Post submitted by Brooke Brennan, Valencia First Year Abroad
When studying abroad, traveling on the weekends is a must. You will finally be able to visit your dream destinations and be immersed in new cultures all around the world! Take advantage of your travel opportunities, but travel smarter, not harder. Here are some tips and tricks to be able to visit those bucket list places without breaking the bank.
Finding Flights may be one of the most daunting tasks, but it can be so easy! Use websites that compare flights such as Skyscanner.com or Google Flights. They have an option where you can view the cheapest month to travel and compare different airlines so you can find the least expensive flight. There is no magic time or day of the week to search, so start planning early. When searching for flights, use incognito browsers to keep the prices down. RyanAir is the best budget airline in Europe and always have great prices. It is okay to take those 6 a.m. flights. It gives you an entire day to explore and travel and will save you some money.
Living out of a backpack becomes a lifestyle. Backpacks are free to travel with and are the perfect size. You can fit 10 days’ worth of clothes when you need to or even over pack for a two-day trip. When traveling, pack essentials only (clothes, chargers, a pair of shoes or two, and toiletries). There isn’t much room for those “what if” items, so you will become a professional packer in no time.
Where to stay is always fun to plan, but hotels are expensive. I found that Airbnb’s are the least expensive and the best to stay in. They are in the heart of the city, or wherever you’d like to stay near. It is the most comforting to be able to stay in a home with your own bathroom and kitchen when traveling. Once you divide the price amongst everyone, it can sometimes be less expensive than a hostel. However, hostels are great choices as well! They are very affordable and can be found in great locations!
Short distance travel is made easy by trains and buses. These travel routes are quick and easy and are offered at all times of day. Renfe trains are high quality and fast for Europe. They even allow you to bring suitcases and play movies. Buses are another great choice to travel and save some money.
Public transportation will be your best friend! Take the local metros and buses to navigate around cities. You will save so much money and be able to see more of the city and maybe even meet some locals! There is not much need for taxis once you figure out how the public transportation flows. Luckily, Google maps and Apple maps have features that can tell you which trains or buses to take, when they arrive next, and how much they cost. (P.S. Use Apple maps to navigate when you are walking somewhere if you have an iPhone and Google maps when you want to use public transportation. Through many trials and errors, we found this most effective.)
Where to eat is always fun to decide. Try the local cuisine and specialty dishes of the country you are in! Don’t judge a restaurant by the outside, because the small mom and pop places usually have the best food. TripAdvisor is great to research the best local restaurants and cafes. But also ask locals where they frequent.
Student discounts are all over Europe! Most museums will give you a discount once you show your student ID. This is a great way to visit more museums and landmarks for less. So don’t forget your student ID when you travel! Your wallet will thank you.
Make friends with the locals! Whether it’s talking to your taxi driver or the person sitting at the table next to you, don’t be afraid to say hi! Having friends around the world and learning about new cultures is something you will have with you forever. When I was in Valencia, I volunteered at the local high school, helping in their English classes. From that, I became very good friends with the kids and still keep in contact with them today! They showed me around the city, told me about what it’s like to be a teenager in Valencia, and even invited me to their school Olympics and to get coffee with them. It was a great and unique way to make friends with some locals and to experience the city in the same way other kids my age do.
Ask your professors about their favorite places! They know about the best and cheapest restaurants, events, and places to travel. Your professors are so knowledgeable and experienced – they are the best resource to exploring not only your new home but other new cities as well!