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10 Things You Should Do Before Travelling This Summer

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Are you getting ready to go travelling this summer? Perhaps you’re even joining our Oxford summer school, or coming to study with us in Cambridge, London, St Andrews or Yale. If you’re still figuring out your plans for the summer, or you know roughly what you’d like to do, but don’t know how to make the most of it, we’ve written this article for you. Here we take a look at all the things you should be doing between now and the start of your summer break in order to have the best summer of travel you possibly can.

1. Take stock of the past year

Image shows two ORA students in lab coats doing a biology dissection.

This summer could be a springboard for a new career ambition.

Before you think about what you’re going to achieve over the course of the summer, it can be sensible to look back over the past year. When you’re deep in exams, it’s easy to develop tunnel vision, to the extent that the year becomes defined by the exams you took at the end of it – you might be in your “GCSE year”, looking ahead to your “AS-level year”, for instance.

Yet exams shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all of what your year was about. Maybe this was also the year you decided you wanted to become a vet, or that you realised your long-standing career aspiration was no longer what you wanted to do. Or maybe this was the year you decided you wanted to expand your circle of friends, take up a new hobby, or see the world.  Perhaps this was the year you started to develop your language skills or learn about coding.

Whatever this academic year was about, your summer plans can wrap it up nicely or give you a springboard into the next year. That’s why it’s worth taking a step back and thinking about what this year was all about, and how you might like to look back on it in future.

2. Find out your family’s plans

Image shows an ORA student with her family at arrival.

You’ll need to get your family on board with your summer plans.

All the best plans you make won’t work out if you find out that your family has booked a multi-week cruise for your entire summer holiday, after you you’ve already made your own plans. Although that’s not the only reason to involve your family in your summer plans. For one thing, they might be aware of dimensions to your decision that you hadn’t considered, or be able to suggest creative and interesting ideas that you weren’t aware of.

Aside from having potentially already made plans for you, chances are your parents also control the purse strings – so you’ll need to speak to them in case you have less of a budget, or, happily, more of a budget, than you were expecting. Plus, if you have lots of siblings it might be that you’ll want to coordinate plans with them as well. For instance, at Oxford Royale Academy, we have courses available for several different ages groups: 8-12, 13-15, 16-18 and 19-25 – so if your sibling is thinking of joining us for a summer school, you could come with them, even if you’re far apart in age.

3. Decide what you want to achieve

Image shows a group of ORA students punting.

Making new friends from around the world could be an achievement for the summer.

Depending on how many weeks of summer holiday you have available, you could achieve a great deal. A couple of weeks is enough time to get ahead on university application exams, improve on your language skills, or learn more about a prospective future career. If you’re looking at developing practical skills, you could find out about how to create a short film, or learn coding skills. Or you could spend the time exploring what interests you most across several different subjects.

These are all options available with Oxford Royale Academy. Elsewhere, or at home, you could work on advancing your mastery of a chosen sport or hobby. You might want to do some independent travel, or take advantage of the time you have available to travel with friends and family, especially if you’re going away to university soon. After all, an achievement doesn’t need to be something you can write down on paper or get a certificate for; it could be something as simple as “feel more confident in my academic abilities” or “figure out how to get on better with my sister. Should you have a longer school holiday, you could easily manage to achieve two or three of these aims, academic or otherwise.

4. Plan for the time you have available

Image shows ORA students on a tour of London.

Only plan a long-haul trip if you know you have enough time.

If you have a summer holiday that stretches over several weeks, make sure that the plans you make account for the time you have available. This goes two ways: if you have a six-week summer holiday you might not want to be travelling for the full six weeks, leaving you without the time to spend with family and friends at home. Equally, while you’re busy with school and exams, it can be easy to imagine that several empty weeks would be wonderful and that you’ll relish spending the whole time watching Netflix and doing very little else. In reality, when you get to that point, it’s more than likely that after a couple of days of ‘doing nothing’ you’ll find yourself getting increasingly bored.

It’s also worth thinking about the timing of your plans. You probably don’t want to be jetting off on a long-haul flight the day after you finish school or college; nor do you want to risk still being jet-lagged when the new school-year starts.

5. Consider how much you want to relax

Image shows an ORA party at Kingston Bagpuize House.

ORA summer schools include activities alongside studying.

Another key consideration for your summer travel plans is the balance of achievement and relaxation. Even in the world of summer schools, this balance can vary a great deal, so it’s worth considering. Some summer schools focus heavily on boosting your exam results; sacrificing fun for an emphasis on academic attainment. Others follow the “summer camp” model, where the emphasis is on having a good time, but you might not learn very much while you’re there. At Oxford Royale Academy, we aim for the middle ground between the two – with challenging and academically rigorous lessons complemented by an exciting array of activities, parties and excursions, so that a stay with us is both an educational opportunity and a holiday.

Of course, this isn’t just relevant when it comes to choosing summer schools. If you’re going on holiday, you’ll want to consider how much you want to explore museums and culture, versus how much time you’d like to spend lying on the beach. If you know that your time away is going to be strenuous, you might want to compensate by allowing a little more time at home to put your feet up.

6. Do your research

Image shows ORA students in the gardens of Balliol College, Oxford.

Review websites can help you find good options for your summer.

You only get so much time for a summer holiday, so don’t take a chance on it. We live in a world of endless review websites, so take the time to investigate wherever you’re planning on travelling to and any companies you’re planning on using. You can look at testimonials on company websites; while companies don’t typically put up bad testimonials, you can find out what it is that they think is particularly good about what they offer by seeing the testimonials they choose to highlight. For a less filtered view, take a look at review sites and see what customers have to say. It is also always worth hopping on a company’s social media, where you can see in real time what a company and its customers are saying to each other.

Remember that one or two bad reviews doesn’t mean much, but if you start to notice a pattern of negativity, especially if it’s the same negative points occurring in otherwise positive reviews, that’s a sign there’s something you should be taking into account.

7. Speak to your friends for recommendations

Image shows an ORA student entering Balliol College.

Your friends could give you an amazing recommendation.

You can use review sites and social media to get recommendations from strangers, but even better are recommendations from your friends. They know your likes and dislikes, and you can talk to them about what you’re looking to get out of your summer travel. They may be able to help you out with deals where one or both of you gets a discount for introducing you to a particular company, and they can tell you about aspects of their experience that might not appear even in an unvarnished review. You can also use social media to draw on the experiences of your wider network too; friends or siblings of friends might be able to make recommendations.

The outcome of the conversation may even be that you end up travelling together. While some travel, such as attending a summer school, usually results in making lots of new friends, it can also be good to travel with someone you already know.

8. Think about the timing

Image shows ORA students cheering.

Make sure you get to make the most of summery weather.

Depending on the structure of your school or college year, it might be that summer isn’t the only chance you have to get away. You might have an Easter or winter holiday to make use of as well, and that should be factored into your plans. For instance, if you’re travelling between different hemispheres, you’ll want to avoid plans that mean you end up experiencing two winters in one year.

If you struggle with jet lag, you might prefer to do a longer-haul trip during your longer holiday, and stick to shorter trips or smaller time differences when you have less time off to recover. Also make sure to think not only about your own holidays and festivities that you don’t want to miss, but those of the country you’re travelling to – it can be great to visit somewhere during a big public holiday, but it can also mean that restaurants and attractions are closed or very busy, and it’s harder to find accommodation.

9. Look ahead to next year

Image shows ORA students working hard in class.

Your summer could give you an academic head start.

While you can use your summer travel to consolidate achievements made in the year gone by, you can also use it to get a head start for the year to come.

For instance, if you’re taking a new subject in school, you might want to use your time at summer school to gain a foundation in the topic so you can go into the new year with confidence. Subjects such as psychology, philosophy or politics are often only taught to older students, but a summer school can help you learn the basics, or get a taster ahead of choosing a subject to study at university. If you’re about to go to university, you might like to choose a course that will help you develop the study skills you’ll need to work more independently. Or you might like to brush up on language skills, or cover a range of subjects to guard against the learning loss that can happen over the long summer holiday.

10. Sort out the practicalities

Image shows a French passport on a map of the world.

An expired passport could spoil your summer.

There can be a lot of practicalities involved in summer travel, especially if you’re going further afield than you normally would, and it’s best to get them all sorted in plenty of time. First of all, consider the paperwork: is your passport up to date? Do you need to get any visas for where you’re planning to travel? If you’re going to university in the coming year, do you need to plan in time for sorting out any logistics or administration, such as signing a lease for your accommodation? This kind of arrangement can be tricky to make from a youth hostel with no wifi or printer facilities.

Depending on how exotic your travel plans, there might be additional practicalities you’ll need to look into. For instance, do you need any vaccinations, or to take malaria tablets? They can be unpleasant, but are better than getting ill.

Finally, as the time to go away approaches, there are the fun sides of travel practicalities, such as beginning to put together your travel wardrobe; from walking boots for going hiking, to dresses or a tux for parties. If you’re joining an Oxford Royale Academy summer school, keep an eye on the ORA Student Portal because we’ll send you a welcome pack, which includes a kit list to advise you on what to include in your packing plans. Wherever you’re going and whatever you’re doing, make sure to have fun, relax, learn lots and have a fantastic summer.


Image credits: passport. All other images were taken on Oxford Royale Academy summer schools.

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