One thing I have loved so far about living in Europe is the easy access to so many countries. In less distance than New York to California are so many cultures and historical places! In the study abroad program you already get to visit the Baltic states along with a trip to Russia, but you should desire to see more of Europe. It is impossible to visit everywhere while you are studying abroad, but with the right preparation, you can get the most out of taking a trip by yourself or with a group of friends.
First, you need to decide where you absolutely must go while you are in Europe. The study abroad program recommends that you visit no more than three countries independently. Some people do more or less depending on their own desires. For me, I choose to go on at least four independent trips. You should choose places that would be easy to explore in a weekend since you don’t want to miss class often. I would also consider how expensive the country is. Also, try to go to new places. Don’t go back to cities you have already been to! Try to do as many new things as you can while studying abroad. For me, I choose Finland because of its beauty, but it was very expensive. Ukraine, because so many people from LCC are from there and I’ve been told it is cheap. Germany, because I have never been to Berlin and I love history. The last country I am going to I haven’t decided yet, but I know it will be somewhere that is cheap to visit and probably in Eastern Europe. There are so many places you could visit. Your choices are almost limitless!
After you decide where you want to go, you need to decide if you want people to come with you or if you want it to be a solo trip. There are pros and cons to both options. I personally think it is very beneficial for a study abroad student to do at least one solo trip. Even if it is to a neighboring country. Europe is pretty safe and if you stick to the tourist sights and don’t go out late at night you should be fine. When you go on a trip by yourself you grow so much as an individual. The alone time allows you to meet locals you normally wouldn’t meet when traveling with other people. It also allows you to learn more about yourself and get a fresh start. You don’t have to worry about what other people want to do, eat, or see. You can just be you. It can be difficult, but so rewarding in the end. There are also perks to traveling with someone else or a small group. When you travel with people it creates a bond that can last a lifetime. You go through things like ordering food at a restaurant with no English menu and end up getting something totally different than you imagined. You create memories that you will be able to look back at together and laugh at.
As soon as you decide on the location and who is going on the trip you need to book your flight and hotel as soon as possible. Normally, the closer to your departure date the price of flights go up. To get the most out of your money you want to book right away. A few websites that I have used to book flights and hotels are Momondo, Kiwi, Ryanair, Skyscanner, Expedia, Baltic Air, WizzAir, Hostel World, Airbnb, and Wego. I have found these sights or airlines to be the cheapest options. I normally try to book an apartment with Airbnb so I can feel like a local when traveling and to save money. It is normally cheaper to book flights on a weekday. Don’t gather all your friends on Saturday or Sunday night to book flights together because normally they will be way more expensive than what you saw on a weeknight. Another thing to consider when you book your flights is to be flexible with the date. It is hard to be super flexible with classes but if you look for flights for any weekend you can normally choose the cheapest weekend to go.
After you take care of these three necessary things the rest is a breeze. Do some research on your country that you are visiting. Learn some basic words in their language. Be sure to check the currency they use. Study a map of the city you will be staying in, and learn where the main sights are. You can always book an excursion if you want, but it is cheaper if you just go with the flow once you are there. Some great things to always do is walk around the cities old town, visit some museums, and try traditional food. Google or TripAdvisor is always handy when I am trying to find things to do in the area I am in traveling in.
A few things to keep in mind when you are traveling are how will you get to the airports? Klaipeda is close to Palanga airport, and you can take a bus to the there. Sometimes Palanga doesn’t have the cheapest flights though. There are also airports in Kaunas, Vilnius, and Riga. (By the way, Vilnius and Riga are both only four/five hours away from Klaipeda. There are big buses (Ollex and airport express) that you take to all three of these airports. Another important thing to remember is to check your baggage allowance when you fly. When you book online, you can research how much baggage you are allowed to bring. It is normally just one carry on. Of course, don’t forget to arrive at the airport early in case there are long lines, and DONT FORGET YOUR PASSPORTS!
I hope you decide to take advantage of the opportunities to travel while you are in Europe. You won’t regret it!