Now is usually the time students begin to plan where they will be “studying” during reading week. Before buying the tickets and all it is important to know some of the smart things to do in order to prepare for your great excursion. Over the next few days I will be writing about different things to keep in mind. While most of these suggestions are for students, many of them will also be useful for those who are not currently studying. There will not be anything about miles collecting in these but rather about planning for the actual travel.
International Student Identification Card – If you are a student, this is almost a must. The ISIC will allow you to get airfares at student prices and allow you to receive other discounts available for students in most major cities around the world. You can get one though STA Travel in the United States, from Travel Cuts in Canada and from various other places within the European Union. The ISIC official website has a little tool you can use to find the closest place to get an ISIC in your country.
In the United States, the card has many other benefits as well. It offers:
- 11% off JetBlue flights using the code ISICJBDEC2. (Useful for earning AA miles on select routes)
- 10% off Motel 6 reservations using this ISIC corporate account number CP542064
- 15% off Lonely Planet guidebooks using the promotion code LPMYISIC
- Up to 50% off CityPass coupon books.
- And various others I will not list in their entirety here.
For the full list in both the United States and abroad you can go to MyISIC.com or to isic.org.
Passport – In addition to the ISIC card it is important to have a valid passport. Passports are valid for 10 years in the United States and most European Union countries and for 5 years in Canada. Trust me, the last thing you want to have happen is that all of your buddies are taking a trip to Costa Rica on some fabulous last minute airfare but you cannot go because you need to wait 6 weeks for your passport to be issued or renewed. In both the United States and in Canada, passport applications can be submitted at the Post Office or at Passport Agency offices. If applying through the post office you will usually receive your passport in the mail in about 4 – 6 weeks. The post office route is usually the best one unless you need to have it quickly. If this is the case, you will need to pay an extra fee, have a reason why you need the passport so quickly, which is usually need for a foreign visa or travel within 14 days or so (and proof to this effect) and you must appear in person at the passport office. For expedited passports they can be issued in as little as 3 hours from the time of application but this is rare and it is unlikely your spring break trip will be seen as a valid reason to issue one so quickly, besides the expediting fees can nearly double the cost of the passport so it is always better to do it through the mail if at all possible. In addition to these methods, there are also passport delivery services. Essentially what these services do is appear in person at the passport office for you and charge you extra money for this service in addition to the fees from the government. In my opinion these are really not worth it since it can add between 45 and 200 USD to the price depending on how fast you want the passport issued. I have outlined the possible costs below for the issuance of a US Passport.
Post Office: 110 USD for the passport + 25 USD execution fee = 135 USD total
Expedited Post Office: 110 USD for the passport + 25 USD execution fee + 60 US expedited fee + 14.96 USD overnight delivery for the application + 14.96 USD overnight delivery back to you = 224.92 USD total
Passport Office: 110 USD for the passport + 25 USD execution fee + 60 US expedited fee = 195 USD total
As you can see, the original post office version is definitely the most cost effective so plan ahead.