Previously, I wrote a post about travel tips and how to get to your destination. I had never been to Europe before studying abroad, and I had a lot to figure out. I knew traveling on weekends would not give me very much time in each place. After figuring out I needed to make travel arrangements in advance, I realized I needed to plan out my day to day activities in each place I went. Cities like London have so much to do, and a weekend there is not nearly long enough. This is where planning my time was most critical to being able to see most things.
Pinterest was the biggest thing that helped me plan my weekends. There are so many blogs out there from people who documented their trips. Most of the time you can find “self-guided walking tours” of any city you want to travel to. When doing research for each city I would Pin 3-5 posts, then make a list of which things I wanted to see and which to skip. Then, I would look at a map of the city and decide which things were close together. Below is my London itinerary for example:
- Paul’s Cathedral (we stayed in the Club Quarters Hotel at St. Paul’s)
- Houses of Parliament
- Westminster Abbey
- Tower Bridge
- Tower of London
- Leadenhall Market (for Harry Potter fans)
- Madam Tussauds Wax Museum
- London Eye
- Buckingham Palace
- Platform 9 ¾ (Harry Potter again)
As you can see, we did a lot in two days. For the London trip, I purchased a two-day London Pass. This allowed me to get into each attraction (except Madam Tussauds and the London Eye) and most of the tickets included fast passes. I would recommend getting the London Pass, but not for more than two days, because the price goes up at three days, but the amount of attractions included does not.
Pinterest was also helpful in places that are not as commonly known. When visiting Lisbon, I would not have known to visit Sintra, Portugal without seeing a pin about it. It turned out to be one of the coolest cities I visited. There was information on how to get to Sintra from Lisbon, what to see, and how to get around the city.
The one drawback of Pinterest for studying abroad is its advice on packing. I read so many blog posts about how to pack, and followed their advice, but ended up not having enough clothes. My advice on this would be to do research on what kinds of clothes are sold in the country you will be living in. Personally, I did not like the clothes sold in Spain and around Europe. This may not be the case for everyone, but some research would have gone a long way with me.
Overall, Pinterest can be a great resource for your time abroad and will help you plan your travels well. It will help you make the most of your time there and see as much as possible!
This past semester, fall 2017, I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain. The thing I was most excited about during my time in Europe was being able to travel around to different countries. When it came time to plan my trips, I realized it was not as simple as I thought it would be. I heard it was easy to pick a destination at the beginning of the week and fly out Thursday or Friday. However, I was very wrong about that. While travel is cheaper around Europe, it takes planning to get the best deals. Below are some tips and things to watch out for that will make traveling much easier and more affordable.
• Plan Ahead! One of the biggest things I can stress is planning ahead. It will make everything much easier throughout your time if things are planned out. I planned almost all of my trips, and booked them, in early September. I did most of the traveling in late October through the beginning of December. Laying everything out at once allowed me research when the best time to go certain places is and be able to see everything I wanted to see.
• Flights: The cheapest flights are at the most inconvenient times. Budget airlines are great, but in order to get a good price, usually the flights are very early or really late. Sometimes the trains do not run early enough to get to the airport before your 6am flight. To get to the airport you will need to get and Uber or taxi. Another thing that I have heard a lot of people running into is flying into the wrong airport. Many times, budget airlines do not fly into the main airports. Make sure you double check which airport your flight goes to, so you do not get stuck an hour outside the city you are trying to visit. The budget airlines are also strict about bag size and charge a lot of your bag is too big. My advice is getting a large backpack, because I never saw a flight attendant check the size of a backpack.
• Hotels: Finding a place to stay is another challenge I faced. I would not recommend hostels, since there are so many other options. The couple times I used Airbnb it was a pleasant experience, especially when we had multiple people traveling together. Booking.com was the website I used for most of my trips. After booking 5 trips you get a discount on all other trips! Plus, there are plenty of reviews, so you will know what you are getting. I found that splitting a hotel room with one other person gives you some privacy and more security for your things. Compared to a hostel, splitting hotel room is the same price and gives you more peace of mind.
Traveling is one of the main benefits of studying abroad. Experiencing all the new places and cultures will open your eyes, and make you think differently about the world. Getting to your destination can be tricky, but if you plan ahead and know how to get from place to place you will be able to relax and enjoy!