There are three main vacation periods for Sacramento State students. While it is possible for students to attend school during winter and summer vacation periods, the following are optimum times to travel home or travel to another US location:
- Winter break vacation which extends from late December through January.
- Spring break vacation which is usually mid-way through the Spring semester near Easter
- Summer vacation which lasts from June through August.
Please keep in mind that there are different procedures required depending on whether you choose to depart the US or travel within the US. Please read the following sections carefully.
TRAVEL OUTSIDE THE US
During your studies in the US you may wish to return to your home country for a visit, or to take a trip to Mexico, Canada, or another country. Before you depart from the US, it is very important that you obtain all the documents necessary for re-entry (if you plan on resuming your studies). In general, you will need the following:
- An F-1 visa student will need to have their SEVIS I-20 endorsed by their OGE advisor. J-1 visa students must have his/her SEVIS DS-2019 revalidated by their OGE advisor.
- A passport valid for at least 6 months in the future after your re-entry.
- A visa stamp which will still be valid at your re-entry. If the visa stamp is no longer valid, you will be forced to apply for a new visa at a US Consulate or Embassy abroad. (Please contact an advisor at the OGE for details.)
- Evidence of continued financial support (recommended).
- A letter verifying full time status at Sacramento State (recommended).
- A copy of your academic record (recommended).
Students planning a short visit (less than 30 days) to Canada or Mexico may not need a valid visa to reenter the US. Please contact the OGE in order to obtain specific information concerning visa requirements and re-entry screening.
Traveling out of the US during OPT: Special rules apply for traveling out of the US during post completion OPT. If you intend to travel out of the US during your OPT period (and wish to return to the US), please contact your advisor in the OGE for updated procedures and instructions.
TRAVEL WITHIN THE US
University vacations are a great time to become better acquainted with different US locales and the American people. When it comes to deciding the way you want to travel, you have several things to consider. The most important considerations are money, standards of comfort, transportation choices, and time. While some students may find a bus ride from Sacramento to New York very tedious and unpleasant, others may find the experience rewarding due to the possibility of viewing the countryside and talking to many different types of people. Always keep in mind that distances in the US may be great. Consider the amount of vacation time you have and whether you wish to spend more time in transit or more time at your place of destination.
Going by air is, in most cases, the fastest way to travel within the US. There are many ways of saving money on air fare, but the airlines are constantly changing these promotional fares. For more information, you should contact a local travel agent (STA Travel is a student oriented travel agency located in the University Union) or one of many travel-oriented websites. In general, fares vary according to the class you fly (economy or first class), the time of day/day of the week you fly, and how far in advance you book the flight. If you are flying on intrastate routes in California, local airlines usually have lower fares than national airlines. Compare prices; it may save you quite a bit of money!
There is one special fare available to international visitors to the US called “Visit USA.” The savings amount to about twenty percent (or more) on various one-way and round-trip fares within the continental US. To qualify, you must be a resident of any country other than the US and your travel must begin and end at least one hundred miles beyond US borders. This makes the “Visit USA” fare a bit impractical for students already in the US and who plan on returning to continue their studies. However, family members who are coming to visit and wish to tour the US will find a distinct advantage in purchasing these tickets. They may be purchased either before arrival in the US or within fifteen days of arrival; however, purchase prior to departure for the US will net the purchaser greater savings. Please contact the airline for further information as fares and regulations regarding the “Visit USA” fare are constantly changing.
Travel by Bus
There are several advantages to traveling by bus: travel is inexpensive, you see a lot of countryside, and the service is efficient. There is a special unlimited travel plan available through the Greyhound bus company which is called the Ameripass. You pay a certain dollar amount for either a seven-day, fifteen-day, or thirty-day pass for unlimited travel. Generally speaking you save money on the one-month pass if you plan to travel over 3,700 miles and on the two-month pass when you go over 5,000 miles. Keep in mind also you can save an additional amount if you sleep on the bus occasionally, although you should probably stay in a hotel from time to time in order to refresh yourself completely.
Travel by Train
For the most part, train travel within the US is becoming rare. Long trips are rather expensive (in many cases more than air travel) considering the fact that food on trains is not cheap. Nevertheless, AMTRAK, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, does offer a discount to visitors from other countries (except Canada). Those interested should review the information at www.amtrak.com. There are extra charges for sleeping car accommodations or reserved coach seats. Be sure to have your passport when purchasing these tickets from an AMTRAK ticket office or travel agent.
Travel by Automobile
Many students do not plan on buying a car during their stay in the US; however, renting one is always an option for travel. If being able to travel at your own pace is of optimum importance to you, you may wish to consider contacting the auto rental companies. Be sure to present your passport, since you may obtain a discount. Keep in mind that you must be twenty-one and have a valid driver’s license (from your own country or the US). If you have a driver's license from your own country, it is always handy to have it validated by an American Automobile Association office for use in this country although it is not a legal requirement. There are three such offices in the Sacramento area: one at 4745 Chippendale Drive (telephone 331-7610), one at 15 Bicentennial Circle (telephone 381-3355), and one at 4333 Florin Road (Telephone: 422-6511). AAA also provides a brochure called “Motoring in the USA ” which contains information on traffic regulations.
Another option available to you if you are over twenty-one and have an International Driving Permit is “driveaways.” Basically the arrangement calls for you to deliver a car from one city to another in a limited amount of time. You are required to post a bond, have your fingerprints taken, and have a physical examination. It is a convenient and cheap way to travel so look in the yellow pages of the telephone book under “Automobile Transporters and Driveaway Companies.”
Maps are obtainable from service stations, bookstores, drugstores, and tourist bureaus everywhere.
When taking your own sleeping bag with you is feasible and desirable, Hostelling International USA youth hostels (located throughout the US) are cheap places to stay. You must have a membership card from your own national youth hostel association to use these facilities. Reservations are recommended and usually obtainable by sending the hostel a deposit equal to one night’s fee. All information concerning the hostels is found in the “AYH Handbook” (free with membership). For further information, please visit their webpage www.hiayh.org.
Some Young Men’s Christian Associations (YMCA’s) and Young Women’s Christian Associations (YWCA’s) also have inexpensive accommodations. If you are not a member of the YMCA or the YWCA, you may have to pay an additional small membership fee. Reservations are suggested.
Sometimes university or college campuses may have accommodations. You may try calling the housing office or the student union at any campus to see if they can provide you with a night’s lodging or with information on inexpensive places to sleep in the area.
Camping is another possibility. There are both state and national park facilities and private campgrounds. For information on state parks, contact the state tourist office. For information about national parks, please view their webpage at www.nps.gov. For someone who is going to do extensive camping, the “ Rand McNally Campground and Trailer Park Guide” or “Woodall’s Campground Directory” are recommended and obtainable in many department and bookstores.
You may also want to check with the private campgrounds or the low-cost motel chains. There are quite a few of the latter that have pleasant rooms for a reasonable price. Reservations are usually recommended. Let’s Go USA and Where To Stay USA can be found at many bookstores.
Staying with a Host Family
It may be possible for you to stay with an American family while touring the US . If you are interested in this type of hospitality, you should write to the US SERVAS Committee, 11 John Street , Room 706, New York, New York 10038 (there is a charge for this service). You have to provide two letters of reference and arrange for an interview at least one month before your trip.
When you travel in any country it is always safest to carry traveler’s checks since they are easily replaceable if lost or stolen. A money belt may be a good investment if you are determined to take a lot of cash with you. Nationally recognized credit cards also have advantages as you can obtain emergency funds and charge hotel bills, restaurant bills, and plane fares with them.
Saving Money while You Travel
There are numerous other ways to save money when traveling in the US. Eating at restaurants, for example, can become quite expensive. There are many fast food chains here a meal can cost you very little. You can also buy your food at the supermarket if you get tired of fast food. Just remember, however, that if you buy fresh fruit and are returning to California, the fruit will be confiscated upon entering the state.
You can save on telephone calls by making them from a public telephone or by calling collect instead of calling direct from a hotel. Hotels usually add a surcharge to calls made from the room. Also check with your cell phone provider for information about whether your cell phone plan will provide coverage in the cities/states you plan to visit.
If you have an International Student ID Card, there are several savings on travel-related items. First of all, you are entitled to automatic accident and sickness insurance if you purchase the card in the US and if you travel outside the US. You will also receive reduced rates on air fares, tours, accommodations, cultural attractions, etc. ISIC’s are available on campus at STA Travel located in the University Union.