- I’m sure everyone has already told you this, but pack lightly. No seriously. Only pack stuff that you’re going to wear. Usually international flights allow you to have 1 checked luggage, 1 carry on, and 1 personal item (i.e. small backpack or purse). I don’t think I wear half the things I brought, so really think long and hard about it. And, well, you’re probably going to shop… there’s really no way around it. H&M is just so much better outside the U.S. In addition to that, you’re going to bring back souvenirs, so make sure you allow room for that as well. Simply just pack in the mindset of the return flight. (But also remember that on the return flight, you won’t have shampoo, conditioners, etc. weighing you down either).
- Let’s be honest. For your entire life, you’ve wanted to dress like a European… or at least fit in when you’re there, so if you want to look more European, wear neutral colors. i.e. black, dark grey, navy, cream… seriously, not a lot of colors.
- Always pack sneakers/exercise clothes when traveling. You never really know what you’re going to end up doing.
- Bring flip-flops for hostel showers… they can be gross.
- Bring a swimsuit with you. Who knows, you could end up in Mykonos, Ibiza, or the French Riviera and you want to be prepared.
- Buy a UNIVERSAL adaptor before you leave for your trip. Different countries have different plugs.
- Things everyone forgets to pack: nail clippers, nail polish remover, towels, water bottle, travel–sized bottles, and sunglasses.
- Use kayak.com or skyscanner.com to find the best deals you can on flights. Try to book all of your trips early! It’s usually way cheaper to book months beforehand.
- Bring your student ID when you’re traveling. You often get discounts at museums! Sometimes, you can even get in for free.
- Make copies of your passport/IDs/credit cards… just in case.
- Travel with people that you like… you can imagine the problems that arise when this doesn’t happen.
- An alternative to hostel living when traveling is airbnb.com. It sounds kind of sketchy at first since you’re living at someone’s house for the duration, but it’s so worth it since they’re usually not there (they have 2 houses and one is for rental) and they are much cleaner and more private than hostels for a comparable price. Also, if you refer friends to their websites, you’ll get discounts.
- If you do want to go the hostel route, hostelworld.com is a great resource. Though, often if you go directly to the website, you can book it for a cheaper price than on hostelworld.com.
- Take public transportation and walk in cities you visit. This is a much better way to get a feel for the city and the people there. If you take a cab, you miss out on so much. As an added bonus, it’s cheaper to take public transportation. Just remember to include it into your budget for your trip because it still adds up!
- CityMaps2Go is the best app ever. It is essentially a GPS on your phone that does not use Wifi, but rather location services instead. You get 5 city maps for free, but can upgrade to unlimited maps for $1.99. Though, I actually got around paying by deleting the app and getting the free one again through the App Store…so I got 10 maps for free, but I don’t know if this will work for everyone. Another recommended app is TripAdvisor.
- Budget your trip. It’s easy to overspend if you don’ t do this. I learned this the hard way.
- Food always costs more than you think it does. I always underestimated the amount of money I’d spend on food.
- Speaking of food, prior to a trip, look up the local foods that
they’ll have in the city that you’re visiting. Each city has its unique
cuisine. Definitely try the local foods…it’s always better and you can
often get it for a great price.
- If you didn’t know, if you ask for a coffee in Europe, it’s
basically an espresso shot. Just keep that in mind for you Starbucks
addicts out there.
General Need to Know:
- Make sure you call your credit/debit card companies to tell them that you’ll be going abroad and what countries you’ll be visiting. Otherwise, you won’t be able to use them. Also, when you swipe them in Europe, it’ll often ask you to press 1 to pay in (let’s say Euros) and press 2 to pay in USD. The answer is to always pay in Euros (or whatever currency that country uses). The reason is that the bank always converts it for you anyway. So if you pay in USD, it gets converted twice, so you end up paying more.
- Speaking of money, make sure you know your ATM withdrawal policies. Some banks actually allow you to get all your ATM fees back… while others do not. Also, there is often a charge on credit/debit cards for abroad traveling. For example, I have Visa and they charge an extra 3% on everything I purchase in addition to the conversion rate. Also, know the emergency numbers of the cards just in case you have to cancel them if they get lost or stolen.
- Make connections. Honestly, I never thought I’d make life-long friends on this trip. I’ve heard stories about how they’re simply your “abroad friends.” I went on my abroad program not knowing 1 person, but I’ve come out of it meeting some of the best people in my life and I definitely want to keep these guys around for a while. Meeting them was truly one of the best parts of the whole experience… besides the whole, ya know… casually living in Europe thing.