Where to go, what to do

Written by Taylor March 25, 2019

When you get a chance to explore Italy, make sure Tuscany is at the top of your list!

One of the vineyards we visited on our wine tour, recommended by a friend!

On our way to a cafe in Florence that was recommended to us by a fellow CIMBA student

So thankful for the new friends I get to explore with!

Planning trips while abroad can be quite overwhelming.  The two things I normally lock down first are transportation, usually planes or trains, and then housing, either Airbnbs or hostels.  These reservations usually take place a few weeks before a trip – the sooner the cheaper (normally).  But the planning doesn’t stop there!  I strongly recommend having a list of sights you want to see and excursions you want to do before getting to your destination. 

Other things to consider while planning a trip are meals and transportation around the city.  It’s not a bad idea to do some research on restaurants beforehand so that you don’t get sucked into the tourist trap places, where prices are usually higher.  Getting a general idea of what public transportation is available can also save you some time, and money, upon arrival. 

These are a few of the resources that have helped me in this planning process:

Rick Steves’ website is great for getting an idea of what each city has to offer.  The site is organized by country, highlighting the most noteworthy towns and cities.  Within each city he gives a list of landmarks and museums to check out.  He also lays out a recommended itinerary for each country and city, based on how much time you have. 

CityMaps2Go was an app I featured in my “must have travel apps” post.  It allows you to bookmark the locations, restaurants, train stops, and airports you will be needing.  On top of that, it also has a “Discover” section that highlights some of the popular attractions and food in each city. 

Google can be a little overwhelming if you just search the name of city you’re going to.  I usually try to be as specific as possible when doing research on the Internet.  For instance, “free things to do in Barcelona” was my last search! Barcelona is my first stop on our upcoming travel week.  While doing some pre-departure research, I came across a blog that listed some of the most popular museums in the city.  But more than that, it offered dates/times for each museum that you can get in for free! 

Friends and family who have already traveled to the city you’re heading to can offer the best advice.  This is especially true when you’re studying abroad.  The professors and staff at CIMBA are always willing to share their travel experiences, whether it be transportation recommendations or local restaurants that you wouldn’t find as a normal tourist.  Classmates are also a great resource.  Many of the conversations at lunch and dinner revolve around travel – where you were this weekend, where you’re going next weekend.  It’s great being able to ask others about where they stayed in a city, what attractions are worth waiting in line or paying for, and any additional advice they might have. 

Regardless of how much (or little) planning you do, you’re guaranteed to have a great time when exploring a new city in Europe!