Planning for Trips in Europe_by Giovanna

Lydia, me, and Meghan in Toledo enjoying ice cream.

So, you want to travel while in Spain?  In this blog, I’ve put together a list of websites of where to find, buy, and book flights, stays, and more.

SInce I’m a visual person, one of the first things I do is either print out or make on Google Docs a calendar of my semester abroad.  I put in all of the planned trips and activities as well as when family or friends come to visit, if any do so. What’s really nice about this program is that we don’t have classes on Fridays, and depending on your schedule, no or few classes on Thursday.  This gives us at least 2.5 days to explore and enjoy a new city.  

Afterwards, I make a list of a few places I would like to visit and then talk to my friends and see if any are interested.  These friends don’t necessarily have to be from this program as I have many friends, and my twin sister!, who are in other countries in Europe who also want to travel.  Then, I start looking at flights. Also, traveling within Spain is really easy as there are several trains and buses that you can take.  Spain has such a variety of cities and a diverse history that even if you don’t travel outside of the country, it will feel like you have! 

For flights, some of the most useful websites I have come across are:

www.flights.google.com

This website is useful if you want to look at the fluctuation in prices during certain weekends.  You might not know that a certain weekend falls on a holiday or a well-known event that makes flight prices go up.  I can also put in dates that I am interested in traveling and it tells me the cheapest places to go. This website also lets you explore popular places and shows you all the different sights and things to do. 

www.skyscanner.net and www.lastminute.com

Both of these sites are your standard booking sites but sometimes one can be cheaper than the other or, in some cases, they can both be cheaper than Google.

www.renfe.com

This is Spain’s main train company.  So far in planning my trips, I haven’t found any cheap tickets.  However, you may be lucky so it’s always good to check this website if you are planning trips within Spain (which you should since each student is reimbursed up to a certain amount for travel within the country). 

For stays:

www.airbnb.com

As you probably know, this site is the most common.  It can be relatively cheap to stay at an AirBnB if you have a big group of people going.  However, if you are traveling alone or in a pair, hostels may be the way to go since they tend to be cheaper. 

https://www.hostelworld.com/

Hostelworld is a safe and reliable site to find and book hostels.  If you’ve never stayed at a hostel, you might be skeptical about staying in one because you share a room with other travellers.  But, there are several positives about staying in one: 1) it’s generally cheaper than a hotel/ AirBnB and if you have enough friends, you can most likely buy out the entire room, 2) you meet other people who are usually around our age who are travelling, 3) most of them have kitchens, allowing you to cook for yourself and save money!

MY 20 FAVORITE HOSTELS IN EUROPE

WOMEN’S TRAVEL IN EUROPE

GUIDE TO HOSTELS IN EUROPE

28 Essential Tips for Weekend 

These websites are also useful because they give recommendations and review about hostels all over Europe. 

Staying with friends and family can also be a cheap option.  As I mentioned above, I have a twin sister who is studying in Geneva and I plan to stay with her when I visit. 

For activities:

www.flights.google.com

As well as flights, this website also lets you explore local sights and must-see destinations in the places you have chosen to visit.  

A simple Google search is also enough since Europe is a pretty popular destination with lots to see and do.  Make sure to use your students card (from University or Carne Joven) to get the best deals on activities! Also, check when museums are free.

While traveling for the first time alone can be daunting, it is one of the most amazing things!  You learn so much about yourself, such as how capable and independent you are. Traveling with friends can also ease the burden of traveling alone.  While I haven’t yet traveled in Europe without the program, I have planned two trips, one this weekend and the other during my birthday weekend. However, I spent my first semester in Australia, where I traveled with friends within Australia and to New Zealand.  It was by far one of the best experiences ever and I highly recommend you do a few trips yourself!

Some friends and me at Milford Sound, New Zealand

Be careful though because if you travel every weekend, you will feel disconnected from Madrid and your neighborhood.  Within Madrid, there are so many barrios to explore that each have their own vibe.  You could go to a new barrio and museum every weekend and there would still be more to explore when you leave.  So, if you want to stay in Madrid, don’t worry! There’s still plenty for you to do!

Giovanna Sabini-Leitestudent blogger primavera 2020

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