Planning your study abroad trip but don’t know where to start? No need to stress! It does take some effort to organize weekend trips and figure out your semester traveling, but College Fashionista has you covered with a guide of how to stay on top of the planning. Whether you’re looking at train and plane tickets, hostel and hotel rates, sightseeing and where to eat, or anything in between, CF shares tips for planning your dream trips around Europe.
So you’re going to be abroad, where else do you want to go? Are all your dream trips close to your home country or are they scattered across the continent? Are they places you want to spend more than a weekend or a school break in?
I made a list of all the cities and countries I wanted to visit and went from there. Because I was based in Florence, Italy I was pretty central to the continent, but after a few weeks I eliminated the UK and Ireland due to distance, cost, time and experience. I would love to come back to Europe and that region specifically for more time than just a weekend or a week, and I didn’t want to miss out on experiences.
My personal excursions have become relatively limited to central Europe, including Austria, Denmark, Germany, Slovakia and of course Italy. All of these are countries I was interested in going to, but they are not the only ones I considered.
A lot depends on when you are looking to travel. If you’re looking to go to Munich for Oktoberfest, start planning that earlier because of its popularity. If you want to go to Munich during a random weekend in April, you won’t be fighting so many people for flights, trains and accommodations. Seasons and festivities are a big factor in the cost and business of a city, as the weather gets warmer, coastal trips get more popular and Nordic countries get more sunlight – there will be more people here than in the off seasons.
A big thing to keep in mind with day trips is that weekends will almost always be more expensive than weekdays. If you don’t have class on Wednesdays or have a random Thursday day off, look at the prices on those days – you’ll usually find that there are less tourists during the week, giving you a bit more of a local experience.
Another important part of traveling is where you’re going to be staying and how much that will cost. Are you staying in a hostel or a hotel? Maybe you have a friend you can stay with who is studying in a different country. I like to book my accommodations before my flights, that way I know I have somewhere to stay once I get there. If you are doing this before setting your plans in stone, make sure everything is 100% refundable, that way you aren’t losing any money if things don’t work out.
Depending on where in Europe you are traveling to, accommodations may be very well priced or very expensive. Widely visited cities like London and Paris tend to be more pricey than somewhere like Budapest or Prague. You can evade some of the cost by looking on the outskirts of the city – just make sure you can easily get into the city center (likely using public transportation) and if traveling alone, try to look at places near public bus or train stations. Now of course, this is a factor you don’t need to worry about with day trips.
Okay so you’ve picked out your dates and where you want to go, how are you going to get to the city? For a more local day trip, the train is the way to go but leaving the country may have you thinking about flying.
The train is a day trip essential, but can also be used for travel abroad. You can look into rail passes or just book tickets as you go, but if you’re not sure you would use a rail pass to its full value then skip on it. Train tickets don’t usually jump around as much as airline tickets, but some of the same rules still apply. Tickets can increase the closer you get and certain times may be more expensive. I don’t have much experience traveling outside of Italy by train, but within the country the train stations are easy to navigate and your tickets tell you if and where you have to transfer trains.
As for trips out of the country, you will most likely want to look into flying. The most important things I consider are what airports you are flying through, bag allowances from the airport and the price. Many larger cities will have multiple airports and while this allows for some cheaper flights, you have to consider how you are getting to and from the airport to the city. The extra fees may end up costing you almost the same as a more direct flight. Baggage can be a similar story, a ticket is under $100 round trip but it doesn’t include a carry on bag. If you are able to fly with just a personal item, this can totally work out but most of us don’t do that, and paying anywhere from an extra $50-100 each way brings your total back up to, if not higher than, comparable flights.
Now of course we have to consider prices — the closer you get to the trip the higher tickets get. This is sometimes not the case if you are booking the week of, but don’t rely on that if you know what you want to do. Prices will also usually increase on the weekends, so check the prices on a Monday or Tuesday to see if anything decreased. Different times will also have different priced tickets, and this changes by demand.
So you finally figured out when you’re traveling and where you want to go, now we have to consider your plans for your time away. Are you going to take a day trip from your primary city or would you rather stay in one place? What are the most important things to visit?
I Googled what to do in each city and went from there. I know I like to have time for wandering around and being outside, so I’m not packing my days full of museums and tours. Have a list of places you want to go, maybe even a loose itinerary, but don’t feel the need to make it too strict, go with the flow sometimes! If you’re looking for places to go in Dublin or Florence you should definitely check out these CF articles for food, shopping and attractions.
We are all trying to make the most of our time abroad, taking as many trips as possible and seeing everything we have the time (and the money) to. Just remember that you will get back to Europe if you really want to, and this isn’t a complete once in a lifetime experience. The part you may never experience again is living and studying abroad! Make sure you spend the time you want to in your new home city, do the touristy things there as well as in new places. You can do those with far less planning and transportation, so take a couple weekends to explore your city.
If planning isn’t your thing at all, there are lots of travel companies geared towards college students abroad. Make sure you do your research on their reputation and ensure that the itineraries projected are interesting to you. Along with that, be sure to know what you are paying for and what is going to be an additional fee – everything will be written out somewhere but it may not be easy to find.
Featured image via @jessduraj. Design by Her Campus Media/Francesca Grima of Unsplash.