England is the perfect place for you to travel to if you're thinking about taking your first out-of-the-U.S. trip. It's relatively close, the native language is English, and there are dozens of sites and attractions to explore. You'll need to prepare for the trip with some international travel basics and map out a realistic itinerary to make the most of your experience.
Get Your Paperwork Done
You'll need a passport and visa to visit England. If you don't have a current passport, you'll need to bring your pictures and some proof of your citizenship--a birth certificate, a certificate of naturalization, or a certificate of citizenship--to a post office (or if you prefer, a state or federal courthouse). Fill out a passport application, and in a month you'll have your passport. Americans with questions about passports can contact the U.S. State Department's Passport Service department. If you are an American or Canadian citizen planning to stay in England for less than six months, you do not need a visa, but if you're planning to remain in England for more than six months, you do. You can get a visa from any British Embassy.
Plan Your Trip
Plan your trip to England in early to mid-October or in mid- to late March, because that's when flights are the cheapest. During the winter, the days grow very short; sunlight is sometimes limited to less than eight hours per day. The summer (especially July and August) brings in record-breaking numbers of tourists. Be sure to check the travel sections in major newspapers for any special deals or featured advertisements for cheap airline tickets. Organizations like STA Travel offers relatively inexpensive bookings for students and other young people. Visit a bank to get the best exchange rates.
Settle Yourself in England
Find affordable accommodations by staying at a hostel. Hostels vary in shapes, forms and sizes, but generally provide affordable housing with minimal amenities. You'll have a shower and a bed, and may be able to purchase low-cost meals. Get to the hostel you'll be staying at as early in the day as you can because they tend to fill up quickly. If you can afford to stay at a hotel, make sure you are aware of check-in times and policies. To get around England, the most common methods are bus and rail. Consider getting a Britrail ticket so you can ride a train wherever you want around England an unlimited number of times. If you decide to use the underground rail system (the Tube), get a pass. Passes for a full day, week, or month can save you money if you're going to take the Tube for even a few stops.
Find the Best Things to Do
Buy a budget travel book to find attractions and sites in cities such as: London, Bath, Cambridge, Oxford, Canterbury, Leeds and Wimbledon. Popular attractions include: Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Portobello Market and the Tower of London in London; Bath Abbey in Bath; the colleges of Cambridge; and the Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury.
Consider Future Visits or an Extended Stay
Once your six months of visa-less stay are up, you can try to get a job and try to extend your stay. TNT Magazine or The Evening Standard include employment listings. And if you're an American college student, getting a visa is not too difficult; you can apply for work permits through organizations like BUNAC or the Council on International Educational Exchange.