T-minus 4 weeks before taking off on the journey of a lifetime. I’ll be honest, this is a really odd feeling. While it seems like there is so many things I should be preparing for, its difficult to figure out exactly what that is. I’m picking up on a little bit of Danish (Jeg er tale lidt dansk), and I’ve started looking at what I’d like to do with my free time while in Denmark and during my stopover in LA.
Without a doubt in my mind, the hardest thing I’ve done so far is scheduling the actual means of travel.
I love to fly and I’ve scheduled quite a few domestic trips for conferences and previous study experiences. International travel is a whole new ball game. I’ve laid out some tips for students to get ahead of the flight-booking game that may make it a little easier for you on your journey than it was on mine.
1. Change Your Departure City
I understand that flying out of the airport 30 minutes from your apartment is probably the easiest, but it may not be the cheapest. I love Indianapolis and the airport is amazing for domestic flights. The international airfare through Indy is much more expensive than anywhere else I looked. By choosing to fly out of Chicago, my flight was almost $200 cheaper. Not to mention, I get to stay with a few friends before and after the trip in Chicago!
2. Round-Trip or One-Way?
If you aren’t planning on any extra stops, just planning on flying there and back, round-trip tickets are the way to go. It is less hassle and usually a few hundred dollars cheaper to simply book once and be done with it.
With that said, I am so glad I decided to go somewhere else. After thinking about what kind of experiences I wanted, I decided to go big and not go home… at least immediately. When else am I going to be able to take a trip like this and stay an extra few days somewhere I’ve never been, even domestically.
It comes down to the unique experience you want with your trip. I’m staying in LA for a few days over 4th of July, something I’m very excited for. And, it was cheaper to fly into LA than Chicago from Denmark, so the money I saved from that flight is getting me from LA to Chicago in the last leg of my journey. But, that may not be the best idea for everyone. It definitely cost me a little more for this excursion, but its still cheaper than if I went from home to LA and back at another time.
3. Know All Your Destinations Before Booking
This sounds a little odd, but it’s important to know exactly where you are going or want to stopover before booking. I decided a side trip to Stockholm and LA would be super fun. That being said, I wasn’t SURE I was going to LA or Stockholm until I booked the tickets. I wish I would have thought about it a little more before booking. I bought the tickets, I’m happy with my decision, but I should have looked at a cheaper stopover for the end of my trip, like Austin or Atlanta.
4. Know Your Limits
I love to travel alone. Flying, sightseeing, laying on a beach, eating out… I love being able to experience life in solitude sometimes. My roommate, however, can’t be alone for more than a few hours before she wants to work on her laptop in my room or calls someone to talk while doing homework. There isn’t anything wrong with either lifestyle, but she and I are very familiar with our limits.
While I won’t be entirely alone during the educational portion of my trip, I have scheduled for 6 days in total (Denmark, Stockholm, and LA) where I will be traveling alone. I know myself and know that I will be completely capable of doing this. A few people have told me that this is an excellent experience, but more people have told me that they can’t believe I’m willing to travel 5 flights over 6 days alone at the end of a 6 week study period in Europe.
I appreciate the concern, but know that I can be okay. But, don’t feel like this is a decision you need to make if you aren’t comfortable with it. A peer also studying abroad is nervous that she’s spending 2 days in Brazil alone after her studies, stating that it was cheaper to fly out on a Wednesday than a Monday. I understand the money struggle, but confidence really is as much of a security risk as it is an indicator of the fun you’ll have in those 2 days. If you travel looking scared, people will be able to tell. That is a good way to be approached by unsavory people while abroad. Being comfortable with your travel arrangement will make it LOADS easier to have fun and stay safe in the country of study.
I do not do endorsements, but I’m serious on this one. Flights are way cheaper and its easier to book with a company than individual airfare companies. Plus, they will help you book stopovers in cities between your initial departure and your final destination. It’s easy to sign up and the money makes a huge difference.
While some of this seems pretty self-explanatory, these are things that I wish I would have paid more attention to before my trip. I wish you all the best of luck with your pre-planning, and if you need more advice, take a look through my study abroad posts to get a better idea of how I dealt with it and how maybe you could improve my process!