Congrats on making quite possibly one of the best decisions of your life: studying abroad in Europe! Sure, the rest of the world is amazing too, but since I studied abroad in Prague for the fall semester of my junior year, I’m a little biased… okay a lot biased, if I’m gonna be perfectly honest. I’d never been more broke or happy in my life, and I’d give anything to do it all over again. Since I can’t, I’m here to help you avoid the mistakes that I made during my travels so you can have the best semester possible exploring all that Europe has to offer. Traveling around Europe is way different than traveling around the United States, so saying there’s a learning curve is an understatement. So, here are five European study abroad travel tips and tricks that will make your trips go off without a hitch. 

1. When booking flights, use apps like Skyscanner and Hopper. 

Ansley Bird

These are my favorite websites/apps to use for planning trips abroad. Skyscanner simultaneously searches tons of different airlines for deals to your destination and will even clue ways to save money, such as letting you know that if you fly out a day earlier or into another airport nearby, you could save x amount of dollars. Pretty sweet, if you ask me. Hopper predicts when you should buy your tickets for the lowest price, so it might tell you to wait two weeks for the price to drop or buy now. Both these apps are great for travel if you’re ballin' on a budget.

2. Get an International Student (ISIC) card

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Anna Arteaga

Most programs are partnered with a local university where you can pick up the super snazzy International Student Card, which gives you student discounts all across Europe for museum exhibits, bus and train tickets, and even discounts on ski tickets or food. It’s hit or miss if your US university ID is accepted abroad, so definitely don’t sleep on this one. Your wallet will thank you. 

3. When taking budget airlines, know your baggage limits 

Ansley Bird

The reason European airlines such as Ryanair or EasyJet are able to charge you a $45 a flight is that there are all sort of gotcha baggage policies about size and weight, so seriously read up on what your ticket includes before you start packing. Sometimes it’ll be worth it to buy a bag rather than lose $80 at the gate. A super sneaky hack that I used was to pack some of my clothes into plastic grocery bags and carry them with a backpack because they usually overlook them in favor of people carrying oversized real-looking luggage. I never got caught and used this many times, however, use this trick at your own risk.

4. Check into your flights 24 hours before

Ansley Bird

Remember those gotcha policies budget airlines have that I was talking about? Well, here’s another one for ya. You can be fined around $80-100 dollars if you don’t check into your flight two hours before the plane boards. Check in for most airlines opens up online and in the app about 24 to 48 hours beforehand, but it differs per airline. I have had too many friends lose a fat chunk of change because of this, so definitely watch out. (Peep my friend's happiness at checking in two minutes before it closed.)

5. When taking the train, reserve a seat

Ansley Bird

What most people don’t know is that on a lot of European trains, when you buy a ticket, you’re not actually buying a seat on said train-- you’re only buying a ticket to board. How you spend your time on the train once you're on is up to luck if you don’t reserve a seat before hand. No seriously. I spent a wonderful five hours on a packed train from Vienna squeezed in between bikes hanging from a bike rack because I didn’t get one beforehand. It's usually not expensive if you book in advance, so definitely get on that.