into students that end up not participating in the program.

Accommodation Verification Lag-time

In reference to accommodations, if you’re staying with a family like I will, they will want to have a full and proper description of who they will be exposing themselves and their personal space too. So your home institution will usually provide a questionnaire for you to fill out detailing your eating, social, religious, and other habits along with your physical description (yes, including picture) to your host family selection pool. It may seem a bit odd, but yes, for this instant you are a commodity to be compared against and selected for things like risk (social values, property, etc) and impact (affect you have on their everyday activities).

With these things in mind, it’s no wonder that your program may not have announced who you will be living with 4 or 5 weeks in advance of your travel. But rest assure, everything has to finalized before you leave, and the people you are being shipped off to have been vetted (especially study abroad families) for dealing with you and the benefits and problems you bring. So, keep this in mind, stay patient, and know that when you’re there, everything’s been thoroughly checked for your safety.

– Question from May 2012 UCF program participant

Travel Abroad Scavenger Hunt: Outlets

One of the most important things to remember when traveling to Europe is that the electrical outlets are different than the ones we have here in the U.S. and many neighbouring countries. The voltage is also different, with 220v used in Europe and 110v used in the U.S.

The good news is, that most newer appliances have dual voltage, meaning that they are able to safely uptake electricity in both U.S. and European systems without being totally destroyed. These units come in one of two forms. Either they have a switch which allows the unit to switch from 110v to 220v and vice versa, or they have a range of acceptable voltage from 110v to 220v.

That being said, the second problem of fitting the unit’s plugs into a wall socket needs to be addressed. Because there’s no feasibly economical way for companies to have all the different types of electrical outlet prongs built into their devices, you will need to purchase an electrical adapter.

Which brings me to the first tangible part of my study abroad experience!

 I received it in the mail today. All nice and shiny, it comes with prongs for Europe, Japan, the U.S. and a few others.
One thing I hadn’t remembered was that the Brits, although grouped with the Continent, rather like being different. The outlet used throughout much of continental Europe is the same (with Switzerland producing some slight variations recently). The outlet used in the UK  however, has three prong inserts, as opposed to the Continental two.

FYI, I paid about $4 (shipping included) for this cool gadget.

Airlines again :)

Domestic (Foreign) Multi-City Stops

Okay. So, if you are planning on buying multi-city tickets like me for your study abroad trip (


It’s not every day you get to fly 4,000 miles across the horizon, might as well stop by a few places on the way to your final destination), you should consider the type of airline you using. Think about it: major US airlines are probably transporting U.S. tourists or other international travelers, so it wouldn’t make sense for them to be making stops all over the place right? Right. the major U.S. airlines that I looked are charging more for the inter-European legs of my trip. Domestic airlines such as RyanAir.com found me a ticket for about US$ 60 less than what companies like American or United were charging me for the same route. So, I plan to enter the first European city-stop via my trusty U.S. airliner, and for any inter-european flights afterwards, I will use domestic liners.

Miles & Alliances

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Another thing to look is for is Airline Alliances. U.S. airlines have partnered up with each other domestically and with foreign liners in the international market. When looking at cashing in your miles for study abroad (like I’m doing), its good to check what companies miles are actually worth more per mile (when flying internationally as opposed to domestically). This is because when some U.S. miles are used with international partner carriers, they count for less than they would at home. Also, some alliances (although having the same amount of partners) are more region-oriented than others. For instance, Oneworld alliance doesn’t have a Chinese partner, and Star Alliance only recently initiated partnership proceedings with two Mexico-related coverage liners (TACA and COPA). For my study abroad in Spain, I had names like Iberia, Air France, British Airways, and American Airlines resulting in the lowest prices. Oneworld alliance, though deficient in some regions, was my cheapest bet to Spain (Iberia, British Airways, and American Airlines are all in the Oneworld Alliance).