Traveling While Studying Abroad
Before leaving my small suburban city in Northern California, I began to imagine what my life would be like while studying abroad in Florence, Italy. I pictured flight after flight in new cities almost every weekend to cover the most ground in Europe that I could in a short period of time. This type of traveling has become a common goal for many abroad students looking to take advantage of being overseas, but unfortunately it tends to be the most costly. Here are some strategies to saving money while abroad, and tips to keep in mind during those amazing weekend trips!
Simple Ways to Save
Studying abroad in any country has its costly aspects. It can be very overwhelming at first, and adjusting to your new home can be challenging. If you give yourself time to adjust and let reality sink in, you can start organizing the best ways for you to save some money while abroad. On the plus side, the more money you save throughout the week, the more you have to spend on the weekends!
Budget You Spending Ahead of Time
This may seem like repetitive information, but going into study abroad with a budget will be very beneficial throughout the duration. While abroad and enrolled in school, everyone will have a different spending budget. It is important to face the facts of your financial situation and lay out a practical and realistic spending plan for your few months with no income. It is critical to decide how much you are able to spend for necessities such as food, travel, and leisure spending. By getting comfortable with your budget, it will be easier to follow along with your weekly spending plans.
While studying abroad and weekend traveling go hand in hand, you can’t avoid eating while on your excursions. One way to save money throughout your semester abroad is to avoid eating out for every meal of the day. While packing for the weekend, think about packing some light snacks to avoid having to stop multiple times throughout the day when you get hungry. It’s cheaper to buy some granola bars for the weekend than having to stop by a cafe multiple times throughout the day.
Being surrounded by amazing restaurants can be tempting, especially with the amazing cuisine of your abroad host country. It is important to learn about the food of your city as it truly is part of the whole experience, but from one coffee a day, to multiple course meals for dinner, prices will start to add up. Wherever you choose to study, ask around and do your research for the local grocery stores and markets to buy groceries from. Local produce markets are very cheap and fresh, as long as you have cash handy, it is a great option to purchase groceries from.
When going to grocery stores nearby, bring your own bags incase the store charges for grocery bags at check out. If the grocery stores are big names in your area, look into registering for a customer/rewards card where you can often save money and get exclusive deals on groceries. For example, a Conad Card can save you about 10% on your total purchase at all Conad stores.
Book in Advance
It may seem obvious that the sooner you book trips and stay accommodations, the better the prices will be. And in fact, it is never too early to book a weekend trip or plan your Fall/Spring break.
Flights and trains are reasonably priced if you can find them early on. The sooner the trip is, the price will obviously be more expensive. It may seem that you have a lot of time while abroad, but the weeks go by fast, and the weekend will sneak up on you. The moment you are considering going somewhere and begin looking into planning the trip, try not to hesitate clicking the purchase button. You won’t want to procrastinate on purchasing all of the details of the trip because the first price you see on a flight, will probably be the cheapest it will ever be. Whether you plan on solo traveling or gathering a group together, look for flights on multiple sites or utilize Skyscanner to find the best price to get to where you are hoping to visit.
Things I Wish I Knew While Traveling
Transportation Adds Up
While traveling to neighboring countries or cities, it is quite common to find cheap flights and trains to take you on your next adventure. Prices range depending on when and where you are going, and the transportation prices are closely looked and yet often compromised. Let’s use an example.
Recently I needed a flight from Dublin, Ireland to get return to Florence, Italy. After searching all over the internet for the best flights, we decided on a flight back to Milan for about 50 Euro where we then planned on training back into Florence from there. After completing the trip back, we calculated the combined tram and train prices, and found it would have been the same price to fly straight into Florence. This would have been a much faster and easier way of getting home, while still being cost effective with our college budgets. If we had looked at these options more closely before booking, we would have just bought a direct flight.
Plan Out All Transportation
It may seem obvious to have all transportation assorted and organized before departing, but sometimes you can forget about little pieces along the way. After booking flights or trains to your next destination, make sure you research how to get to your place of stay. If arriving at night, it will be helpful to have an idea of how far you must travel to your hotel or hostel. Taking a look at their local transportation such as trams, metros, or busses, is another way to ease the stress of getting to your accommodation. Along with safety precautions, it is ideal to have some money handy to quickly pay for the small fees of public transportation.There might be some transportation systems that seem like you can get away with skipping the ticket purchase, but I think it is safe to say you’d rather pay five euro for a ticket than a 60 euro fine.
There are Dozens of Free Tours
Whether you are staying in a Five-Star Hotel, AirBnb, or local hostel, there are often free tours of the city offered everywhere! If you fail to see any promotions for these types of tours in the city you are traveling, head over to the nearest hostel, and they will have brochures to several free or cheap walking tours around the area. If the hostel or hotel doesn’t have the free tours that you are looking for, the front desk workers will always have helpful information and recommendations to help you.
Tips for Going on Weekend/Week Breaks:
- Pack practically, not everything has to be brand new!
- Only pack what is necessary.
- Always have some extra cash-but not too much.
- Leave valuables at home while traveling.
- Ask for maps from the front desk of wherever you are staying.
- Communicate clearly with your travel partners.
- Always think and plan ahead.
- Bring a lock for luggage and personal items, especially if staying in a shared living space such as a hostel.
- Bring a student ID. Many places may have student discounts if you have the proof that you are in school.