Travel resources for study abroad students
By Rachael Kroot
Published March 6, 2013
Studying abroad can be an amazing experience, but it can also be overwhelming to organize your trip. Besides packing and saying goodbye to your friends and family, you need to think about transportation. How are you going to get there?
The first step is to buy your flight. It’s a big step. Depending on your destination, international flights can range from $400 to over $2000. Once you book, it can be difficult to make changes. To make sure you pick the right flight the first time around, you need to explore all of your options.
Kayak is a great resource for flights that many students have probably already heard of. It compares prices between different airlines. You can search by specific days/nearby airports, or “flexible days,” where it looks for the cheapest flight in a time period. Priceline and Travelocity are also sites you’ve probably heard of that are good for booking flights.
A relatively new and unknown search tool is Google’s ITA Matrix. While you can’t book flights directly through the Matrix, it allows you even more flexibility when choosing items such as departure airport. For instance, if you live in Pennsylvania but are willing to drive to Maryland or New York to catch your flight, you can enter all airports at the same time to compare prices. It shows you all of the options, and once you make a choice you can go directly to the airline’s website to make the booking.
Some other helpful sites designed specifically for students include STA Travel and Student Universe.These sites aren’t just good for booking your flight over, though. They are also great for booking travel once you’re abroad. After all, most students don’t want to stay in one city for the whole semester. Studying abroad is a multi-cultural experience!
When it comes to more localized travel, flying is not always the best option. The sites mentioned above can be useful for trains, buses and car rentals as well. In fact, between bordering countries trains are often the way to go. A lot of students opt to purchase a Eurail pass for longer trips. Eurail allows you to get a blank ticket to ride a certain amount of days between a certain number of countries depending on your needs. If you only want one ticket (not a whole week long pass), then you can save money by searching the Rail Europe site for individual rides. Last but not least, if you are traveling specifically between the UK and France, the Eurostar train that runs underneath the English Channel can be affordable if you book far enough in advance.
If you are traveling within one country, your best bet will be to research the city or country itself and go straight to the source. For instance, if you are studying abroad in London, you can go directly to the Transport for London site. It has a journey planner, a list of tube stations, and even bus maps. The UK also has a great national rail service for trips across the country if you’re in the mood for a weekend getaway to somewhere like Edinburgh.
Once you’ve got all of your tickets booked and routes planned, it’s time to decide what you want to do when you get there! Believe it or not an old fashioned book can be extremely helpful when trying to plan your trip. Rick Steves’ guides and the Eyewittness series are two good examples. They give recommendations, reviews and prices. For those of you who prefer to stick to the internet, you can find places to stay at www.hotels.com or www.hostelz.com. Hostelz.com may be a good option if you are looking for cheaper accomodations and features more than 46,000 listings around the world.
Reviews of just about every travel destination and attraction can be found on TripAdvisor. Wherever you go, don’t forget to ask about student discounts. While many cities have their own versions of a student ID card, the International Student Identity Card (ISIC) works almost everywhere. Their website might be a good place to start. Good luck and safe travels!
Looking for more information? Check out some of our travel essentials.
Rachael Kroot has a B.S. in Geography from the University of Maryland and is currently attending graduate school for broadcast meteorology. She studied abroad in London during the Spring of 2009.