5 Tips and Tricks on How to Plan a Trip: Study Abroad Edition

Written by Carley March 21, 2017

This weekends trip to Florence

This weekends trip to Florence

Big Bus Tour in Paris

Big Bus Tour in Paris

Florence

Florence

Last weekends trip to Paris

Last weekends trip to Paris

This weekends trip to Florence
Big Bus Tour in Paris
Florence
Last weekends trip to Paris

So as you may know, it’s already week 6 and I’ve booked all but two of my trips. After trial and error (8 times over), I think I’m finally experienced enough to give you some solid tips on planning a trip while you’re abroad. I’m by no means a travel agent, but I’m pretty confident this blog will teach you a thing or two on what you may or may not want to do while planning your trips abroad.

So after making this mistake early on, I think I’ll start by explaining what you shouldn’t do…

1. DO NOT BOOK YOUR TRIPS RIGHT AWAY. I can’t emphasize this point enough. While something may seem cool and the friends you just met are all jumping to book something, I highly recommend you wait and explore all of your options before booking something just to book it. While I’m ecstatic to be traveling to Barcelona during our second travel weekend, I am also slightly (by slightly I actually mean extremely) envious of the 20 people traveling to Amsterdam to see Drake live and stay on a house boat. My fellow friends who will also be traveling to Barcelona with me would agree that in this case the grass may be greener on the other side and waiting until you’ve explored all your options prior to booking something is in your best interest.

With that being said, you should still book them far enough in advance that you have time to plan, leading me to my next point.

2. BEFORE YOU GO SOMEWHERE DO YOUR RESEARCH.
Look up things you want to do there, places you want to see, and where to stay. Personally, I’ve learned the best way to decide what to do on a trip, aside from your own research, is talking to someone who has already been there. If you know what you want to do/ see when you get there it will make deciding where to stay a lot easier. Going off that, there’s many different places to stay depending on your preference and budget. If you’re looking for a more luxurious stay, a hotel would probably be your best option. If you’d rather have a more affordable, comfortable stay, an Air BNB would be the way to go. If you’re looking to meet other travelers, a hostel is always a fun experience.

3. PAY ATTENTION TO THE DETAILS.
I’m just going to start this off by saying you’ll need to learn military time early on because it will probably save you some time, money, and (5) missed flights (speaking from a friend’s experience). Also, check the dates on your tickets BEFORE you check out… and then check them 3 more times (again speaking for a friend). Transportation is more than just getting to and from your destination- most times you’re going to need transportation to get to your transportation (chances are you won’t be staying next to an airport or train station). Also, while we’re on the topic of details, if you’re using ItaliaRail, make sure you don’t make the same mistake as me: double check your cart before you pay for your tickets because they will add in an ItaliaRail pass EVERY SINGLE TIME you check out and you will have to pay for it EVERY SINGLE TIME. Despite the name, the pass costs more than any benefits you receive from having one.

4. SHOP AROUND.
Easy Jet, Ryan Air, and Google Flights might be your best friend, but read the fine print or they might be your worst enemy. If you’re booking a weekend trip and don’t need to check a bag, I highly recommend using a budget airline like Easy Jet or Ryan Air, but make sure you check the dimensions and bag specifications for your carry on. Google flights is also great because you can type in a date and type in when/where you want to leave from and it will show you all the places you can go, along with the different prices. If I didn’t scare you away in my point above and you decide to still use ItaliaRail, make sure you take advantage of the discount for people under the age of 25.

5. BE STRATEGIC.
Coming here in January, I was convinced I would be spending spring break in Ibiza. Little did I know, the entire island basically shuts down during the cold months. Knowing the best time to go somewhere will save you a lot of disappointment. Also, if you take a flight out of a different airport, a lot of times the prices are significantly cheaper, so if you have the time, using more than one type of transportation can save you a lot of money. I’ve also come to the conclusion that despite popular belief, plane prices do not depend on distance. Sometimes you can fly somewhere twice as far and pay half the price. If your time tables are flexible, search flights or train tickets to places using different dates because they can vary significantly from week to week.