Independent Travel Tips

Julia A. is currently a senior at SYA France and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Francis W. Parker School in Illinois.

My last independent travel trip in France ended beautifully in Bastia, Corsica. We spent a week on the north coast of the island, exploring the historic city, tanning by the poolside, taking a French boat tour and cooking in our kitchenette. Hopefully by the next SYA school year the borders will open back up and you’ll be free to travel across Europe–but that doesn't necessarily mean you should. Here are some pros to keeping the independent travel in France and general advice from students.

While at the beginning of the year many students were disappointed that we couldn’t hike in Italy or bailar in Spain, having that extra time in France not only gave us more opportunity to maintain our language skills, but continue to tighten our grasp at understanding the French culture. It made the French program that we signed up to do all the more… French. I, and most other students, found myself in quaint, beautiful French towns that I had never heard of before, and had never envisioned myself visiting. Independent travel is an opportunity to be active in a moment that will never exist again, so take advantage of it! While I was tempted to explore Europe, I’m grateful that we were bound to France this year. 

Places students visited this year:

  • Nice 
  • Bastia, Corsica 
  • Ajaccio, Corsica 
  • Marseille 
  • Montpellier
  • Monaco 
  • Toulouse
  • Aix en Provence 
  • Remulan 
  • Paris
  • Quiberon
  • ile De Porquerolles 

Student Advice:

“Book the tickets, train tickets especially, on the earlier side. They’re definitely cheaper then and will go up in price. When you’re actually there, I would really try to push yourself to not stay in the hotel room or not to do things you’ve already done or go back to the same restaurants or chains that there are in America. Especially in Paris, that can be tempting. Just try to do new things and take advantage of every moment and go out, explore. It's not a waste of time to walk around–to me that is one of the best ways to discover a city; by just walking around and finding cute little shops.”

- Hazel Klitenic, Senior 

“Make sure you are on the same page as everyone you are traveling with. I traveled with a group over April break and we did things pretty well in that we had things we wanted to do each day but we aren't stuck to a set plan where everything is planned out, so make sure you’re not planning everything as soon as you get there, but also don't feel like you have to do everything a certain way or else you might feel disappointed.”

- Claire Thorn, Junior 

“Make sure you bring a copy of your identity with you! You can take a picture of your passport but don’t bring it with you because you don't want to risk losing it!” 

- Emily Busby, Senior

While this is true, make sure you have your passport with you if you are taking any flights - even if it's a domestic flight!

One of my closest friends, Kay, had a close call when she forgot her passport in Rennes over December break vacation. Here she talks about learning to bring her passport the hard way:

“Your passport is super important to bring because not only does it show your identification as an American citizen, it also shows your visa. So when I didn't have my passport in the airport in Nice it became a really big mess because they said that I literally couldn't prove that I was an American citizen or why I was in France and how long I was here for so I almost wasn't able to get on the plane. Luckily I was able to get a scan of my passport and somehow got through. It's super important to bring so don’t forget!”

- Kay Krag, Junior 

“Don't be afraid to be spontaneous. You can plan a lot and you should be planning a lot, so make sure nothing goes wrong. But also my most fun memories have been from pulling something from thin air and just going with friends and finding something completely different. For example we went to Menton just out of the blue.” 

- Gretchen Wright, Junior 

“If you're on independent travel, don't force yourself to do everything every minute, like if you want to just chill out and enjoy the city then do that! Don't force yourself to see every monument, you don't have to do that because you have so much time, you're in France so just you do you.” 

- Sophie Morgan, Senior 

“When you're booking hotels, go on Google and set it to what days you're going, what price you want, the location, all of that–it is the best tip and you will be able to find amazing hotels. You can also set it to reviews, if you want hostels, airbnbs, or a hotel.”

- Ari Llanas, Junior 

My biggest tip: TALK TO YOUR HOST FAMILY! My host parents have given me so many tips on places to travel to, restaurants to eat at and hotels to check out. Don’t hesitate to check in with them and ask them advice for traveling. 

Safe travels et bonnes vacances! 

  • Campus Reporters
  • SYA France
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Thank You

Julia A. expresses her gratitude to her host family, friends, and parents for her time at SYA France.