The Secret to Low-Cost Flights
8€ for a plane ticket to Paris seems too good to be true, right? Well, it depends. There are several budget airlines in Europe that operate with low fares, but those bargains come with strings attached. If you don’t follow the airline’s rules to a T, you might be forced to pay hefty fees. Here are some tips about flying budget airlines:
- Check in online or through the airline’s app in advance and print out your boarding pass. Oftentimes, if you decide to check in at the airport, you may have to pay a fee
- One piece of carry-on luggage means ONE piece. Also, be sure that your luggage fits the dimensions specified by the airline. They are known to charge “oversize luggage” fees at the gate if your luggage doesn’t fit in their measurements
- Check if you are allowed to store your luggage under the seat in front of you, in the overhead compartment, or as checked luggage. Sometimes, you have to pay a premium to store the luggage in the overhead
- See how far the airport is from your destination, and how to get there. For example, Paris has three airports, but one is so far from the center that it’s usually worth it to pay a little extra to fly into a closer airport
- Many low-cost flights leave very early in the morning, and you have to be at the airport 2 hours in advance. Plan accordingly, including looking up how you’ll get to the airport
- Read the fine print when you’re buying tickets, and avoid automatic add-ons
Booking Accommodation Abroad
Many students choose to stay in AirBNBs, hotels, or youth hostels when they travel. If you’re looking for an accommodation recommendation in a particular city, email Student Life or check out our Travel Board in the Student Lounge.
- Book in advance to get the best price.
- Using booking sites (like HostelBookers.com, Hotels.com, or Booking.com) is helpful to find where you want to stay and read reviews, but it’s generally cheaper to book directly with the hotel
- Pay attention to TripAdvisor ratings. If someone says a hotel is in a rough neighborhood or has bedbugs, don’t go!
- Note that in hostels, you might share rooms with strangers. Bring a padlock for your stuff, and flipflops for the shower. Pro tip: If you’re traveling with 6 friends, rent a 6-bed dorm at the hostel just for yourselves!
- Pick a hostel that has 24/7 reception, towels and sheets included, and free breakfast
- Many hostels have walking tours, trivia nights, and other ways to meet fellow travelers
- Bring earplugs if you’re a light sleeper
- Be respectful: Use headphones, don’t turn on the light when you walk in the room, keep smelly food outside the room, keep your area neat, talk quietly
- Stay in places that are marked as beige (signifying "places of interest") on Google Maps, as close to the center as possible. These areas tend to be safe
General Travel Advice
- Double-check what station/airport your bus/train/flight is leaving from, as many cities have multiple stations or airports. Plan to arrive with plenty of time to spare
- Know the country’s currency before you go, and the exchange rate with the dollar. Not every country in Europe uses the Euro
- Look on the U.S. State Department’s Travel Advisory site before buying tickets, to see if a country is safe to travel to
- Pack light and carry a backpack as opposed to a wheeled suitcase
- Bring a reusable water bottle to save money (but check to make sure the local tap water is good to drink)
- Don’t book tight layovers. A two-hour layover is usually enough
- If you have an early flight, we recommend NOT going out the night before and then going straight to the airport
- Check each country’s visa requirements before you book. If you’re traveling within the Schengen Zone, the visa you have for Spain is enough