In this week's blog from Emma, she shares five helpful tips to help you plan weekend trips while studying abroad. With a little research, early planning, and budgeting, you can make your weekend travel dreams a reality!
You are traveling to an entirely new country, of course you want to make the most of your time here and get out on the weekends! Traveling on the weekends while abroad is a critical part of the experience if you can find the time and money for it!
Step 1: PLAN!!
Do your travel research early! Studying abroad goes by so much faster than you could ever anticipate it to. If you want to find time to travel on the weekends it is important to plan everything out early and see which weekends you can leave. What I did was make a calendar with every homework assignment, exam, project due date, field trip, and CAPA event there was so I could easily see which weekends I had the freedom to leave and not miss out on things back in Sydney!
Some cool street art we found on our weekend trip to Melbourne.
Step 2: Budget
Travelling requires a LOT of money and it can be hard to plan and budget for. The way that I manage my finances is by using an excel sheet that keeps track of everything I have purchased AND an estimate of everything I am going to purchase in the future. This way I can keep a running total of a rough estimate of the amount of money I will be spending and how much I will be left with! This is critical to be a cost-effective traveler. You don’t want to be surprised when you check your bank account and realize how much you have been spending! A tip that I have is to build in some money for ‘random spending.’ Sometimes the most expensive things are the ones you don’t plan. For example, getting around in a city you are travelling to is expensive. Make sure to budget how much it is going to cost and keep an extra bit on reserve for some fun spending!
Step 3: Book Flights
Booking EARLY is the single best way to get the cheapest flights possible. This goes along with step 1 planning in advance! Even waiting a few days can send the prices fluctuating in ways you don’t want it to. A way you can try to control this is to use private browsing when searching for flights. This is something that I do to not give the airline a heads up that I am looking up a certain flight and give them the opportunity to increase the price for me. Airlines monitor the activity on flights to gauge the interest in order to set price. The less people they think are looking at the flight the lower the price will be.
This is me and my friends in front of one of the famous bathhouses on Brighton Beach in Melbourne.
Step 4: Book Accommodations
There are three popular places you can book for accommodations when travelling: hostel, hotel, Airbnb. Whatever you pick depends on a few different factors. The first being price, most people would automatically think that hostels would be the cheapest option. This is not always the case! We found that booking a family hotel room on one of our weekend trips was around the same that it would have been booking a hostel. Having a hotel over a hostel can be a better option if you prefer privacy and quiet. You get your own amenities and you and all of your travel buddies are guaranteed to be in the same room! BUT there are also perks to booking hostels as well. If you prefer a more social environment and want to meet new people hostels could be the choice for you! Another perk is that a lot of times hostels will offer things like free meals and deals on excursions you can do around the area so make sure to take those into account when you are comparing costs! Lastly there is the option of renting an Airbnb. I would say that this would best suit a group that is of 4 people or more. If it is less than that you will probably be limited to booking an Airbnb that only offers a private room and at that point, I would rather have a private hotel room or stay in a hostel than stay in another person’s house while they are home. Airbnb’s can be a great option if you have a large group that can’t fit into one hotel room! My most important tip is looking at reviews for the places you are trying to book. Your accommodation can make or break your stay. Be sure to check multiple sources (google reviews, trip advisor, reviews on their own website) to see what people are saying about them.
Step 5: Plan Excursions
Now comes the fun part! Planning what you are actually going to do in this new place you are exploring. A good option especially somewhere like Australia where people drive on the left side of the road is to book a tour that will drive you around to all the places in the area you want to see. Me and my friends took a trip to Melbourne and did a tour of the Great Ocean Road and it was amazing! It isn’t always necessary, but it can be very convenient to book a tour if what you want to do includes a lot of driving.
I took this photo on our tour of the Great Ocean Road.
One of the benefits of a tour is that your tour guide is most likely very familiar with the area! Our tour guide took us to this cool part of town with a bunch of wild birds that were happy to hangout with us.
Follow these steps to help plan some of the best weekends of your life!
Emma Estabrook is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2020, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. A Finance and Business Information Systems major at the University of Pittsburgh, she is studying abroad in Sydney this semester.
Emma's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.