Studying abroad? Follow these 7 tips to save money before you leave

Travel More Spend Less

You’re about to take off on one of the most amazing adventures of your life. A new country offers all kinds of sightseeing, night life, food, festivals and museums – you won’t want to miss a beat. But these things cost money, and budgeting can be hard while you’re busy having fun exploring a new culture. So here are seven things you can do before you leave that’ll help put a few more bucks in your wallet.

1. Book tickets in advance.

Most tickets for museums, concerts, trains and other attractions can be bought in advance online. When you buy online, not only do you save money, but you get to skip the long lines of people waiting to get their tickets on-site. When my friend Sarah and I went to Toronto, we bought a City Pass, which included discounted admission to five major attractions, and we got to skip every line.

Tip: Print your ticket(s) before you leave (you can’t guarantee that where you’re going will have printers!) and save a copy on your phone, since most places nowadays accept electronic copies.

Buying tickets in advance let my friend and me skip all of the lines at the Guiness Storehouse in Dublin.
Buying tickets in advance let my friend and me skip all the lines at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin at get straight to the good stuff.

2. Set up a travel credit card.

Have you checked your credit card company’s travel policy? Most companies charge high transfer and foreign transaction fees, on top of already high annual fees and interest rates.  Before you leave, set up a credit card that actually rewards you for traveling. The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Card has zero annual fees, transfer fees or foreign transaction fees, and offers 1.25 airline miles for every dollar spent with the card. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card  has similar rewards and gives you three points for every dollar spent on airfare and hotel accommodations. With all those points saved up, you’ll be able to start planning your next trip!

Tip: Not sure which card to get? See this list for the best travel cards out there, and compare the benefits of each.

3. Sign up for Uber.

Uber is my latest obsession. The app connects you to Uber cab drivers in the area, allowing you to locate cabs near you, select the drivers based on their cars and credentials, get a price estimate, track your ride and even split the fare with other riders. The service is super cheap compared to average cabs and is completely paperless; you sign up with your credit or debit card and then the fare (including the tip, which is pre-calculated) is charged straight to your account. Uber is one of the best ways to travel around a city for cheap.

Tip: Visit Uber’s site to see if the service is available in your host city.  Uber is a quickly expanding company, but is still working on spreading its network across the globe.

4. Research free things to do around the city.

Many museums and galleries, like the Prado Museum in Madrid, offer free admission on certain days of the week. Other places, such as the Palace of Versailles in France, have free admission to certain areas of the grounds. Do some research. When your friends suggest doing something expensive, you can swoop in and suggest doing one of the free things on your list instead.

Tip: Student discounts are still a thing, so also look up places around your host city that offer discounts for students. And don’t forget to pack your student ID!

Entrance into the Palace of Versailles may cost a hefty sum, but entrance to the gardens is free!
Entrance into the Palace of Versailles may cost a hefty sum, but entrance to the gardens is free!

5. Purchase a money order.

Avoid conversion and transaction fees by ordering foreign currency in advance. Services such as Travelex make it easy to order online and have the money delivered straight to you or put on your card. Travelex even allows you to load up to nine currencies on one card and has zero fees for international ATM transactions.

Tip: Do some digging. Read reviews and articles to make sure the service you are using is legitimate.

6. Pack light.

You can save up to $60 on luggage fees, as well as save time by skipping the luggage return lines, by packing everything into a carry-on.  If you’re going on a long trip and stuffing your things into a carry-on is unrealistic, pack a backpack or small duffle bag so you save money on luggage fees for trains and other planes if you make weekend trips.

Tip: Save space by avoiding shopping before you go. Get the necessities – toiletries, walking shoes, etc. – but don’t buy new wardrobe. You’ll want to buy so many new clothes, accessories and souvenirs that you’ll be glad you did not spend money on shopping at home.

7. Get maps before you go.

Never spend money on a map when you can easily get it free online. If you don’t have an international plan and can’t use internet on your phone while you’re abroad, download an app that features offline maps. OffMaps 2 is only $0.99, and allows you to download maps and access them offline.  Ulman City Maps 2Go Pro provides detailed offline maps for free, but is a little pricier at $2.99. Ulman offers a free version of the app as well, but the locations it covers are limited.

Tip: While you have online access, you can also use your phone to look up the places you’re going and take screenshots of the maps and directions.  You don’t need the Internet to look at a picture.

Saving maps on my phone for my weekend trip to Sevilla, Spain during my study abroad in Madrid saved me money and a lot of hassle!
Saving maps on my phone for my weekend trip to Sevilla, Spain during my study abroad in Madrid saved me money and a lot of hassle!

Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Don’t waste time worrying about your funds! If you use these tips to prepare, you’ll be able to travel more and spend less. So get out there and start saving.

See also: 12 Things to Know Before Studying Abroad

Do you know of any other pre-trip tips for saving money? Add them below!

My second day in Dublin

The next morning, we rose to eat breakfast at the hostel and make our way into town to find a place to get authentic Irish coffee. We of course landed back at Temple Bar, where our lovely bartender painstakingly whipped up the most amazing cups of Irish Coffee we’d ever had.

Then we made our way to Dublin City Hall to go on a walking tour of the city. Our tour guide was full of history and knowledge. We walked around Dublin Castle and a few other historic spots and learned a lot more about Irish culture and the rise of Irish patriotism. It was so thrilling to learn the stories the built up the character of the city with which I was so love already. We had to cut our tour short because I mistakenly booked tickets for our tour of the Guinness Storehouse two hours earlier than I had planned. So we parted ways with our tour guide and headed to the Guinness factory.

Walking to the storehouse felt like it took an hour. It was far from the city center in Temple Bar, but given the size of the place, I totally understand. The factory was a huge, multi-level building with brick walls and Guinness symbols all over. The tour took us through several rooms on several floors where we learned about the production of Guinness from barely seed harvesting to maturation. Apparently, Arthur Guinness was particular about every ingredient that went into his beer, right down to the water used. Later on in the tour, we got to to learn how to pour our own pints of Guinness (there is a very specific 6-step process for how to do it). Then we got to take our full glass up to the skybar, a round glass room with astonishing views of the city. And in that moment, I feel even deeper in love with Dublin.

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After stopping by the giftshop on our way out, Sarah and I headed about five minutes down Thomas Street to Arthur’s, a cute little pub on a street corner. I got Guinness and beef casserole (delish!) and Sarah got her usual fish and chips. We enjoyed the nice break in our day. But the break was fleeting because we had to head to the Jameson Distillery for our next tour.

We got to the Jameson Distillery a little late, but managed to catch up to our tour. The Jameson factory was much smaller than Guinness but the tour was more intimate. We again got to learn how Jameson is made and why it is distilled no more or less than three times. At the end of the tour, we got to try samples (Sarah even volunteered to do a taste test, comparing Jameson to scotch and American whiskey). On our way out, we picked up a few souvenirs and the gift shop and headed back to our hostel.

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That night, we went on a pub crawl with other tourists throughout the city. We started at this swanky pub down the street from our hostel. I remember most about the place that the walls were covered in portraits of breasts. Pretty interesting. Sarah and I met this couple from Wisconsin who became our barmates for the night. Sean and Felisha were delightfully honest and we enjoyed countless laughs with them. We also met a few Australian boys and a pack of frat guys from Florida. They were fun, but we didn’t talk to them too much.

The pub crawl headed to a few other pubs throughout the night (the names are escaping me!), and we continued to enjoy ourselves amongst the good company and lively atmosphere. The pub crawl ended at a club, but Sarah and I didn’t feel up to dancing, so we headed out early and went back to the hostel.

BUT I wasn’t done yet. I was only in Dublin once, so I had to make it count. So I headed back out alone ready to make friends somewhere. I ran into a couple of street performers on the corner who Sarah and I had met earlier. Recognizing me, the main musician flagged me over and told me they had just been victims of an attempted robbery. She asked me to watch over their instruments as she went to contact the police. I stayed with them for a while, going over what happened and doing everything I could to help. The robbers, a group of young girls who tried to push them over and steal their money, had managed to escape only with a few euros and some flyers. I was happy the girls didn’t do any real damage, but I was worried for the musicians nonetheless.

After everything was squared away, I stayed and listened to the band start playing again. While I was standing on the street corner with them, I met a few German people who came to listen, too. I started talk to the Germans, who were there on a business trip, and they ended up inviting me out with them. Again, I thought why not? So I left with them to go to another pub where we met some more people and listened to more live music. We stayed for a while and had a blast, until finally I realized it was past 3 a.m. and I needed to head back to the hostel.
In all, Dublin was more than I ever dreamed. The city was full of character, the people were just the right amount of mysterious and charming, and the music spoke to my heart. Leaving early the next morning was painful, but we packed up our things and made our way back to the ferry and back to London. I slept the whole way home, so I don’t have any more stories about people I met on the way, but I got the sleep I much needed!

London, Rome, Paris, Barcelona, Dublin, Zurich: The ultimate itinerary for my trip to Europe

Euro Trip 2014 MapIs this real life? Am I seriously heading to Europe in less than one week? I’m so excited, I can’t even see straight, and I really hope I haven’t scared away any strangers as I randomly gaze off into the distance as I daydream about the trip. I’ve been planning to go back to Europe since the day I stepped foot back in the U.S. last summer after returning from Spain. I just can’t believe it’s now one week away.

I’m finally taking the time to jot down the entire itinerary of my 24-day trip through 11 cities in six countries. Primarily, I’m making the list for personal reference, but I hope my friends and family can use it track where I am along the adventure. And of course, I hope anyone reading this will be inspired to plan a fast-paced Euro trip of their own. I’m sure it will be the experience of a lifetime.

June 10th – Washington, to New York, to London

I live in D.C., but my flight to London leaves from JFK airport in New York City. So I’ll be using Megabus to get to New York (have I written my ode to Megabus yet? I’m practically married to the company at this point), where I’ll then have four hours to make it to the airport and get myself through customs. This will be my first time flying internationally alone and I’m, like, crazy nervous. But I’m so excited for this trip that I know I’ll combat my nerves with thoughts of beautiful England, enchanting Ireland, feisty Spain, alluring Italy, majestic France, intriguing Monaco… wait, what was I talking about again?

June 11th – London Calling

I’ll arrive around 10 a.m. where my lovely, lovely travel pal Sarah will pick me up from Heathrow airport and help me get acquainted to the city. She and I will be staying with her aunt in Wimbledon, and Sarah will have arrived a few days before I do, so she’ll be ready to hit the town as soon as I get there.  Sarah’s been to London more times than I have fingers, so she’ll be my personal tour guide and take me around the London bridge, Big Ben, the London Eye, Abbey road, Platform 9  and 3/4, etc. She and her aunt are being so awesome about letting me stay with them and showing me around, and I can’t say enough how much I appreciate it.

June 12th – Explore London

Sarah and I will do more sightseeing and souvenir shopping early in the day. We bought tickets to Once, the musical, and will have to make our way over to the theater midday. Afterward, there will be time do more exploring after the show before we retire early to get a good start the next day for Dublin.

June 13th – Off to Ireland!

For more details, see my post: How we’re seeing Dublin in 38 hours (we might just be crazy)

Rising early, Sarah and I will take a train to the coast of England and then ride a ferry across the water to Dublin Port. The 8-hour journey will take up most of our day, but we’ll arrive with just enough time to hang out in Temple Bar and take a nighttime sigh-seeing tour of Dublin.

14th – Irish Overload

This will be an incredibly fast-paced day, with a morning 3-hour walking tour and then back-to-back visits to the Guinness Storehouse and Jameson Distillery. At night, we’ll go out like true Irish lassies and hit up a bar crawl with our fellow hostel visitors.

June 15th – Back to London for a Bit

A ferry and a train will take Sarah and I back to London, and spend the rest of the day relaxing and recovering. Sarah will be preparing to head back to the States, and I’ll get ready to start my Contiki tour the next day. But we must get one last scone together before we part.

June 16th – Head to the hotel in London to start my Contiki tour

I’ll have to check in to the hotel by 2 p.m. and then spend the evening getting ready for the tour. There will be orientation for the trip where I will meet the tour manager, chef and my fellow travelers. The checked-in travelers have a chance to go out to dinner, but we can’t get cray cray since we have to get up early the next day to head to Paris.

June 17th – Depart London for Paris

Off to Paris! We’ll begin our voyage on a ferry to France, where we’ll pass the White Cliffs of Dover. Then we’ll hop on the Contiki coach bus and travel through World War I battlefields in the Valley of the Somme to Paris.

Once we arrive at our campsite, we get to set up camp – which I’m super excited about because apparently, we’re sleeping in pairs in these cute little blue tents. I’m sure tight quarters will force us to become very close with our fellow travelers – literally. Once we have set up camp, our bus will leave for the Tour of Illuminations, which will take us around the beautiful, lamp-lit streets of Paris, passing the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Champs-Élysées.

June 18th – 19th  Explore Paris

The city of love will bring us plenty of sightseeeing to do over these two days: Left Bank, Notre Dame Cathedral, Louvre and more. I know the enchanting smell of French baguettes will draw me in and I’m so looking forward to chowing down on some French cuisine. Plus, shopping!! I know everything will be way expensive, but I will do my best to find a few Parisian gems to ring back to the states. Our tour also includes a trip to Versailles, France’s most well-known château, where we will explore the impressive exterior of the extravagant palace. I’ll have to make sure I bring extra memories for my camera!

On the last night in Paris, we get to experience a Parisian night out, starting with an optional dinner in an atmospheric restaurant and authentic cabaret experience, complete with can-can girls and champagne. I’m so ready to live the high life.

June 20th – Depart Paris and drive through Bordeaux

Surely tired from the previous night’s festivities, we’ll pack up our campsites and head through Loire Valley, traveling past rolling vineyards and chateaus. On our way to Spain, we’ll stop in Bordeaux and visit the UNESCO World Heritage listed St. Emilion, with its fortified medieval city.

June 21st – Biarritz and Pamplona

Leaving Bordeaux and heading south, the bus will stop at the beach resort of Biarritz, known for some of the best beaches and surf in Europe. Since I’m not a huge sun-bathing person, I’ll probably spend most of my time in Biarritz hitting up the coastal shops and boutiques. Apparently, Biarritz has great beach fashion and locally made linens and regional produce like hams and salamis.

Leaving Biarritz, we cross the border to Spain and spend the evening in Pamplona, the city know for the Running of the Bulls. Pamplona has an awesome Gothic cathedral that I’m sure I’ll obsess over, and amazing Basque restaurants that serve traditional foods like barbecued lamb, fresh trout and red peppers.

June 22nd – Off to Barcelona!!!

Lately, I’ve become increasingly obsessed with Barcelona. Already suffering from an obsession with Spanish language and culture, I can only image how I’ll soak in the incredible, vibrant colors and beachy vibe of one of Spain’s best-known cities.

So on the way to Barcelona from Pamplona, the bus will head through the Baroque city of Zaragoza, set on the banks of the Rio Ebro. We’ll stop for lunch and engorge in Spanish tapas, and get a chance to check out another amazing Spanish cathedral. Once we arrive in Barcelona and set up camp, we depart for the city just in time to hit up Montjuic, a hilltop with full vistas of the city and location of the 1992 Olympic Games complex. Then we will check out the Sagrada Família!!!! I can’t wait!

Later, we get to enjoy a night out in Barcelona, which I’m sure will be one we won’t want to tell the kids.

June 23rd – Explore Barcelona

After a morning walking tour of the city, we’ll have free time to visit shops on Plaça de Catalunya, La Rambla, Parc Güell, or hang out on the beach. That night, there will be a family dinner and optional Flamenco show, then we head out for a night out in Barcelona – part two.

June 24th – Off to the French Riviera

The rugged coast line of the stunning Côte d’Azur will capture our attention as we roll along on the coach bus, stopping for lunch in Arles.  The beautiful city of Cannes will great us as we roll along the Riviera on our way to Antibes.

June 25th – Explore the French Riviera and Monaco 

On this sunny Wednesday, we’ll stop at the Fragonard perfumery, the home of the French perfume industry. We’ll have some free time to explore the area and try some French wine and, at night, get to explore Monaco and maybe even blow some cash at the Monte Carlo casino.

June 26th – Off to Florence

Leaving France, the tour crosses over the border to Italy. First stop: the Leaning Tower of Pizza (hehehe had to do it 🙂 ). We next drive to our campsite, have a family dinner, take a tour along the river and unwind with a glass of Tuscan wine.

June 27th – Explore Florence 

We’ll hit the museum and the city centre, take a guided tour through crowded streets, and watch a demonstration of Florentine leather making. At night, we’ll have an optional group dinner  (an authentic Tuscan feast, which there’s no way I’m missing), and then head out to experience Florentine nightlife.

June 28th – Head to our last stop: Rome!

Traveling through Tuscany, we’ll leave Florence and head to Rome where we’ll set up our last campsite on the tour.  A coach tour if the city will guide us through the Colosseum and Piazza Venezia, where we’ll then then step off the bus to see the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. With our free time later, we get to check out the Trevi Fountain or see the Spanish Steps. And at some point, obvi, we’ll  be stopping for pizza and gelato.

June 29th —  When in Rome…

In the morning, a tour guide will take us through the Vatican Museums, including the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. Then, of course, the tour leads to the Colosseum and Roman Forum.

Free time later in the day will give us a chance to explore the city, eat more pizza, go shopping, and, knowing me, take lots of pictures. I just really want to know what it means to “do as the Romans do.” Ha.

Then, it’s our last night out! I know that I’ll have made some awesome friends during this crazy Euro adventure, and the group will want to go out with a bang. And if that predication is wrong, I’ll just go out by myself. Whatevs.

June 30th – Ciao for now Rome!

On this day, everyone packs up and rolls out. The tour ends midday Monday and we’re all on our own to transport ourselves back home. But Europe won’t be able to get rid of me that quickly. I’ll have a few more days before I head back to the States.

July 1st – 2nd – ?????

Still not quite sure what I’ll be doing these two days before heading back to London. My friend Rachel, who is studying abroad in France, and I planned to meet up in Switzerland, but that might not be possible anymore. So I will probably just be spontaneous and pick up a one-way ticket to some place I’ll want to explore before heading back to the Heathrow airport the night of the June 2.

July 3rd – GOODBYE EUROPE

Oh, parting is such sweet sorrow. I fly out from London that morning, expecting to be back in Washington, D.C. later that evening. With the next day being July 4th (U.S. Independence Day), I can’t think of any better way to feel welcomed back to my home country than with firework, hot dogs, and everything stars and stripes.

Gracias, Merci, Grazie