In Spain, we get Semana Santa (Holy Week) off. I booked my trips over a month in advance and this is where my first piece of advice comes in: wait! Settle in and meet your people (it may change between booking and time of trip). You may be thinking “the earlier the cheaper,” but that is not always worth it (explained in the next section). Your mindset on travel will also change during the weeks. I booked the cheapest and most possible. This resulted in four cities over 10 days and very early flights and trains. In the end, I had a good time, but during, it was very overwhelming.
To avoid all the chaos I went through: do not book too far in advance, do not book early flights/train, and do not book too many cities.
Booking flights, trains, etc.
- Aim for midday/afternoon flights so you can find 1-8€ public transport to and from the airport, train station, etc.
If you fly at 9AM and beyond, you can wake up and navigate public transport to get you to the airport in a calm and timely manner. If you book midday to afternoon, then you can sleep in and still navigate calmly and with time, but do not book anything too late in the day!
- I had a 7PM train from Rome to Naples that got very delayed and I was barely able to make my hostel check-in at 10:30PM after I barely made a second train at 9:30PM from Naples to Ercolano.
Do not opt for the early flights that are ‘cheaper’ than these later ones because the reality is that they won’t be. I say this because even if the 6AM flight is 20€, the taxi to get there will cost way more (since there is no public transport that early) and you will end up spending more for trying to go cheap (trust me, I know). I had one 6AM and 7AM flight that I had to swallow an expensive taxi fee since the buses or trains would not get me to the airport on time. I was getting up at 3-4AM to catch all these early flights, so in the end, I got less sleep and paid the later flight equivalent and more in taxi/uber costs.
Your thoughts, my response:
You may think afternoon/evening flight travel wastes your vacation time, but getting to use cheap public transport is worth it if you're budgeting (if you have the money, then trade it for more time). If there are 3-4 of you traveling on the same flights/trains, then you can opt for the taxi ride to and from your hostel, airport, etc. since you can split the fare. However, even then it’s sometimes expensive; a taxi from the Marseille airport to our hostel was 60€ D:
Figuring out the public train or bus schedule isn’t impossible, use Google Maps (essential for real, especially for finding you public transport to and from your locations) and you can do it! This alternative has saved me a good amount, you are trading time for money.
Credit card vs. Cash outside of Spain
- Carry cash!
Other countries don’t take credit cards everywhere the way Spain does (we are spoiled over here).
If you don’t have a lot of cash, ask everywhere you go if they take card before you sit/carry on. We did not do this at a French restaurant one night and had to pay over 100€ in cash, luckily it worked out, but since then I asked before sitting down to eat. I recommend taking out ~300€ for break if you are going to France and/or Italy and will be in a big group.
- Always google any and all questions you have about an event you’re going to do.
I was waiting for a bus in Italy and assumed I could pay on the bus the way you can in Spain, only to learn you have to buy the ticket beforehand from a stand (still made the bus). Just in case: Like a lot of public transport, the trains and buses in Italy and France require you to validate your ticket to make sure you are not reusing it. You insert it into a timestamp machine and will be good to go! Do not try to avoid this because there are random checks. On a train in Naples, the police hopped on to check and some people around me were fined (I was good since I stamped mine).
- PS: You can ask locals if Google is not giving you a clear answer, my shyness disappeared because this is a necessity sometimes (the common language will be English since they couldn't understand my Spanish)
Also, check the schedules of monuments you want to sightsee and plan your days in each city around that. Many things I wanted to do in Rome were closed Mondays, and then Wednesdays for Naples (the literal days I was there).
- For spring break: only choose 2-3 cities within 1-2 countries.
The ideal plan is one flight into the country of your choice, trains/buses between the cities, and then a second flight back to your study abroad location. For example: flying from Madrid to Rome, training to other cities/day trips, and then the flight back home. You’ll save yourself soo much stress from trying to get to the airport 4 different times and then how to get there etc. (trust me I KNOW). If you choose two countries, as I did with France and Italy, choose 1 city in each that you can do day trips from and still have stability and non-airport travel stress.
Also, make sure to check the weather! Many places will not have spring or warm weather during spring break, I made the mistake to assume south of France and south of Italy cities would be warm and was met with a hard no (very windy, cloudy, gloomy) Nice had the most sun and warm weather which I loved after a very gloomy Naples.
Another hack in getting cheap flights is if you’re flexible with your destination, if you don’t care where you go but more so that you’re traveling, there might be a roundtrip to Edinburgh for example for 56€ that you can then plan the rest of your break around/from there. However if you’re set on a certain location, like I was for Rome, stick to the 1-2 and 2-3 rules I’ve outlined.
I have attached an example of Google Mapping public transport as well as what my spring break ended up looking like before I learned these tips.
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Hi! My name is Alexandra Carrillo and I am a 2nd year at my university. I am studying International Relations and Spanish with emphases in politics and security and Latin American literature. I am from the USA and México and I often travel between the two. My hobbies include embroidering, painting, and reading (my favorite genres are romance and history). A fun fact about me is that I have a twin sister who goes to the same university as me (we are fraternal and people still mix us up!). I look forward to documenting my journey abroad and the people and places I'll meet along the way!