These Minnesota college students get an A+ for adventure. Follow along as they explore the world while studying abroad.
I have come across most of these tips by accident. But in general that is precisely what travel is; a bunch of unpredicted experiences that can stir you in ways you never knew possible, good and bad. Travel can make you rich and is something I would suggest to everyone for I have grown more in the past 5 weeks than one year of my life (except for my first year of life. That was a pretty major one. You know, walking and being born and stuff.) But yes, we are in college and we do not have the largest disposable income despite the fact that you managed to score that debatably sweet parking attendant job where you can surf Facebook for hours. I hear you, and I am here to say: a few minutes of reading between the lines of reviews on hostelworld can end up saving you a lot of money in the long run. And sometimes the experiences you are going to treasure happen when you are too engrossed with your first sight of the Collosseum to understand the map and find your way to your apartment or on the bus from the Eindhoven Airport to Amsterdam where you get to take in many sights of Holland that you would have missed with a simple flight and taxi ride to your hotel. So without further adieu, here are a few tips to help you save some loot.
WHERE YOU'LL STAY
Yes, it would be awesome to stay in a 5 star hotel with a breakfast buffet and pool, but honestly do you need it? No. Because all you need is a place to lay your head at night after you've walked 20 miles around a foreign city, which is probably 10 more than you needed to because you got lost. So keep it simple because you're going to pass out whether the pillowcases are silk or scratchy cotton. Therefore:
• Look into hostels. Websites like hostelworld.com and tripadvisor.com are great resources as you can adjust the search to fit your needs. Find hostels with a high rating and more than 2 reviews. In the end all you are going to want is clean sheets and a place to go to the bathroom. You can live without privacy for a few days. Though some hostels do have the option to get a private room with a few friends in which case you can feel free to let it all hang out, if you so please. Generally hostels will have lockers where you can keep your valuables. If you are extremely concerned you can bring your own lock for some peace of mind.
• Research apartments. This is something that is extremely overlooked but definitely a great option! If you are traveling with more than 5 people, you will save a ton of money by getting an apartment together as you will be able to go to a supermarket for enough groceries to last your trip and save yourself from the overpriced restaurants us tourists fall prey to often. (Not that you shouldn't eat out. Definitely treat yourself to the countries native food at least twice.) If you just Google "apartments" in whatever city you will be traveling to a ton of options will come up, and once again you can change up the search to fit your needs. Do keep in mind that you will be splitting the price between however many people are staying there so the price is not as intimidating as the big red numbers you see on the right hand side of the listing.
When it comes to transportation, I tend to just make sure I can get to the country/city and then go from there. When traveling within Europe it is pretty simple to find cheap airfares on ryanair.com and easyjet.com but after some frustrating minutes with your friends where everyone is making the "that's-too-expensive" face you just have to bite the bullet. If you want to go to London and the first weekend in April is your only option then go! Just get there. But of course, there are ways to save once you find yourself starring dumbfounded at Big Ben:
• Walk! Plenty of cities are small enough to walk around. It may take you about 40 minutes to get across all of Edinburgh but then you can get in enough pictures of the sights! I'm learning more and more each day that it is just part of European culture to walk. The streets aren't built for your average SUV, plus traffic in general is crazy. It isn't that difficult, you just need to plan accordingly. Take the bus/metro/tram out to the part of the city where you're going to spend the majority of the day and finish activities there, and then move on to a new area the next day.
• Public transportation. I cannot stress this enough. Taxis are ridiculously overpriced. They do make sense to take if you have a ton of luggage or your heel is bleeding, but try to use them sparingly. Do as the locals do, as it is much cheaper otherwise they wouldn't do it. Cities like Paris and Rome have extremely convenient metro lines that are very easy to use once you figure them out and if you purchase a pass for a few days at a time you'll save in the long run.
• Safety first. Seriously. Even if you aren't a travel novice it is smart to always be aware of yourself and your belongings. Where there are tourists, there are pickpockets. Believe me, I learned the hard way. And I was completely aware of my bag and belongings during the moments leading up to it. That being said, I probably could have thought things through a little more. If you have a credit card be sure to bring a backup and keep it in a different place than your original. That way if you lose the latter you won't be without money for 2 weeks in a foreign country while you wait for your replacement to be shipped across the sea. Also, consider getting a money belt. You might feel silly with a pouch under your shirt but at least you know your belongings are close.
• Always have a map on you. And memorize the address of your hostel or apartment. That way if you do end up getting separated from the group you're traveling with (as I did at a very large Dutch market) you will have a map and thus knowledge on how to meet back up with them. Maps really don't cost that much as plenty of airports, train stations, and souvenir shops have them but if you're really feeling a hole in your pocket I have learned that if you go into a hotel and say you're lost and trying to find a certain landmark, you may end up getting a free map. Of course don't expect to be treated like royalty or even receive one, but it's worth a try.
• Stay positive. Most of your time will be spent mesmerized and in love with the country you're in, but sometimes you'll come across situations that leave you confused or uncomfortable. Don't panic. You're just experiencing another culture, and it is completely normal to feel whatever it is your body decides to. In moments like this though, just stay positive and keep going. It's easy to get homesick or over-analyze the intentions of that street vendor but you don't want those moments to be the ones of your trip you remember. So look up and realize where you are and that this may be your only chance to be standing in that spot.
• Be decisive. It's easy when you're traveling with others to fall victim to the crowd and do the awkward dance that is "I don't know, what do you want to do?" "I don't care. How about you?". If you know you want to see something, don't be afraid to go off by yourself and see it. Just make sure you set a meeting spot. You're not going to please everybody, so sometimes you're just going to have to figure out what it is you want to do and do that.
Traveling can definitely be exhausting mentally and physically, but in such a great way.
Everytime I go home (or back to Italy) from a trip I feel so full of life, and I'm not one who normally attributes such a corny saying to myself. But you can't really help it. I kind of feel like I'm turning into my mom as I Google inspirational travel quotes, but I'm going to leave you with just that: "the world is a book and those who do not travel only read a page".
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