Want to explore Europe while you study abroad? In this week's post, Daniel shares a list of do's and don'ts from his travel adventures to Portugal and Spain over spring break. Here's everything you need to know about planning trips, booking flights, and most of all—coordinating it with your travel buddies!
For my spring break abroad, a couple of my friends and I decided to take the week to hit Lisbon and Lagos in Portugal and Barcelona, Spain. This was the most travel I have ever done basically on my own, and I definitely learned a lot from my experience. I put together some do’s and don'ts that will hopefully help you have the smoothest journey possible when it’s your turn to explore Europe.
Some boats in Lisbon.
1. Do: Consider Commute Times
I could not stress this first point enough. Before booking flights and buses, you have to consider the time it’ll take any taxi/Uber to arrive to the station/airport. Even more so, if you’re traveling out of major cities, there will most likely be multiple stations and airports, so it is important that you have a clear idea of where you’re going, how you will get there, and how long it will take.
Depending on where you are, taxis are usually the most accessible option.
2. Don’t: Take Overnight Buses
It’s terrible. It’s awful. It’s hot. And the seats are super cramped. All in all I would not recommend it. However, sometimes you have to bite the bullet and take it. Just be prepared to be very uncomfortable.
3. Do: Buy Bus Tickets in Advance
Make sure to book your bus tickets at least four days in advance. On multiple occasions, my friends and I decided it would be a good idea to wait until the night before to get them and found that the bus we wanted was sold out. This forced us to buy tickets on buses that were either much longer than we expected or at very inconvenient times.
4. Don’t: Book Airbnb’s Before Finalizing Plans
A mistake that we made was booking our Airbnb in Lisbon before we knew exactly how long we were going to stay there. A couple of days after we booked, we decided to stay another night. This wouldn’t have been a problem besides the point that the Airbnb we had booked was already taken for the additional night that we needed. We ended up finding another one about 20 minutes away. The hardest part was dragging our bags up a hill for the entire way…
5. Do: Book Flights All at Once
When you’re planning trips with your friends, make sure you book your flights all together (at the same time). By this I don’t mean each leg of the journey, although that would be helpful. Rather, you should get everyone together that is going to be in your travel group and book at the same time. The reason I highly recommend this is that when you use third-party booking services (Kayak, Expedia, Kiwi, etc...), the travel packages that are put together change in just a few minutes. So what can happen is that if some of your friends wait to book, they will not be able to get on the same flights as you. Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way.
Round up the gang and book all at once!
6. Don’t: Book a 6:40 AM Flight
Luckily I didn’t have to experience this firsthand (because of my previously mentioned slip up). However, half of our group booked a super early flight that forced us to take a 11PM-3AM bus from Florence to Milan. Once we arrived in Milan, their only option was to take a very expensive taxi to the airport that was an hour away in order to make their flight. Needless to say, it was a long 24 hours.
You do not want to be rushing to your gate at 6:20 AM.
7. Do: Long Train Rides
I know, no one wants to take long train rides. It’s a hassle but the reason I put it in here is because it will save you money. There are trains that will get you to your destination 2-3 times faster, but those tickets will run you twice the price. I would recommend downloading some Netflix shows, getting a good book, and enjoying the ride.
Some train ride boredom.
8. Don’t: Assume Uber Operates
Due to conflict with the taxi industry, ridesharing services have been significantly cut or completely abolished in many major European cities. Be sure to Google your destinations in advance so you have a good idea of what it’ll be like to move around when you’re there. This will also give you some estimation of what additional travel costs you’re going to need to add into your budget.
Hopefully these tips will make your journeys abroad more smooth and enjoyable. Regardless of whatever mode of transportation you take, don’t forget to look out the window.
The Swiss Alps.
Daniel Arnabar is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2019, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Marketing major at University of Pittsburgh, he is studying abroad in Florence this semester.
Daniel's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.