Making the Most of Weekends and Breaks

London is a big city, so there’s plenty to explore and do. If you want to fill all the weekends and breaks with different activities, you can. Public transport makes it easy to get to central London; from there, the city is at your disposal. There are countless neighborhoods and parks you can explore, museums you can visit, and iconic landmarks to see. It’s easy to travel to other countries as well, whether that’s by plane or train. You’re abroad—make the most of it!

Weekend Trips

Now, I can’t say I’ve been the best at filling my weekends with fun activities. There have been weekends when I don’t leave campus and stay in my room to read, write, or watch YouTube videos. I enjoyed days like those just as much as when I ventured into the city. So, while it’s not the stereotypical definition of ‘fun,’ the weekends spent at home weren’t any worse than the weekends I went out. I don’t think every weekend has to be filled to the brim with exploring the city. While abroad, we are still students and can’t treat it entirely like a vacation. We need to do assignments and readings, and we can’t put those off every weekend. Well—we can; it’s just not a good idea. I’m still having fun while abroad despite not going out every weekend.

So what do you do on the weekends when you do go out and do fun stuff?

  1. Go to a show! London has a great theater district with a bunch of shows. Tickets aren’t super expensive, either.
  2. Get on public transport and see where it takes you. I ended up in Richmond after getting on the wrong bus to the grocery store, and the bus ride there was enjoyable!
  3. Museums! Most major ones are free to enter, so if you like looking at art and artifacts, it’s an excellent way to spend your time.

If you want to be ambitious—go abroad over the weekend. Try and plan these trips ahead of time since tickets can get expensive! You won’t get to do everything in the city you visit, but if you plan it well, you can do a lot in a couple of days. My friend Olivia and I managed to go to Athens, Greece, and see everything I really wanted to see in a day while still having downtime to relax and enjoy being there. Of course, there were places that I didn’t get to see, but I saw what was important to me, and I had a good time. Bonus: I have an excuse to revisit Athens since I didn’t see everything. Another interesting thing we noticed: the most expensive part about visiting Athens was the plane tickets.

The Parthenon! The biggest reason I wanted to visit Athens was to see this.

Another perk of going to Athens? It was hot. I had grown used to the cold weather, but the day and a half I had of 75º Fahrenheit weather was a nice break from the cloudy skies. I got to wear a dress without worrying about being too cold!

Another goal was to go to the beach, and the weather was perfect for a pleasant stroll in the water. The only downside was I had to put socks back on after I rinsed the pebbles off my feet.

Olivia and I are also planning on going to Paris for a weekend in December—a bit easier since it’s closer and we can take the train. We also know our schedules, so we can better plan around classes and travel time. Our checklist for that weekend trip is:

  1. Eiffel Tower
  2. The Louvre
  3. Notre Dame
  4. Disneyland Paris (We have tickets already!)

Knowing what we want to do allows us to prioritize stuff during the trip and allow enough time for each activity. If you know what you want to do, it becomes easier to fit it all in a day. We won’t be able to do everything in Paris, but we will be able to visit the places we want to, just like in Athens.

Longer Breaks

Chances are that weekends aren’t the only opportunities for exploration and traveling abroad. While you could use this long break to catch up on work, start prepping for essays and tests that will creep up on you faster than you think they will, or relax in your dorm, taking a longer trip abroad is also possible. Make the most of it—spend longer in other countries to spread out activities, or go to multiple places for a short time. Olivia and I chose to go to Edinburgh directly following our trip to Athens (as we didn’t realize it coincided with a break!) and then spent the following weekend back on campus. We were able to spread out our activities and make time for me to catch up with a friend from high school who goes to university there and time to relax at the hostel where we were staying.

Edinburgh, as seen from the road leading up to Edinburgh Castle.

Taking more time in cities is always nice since it relieves the stress of doing everything in a day. You’re not rushing from place to place and have time to sit back and enjoy being abroad. You can be flexible with your schedule.

Overall Tips

  1. Explore the city around you! Find activities to do on the weekends, whether that’s a West End show, a trip to the Tower of London, a day trip to Brighton, or lunch at the Borough Markets. 
  2. Take time for yourself. Don’t feel obligated to go out and about every weekend simply because you’re abroad! Relax and take your time exploring the city. If you want to stay in one weekend, stay in! 
  3. Plan trips ahead of time. While it’s possible to take a spontaneous trip to Edinburgh and Paris, among other destinations, it’s going to be cheaper if you choose a weekend to go and buy tickets in advance. 
  4. Get lost. (But always know how to get back home.) Aimlessly walking around is fun! Take the time to appreciate the city without having a goal in mind. You never know what you might find—a nice park, a nice walk along the river, or a nice neighborhood. 
  5. Know what you want to do in the city. Prioritize getting those things done, and then do the other experiences if you have the time and energy. Every city has plenty of things to fill every hour of your trip if you want. If your goal is to see as much as the city as possible, research the city so you can plan your trip. If you just have a few larger things you want to do, there’s time to discover things to fill the gaps between activities. 
  6. Pack light. If the trip is only for a few days, and you have a backpack, try to see if you can fit everything you need. It cuts down on bags, which can make the flights cheaper if you don’t have to pay for an extra cabin bag or checked baggage. The only downside to trying to fit it all in a backpack? There’s limited room for things you might get there
  7. Have fun. Every trip and experience is worth it if you have fun, even if you don’t get to do everything the city offers. 

Maria Haggart is a student at Chapman University and an ISA Featured Blogger and is studying abroad with ISA in London, UK.

Leave a Reply