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10 Experience-Enhancing Tips for Traveling Abroad

Chad Phillips is a student at Baker University and an ISA Featured Photo Blogger. Chad is currently studying abroad with ISA in London, England.

As I am now over halfway through my study abroad experience, I have learned some valuable traveling tips that have made my experiences the best possible. If you are an aspiring traveler, I hope these 10 tips can help enhance your journey wherever you go!

  1. Plan your route based on the cheapest flights
Would you choose a $13 flight across Europe or three Starbucks coffees?

Would you choose a $13 flight across Europe or three Starbucks coffees?

Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive! The website Skyscanner is just what you need if you’re on a tight budget. You can put an entire country in your search to include every airport in it, allowing you to find the cheapest flights to that country. Once you find the cities that offer the cheapest flights, plan your route through the country accordingly.

  1. Take screenshots of routes and confirmations

10 Experiences- Enhancing Tips for Traveling Abroad | ISA Student Blog

Even if you have the best international cell phone plan, service can be unpredictable while abroad. The panic that sets in when you can’t pull up an email confirmation or find your way from the airport to the hostel is one of the worst feelings. The solution? Screenshots. Before you leave, take screenshots on your phone of any important routes or confirmations you may need so they can easily be pulled up, with or without cell service.

  1. Be extra early for trains and flights 
With a transportation system this complex, you have to prepare for the worst here in London!

With a transportation system this complex, you have to prepare for the worst here in London!

Public transportation is unpredictable. When I was on my way to the London airport one day, there were multiple delays and cancellations due to someone being hit by a train and another train breaking down. What ensued was chaos, especially considering it was rush hour. I barely made my flight after initially thinking I had plenty of time. I learned to always be extra early for any trains or flights because you never know what to expect.

  1. Travel solo (at least once)
To put it into perspective, standing among the peaks of the Swiss Alps is almost as liberating as traveling solo. Everyone needs to do it!

To put it into perspective, standing among the peaks of the Swiss Alps is almost as liberating as traveling solo. Everyone needs to do it!

Traveling abroad is a big step outside of many people’s comfort zone. Do you want to take the next step for the full-on abroad experience? Try traveling solo. Because of my incredible first few experiences of traveling alone, I quickly realized that I actually prefer it. It forces you to meet other people, from locals to fellow travelers, and allows for a more immersive experience. The best part? You don’t have to argue with anyone about where to eat.

  1. Seek out small towns
One of my favorite small towns is the vibrant community of Ennis, Ireland on the west coast.

One of my favorite small towns is the vibrant community of Ennis, Ireland on the west coast.

Some large cities you just have to visit while abroad. I understand. However, several of my favorite experiences thus far have been spent in smaller, more authentic towns where tourist shops don’t line the streets. Don’t be afraid to venture out of the big cities for a unique travel experience.

  1. Google Maps always tracks your location and can save locations
The small blue triangle right next to the dot showing your current location tells you which direction you are facing, which helps you navigate the streets manually. The stars show where your saved places are located.

The small blue triangle right next to the dot showing your current location tells you which direction you are facing, which helps you navigate the streets manually. The stars show where your saved places are located.

Google Maps is my go-to navigation app and can be a lifesaver. Even if you don’t have phone service or if you are on airplane mode, the app can still track your location. It can also save important locations. Before visiting a new city, save the location of the train station or airport, your accommodation and anything you want to see or do. Then when you arrive, you can manually navigate through the streets without needing service or wifi.

  1. Carry a backup power source with you 

10 Experiences- Enhancing Tips for Traveling Abroad | ISA Student Blog

Just like unpredictable phone service, access to a power source can also be difficult. Whether you forget the outlet adapter or just need to recharge your quickly-dying phone, it’s vital to always carry an extra power source. I travel with both my Mophie charging phone case and laptop. These have saved me multiple times, especially when I need access to those screenshots of routes and confirmations.

  1. If you have to pay for it, you’re doing it wrong
It can sometimes be hard to gather the motivation to wake up for sunrises, but I promise you won't regret it. Here is the sunrise in Dublin, Ireland; one of the most beautiful sunrises I've seen.

It can sometimes be hard to gather the motivation to wake up for sunrises, but I promise you won’t regret it. Here is the sunrise in Dublin, Ireland; one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve seen.

There is a big difference between a traveler and a tourist. Paying to see or do something is usually a sure sign of a tourist trap, which I try to avoid. Obviously, there are some exceptions that you simply must do when visiting a new place. However, some of my most treasured experiences have been getting lost in the cities, walking along riverbanks, hiking up for a great view or watching the sunrises and sunsets; all of which are free.

  1. Befriend other travelers
Here is my new friend Izabela, who is a solo traveler from Poland. We met at the train station in Ennis, Ireland, and spent the evening learning about each other's home country and swapping travel stories.

Here is my new friend Izabela, who is a solo traveler from Poland. We met at the train station in Ennis, Ireland, and spent the evening learning about each other’s home country and swapping travel stories.

The next best thing to meeting locals is meeting fellow travelers. If I see you carrying a large traveling backpack or hear you speak English, I will most likely come talk to you. You quickly realize just how small this world is when you meet people from your home state or figure out you have a mutual friend. Many hostels in the bigger cities offer free walking tours, which I highly suggest taking advantage of to meet other travelers, especially if you are traveling solo. There are no better conversations than sharing travel experiences and advice with those who are exploring the world just like you.

  1. Keep a detailed journal

10 Experiences- Enhancing Tips for Traveling Abroad | ISA Student Blog

Whether you hand write in a notebook or keep a running typed document, you must journal your experiences. Even if you never read it again, simply reflecting on your days allows for better memory of them down the road. Journaling requires a lot of dedication to keep up with it, but is certainly worth it in the end.

The World Awaits…Discover it.