Tips to Save Money Abroad

As a college student, I learned a few tips before and while going abroad in order to stay somewhat afloat in regards to my financial situation. Since I paid for the trip myself, I knew that I had to be very careful about what I spent money on. Here are a few things I learned throughout my experience

  1. Walk as much as you can! Transportation fees can really add up if that’s what you use to get around for the majority of the trip. If you go to a city or somewhere conducive to walking, be sure to pack comfortable shoes so you can use them to save money. Cabs, subways, trains, and buses may be convenient, but walking is healthier and useful.
  2. Budget your days! If you set aside a certain amount of money for each day, you will be less likely to spend too much on one specific day. One way to do this is take some cash out and only take that amount with you while you travel for the day. This will force you to not go over your limit each day.
  3. Stay at hotels with included free breakfast! It may seem like a small thing but three meals a day can really add up. By getting a complimentary breakfast, you will eliminate one full cost per day that you are there. That money can be used for something more useful, like touristy things or drinks.
  4. Take advantage of the free walking tours offered by hotels! It is the best way to see the sights of wherever you are by people who know what they are doing with no cost. Going on tours with a official tour group could cost a good amount of money and trying to walk around without help could be unsuccessful.

Traveling Europe in 10 Days

I would like to give you all just a short synopsis of my trip because I simply cannot stop talking about it.

So just to get things started, I am 100% going back to Europe ASAP.  My friends and I are already planning our next Spring Break trip to Florence and Dublin (so we are there for St. Patrick’s Day) while our other friends are planning their stereotypical trip to Cancun. Don’t get me wrong, that will probably be a great time, but once you spend a week in London and Florence, you probably would rather go there instead of a beach too.

There is probably not one thing that I did not like about this trip. Okay, maybe the men trying to sell roses and selfie sticks were kind of annoying, but that was nothing in the grand scheme of things. The beauty and excitement that was at every turn was nothing like I have ever experienced before.

I was surprised by how comfortable I was with traveling the world with just a few friends and building relationships with locals. I suppose that had something to do with the fact that a few of my traveling companions had been to the places we went before, so I knew I was in good hands. I never felt unsafe or uncomfortable, even when I was with just one or two friends instead of the entire group. This was especially the case in Florence, where I often walked around with just one person just to explore. Even if we got lost, we never felt unsafe or felt the need to ask for assistance. We were actually kind of forced into that because the majority of us did not have service while abroad so we really did not have much to rely on when it came to directions.

Overall, this trip solidified my desire to travel the world and see as many places as possible. I have always been told by my parents to travel in my twenties because that is the time to do it, and I’ve always agreed but never really made plans. Now I am creating a list of all the places I absolutely need to visit before I’m tied down with a family and a career. Point is, traveling changed my life and I’m only 20. I cannot wait to see how it changes me as a person and helps me grow within the next ten years.

Traveling Venice

My day trip to Venice was an interesting experience. I was amazed by the amount of tourists all around and the beauty of the small streets within the canals. It was not the nicest of days but the experiences we had made it worth it, even though there were a few strange occurrences. Overall, I was able to walk around the squares, go on a gondola ride, and see the crowds of tourists on tours of the city.

Speaking of the gondola ride, my friends almost made the guy lose his license.

We didn’t do it on purpose, but there is a rule that there can only be six people on the ride at a time but we had seven people. Sure, we could have split up and gone on two rides, but it was the tale end of our trip so we were all running out of money and each ride was $80. I simply did not have an extra $30 laying in my pocket that I could spend on a ride (I would much rather spend that kind of money at a bar). So we stood by the gondola men for a while discussing our options when the guy says to us that he can take us on the ride, but only through the canals instead of the entire tour. We agreed because it didn’t matter how long we were on the ride, all that mattered was that we got to experience it. So we all squeezed in a small boat and went merrily on our way. Right when we got off the boat, the man mentioned that he could have lost his license for that, so we quickly paid him and the ran away.

That was not the only strange encounter my friends and I had in Venice. When we first got to the city via water taxi, we decided to get some lunch. We ventured to Piazza San Marco and found a small restaurant in the middle of the square. We figured this was the perfect place as it was in the middle of all the action. Wrong. It was the worst meal in my entire life. I went into the trip thinking that Italy had the best food so I would never have a bad meal. I was clearly mistaken. It was a sandwich and pizza place, things you would think would be hard to mess up. Wrong. My friends and I all ordered sandwiches and we were very surprised when they came out looking like a thrown together, not fresh, store bought pieces of crap. Unfortunately, we were in too deep at that point and way to hungry not to eat anything so we scarfed down those disgusting sandwiches. Not only was the food gross, but the service was not much better. My friend ordered the same sandwich as me but it didn’t come when everyone else’s food came. We waited and waited and eventually asked our waiter if her food was coming. It wasn’t. The kitchen did not have her order. So then she ordered again (keep in mind we already are aware the food is gross). We waited and waited again until finally her sandwich came out. Nope. It was the wrong sandwich. So they take it back. At this point we are all finished with our food and are fed up by this place so we cancel her order, pay for the pieces of cardboard, and leave. Lesson learned: do not buy food in the most touristy parts of the city.

Other than that, Venice was actually very beautiful and I understand why it is such a popular tourist destination. If it was any other group of people, I’m sure they would have had an amazing time without taking so many losses, but since it was my friends I’m not surprised at all by the experience we had.

Traveling Florence

Being in Florence was an amazing experience and something I will never forget. Unlike London, when I was in Florence it really felt like I was abroad. The history and architecture is unlike anything I have seen before, and the city itself was full of colorful personalities and experiences. I was amazed by almost every sight, including the Duomo, the many piazzas, and the mini streets with cute shops and restaurants.

Obviously, Italy is known for their food, and when I visited, I was not disappointed. I ate my weight in pizza and pasta at almost every meal so its actually pretty impressive that I didn’t gain at least twenty pounds by the end of the trip. Two of my friends had studied abroad in Florence this past summer, so we were able to find the best (in our opinion) places to eat. One specific place that we continued to go for dinner night after night was Dante’s. It had fantastic food and I ate an absurd amount of pasta every time I went. Another main reason that we continued to go to this place was because if you are a student of the local Florence college, they gave you unlimited wine for free. We were not students at that college but they assumed we were so we did not complain.

Another thing that you should be aware of when you go to Florence is the amount of people selling things on the street and the gypsies that walk around asking for money. The amount of times I was asked to buy a selfie stick is unbelievable; I didn’t even think there were that many selfie sticks in the world. They also sold a lot of purses, bracelets, and roses. The key (which I learned after the fact) is to completely ignore them. It sounds bad because that is not what we are taught in our culture, but if you show any kind of interest, they will not leave you alone.

Overall, Florence was one of the best experiences I have ever had in my life so far. I met so many amazing people because workers are so kind and welcoming. My friends who came on the trip with me met a few people when they studied abroad so when we went, we met up with those same people and built friendships with them. I cannot wait to go back, and I’m already planning my next trip there for next Spring Break!

Traveling London

As some of you may know from my Instagram posts, I have just recently returned from Europe on my Spring Break trip! I travelled to London and Florence with a day trip in Venice. The experience was more than I could have ever hoped for and I am already planning my next trip oversees.

When people ask “What did you like better; London or Florence?” I cannot give them a straight answer. There is simply no way of comparing the two cities because they are so different yet amazing in their own ways. Today I will focus on London, as it was the first place I visited.

London surprised me. I’m not really sure what I was expecting when I went there, but it was definitely not what I thought it was going to be. London is pretty much a cleaner, quieter New York City. I loved being able to walk around and see the amazing sights like Big Ben, the London Eye, and Tower Bridge right in front of me. I guess I felt the way that people who travel to visit NYC feel when they see the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building for the first time. (Do people feel that way?) I was lucky enough to have a few days of being a tourist, going over the bridges, onto the London Eye, and through the streets of famous markets. I was accompanied by my friend who is currently studying abroad, someone who previously studied abroad, and her friend who was born and raised in London. I found that to be a blessing because I got to experience the local’s spots in the city. I was introduced to little alcoves and hideaway bars that I never would have thought to go to if I was with a bunch of tourists.

If any of you ever visit London, here’s a few things that I did that I think are definitely worth it:

  1. The London Eye: I highly recommend this because you get to see a view of the entire city and it is unbelievably cool.
  2. The Tower Bridge: If you take the tour of the bridge, you get the opportunity to take an elevator up and walk across the top. While you are up there, there are glass floors and a mirror ceiling which makes for awesome views and pictures.
  3. Abbey Road: Little did I know, this road is in the middle of a busy intersection and cars are constantly trying to get past which makes it very difficult to reenact the Beatles picture. But if you do get the chance to take a successful picture, it is definitely worth it. There is also a gift shop dedicated to all of the music that was born there.
  4. Tea Time!: There are so many tea shops all around London and if you are anything like me, you want to be able to say you drank tea like an average Londoner.
  5. Buckingham Palace/ Changing of the Guards: I did not actually get the chance to see the Changing of the Guards because we ran out of time, but I have heard it is a great thing to witness at least once. I did get to see the palace which is so beautiful (and well-guarded)

Those are just a few of the more touristy things I got to do while in London. There were also a lot of pub crawls and margarita spots we found that aided to the fun of the trip.

Day Trip Ideas

If you are unable to get away for an entire vacation, there are plenty of day trip ideas all around you. They don’t have to be fancy, expensive, or far, what matters is what you make of it. For example, a few ideas I’ve had (for those of you in the Jersey area) include going to NYC, the beach, an amusement park, a sports game, a concert, a museum, or even a zoo.

Like I mentioned in my last post, going to the city could be an amazing adventure. You don’t even have to have a plan when you venture to the city. Considering it is the “city that never sleeps,” there are always shops, restaurants, and activities open at all hours of the day. You are bound to find something to do. It is also super easy to get around because of the taxi, subway, train, and bus services.

Going on a day trip to the beach, amusement park, concert, etc. can also be an amazing time if you get a good group of friends to go and you all have a relaxing day of fun. There are so many places to choose from and you can easily find something driving distance. For instance, there are beaches up and down the Jersey Shore. There are places such as Six Flags, Hershey Park, and Dorney Park throughout NJ (just to name a few). You can find any sports game under the sun, depending on the time of year, and concert venues to go along with that. The possibilities are endless when it comes to day trips because people all have different interests and are bound to find something they enjoy.

Overall, do a little research and you will absolutely find something you are interested in. There are so many places around you that you may not even know existed. Don’t be afraid of going to a place you haven’t heard of. Sometimes those are the best places to venture to because they are diamonds in the ruff. Moral of the story, just go try it out!

 

New York State of Mind

For those of us who live close to the Big Apple, going to NYC is a perfect day trip idea. For those people who may not live so close to the city, you can make an entire vacation around it. New York City has quite the reputation, being known as the city of dreams, the city that never sleeps, and simply the best city in the world. In my opinion, it holds up to that pressure. There are endless possibilities and places to go, including entertainment, art, restaurants, and activities. If you are interested in theater, Broadway is the place for you. Food addict? Check out the streets filled with options ranging from street food to fancy restaurants with waits even Taylor Swift herself couldn’t maneuver around.

For those people going to the city, I would like to share a few possibilities available. Firstly, always remember that it is O.K. to be a tourist once in a while. Go to the Empire State Building. Go to the Statue of Liberty (which is technically in New Jersey). But with that said, also try to check out some underground places. New York City has a ridiculous amount of small cafes, museums, and other activities that may not be known to many people because they are simply not looking for them. That’s why it’s always a good idea to do some research first. You’ll be surprised by the amount of interesting places to go that you would’ve never known were there.

I’m lucky because my (half) sister lived in Manhattan for the majority of my life and then moved to Brooklyn for a year before moving to California a few months ago. Due to this, I was able to go to the city every once in a while to hang outand see the local spots that my parents would have otherwise missed. I’ve been to amazing Chinese, Mexican, and coastal restaurants that many people probably walk right passed without noticing. Now that she moved to a new state completely, I will probably take up the responsibility of finding these places once I move to the city.

If you’re someone like me who lives close to the city and is looking for a few ideas that you could do, be sure to check out tickets for Broadway (or off-Broadway) plays. I recently saw Aladdin on Broadway and was amazed at the talented cast, the extraordinary sets, and the unbelievable musical performances. I’m a sucker for Disney so I may be a bit biased, but ever since I saw that play I have been looking for more and more opportunities to see more. I went to the city in the first place with my school because they had a discounted bus trip available. I planned to go with a bunch of my friends and took the opportunity to walk around the city and see as much as I could. (Check out the photo attached of the friends I went with) The reason I bring this up is because simple opportunities that may go unnoticed could be the greatest possibilities. So keep an eye out for those flyers or emails that you just pass by or automatically click past because you think it is unimportant. They could lead to your best memories.

Traveling on a Budget

This one is for all my fellow college students out there who want to begin traveling the world but are living off a broke college student budget.

There is no denying that it is difficult to travel while young. Working part-time jobs can only get you so far, and if you’re anything like me, you spend most of your money on eating out and clothes that I probably don’t really need. But that is no reason to limit yourself of seeing the world. Whether it be to the state over or across the globe, find a way to save money and travel.

I will be spending my Spring Break in both London and Florence; two places I have never been but have always wanted to visit. I am going with my six best friends and we have all been discussing our budgets. Some of us are paying for the whole trips ourselves while others got some help from their families but all in all, we all need money to spend while on the trip. For me, I found that working all summer and getting a part-time on campus job has helped a lot. I had a lot of money saved up throughout my years of growing up, so that of course went to use also. The trick for me when I am tempted to eat out while home is to remember the places I will be going and the restaurants I will want to eat at. If  I do that, I remember that I will probably be unable to eat all the things I want to eat and do all the things I want to do if I spend all of my money here at home. This small thing helps me save money so I am able to pay for the Air B&B for Florence and hotel for London. That is another important thing to remember while planning to travel on a budget. Think about where you are going to stay. I lucked out by traveling with a large group because we were able to find places that were decently priced by splitting it between seven people. If you are going alone or with just one or two companions, search the Web for cheap but clean places to stay, because they are out there!

But we all can’t go across the Atlantic for a trip. Some people could have just as much fun traveling somewhere nearby. This can cost much less because you can cut out expensive travel expenses like flying. Taking a car, train, or bus to a nearby state (or somewhere within your home state) could be just as fun as traveling somewhere abroad. This is especially regarding young college students. Go to a beach, or a city, or some middle-of-the-woods area where you could spend the day relaxing. These types of places are often very affordable and could offer deals for students.

The moral of this post is that if there is a will, there is a way. Start saving up now for your upcoming trip (even if you don’t know exactly what it will be yet). Remember that traveling helps people gain worldly experience which will help you later in life. Remember that you are only young once, so live it up as much as possible. And lastly, remember that it doesn’t matter whether you travel near or far, just getting away in general may be the thing you need most.

North Carolina Bound

North Carolina has a little bit of everything, and I’d be happy to visit again. I’ve had the pleasure of going there on numerous occasions and seen the different places it has to offer. You don’t only have to go to North Carolina for the beach! Yes, it is beautiful and yes, the water is amazing, but the inner cities within the state are just as beautiful and amazing, and that is what I will be focusing on today.

Asheville and Charlotte, two of the most different but equally great to visit in their own way.

I’ve heard that Asheville is the Boulder of North Carolina, and if anyone has ever been to Colorado, that is no light compliment. It’s a city full of art, music, small shops and restaurants, perfect for those people looking for a place to walk around leisurely for hours.

Asheville is not the only fun place to go. Charlotte, NC is another exciting and bustling city, perfect for the people like me who have lived near and loved the city all their life. It was perfect for my brother and dad because the NASCAR Hall of Fame resides there, so I became a NASCAR fan for the day too. But even though the city is great for a day or two, my family is originally from the country, so of course we found an off-beaten ranch to ride some horses.

This must have been my favorite part. I hadn’t been on a horse for years and neither had my family, but something about saddling up and going out onto fields, woods, and sides of mountains (yes, you read correctly) was awe-inspiring. It made me realize I love the city, but I have a new appreciation for the country. The things I saw in North Carolina were things I never pictured that state to have. I had always associated it with the beach, as most out-of-state vacationers probably do. But if you ever get the chance to visit inner-North Carolina, please do. It had art shops for my mom, NASCAR for my dad, boat rentals on Lake Norman for my brother, and the city (and country) for me.