One of my preconceived notions about studying abroad in the UK was that I would be able to travel anywhere and everywhere at the snap of my fingers. I’m not an expert at European geography but countries here are a “wee” bit closer together than they are where I grew up. When I tell locals here (or other European students) where I’m from and where I go to university, I explain that I have to drive 7 hours down the state of California to get to my school. They’re baffled by it because if you were to drive 7 hours in any direction from Glasgow, you’d either be in another country or in the middle of the ocean. And if you were to fly for 7 hours, you’d have passed through several different countries.
Although it’s not wrong to say that weekend traveling to further places is a lot more accessible in the UK than it is where I’m from, I was wrong to think that it would be easy, especially when traveling on as tight a budget as possible and trying to maximize time. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time sitting down with my travel-buddies to research and plan out our trips, and I’d like to think I’ve picked up some pretty helpful tips.
Here are some things I’ve kept in mind in regards to saving money and maximizing time.
Two very popular airlines that fly through the UK and Europe are “EasyJet” and “Ryanair.” While they appear to be very inexpensive, they require that you pay additional fees that you might not be used to paying on other airlines. For example, when you buy a standard ticket on most airlines, you’re allowed to bring a bag and a piece of carry-on luggage with you onto the plane. However, on these airlines, you may only be allowed to bring one bag with you and would have to pay significantly more to add luggage. Before confirming your booking, take a second and read up on what exactly will be included (or not included) in your ticket.
Sometimes, when you’re finally ready to book your flight after researching for hours, you click “Continue” and - oh no! The price has gone up significantly, When flights are repeatedly searched, the site increases the prices to force you into booking. If you change to a private or incognito browser, you’re more likely to see the lowest prices.
As a student in Glasgow, the closest airports are Glasgow International Airport and Glasgow Prestwick Airport, yet the biggest airport closest to us is in Edinburgh. While flights out of Edinburgh may seem significantly cheaper than out of Glasgow, you have to consider the time/money it would take to get to Edinburgh. Trains are relatively cheap with a Railcard (and definitely purchase a Railcard!), but consider the time and money spent to get yourself to the train station, and once at the station, to the airport. Additionally, if you pay less for housing per night because you’re farther from the city center, you’ll most likely still end up paying for transportation to the city center, since this is where most activities are (especially if you’re only in the location for a couple of days). Consider the transportation fees (both ways) when you’re thinking about airports or accommodations.
During our Arcadia orientation, I heard a staff member say “Remember everyone, this is study abroad and not travel abroad!” They weren’t discouraging travel but merely reminding us what we all know to be true. We are students and our first priority is our schoolwork. To me, this just means that as students we want to be savvy with our money as well as with our time. It’s more likely that our traveling will take place on the weekends, and depending on whether you have a Friday or Monday off, these will be relatively short trips. It’s important to research the area you’re going to before you arrive so you have a general idea of what you’d like to do there. When my roommate and I visited Berlin from Friday to Sunday morning, we created a list of things we’d like to do. We had a sense of where these things were in relation to each other and where we were staying, but once we got there, we were able to sit down and map out the best way to go about our days.
At Freshers Week at the University of Glasgow, many of the clubs and societies offer “Taster Sessions” where you can show up and get a feel for what their organization is like. I’d like to think of these weekend trips as taster sessions because I realize I won’t be able to see the whole city in two or three days, but I can get a feel for what it’s like and maybe even make plans for a next time sometime in the future. “Rome wasn’t built in a day” so you shouldn’t expect to experience it (or any place) all in one day, but that’s okay!
The way I see it is I’m going to try to be as financially savvy as possible when I can in order to feel comfortable spending money when I really want to or need to. I’m preparing for when things inevitably don’t go my way or when I find something that I just want to spend money on! I might end up having to pay more for an Uber when the app surges at the airport or I might want to treat myself to a fancy drink at a pub. When these things happen, I’ll feel okay knowing that I was as efficient as I could in spending my money in a previous matter.
Overall, it’s important to plan for your trip but it’s just as important to plan for unexpected things happening. With this in mind, a fun and memorable trip is surely to be the case!