No study abroad student would truly be studying abroad if they were content with staying in just one place, especially when in Europe. With distinct countries chopping up the continent in a way similar to the states in the U.S., experiencing another culture may at times be as easy as traveling from Pennsylvania to New Jersey. This high cultural density makes it possible to not just knock one place off your bucket list, but two or three and even more depending on if you play your cards right. Through trial and error and a bit of my own research, I’ve come to learn a good deal about flying through Europe. While I am in no way a flight guru like some of the experts I found researching online, I hope that I can offer some helpful advice and experience when it comes to flying on a budget.
The first piece of advice I want to offer is to look for the right airports. For example, the closest airport to Oviedo, the Asturias airport, is very small and only flies to a handful of locations. From this airport, you have access to nearly anywhere in Spain for a fair price, with flights to locations such as Seville or Barcelona for under 50€. This airport flies to a few international locations as well for relatively cheap, including London, Dublin, and Lisbon. However, flying out of this airport to, for example, Paris is going to push up the price as it would require a connection. A better option would be to fly out of Santander, which is a bit farther from Oviedo, but does have direct flights to Paris. Most of the time, the best airport to fly out of is not the one nearest to you, just as sometimes the best airport to fly in to is not always the main one servicing your destination. Some of the larger cities have multiple airports, similar to how New York has JFK, La Guardia, and Newark, and not all are priced the same. Keeping your options open when it comes to searching for outbound and inbound airports will increase the number of flights you have access to and allow you to find a flight that best suits your budget.
The next thing to keep in mind when traveling is the dates of your flights. For example, when my girlfriend and I were planning my visit to Rome, we noticed that for me to fly from Oviedo to Rome was noticeably more expensive than for her to fly to me. We figured out that the difference in price was due to the fact that I would be traveling during La Semana Santa, a Spanish holiday that is not observed in Italy. This meant that more Spaniards were traveling than Italians, increasing the price of outbound flights from Spain. In order to counteract this, I chose to fly out on the Tuesday after the holiday starts. In general, most people fly out on a Thursday or Friday, so choosing to fly out earlier in the week tends to lower the price. Similarly, choosing a return flight later in the week tends to be much less expensive than flying back on a Sunday or Monday. Getting even more specific, flight prices can vary depending on the time of day you chose to fly out. It’s generally cheaper to fly early in the morning and more expensive to fly after the school or work day.
Lastly, although albeit a bit obvious, the most important factor when it comes to reducing the price of travel is to book in advance. I have seen prices of flights nearly double over the series of a few weeks, and I have known people to book ridiculously expensive flights last minute for what would have been an inexpensive flight booked a month or so in advance. If you know that you want to travel somewhere, do not hesitate when it comes to booking your flights. Speaking from experience, the prices of flights only go up with time. The last thing you want to be doing is kicking yourself for hesitating on purchasing a 50€ flight that is now closer to 125€.
Study abroad is a once in a lifetime experience and one that deserves to be fully taken advantage of. It’s truly a misconception that traveling has to be an expensive endeavor; it is very possible to travel on a budget without diminishing the quality of the experience. Don’t let money dictate where you can and can’t go or what you can and can’t do. With the money you save on flights you can go out to a restaurant, pay an entrance fee to a must-do like the Eiffel Tower, or even buy another flight. And if I can offer one last piece of advice, it would be to absolutely NOT check a bag. Everything you need, even for an entire week can fit in a backpack for no additional cost. With that being said, find the right flight, pull the trigger on that weekend excursion, pack your backpack, and get going!