TOP 5 TIPS FOR PLANNING INDEPENDENT TRIPS
Plan in Advance
Flights are cheapest about 7 weeks before the departure date. Most budget airlines have a certain number of seats that they will offer at the lowest price, once those are booked they will offer the more seats at a higher price. Check out skyscanner.com to compare airline fares.
Train tickets will also increase the closer to a date you get so book those about 3 weeks in advance, too.
It never hurts to call your taxi a week early, either, especially if it’s a busy weekend for traveling or if you’re on a time crunch. Taxi's may only be available 30 minutes before or after your requested time if you wait until the day of to call. This is a big deal if you have classes well into the afternoon.
16-25 Rail Card:
It’s worth it! My rail card paid for itself within 2 train tickets and trust me, if you’re flying out of London every weekend this will totally pay for itself.
Most cities offer tourist cards. Most give discounted or free access to public transit and several offer admissions to popular tourist attractions. Not all are worth their prices though. Compare what you want to do with the cost of the tourist card. Some websites will even do this for you. Some city tourist cards I’ve personally found worth while are:
· London: Oyster Card (discount on underground services – also saves time)
· Cinque Terre, Italy: Cinque Terre Card (free access to Wi-Fi, public restrooms, trails, and unlimited bus rides between towns)
· Munich: Bayern ticket (free unlimited public transport around Bayern)
· Barcelona: T10 Card (10 public transit rides for free – you can also split those rides amongst multiple people)
Check the Reviews
Unless you’re traveling to Antarctica there are probably reviews on just about everything you’ll do while you travel. Make sure you don’t just go by the rating either. Once you have it narrowed down to a few options, actually READ some of the most recent reviews to see why the rating is what it is. For example, a hostel might be rated a 7 out of 10 because of a lack of a “fun atmosphere”, while others might be rated a 7 out of 10 because of lack of cleanliness. There is an important distinction here. Some of the best websites for reviews are:
· Hostelworld.com for hostels
· Booking.com for hotels
· Tripadvisor.com for restaurants and activities/sights
If you can’t find a review on an activity on one of the popular websites, try googling the activity and find a travel blog that might have a review on it. Travel blogs aren’t always accurate because they are one person’s opinion but they can be helpful if there is not enough information otherwise.
Utilize the Apps
GET ALL THE APPS! Just kidding, don’t or else you’ll have no room for pictures. But seriously, before you travel somewhere make sure you have some of the basic apps.
· Tube Map: London Underground: this app tells you which lines to take and how long it will take you to reach your destination saving you lots of time!
· CityMaps2Go: This allows you to access maps of wherever you are offline. It even tracks where you are using satellite. It says it only gives you one free offline map but as long as you delete the app and re-download it, you can continue getting new offline city maps for free. Sometimes you can even get an entire country or region which is helpful if you’re traveling outside of a major city.
· PayPal: When traveling with a group you’ll often pay for one another. For example, it is not customary to split checks at most European restaurants so you’ll be indebted to each other multiple times throughout trips. PayPal makes it easy to pay one another on the spot and quickly transfer it to your bank account without a charge.
Be a Leader
Sometimes it’s hard to organize a large or even small group; heck, it’s hard to organize yourself when making travel plans! You’ll be forced to make decisions on a regular basis so don’t be afraid to commit or offer your opinion to the group you’re traveling with. Throw out a restaurant suggestion. Speak up if you want to go into that cute shop you just passed. Remember, you deserve to have the experience you want to have.
Written by: Nicole Childress