So, you clicked on this post because you’re studying abroad in Europe. Or maybe you’re just curious how students manage to travel to 10+ countries in only 4 months? Or maybe you just like reading my blog? Regardless, thank you so much for taking the time to visit my little corner of the internet! I hope this post is insightful for you and answers the questions we often ask ourselves every time we see photos of study abroad students in new countries each weekend…. how do they do it? Keep reading to find out how I managed to travel to 16 countries in only 16 weeks, and how you can too!
How To Afford Travel While Studying Abroad
Let’s talk money. If it wasn’t already obvious, studying abroad, and travel in general, is very expensive. Most universities partner with schools overseas so that your tuition and credits carry over, meaning you will pay the same amount for a semester abroad as you normally would on campus. This fee often includes your temporary housing, so more often than not, you won’t have to worry about rent. You also shouldn’t really need any school supplies. Since most programs are in cities, it’s not practical for students to be required to carry books to every class, so your courses will most likely require a lot of online work. Additionally, most universities provide their students with some form of travel / medical insurance so this should be all set too.
What Costs Do I Need To Budget For?
This leaves you with the following financial responsibilities: food, transportation, travel fees (hotels, hostels, flights, etc.), an international phone plan, spending money for shopping (you WILL buy a new wardrobe abroad), and maybe an emergency fund in case you have an unexpected medical expense.
The cost of food ends up being quite expensive while studying abroad in Europe assuming you will eat out a lot. And since you’re living in Europe, I recommend that you do! Most universities overseas won’t have a dining hall, so you will be on your own for food. I went to the grocery store weekly to buy food to cook myself for dinner and did eat out often, especially when I traveled on the weekends. In all, I spent about $3,000 on food throughout the 4 months. I’m grateful I was provided with the equivalent of one semester’s dining plan at my home university, but I did save up a lot to use for when I ate out.
For the international phone plan, I recommend buying a sim card once you arrive in your host country as this will be much cheaper than paying per day for international phone use. I used Vodafone. Also, the app “WhatsApp” is going to become your new best friend (P.S. – It’s free!).
Travel Expenses / Spending Money
With these costs aside, I had about $6,000 saved up for travel expenses and spending money. I studied abroad in Florence, Italy during Fall 2017 and am fortunate that I had an entire summer right before I left to work my butt off. I worked at a spa /salon and served at weddings. The businesses were right next to each other so I would often work both jobs in one day, working at the spa from 9 – 5 pm and then working a wedding from 6 pm – 1am. Even though I was exhausted this summer, I was so glad I worked hard because I was able to see so much while studying abroad in Europe with my savings!
How Much Should I Save?
I highly recommend saving up as much as you can. If you want to see 10+ countries in Europe, plus enjoy the nightlife and attractions in your host city, I would have around $5,000 to spend.
How To Plan International Trips While Studying Abroad In Europe
How is it possible to travel to a new country pretty much every week while maintaining good grades as a full-time student AND making the most of your host city AND sleeping / staying healthy? Here are my tips:
Plan Ahead Of Time!
Your study abroad experience will fly by. When we first arrived in Europe, most of my friends were so caught up in adjusting to life in Florence that they didn’t travel for the first 2-3 weekends. This left them with only 12-13 weeks to travel instead of 16. If you’re studying abroad in Europe with close friends or people you’re comfortable traveling with, I recommend booking trips for your first 2-3 weekends BEFORE you begin. I studied in Florence with my good friend Mairin so we booked a trip to Greece for our second weekend abroad (leave the first to adapt to your new home) and a trip to Prague, Czech Republic and Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany for our third weekend abroad. This plan guaranteed that we would see Italy, Greece, Czech Republic, and Germany in our first month abroad! Not bad!
Plan All Trips During Your First Few Weeks Abroad
Spend your first few weeks studying abroad in Europe planning travel for the rest of your semester. While you’re adjusting to your classes and exploring your own city within the first 1-2 weeks, I highly recommend using this time to also book trips! Ideally you will already have the first 1-2 planned, but take a look at your class schedule and plan ahead. We sat down as a group and booked something for almost every single weekend leading up to fall break (mid-October) within the first week or two abroad. We planned fall break later on since this was a bigger trip, while simultaneously filling our weekends post-break with trip plans. By the time mid-October rolled around, I had already traveled to 6 countries and had plans to travel to another 10 countries throughout the remainder of my semester.
I do NOT recommend booking weekend trips as they roll around during the week. This will be very overwhelming and expensive, as you will be cutting it close to your departure date. Booking them ahead of time made me feel more organized as I could envision my upcoming plans and schedule in time to see more of Italy, ensuring that I saw everything I wanted to.
How Do I Book Trips?
Now, you may be wondering HOW to book trips cost-effectively and easily. There are two methods almost all study abroad students utilize…
Method #1: Booking Trips On Your Own
Always start with getting there. There are several budget airlines that fly throughout major European cities: RyanAir, EasyJet, Vueling, and Norwegian are the main ones. Although offering the bare minimum, these planes will get you from point A to point B safely and for as little as $10 USD!
Pro-tip: Budget airlines tend to have more expensive baggage fees in an effort to profit more, so watch out for these. Your bag needs to be a certain size to be considered a carry-on (check airline websites for more info) and will most likely be weighed before each flight.
Once your flights are booked, you’ll need to pay for transportation to the airport. Ubers aren’t in every European country, so get familiar with taxis and the trains. Trains in Europe are fantastic, and although most are more expensive than flights, you may want to look into a EuroRail pass if you plan on traveling frequently.
I recommend staying in hostels or Airbnbs throughout Europe. Hotels are overpriced and offer the same amenities as most modern hostels. If you’re staying with a large group of friends you could all split an Airbnb.
Pro-tip: When booking an Airbnb, be sure to pay close attention to its location. You do NOT want to get stuck with paying for taxis everytime you want to visit a site. I always look at a city’s major attractions and map the walking distance from the attraction to my accommodation before I book it. For example, if you’re staying in Paris, look up the distance from your Airbnb to the Eiffel Tower. If it’s more than 2 miles away and you aren’t set on taking public transportation, I would reconsider your accommodation’s location.
I’m a big fan of hostels because they often offer free walking tours, extra amenities, and are a great place to meet other travelers! Hostel rooms can be booked by gender and range from more expensive private rooms (basically a hotel room) to $10/night shared dorms with 16 other people! Book what you’re comfortable with and ALWAYS read reviews, but I promise there are incredible and affordable hostels all throughout Europe.
Pro-tip: Interested in booking a hostel? Use websites such as HostelWorld.com to search for them by location, amenities, etc. I always stay in hostels with free WiFi, A/C, included breakfast, and within close proximity to a city’s center.
When planning your own trip, be sure to buy tickets to famous attractions online and in advance! Before planning our own trip to Paris, my study abroad friends and I booked tickets to Versailles, the Catacombs, the Louvre, and more. For other attractions, such as the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, we just showed up and were able to score a discounted entry by showing our student IDs!
Pro-tip: Always bring your home university’s student ID with you when traveling and test your luck with student discounts!
Method #2: Booking Trips With Student Travel Companies
The other popular option that most study abroad students utilize to see Europe are student travel companies! Companies like SmartTrip and Bus2Alps operate weekend and fall / spring break tours all throughout Europe. Each weekend trip is roughly $300 USD and include: transportation from your host city to the destination via overnight coach bus, shared hostel accommodation, city walking tour, nightlife options /organized bar crawls, optional activities, and more. My friends and I really liked utilizing these companies because they took care of everything! With one simple online payment, our transportation, accommodation, and sightseeing was booked.
You may have heard of these companies from previous study abroad students, but if you’re unfamiliar – don’t worry, you will see advertising throughout Europe and probably meet the guides at bars and restaurants in cities. Especially in countries such as Spain and Italy, the guides utilize guerilla marketing to spread the word and will approach you with brochures about their trips. During our first week abroad, we were given a Bus2Alps brochure with a guide’s discount code on it and used her code to book almost all of our trips for the semester. It was a seamless process and not too expensive.
Pro-tip: These companies only operate out of some major European cities. You can bus with them from Florence, Rome, Barcelona, and Prague. If you’re studying abroad in other cities, like London, they have a “meet us there” option where you pay for your own flights and meet up with the tour once you’ve arrived. I did this when I flew from Florence to Marrakech, Morocco for a long-weekend!
How To Manage Your Time Abroad & Balance It All
Almost every European university has classes off on Fridays. This means you have a 3-day weekend every weekend. I got lucky during my semester and had Mondays off as well, giving me plenty of time to travel on weekends and plenty of time to sleep and focus on classes during the week.
Depart On Thursday Nights, Not Friday
Unless these guided trips take place over a break, most depart on a Thursday night and return on a Sunday evening. You will spend Thursday night on a coach bus (bring a pillow and some Benadryl, it’s not that bad), and arrive in your destination on Friday morning. You will then have all day Friday, Saturday, and some of Sunday to explore, and will spend Friday and Saturday nights in hostels. If you choose to plan your own trip, I also recommend departing on a Thursday night to make the most of your weekend.
Make The Most Of Your Fall / Spring Break
If your goal is to country hop, definitely make the most of your mid-October or mid-March break! Beginning on a Thursday night and lasting until the following Sunday evening, you will have 10 days to explore. I recommend visiting several countries during this time. The companies I mentioned above offer 10-day tours that will take you to many of Europe’s hot spots. My friends and I planned our own and visited Amsterdam (3 nights), Brussels (1 night), Paris (3 nights), and Barcelona (3 nights).
Make The Most Of Weekdays To Explore Your Host Country
If you plan on traveling internationally almost every weekend, you need to make sure to leave enough time during the week to explore your host city. Besides classes (which only last for a few hours a day), I recommend going out to eat, visiting local galleries, museums, shops, and bars during the week. Also, be sure to catch up on sleep as the weekends can be very tiring!
Additionally, your abroad program may have field trips scheduled. For example, in late September /early October we had two weekends back to back of required trips. Since Florence is a fairly small city and we already saw the highlights, we wanted to make the most of these weekends and visit other cities in Italy.
Examples Of Host Country Weekend Trips
09/20/2017: Classes today. Spent the evening going out to dinner in Florence and the night at our favorite bar!
09/21/2017:Took early train from Florence to Milan for Fashion Week! Saw Milan’s Duomo, local fashion shows, parks, and shopped. Ate an early dinner in Milan and returned to Florence at night.
09/22/2017: Took train to Verona, Italy – home of Romeo & Juliet! Spent morning at quaint cafe and visited Casa di Guiletta. Wrote letters to Juliet and took photos on famous balcony. Got gelato in Verona’s main square and relaxed. Took train back to Florence.
09/23/2017: Full day field trip to Arezzo, Italy for Art History! Did HW at night in apartment.
09/28/2017: Classes again today. Tonight we signed up for an Italian cooking class offered by our university! Spent the night cooking in Florence.
09/29/2017: Took train from Florence to Pisa, Italy! Spent only 4 hours here – took photos of Leaning Tower, climbed Leaning Tower, ate pizza and gelato. Took train back in afternoon. Went out in Florence tonight!
09/30/2017: Full day field trip to Siena, Italy for Art History!
10/01/2017: Full day field trip to Montalcino and Pienza, Italy for Art History!
As you can see, we really made the most of our weekends. Although they were tiring, this is the only way I was able to see so much. Besides counting the countries I visited, I also counted cities. I visited over 50 of them! During the two weekends I described above I visited 8. Make the most of your time and it’s possible!
As impressive as visiting 10+ European countries is, it is so important to immerse yourself into your host city and explore your country. Especially in countries such as England, Italy, and Spain, there is so much to see! I highly recommend striking a balance between international and domestic travel while abroad. Between various weekend trips throughout Italy and showing my loved ones around Florence when they visited, I felt like I was able to see everything I wanted to in Italy and Florence, while also visiting much of Europe!
Don’t Overdo It…
Studying abroad in Europe is exhausting. As incredible as travel is, it definitely takes a toll on your body. Try to sleep as much as you can and take care of yourself. You’re bound to get sick abroad and if you do, it’s okay. You’ll bounce back. Listen to your body and take a day or two off if needed.
Save your first and last weekends abroad for your host city, and try to slow down when possible. Spend mornings before classes in coffee shops, take leisurely walks through local neighborhoods, lay out at a beach. Since your weekends will be very go go go, try to refuel during the week.
Well, those are my tips for studying abroad in Europe! To sum up: Save, budget, plan, balance, and enjoy! Most semesters abroad are the highlights of students’ college experiences, and is sure to be one of the best times in your life. When else can you live in a foreign country for 4 months and travel the world?? Take advantage of it, but also, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Everyone’s experience is their own. My biggest tip is to be selfish during this time and make the most of your semester, because it really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
My Fall 2017 Study Abroad Trips (In Order):
08/26/2017: Arrive in Rome
08/27/2017 – 09/03/2017: Introduction to Italy traveling course, visiting: Rome, Vatican City, Caprarola, Bagnala, Baratti, Bolgheri, Cinquale, Viareggio, Carrara, Pietrasanta, Cinque Terre, Forte dei Marmi, and Florence, Italy (Course Field Trips / University Program)
09/07/2017 – 09/11/2017: Santorini and Athens, Greece (Booked On Own)
09/14/2017 – 09/17/2017: Prague, Czech Republic and Munich, Germany (Bus2Alps)
09/21/2017 – 09/24/2017: Milan, Verona, and Arezzo, Italy (Booked On Own / Course Field Trip)
09/28/2017 – 10/01/2017: Pisa, Siena, Montalcino, and Pienza, Italy (Booked On Own / Course Field Trip)
10/05/2017 – 10/08/2017: Seville, Spain and Lagos, Portugal (Booked On Own / Visited Friend)
10/12/2017 – 10/15/2017: Midterms in Florence, Italy
10/19/2017 – 10/29/2017: Fall Break in Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, and Barcelona (Booked On Own)
11/02/2017 – 11/06/2017: Long weekend in Marrakech, Morocco (Bus2Alps)
11/09/2017 – 11/12/2017: Interlaken, Switzerland (SmartTrip)
11/16/2017 – 11/19/2017: Sicily, Italy (Course Field Trip)
11/23/2017 – 11/27/2017: Family visited Tuscany & Venice, Italy (Booked On Own)
11/30/2017 – 12/03/2017: Budapest, Hungary & Vienna and Salzburg, Austria (Bus2Alps)
12/07/2017 – 12/10/2017: Belfast, Northern Ireland and Dublin, Ireland (Booked On Own / Visited Friend)
12/14/2017: Depart from Florence
Feel free to message me with any questions about studying abroad in Europe or leave a comment below! Ciao for now!
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Very informative, will be saving this for later! I’m planning on studying abroad in Italy next year hopefully. Thanks for the great tips!
My biggest regret from college was not studying abroad. I was in such a rush to finish a year early, but I wish I would have just stayed a year longer to study abroad! I loved reading about your experience. You managed to squeeze in so much exploring!
These are great tips for sightseeing while studying abroad! If I had lived abroad while studying I would have definitely seen as many places as possible! Thanks for the great guide!
Sounds amazing! I studied in Italy too – such a great home base for traveling all over Europe 🙂
Thanks so much for your comment, Brit! I’m so sorry you didn’t get to study abroad, but I’m sure you saved quite a bit of $$$ by graduating early! It’s never too late – there’s tons of work abroad programs out there that you could look into for a few weeks!
Thanks for your comment, Hannah! Glad you find my tips helpful.
Love these tips! It’s always a good idea to try and travel if you’re studying abroad. I did a lot of travelling when I was at university in Scotland and loved it.
You have some really good tips and thoughts for other students wanting to travel while overseas. I couldn’t agree more with planning ahead. Try to pre=plan to avoid the lag time that happens up front.
Sounds amazing! Dying to go back to Scotland!!!
Thanks for the comment & support Rhonda!
This was some great advice Nicole! I am going to Paris/London on a study abroad internship and leave next week. My financial aid/scholarships paid for my whole tuition/living expenses, but I am hoping that $7k on top of that will be plenty for nights out, shopping, and traveling on the weekends. I am hoping this will be enough to go to around 10 different countries on weekend trips, but I honestly have no idea how much it will cost. I have been stressing about money, and since I am not able to work for 5 months while I am away, I am hoping I won’t run out
Hi Kayla, this should be plenty! London is one of the most expensive cities in Europe, so you’ll have to budget, but I know people who made $2,000 last 4 months! Try to grocery shop and meal plan for the weeks since you’ll be eating out when you travel on the weekends. I have a guide to Paris on my site you should check out! Have a magical time!!!