If you haven’t already left for your study abroad experience this fall, you probably will soon. And one of the first things you’ll want to do is plan trips to the other countries you want to visit while you’re there. It can be a little confusing and scary to be planning all of these trips on your own (and without the help of your parents). But it really isn’t that difficult! I have some tips to help you figure out how to book your trips, save money, and have fun on your weekend trips while studying abroad!
1. Start planning early!
It’s definitely better to figure it all out early, so that you can find cheaper travel options and places to stay. If you try to book a trip a couple of days before you leave, the prices will be jacked up. By that point, people are willing to pay more as long as they get the trip. So avoid that by planning it all out early! Besides the spontaneous trip I took to London at the end of the semester (expensive!), and my trip to Greece after school ended, all of my weekends were planned out way far in advance, and I was able to get cheaper prices because of it.
When my roommate and I first went to London (the end of January, yes I did go twice), we were able to get plane tickets that were only £34 (which equals to just under $40). Most of our flights ended up being less than $90, and our hostels were usually pretty cheap too. RyanAir tended to have the cheapest flights, so we ended up using them a lot. Just be prepared for a chaotic and slightly uncomfortable trip. It’s first come first serve in the seats so you want to get there early!
2. Use comparison sites when booking.
If you use a site that shows you many options, instead of using the airline site or the airport site, then you will be able to find a better deal, for both flights and hotels/hostels. You’ll have more options, so you’ll be able to pick the one that best fits both your budget and your schedule! A good site to use is BookingBuddy, who will give you tons of choices for flights. You could save up to 50% just by using their site!
3. Know what you want to do before you get there.
I wouldn’t say plan out each trip right when you book it (if you book early like I suggest), but a couple of days before you leave, you should check out which attractions you want to go to. Often, if you check online, you can get discounted prices, or you can check to see if they have student discounts so you know to show your student ID at the ticket counter. Sometimes they’ll have packages for a couple of different attractions, which can save you money if you plan on going to every one of those places, but if you aren’t, then I suggest avoiding those.
Some of the best things I did was free walking tours of the cities. First of all, it’s free, and walking is a great way to take in the city and figure out your way around it. Plus, the tour guide usually has lots of cool stories and things that you wouldn’t get from a bus tour. One time we even got to taste some cheese from Amsterdam. The only thing you pay for is tipping your tour guide at the end, however much you think it’s worth. You can even buy tickets online – so before you leave, make some sort of plan or schedule.
4. Use sites like Hostelworld.com to help you get better rates on places to stay.
This is how I booked all of my hostels, and I had no problem finding nice places in good areas that weren’t too expensive. They have reviews from people who actually stayed there, so you can see what they say ahead of time and base your decisions off of that.To get the lowest prices, you’ll usually be sharing a room with more than just the friends you’re traveling with, but it’s always fun to meet new people! If that makes you uncomfortable, there are private rooms or rooms that only house 4 or 5 people in a room, for a low price.
5. If you don’t want to stay in hostels, then I suggest traveling with a lot of people.
Then you can share one or two hotels rooms, and split it between all of you. I did that in Dublin, and we each ended up paying around $35 or so. Hostelworld will show you some bed & breakfasts and places like that, but you can also check out Hotels.com to see what you can find on there. They will have good deals on nice places to stay in the city that you are traveling to. And you can get 4% cash back with Studentrate.
6. Look up public transportation a little beforehand.
Each city has their own transportation system and their own way of doing things. It’s good to know what time they close, for instance. We were stranded in London because we flew in after the Tube had closed. Also, know how to get to your hostel/hotel from the airport! Don’t just show up and expect to be able to figure it out, especially if you’re going to a country that speaks a foreign language. Know exactly what train or bus to take, and what stop to get off at, or else you could be paying way too much to take a taxi there. It’s always good to know your stop because that is where your “home” will be for the weekend. I would avoid taxis as much as possible, as they’ll be much more expensive. Know closing times so if you go out at night you know what time you should leave, or be ready with money to take a taxi home.
7. It can’t hurt to look up some good places to eat at that won’t be too expensive.
I didn’t do this as much, but I wish I had because some nights we were wandering the streets trying to find a restaurant to eat at that we could afford. Plus, you can find what kind of places the locals are eating at and where the best food is, instead of guessing and ending up eating at seedy restaurants with bad food. Same goes for bars and clubs. Look up what the best ones are, and what their prices are. Sometimes it can be fun to stumble into a random place, but other times it’s not.
8. Use a program that has weekend trips planned out for you.
There are a ton of websites and companies that plan trips for students who are studying abroad. I did one for spring break where we traveled the Amalfi Coast and it was well-organized and a lot of fun. One of these companies is World Student Adventures, or WSA. They have trips planned to a ton of places so that you can really get immersed in the city that you’re in instead of being a tourist. You can go to Budapest, Barcelona, Paris, etc. The trips are designed for savvy students who want to save money and still make the most of their trips.
If you use these tips, you should be able to plan successful weekend trips! Without overspending or missing out on anything that you really want to do. So go travel and explore! And don’t forget to check out Studentrate to get tons of discounts on traveling!