There is a period of time each year that most university students love. From late April to early September, we take the textbooks from our bags and replace them with Canada flag patches, survival snacks and destination books. Travel season is almost upon us, and The Ryersonian sat down with Sally Coles, branch manager at Travel Cuts on campus, to discuss the top places for students to visit this season.
“You guys have your head in books and studying for so many months. I think it’s really important to get out and see the world and experience different things,” she said.
Problem is, students have differing definitions of a “perfect” vacation.
“I want travelling to be a time to reflect and take a journey with myself,” said incoming Ryerson student, Manelle Karem. “I want the opportunity to make my own decisions on a trip.”
So we’ve done the work for you. Here are our five destinations for five different kinds of student travellers.
As a Ryersonian disclaimer, lists like these are always subjective and, often, travelling is influenced by when you go and who you’re with.
Still, nothing beats the education of travel.
United States and Canada
* Cost: ~ $300 – $2,000
(Per person, weekend)
* For: The Weekend Getaway
Though not on Coles’s top destination list, taking a weekend to escape to somewhere closer to home is still a great option for the summer months. Maybe you’re stuck working all summer, or the cost of a flight and a week of paying for food and a roof over your head is just too much to handle.
“I would love to go to New York City just to shop and stuff,” said first-year nursing student Kady Sheng.
Buses and trains are definitely a more wallet-friendly mode of transportation than airplanes. But they do add to your travel time.
Porter Airlines usually has last-minute deals on flights right from the heart of Toronto. If you can bear to wait, have a backup plan to get there, and check flights daily. A flight will give you that extra time that is much needed on your short getaway.
Looking for somewhere even closer to Toronto? Then why not check out another Canadian city? Head to Montreal for the August long weekend, and score yourself a ticket to the Osheaga music festival. Tickets are on the pricey side, but many people buy theirs in advance — only to find out they can’t make it. Check online for people selling their tickets at discounted prices close to the day.
* Cost: ~ $750 – $1,500
(Per person, all-inclusive)
* For: The Sunbather
After months of budgeting on a student income, studying and struggling to cook something edible, the last thing you might want to do is organize a backpacking trip.
If you’ve forgotten what the sun looks like, a Caribbean getaway might be the exact thing you need.
Coles says that for students Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Mexico are the three cheapest destinations around those parts.
She suggests an all-inclusive resort, particularly if you’re short on time before your summer job or summer school starts. Coles says this is a good option for the money-conscious traveller because you know exactly what you’re going to be spending when you go down, and barely need to bring any money. It’s a relaxing option since there’s nothing to stress about and you don’t even need to cook your own meals.
Varadero is a resort town in Cuba, and one of the most well-known in all the Caribbean.
Sunwing offers a seven-day package in early May at a five-star hotel for around $1,000, and a two-star on the same day for around $750. Both packages include your flight.
If you go in April or May, you’ll just have missed the tourism high season, which ends in March. This means smaller crowds and bigger discounts, but temperatures can be higher and rainfall is not uncommon.
* Cost: ~ $2,149 – $5,000
(Per person, per week including airfare)
* For: The Adventurer
If lying on a beach somewhere isn’t quite your thing, you might want to try the Inca trail option in Peru.
In its essence it’s a four-day trek following in the footsteps of the Incas. The highlight of the trip is exploring the ruins of Machu Picchu. The ruins were rediscovered a century ago and are arguably the most recognizable symbol of the Inca civilization.
It’s a challenging 40-km hike starting from the Sacred Valley. Travellers camp out along the hike, and porters carry their luggage. Coles warns that being so high up leaves you vulnerable to altitude sickness. In order to lower your chances of becoming ill, Coles suggests going to Cuzco a few days before the hike to acclimatize.
Peru, specifically the Inca trail, is on Coles’s list of the top five places to visit. She says lots of travellers are rushing to check it off their lists before it gets too popular.
To walk along the Inca trail you’ll have to sign up with a tour. There are regulations to restrict the number of people arriving at the ruins, to ensure the site is protected.
One such tour company is G Adventures, which claims to be the largest Inca trail operator. Their most basic tour is a seven-day adventure from Cuzco and back. The cost is $1,149. This includes your accommodations — three nights in a hotel, three nights camping — your transportation, meals, a guided tour of the Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo ruins, and of course, the Inca trail hike.
You’ll be travelling in a group of about 12 people along a physically demanding path.
G Adventures offers a number of Inca packages, the longest and most expensive lasting up to 21 days and racking up a bill of $3,499. This one also offers a visit to a canyon, burial sites, Amazon jungle and other villages.
* Cost: ~ $1,450 – $2,500
(Per person, per week, including airfare)
* For: The Traveller Who Wants Something Different
Europe is known as a popular, student-friendly destination, but why not diverge from the regular spots and try something a little more exotic.
Coles says Iceland is becoming a popular destination, with the draw of a five-hour direct flight from Toronto in the summer.
The country has natural springs and a spa culture so, not surprisingly, the Blue Lagoon is one of the most popular attractions in Iceland. It is an outside, geothermal spa that is part of a lava formation, whose steamy water is full of beneficial minerals.
According to Visit Iceland, a tourism site, other popular activities include scuba diving, mountain biking and kayaking, to name a few.
It’s among the 10 best destinations for whale watching and contains Europe’s largest national park at 12,000 sq km, known as Vatnajökull National Park.
“Few if any regions in the world offer such a mixture of dynamic ice cap and outlet glaciers, geothermal energy and frequent subglacial volcanic activity, coupled with outburst floods,” describes Visit Iceland.
Coles also mentions the horse riding there, since tours by horse are popular and can range from one hour to 10 days.
In terms of accommodations, on hostelworld.com the top rated — and cheapest — hostel in the capital city Reykjavik, is going to set you back $19.04 per night in early May. This is the price on the standard eight-bed mixed dorm at Reykjavik Backpackers. If you would like more privacy you’ll have to fork over more money, as the shared twin private option is $35.73.
For flight costs you’re looking at spending a little over $1,000 if you go with Icelandair.ca for a round trip.
* Cost: ~ $8,000 – $10,000
(Per person, per week, including living costs)
* For: The Graduate
Round-trip airfare to Australia costs an average of $2,000 this time of year, and takes almost 24 hours one way with stops. Non-stop flights start from $3,000 and go up to $5,000. It’s because of this that Coles recommends students who want to travel here, go for a longer period of time.
Cole says that Australia and other countries in the South Pacific have work-abroad programs, perfect for the graduate wanting to take a year off before they go on to do more school or career searching.
Canadians from 18 to 30 years of age can apply for a working holiday visa from Australia that allows them to work in the country for up to a year. The visa also allows workers to leave and re-enter the country in that time — perfect for weekend trips to New Zealand.
Different companies help connect individuals with employers to work in Australia and abroad. Check out Go International or Swap.
These companies will help set you up with orientations, visa applications and even places to live once you get to Australia.
So if you’re about to graduate, and maybe just a little panicked about what to do next (believe us — we hear you), Australia could be the place for you.