Like many, I was so excited to have the opportunity to travel during my time at NU London. So far in my first year at University, I’ve been lucky enough to have had amazing trips to Scotland, France, Belgium, Iceland, and Ireland – with more to come!
Before this year, I had never travelled without my family or planned my own trip. Whilst a seemingly daunting task, my friends and I were able to plan out some amazing excursions with little to no issues.
The biggest thing I learned was to be flexible. Travelling can pose some stressful situations, but it doesn’t have to be. Laugh it off and adapt to your circumstances. Communicate with who you’re traveling with. Reach outside of your comfort zone. Take lots of pictures.
More logistically speaking, here are my tips and tricks on how to plan your own trip.
Check the weather and don’t overpack. If travelling by plane, be sure to measure and check your luggage allowance (while a budget option, Ryanair is known for its strict bag policy). Double check you have your passport and/or BRP, medications, chargers, and adapters.
Get packing cubes. Best advice I’ve ever received. Makes packing and unpacking much easier, while also freeing up space. Throw in an empty bag for dirty clothes as well.
In regards to baggage, in some countries, roller board suitcases may not be the best choice. Rolling a suitcase down old rocky cobblestone streets and steep stairs may pose a bit of a challenge. While not as aesthetically pleasing, hiking backpacks can be a good alternative.
Budgeting can be tricky, so stay organised! Some countries are simply more expensive than others, so it’s important to do your research and be prepared. Take a look at the current exchange rate, and familiarise yourself with how to convert and estimate prices to a currency you’re familiar with.
If travelling in a group, make sure to keep track of who-buys-what. The app, Splitwise, was incredibly helpful for my friends and I; we logged our expenses under one currency, and at the end of the trip, it calculates who owes who.
Book your transportation and lodging first: generally this makes up the most expensive part of your trip. Book early, as costs will increase closer towards your travel date. I recommend Google Flights, as it’s easy to use and sort flights based on price. That said, it’s generally cheapest to book your flight directly through the airline website, so use Google Flights as a search engine, then navigate over to buy your tickets.
Don’t overlook trains! Unlike most airports, trains will drop you off right in the city centre. Flix buses are also a popular method of travelling around Europe. While known for not being the most glamorous mode of transportation, travelling by bus can be a cheap method to get from point A to point B. Buses are especially good for day trips or short excursions.
There are a lot of choices regarding where (and how) to stay in a country. Hotels, Hostels, and AirBnB tend to be the most popular choices. Research the area and recommendations for the area you are traveling to: an AirBnB may be the best choice for Iceland, but a hostel may be the best choice for Amsterdam.
Some sites I’ve found particularly helpful are: Booking.com (hotels and hostels), HostelWorld (hostels), AirBnB (apartments/homes), and Expedia (hotels, hostels, apartments). Utilising the ‘map’ feature on these sites is a good place to start.
In regards to safety, read the reviews and research the area you will be staying in. If staying in a hostel, be sure to check if lockers/safes are available.
Tip: When you find a place you’re interested in, cross reference other travel sites: there may be a difference in cost depending where you book through!
Beyond flights and accommodation, be sure to factor in any excursions, museums, and activities you are interested in. This is the fun part.
If possible, connect with someone who has travelled to your choice location in the past. Scope out their ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’. Do your own research as well! Surprisingly TikTok can be a good source for insider details and travel tips. Travel books are also a good, yet more time consuming, source (Rick Steves, Lonely Planet, Fodor’s Travel, etc).
Don’t overstuff your trip – block out some free time to do some shopping, resting, or general sightseeing. It’s nice to have flexibility to try out something you discover while you’re there.
Tip: Always check and ask about student discounts! Many museums around Europe are either free or heavily discounted for students.
All in all, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to plan a trip. Enjoy the adventure, and get out there!
By Lauren Coccio