411 on Traveling While Abroad

Gracie Weinstein
February 13, 2022

It’s now been about a month since I’ve arrived in Milan. So far I’ve traveled to Rome, Venice, Florence and have Barcelona underway for this weekend. All beautiful places and amazing trips…but all learning experiences. Although I still have a lot to learn and haven’t quite mastered the weekend traveling skill, I have picked up a thing or two that I wish someone told me before I began planning for my trips. So here’s a little 411 that might be able to save you the stress and worry—and most importantly money. 

First and foremost, I cannot stress enough, book your plane, train or whatever mode of transportation suits your fancy, ahead of time. Planning for these past three have consisted of Thursday nights sitting in bed with my two best friends huddled around my computer trying to find an AirBnB or train ticket cheaper than $100 with less than two transfers that departs later than 10 a.m. May not sound like a lot right now, but when you’re traveling every weekend…it painfully adds up. Book your train tickets in advance. Save yourself the trouble and sit down with your friends to plan it—it’s really not hard. I highly recommend using Omio for train tickets and RyanAir for flights (but be sure to check the dimensions of your carry-on bag before you confidently choose not to check a bag). 

Another preparation tip I highly recommend doing is to research the place you’re visiting and get, at least, a gist of what your plan is for the weekend. On my first trip, my best friend and I had planned a few smaller things to do in Rome during the one full day that we were there for, but hadn’t really thought much about lunch, dinner, and other special locations we had to visit (don’t worry, we still hit the famous historical places). We woke up too late, missed the Vatican and ended up stressing ourselves out from plans we didn’t have. Just as a reminder, most of your trips will happen over weekends, so taking this extra time before you depart to research the city makes the time spent there—no matter how little that is—so much more meanwhile. 

My next two pieces of advice are mostly for my female audience. Since arriving in Milan, I’ve gotten used to the consistent stares and cat-calling from Milanese men and boys (although it has taken some time); but, I was very overwhelmed by the culture change when I went further down south to Rome or east to Venice. It’s easy to get adapted to your new home and the potential “dangers” around you, but be sure to keep your constant guard up at all times—especially when traveling to a new place where you don’t know much about the area. Watch your drinks, keep eyes on the back of your head and pay no mind to any man that tries speaking to or approaching you. Act like a native to the area—they prey more on women who are foreign and clearly do not belong.   

Second, no matter how cute the outfit is going to be with those heels or boots, many older countries’ streets are old and made of cobblestone—it’s not worth the rolled ankle. My best friend and her platform heels didn’t do well in Rome when adventuring through the streets so that you could learn from them. No one cares what your shoes look like, theirs probably aren’t cute either. You’ll thank yourself later. 

As for where to actually stay while traveling, use AirBnB. It’s much cheaper than any hotel room and is just as nice and convenient as you need it to be—but do your research before booking it. In Florence, my friend and I poorly read the AirBnB’s description and ended up staying in someone’s guest bedroom while they still lived there. It was awkward and uncomfortable—not to mention not the safest—to say the least. Research where in the city your place is, where in relation it is to any monuments or restaurants you plan to visit and most importantly where it is in relation to the airport or train station you’ll arrive in. You just bought a plane ticket, you don’t want to pay for an uber to take you to your AirBnB if you can walk it. Even more importantly, some cities, like Venice, don’t have Uber or cars in general; so, in cases like these, you won’t want to get stranded 45 minutes away from your place forced to walk with your luggage. 

On a similar note, I highly recommend getting a suitcase/backpack as your carry-on. When walking to and from the airport or train station to your AirBnB, having a roller suitcase to drag behind you and up the immense amount of stairs or over the cobblestone streets many cities have can be really difficult. I bought a backpack that opens up and expands into a suitcase from “E-Bags,” it wasn’t expensive and can fit much more than the alternative roller suitcase. Many things about studying in a foriegn country are very different from your native one, you’ll be surprised by how different things are and how your lifestyle is affected by even the slightest details. 

Nevertheless, no matter the bag you bring, do not leave it with you in the train and/or plane and fall asleep. That’s how you, unfortunately, will get stolen from. Americans, you should be traveling with your passport/visa, vaccination card and permit to stay—you must have clear identification and proof that you are allowed to be living or even visiting in this country. Even though it’s possible to regain all of those materials back, it’s an incredibly strenuous process and you don’t want just anyone getting ahold of those documents.

If you’re going to take anything away from any of this, let it be to travel as much as you can. Plan ahead as little or as much as you want, but travel as much as possible. When you’re given this opportunity to study abroad, yes you want to see the city you’re living in, but take advantage of that time to see everything else around you. Your bank account might hate you by the end of the three-ish months but I guarantee you won’t regret it. Time flies while being abroad, don’t let it pass you by. Make some new friends, new memories, and take photos of everything. This is a once in a lifetime experience, I encourage you to treat it as one—but be wise with your decisions while doing so. 

At the end of the day, I could sit here and nitpick each and every mistake I’ve made so far while traveling these past few weekends, but ultimately it’ll be your experiences where you learn the most about how to safely and efficiently navigate traveling abroad. Even so, hopefully I supplied at least a few helpful tips that may save you from future similar mistakes. 

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Gracie Weinstein,

And that was all she wrote.

My time in Italy and Europe as a whole is over after all these months. I've shared stories and advice and just my general thoughts on here for the past 115 days...

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Gracie Weinstein

<p>Hello, my name’s Gracie Weinstein and I am a junior studying political science and journalism. Since I was a kid, I’ve always loved to write and have always tried to use my writing to tell stories with others about some of the best, or maybe worst, experiences in my life. I believe in the power of words and the ability it has to connect strangers with one another through their experiences, whether they are shared experiences or not. Writing humanizes people, and helps others relate to them — it cuts down on barriers such as physical appearances (how one’s life looks) and allows for strangers to understand each other. Whether or not those who read my work or see my posts have themselves studied abroad or plan to study abroad, documenting each scary, fun, jaw-dropping, or brand new experience I encounter is so special to share with them. I am very much looking forward to sharing my next few months abroad with others, and hopefully inspire them to make the same decision that I did. Ciao!</p>

2022 Spring
Home University:
Indiana University
Elmhurst, IL
Political Science
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