Study Abroad Europe: How to Plan the Perfect Trip

You've finally made it. After a year and a half of planning, preparation, packing and maybe even panicking, you've landed in the country you will be spending the most amazing months (or year- lucky!) of your life in. After getting assimilated into your new European environment and figuring out your class routine, you're finally ready to embark on your first weekend adventure. Your school will most likely have resources for pre-planned trips, the cost inclusive of transportation and night’s stay. If you find that these trips are too expensive, it's very easy to customize your own weekend in a much more cost-effective way. But where do you begin?

Flights: Most likely, you've already heard of the low budget airlines like Ryanair and Easyjet. These airlines are great, but be prepared for some really early mornings in order to catch the cheapest flight. Both airlines have a website, and you will find that they service airports just outside of major cities for cheaper. To find the best price, make use of skyscanner.net. Skyscanner allows you to compare airline tickets between your destinations. Be sure to put your browser on "incognito mode" before searching to avoid price increases.  

Currency: If you have time to switch your currency over beforehand, post offices offer the best rates (if you're in London- Marks & Spencer also has great rates!). If you didn't have time, you can always convert money at the airport, or use an airport ATM to make a withdrawal. If you're really on a budget, get just enough cash at the airport to cover your transportation cost, and then find a bank when you reach your final destination.

Hotels/Hostels: You may be lucky enough to have a friend with an apartment to stay at. If not, there are three easy-to-use websites to help you find a place to stay based off location, price, and dates. Hostelworld.com, hostelbookers.com, and airbnb.com will be your go-to websites. Always be sure to read past reviews, and use Google maps to discover how close your accommodations are to the attractions you want to visit, public transportation, and the airport. Be sure to download city guides from Hostelworld and Hostelbookers before hand!

Getting from airports to your hotel/hostel: Before leaving, do your research. Use Google to figure out the most convenient or cost effective transportation methods. Most airports have a bus service that will take you from the airport to the city center, and the cost can usually be found online. If you are flying into a large international airport, (think Heathrow or Charles De Gaulle) there will be a metro line to conveniently take you to your next stop.

Food: If you're on a budget, find a grocery store. Bread, ham, and cheese makes a filling meal for likely under three euros. If you want something sit-down, you can always ask the staff at your hotel for restaurant recommendations, or do your own research (the city pocket guides from the hostel websites give great options). Lastly, be sure to visit food markets. Street markets give you an amazing "taste" of the local culture, typically at reasonable prices, as locals frequent markets for lunch. Most importantly, be open to trying new foods. And there is no such thing as "too many crepes."  

Attractions: Use city guides and the Internet to find out the top tourist sites in each city. Before you leave, it helps to looks at each attraction on a map, keeping in mind where your hotel is. Use a map to plan your days based on proximity between places.

Nightlife: It's always best to talk to people who have previously studied abroad in the city to figure out the best nightclubs and bars in the area. If that's not an option, you can always turn to Google to search for the top nightclubs and best bars in the city. Popular youth hostels have pre-planned bar crawls that begin right in your hostel. This is a great way to make friends! You can always talk to hostel workers or other guests to find out where they are spending their nights, too. You'll be surprised at how easy it is to make new friends.

And there you go! With these tips, you will be perfectly prepared for your weekend getaways. Remember, if things don’t go as planned, don’t panic- these moments often turn into great stories later on. Enjoy the ride!