Planning your travel abroad experience

Rebecca Di Luzio Living/studying abroad Leave a Comment

Whether you’ve never left your home country before, or have traveled around the globe, everyone is looking for the formula to a successful travel abroad opportunity. But when we say successful, we don’t just mean a great time– we mean getting the biggest bang for your buck. In other words, having a great time without emptying every penny of your bank account! Because, you know, we can’t all be Kim Kardashian or Penelope Cruz.

Read ahead for some simple tips to achieve this:

1. The flight

If you need to fly, you have to do it the right way! First, let’s talk about time period. Usually, flights will be more expensive during weekends, holidays, and “normal” hours, so be as flexible as possible with booking! If you take that 3 AM Tuesday flight, you’re guaranteed to have a cheaper price! Next, let’s talk airlines. Don’t just settle with one, but rather shop around. Look at various competitive websites like Kayak, Expedia, Orbitz, etc. Then, go to the individual airline websites (JetBlue, SouthWest) and compare it what you’ve already found, as some airlines don’t come up on these comparative sites. If you don’t have time for all this research but still want something cheap, Google flights is highly recommended. Check Madrid or Barcelona, depending on the airline there might be a huge difference! And this would be a great excuse to check both destinations out!

2. Your stay

You have 2 paths here, depending on how luxurious you want to be.

PLAN A: Hotels.

The most expensive option, but they come with more certainty, and nicer amenities. Hotel prices vary from provider to agent, so look at specific chain websites and then use agents like Trivago, Expedia, Lastminute.com, and Travelzoo. Overall, the best deal is to find an all-inclusive place that provides breakfast, wifi, etc. without an extra fee.

PLAN B: Hostels or short stay rentals.

This option is usually much cheaper but more considered more of a “ risk” by some. A hostel is essentially a low-budget boarding house where you are typically put in a room with several other people. Airbnb is an online homestay network that allows you to essentially rent out lodging in a person’s living space. This all may sound sketchy, but you can look at reviews and pictures, and pick what’s comfortable for you. Hostels have a great social component, because you can meet other travelers just like you. Airbnb apartments and rentals have all of the comforts of home (a kitchen to cook your own meals in, etc) and let you live like a local in a normal neighborhood. Both have their advantages depending on your travel style.

3. Transportation

Madrid has one of the best metro system in Europe! But it’s not the only option.

A. Public transport

This definitely depends on where you are, and how much stuff you have, but try to ditch ubers and taxis, and instead master the public transportation system (ie. metro, subway, bus, train etc.)!!!! Especially if you’re in a highly populated area, like Madrid, Spain, the metro allows you to avoid traffic and travel much quicker. In general, all forms of public transportation will be cheaper!

B: Electric bikes and cars

If you are going to be in a city for a prolonged stay, check out the electric bikes that are available in Madrid, Barcelona and Seville. There are also electric cars available to be rented by the minute. Once you have gone through the lentghy first time registering, it’s a hop on hop off service, much cheaper than taxis and a great way to get to know your way around the city.

4. Excursions

Short day trips. This is the best way to get to know Spain!

A: Free activities

This may sound obvious, but for many FREE somehow means “not as fun.” This could not be farther from the truth– if you use apps/websites like Yelp!, Eventbrite, or Like a Local, or even google “free events near me”, you can find anything from museums, park performances, etc. that will give you a good time and won’t cost you a dime!

B. Mingle with locals

Meeting other travellers is easy, but what about meeting locals? Not so easy, huh! Get out of your comfort zone and try new things. Travelling is much more enriching than anything else you will do in your life! Here is a great way to mingle with locals! 

C. Learn the local language, before!

If you are planning on staying for a while on your chosen location, learning the language will not only be practical but also fundamental if you want to take the most out of your experience. Start learning before your go, with local classes and a course like Rosetta Stone. And once you arrive look for an intensive course that will help you advance quickly.

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5. Short-Long term stays

Great options for those who truly don’t want to spend any money while traveling

A. Au-pair/Nanny (for students from 18 to 23 years of age)

Be an au pair, babysitter/Nanny, or tutor abroad, all of which will allow you to make money while simultaneously exploring the country! The au pair and Nanny jobs are especially a plus because you will have free room and board– check out sites like workaway.com or aupair.com.

B: Voluntering

How about talking your way to an 8-day stay among Spaniards! Check out the volunteering opportunities that will pay for your short-term stay as you contribute your native language!!!!

Important! Avoid tourist traps!

There are many places willing to take advantage of the naive tourist’s wallet; they are expensive, and not necessarily better quality.

Tips: If you’re looking for a postcard, get it from a local street vendor, not the guy selling right next to a famous museum.

If you’re looking for a restaurant, go to a place that is hidden in the streets and provides full multi-course meals, not the one on the main strip that will give you one scoop of pasta for the same price.

GUEST POST: Rebecca DiLuzzio is a Duke University student who is studying a Minor in Spanish. She has been a Pueblo Ingles volunteer teaching English to Spaniards in previous summer and will be joining us this summer to immerse herself in Spanish and take full advantage of her 8-days in Spain.

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