I’ve been working all week to get ready for my Thanksgiving vacation to the Caribbean that’s been planned for months, but also working on the acquiring all of the things I’ll need for my visa once I return. I’ll get back to Detroit on December 4th and will be leaving the 7th to go to the French Embassy in Chicago, so wanted to make sure I had most everything in order before I left. Nothing like a little chaos of trips and planning to add to the holiday season!
For those of you obtaining a student visa, let me warn you that it is not just $65 like I was told. After sending in a $100 money order to get approval from CampusFrance, you will then need to have the $65 ready for your actual visa application, along with the $20 pre-paid express mail envelope they require to return your passport. Let’s not forget about all of the small fees like getting passport pictures for your visa, obtaining official copies of your academic transcripts (some schools charge $5-10 for this), postage, and the time spent getting everything together. Lastly, and most importantly, your travel cost. I am reporting to the French Embassy in Chicago which is about a 4 1/2 hour drive from my home. I will be actually be taking the train and going with my sister and friend (why not turn this mandatory trip to Chicago into a girls weekend?!). I got a hotel on HotWire for $80 just off Michigan Ave. and with food and entertainment, I am thinking this weekend will cost a little more than earlier predicted. Granted, you can just drive there and drive back, but you should still consider the cost for fuel, parking, and the time you’ll have to take off work/school to do this. It all adds up! This isn’t a huge deal since it’s obviously mandatory for the program, but just be prepared for the added cost! And if you have to travel to another city for this anyway, you should just take advantage and enjoy some time to see the town!
I opened my suitcase earlier this week and have been tossing in tank tops and flip flops here and there in efforts to be ready for my vacation. (To eliminate confusion, this vacation is completely separate from France and studying abroad, and was planned before Studying Abroad was even in the works). With my flight scheduled to leave at 5:45pm, I started really packing and getting things together at midnight the night before- like I almost always do. While checking-in online, I learned my flight was delayed about 2 hours and it ended up being a blessing in disguise. As I was carrying my luggage down the stairs (about 10 minutes before I was going to leave my house), my mother helped me and asked how heavy my bag was, stating I was surely exceeding the 40 lbs limit! 40 LBS?! When did that happen? For once in my life I don’t have to sacrifice anything from my suitcase due to weight restrictions and now you’re telling me I’m actually 7 lbs overweight?! What a buzzkill! I thought I was in great shape when it weighed in at 47! More room for souvenirs I thought…. well I was wrong!
I decided my shampoo and conditioner could stay home. I will stop at a pharmacy and pick some up once we land (seeing as how I forgot half my makeup at home, it will be a necessary stop anyway!). 10 days is too long to get by with a small travel bottle and it’s cheap enough that I’m not worried if I have to leave it in Florida when I fly home. I ditched a pair of heavy denim pants and also a few shirts that I probably wouldn’t have ended up wearing anyway. Coming in at 40.5 lbs, I made the cut 🙂 The point is: Know Your Limits! Make sure to check all baggage policies when you book your flight. You never know when rules will be changed or updated. I couldn’t believe the differences in baggage policies between airlines. I had no idea that the weight policy was so different on each airline. If you’re thinking “10 lbs really isn’t that big of a difference” you must be a guy! Not to be sexist but between the jewelry, shoes, and hair styling tools, women should be allotted another bag or at least a few more pounds. It’s never a problem with room, it’s always the weight limit that kills me! I will be very interested to know what the policies are on AirFrance when I book my flight in the next few weeks. (Packing for 6 months should be interesting if I can’t stay under the limits for a 10 day trip! More on that to come in future posts!)
I’ve always flown Delta. I’ve found their rates aren’t any better or worse in comparison to other airlines, and the planes are as best can be expected. I’ve never had any issues with delays or cancellations, I’ve always been happy. Well this vacation there was a significant price difference and I ended up flying Spirit, and I now remember why I love Delta so much… Although the flight itself was less expensive, I had to pay more for my bags each way ($30 instead of Delta’s $25), and was also charged to pick my seat. If you’re flying alone, this isn’t a necessity, but when flying with someone else, it’s nice to be able to sit next to each other. Round trip, this added another $100 to my cost. I also learned today that had I not pre-paid for my bag online, I would’ve had to pay $100 at the check-in desk! (Man, Spirit really likes to add in extra charges anywhere they can.)
I will be leaving reality for the next 10 days and wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving! This year, I am especially thankful for all of the educational blessings that have come my way. The University of Michigan was always a dream I had growing up and wanting to be more like my cousin whose room was decorated with a huge Michigan comforter. It has become a reality along with the generous scholarships and grants I’ve received from various foundations. Studying Abroad was really something I never thought I would have the chance to experience and now that I do, I am so incredibly grateful and embracing every aspect of this opportunity. I would also love to thank my friends and family for all their loving support through all of my education and career decisions. Without their encouragement and support I would definitely not be in the position I am in now.
Happy Thanksgiving from a very thankful Twenty Something Traveler!