“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves,” Henry David Thoreau. This, perhaps is one of many reasons why so many of us yearn to travel the world. Living in Firenze has given me slightly too many opportunities to get lost, but every time I find my way, I’m so proud of myself! This experience has made me a lot more independent. Traveling is not only fun, exciting and liberating; it forces us to feel and think about new things…or perhaps think about things in a new way. All of these experiences give insight into who we really are. During college, a time when we are growing and becoming our adult self more than ever, travel is essential because we discover so many new aspects of ourselves.

One of the most opportune times to travel is as a student not only because of the phase in your life as I previously stated, but because now is the time to reap the benefits with all the student discounts and make friends all over the world! If you are like me, and have to work hard for your money and do some serious saving up in order to travel, don’t lose hope, with a little extra planning you’ll be able to travel with a smaller budget. The first thing you want to do is order your ISIC card: international student discount card. If you are already in Europe and have not ordered this, but have your university student card, most places will accept the standard university card. This card will provide you with proof of identity and save you lots of money along your way. Always bring this with you to museums, historical sites and many restaurants, as they will offer a discount if you show this as proof that you are a student.

After going on a trip with my friends from Florence to Ibiza, I began to seek out cheaper ways to travel. Ibiza was one of the best times of my life, but the hotel we booked was quite far from everything and we had to do a lot of long walking even after taking a bus. Lesson learned: investigate the minor details for all future trips. Bus2Alps and FlorenceForFun are both organizations which help students travel around Europe while their here on study abroad. At first I thought there had to be a downfall to traveling with these companies; great prices, planned vacations, an opportunity to make new friends, advice from expertise tour guides-it all seemed too good to be true! After going on trips with both companies I have discovered how cheap and at ease travel can be. The companies plan out the entire trip whether it be a day, weekend or 10 day long vacation. They post an itinerary online so that you can see exactly what you will be doing, and which hotel or hostel you will be staying in. Also, they make sure to give you plenty of free time so that you can wander off and do other activities they may/may not have included. Not only is your vacation already planned out for you, the price of the trip is almost always cheaper than  if you went on your own because the companies get group rates and discounts because they have distinguished themselves as reliable customers who continue to provide business to these accommodations and transportation services. Often times companies will offer discounts to members of the organizations as well so excursions like scuba diving, skiing, and buying items at certain merchants, will all be cheaper if you go with one of the travel organizations.

Another reason why I encourage you to take a trip with one or both of these organizations is that its a great way to meet people. You’ll meet other students  also studying abroad and can meet up with them during the week as well, or, if their staying in another city, when you visit that city you could possibly stay with them. That’s one less hostel to stay in and pay for!

For the trips you choose to book on your own, I suggest using HostelWorld or HostelBookers to search for great rates. Most of the places on these sites have accurate ratings and reviews, and the descriptions are in depth so you know ahead of time whether you will have access to internet, continental breakfast and more. TripAdvisor is also a great site that will help you find the best restaurants, excursions and accommodations that fits your budget. I suggest researching the hostel or hotel you plan to stay in on at least two sites to be sure you get a good idea of the positive and negatives. I’ve heard too many stories about bed bugs, but this can easily be avoided if you do your research! Trust me, these bugs are not the kinds of friends you want to be making along your adventures. If your a little more bold and daring and are scheming for ways to save some serious cash, there are ways to avoid booking a hostel altogether! While it wont be the most comfortable of ways to travel, it can be done. I have met many people who plan their days accordingly so that instead of going to sleep in a hostel, they take the late night train to their next destination and sleep the entire way. The late night train is cheaper than the popular hours during the day to travel, less crowded and your getting a two for one deal- a place to sleep and moving on your way at the same time. As I said before, however, I would not recommend this to always be your way of traveling as eventually you will want to shower and sleep more comfortably.

There’s so much advice to be given on traveling, and a profuse amount is either in your handy eyewitness travel guide or online, but I have discovered there are many minor details that most people don’t think to share. To start, packing appropriate can make all the difference. Im not talkin just whats inside your bags, how many bags and their weight can cost you another 70 euro (or more) if you go over the limit. Some airlines wont allow you to bring your bag at all, such as Ryanair, if it outweighs the limit. The limit is usually 10 kilograms and they have them at the airport-which doesn’t help much since by then your already packed! So ladies out there like me who have a tendency to overpack, traveling around europe is not going to be your typical vacation where you can get away with these antics. Plan your outfits ahead of time and try to go through everything again once your done. I’ll bet you notice a few pairs of shoes and jewelry you know you wont be wearing!

 

Finally, when it comes to traveling via airplane, I suggest Ryanair, EasyJet or Jetblue. While Ryanair has a plethora of haters, I am a supporter-so far! Im sure most would not be a Ryanair advocate as it is a rickety airplane with an extremely laidback attitude. To me, their lack of enforcing rules made my flight much smoother! I had packed my bag with razors and full-sized shampoo bottles, and while most airlines would make me throw these prohibited items away, Ryanair didn’t even notice! For flights booked extremely in advance, the rates are a steal. But if your going to book a flight last minute or just a long flight in general, I would suggest booking with a more prestigious airline because your going to end up paying the same amount-might as well make it a comfortable flight! To avoid the extra fee’s that so many Ryanair-haters have been trapped in, check out this site that will guide you in choosing luggage that will pass Ryanair’s regulations.

 

Just another cartoon expressing their misfortune while traveling Ryanair:

 

TOP PLACES YOU CAN’T MISS IN ITALY:

  1. FLORENCE , SIENA & TUSCANY COUNTRYSIDE
  2. ROME
  3. CINQUE TERRE
  4. NAPLES, CAPRI & AMALFI COAST
  5. VENICE
  6. LAKE COME & LAKE GARDA
  7. BOLOGNA, MODENA & FERRARA
  8. MILAN (but only the center/fashion district!)
  9. TORINO

 

TOP  PLACES YOU CAN’T MISS IN EUROPE:

  1. IBIZA, SPAIN
  2. FLORENCE, ITALY (obvi….!!)
  3. MYKONOS ISLAND, GREECE
  4. LONDON, UK
  5. AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS
  6. PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
  7. BERLIN, GERMANY
  8. PARIS, FRANCE
  9. BARCELONA, SPAIN

…for more travel tips and tricks go here!

Article by: Kerri Dress