10 ways to save money while abroad, You're Making Memories, Not Breaking The Bank

10 ways to save money while abroad, You're Making Memories, Not Breaking The Bank

Whether traveling, studying, or working- this is how you do it.

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This summer, I studied abroad in Prague for two months. While abroad, I traveled to seven other countries in Europe. Here's how I did it...

1. Compare prices of hostels and Airbnbs

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I found while traveling abroad, NO HOTEL gave me as good of a deal as hostels or Airbnbs. If you're traveling with a big group of people, you can usually book a 10 to 12 person hostel for all of you. Hey, it's not the most glamorous but it's kind of like one, big sleepover. If possible, try to have one person book the hostel for all of you together because you will save money on booking fees, key fees, and any other hidden fees. To compare prices of different hostels in the area you'll be staying, I recommend using Hostel World.

In some areas (especially if you're traveling with a group of people), it may be cheaper to book an Airbnb. If you're staying for more than 3-4 days, I would definitely recommend this since most Airbnbs have access to a kitchen and cooking supplies so you can make some of your own meals. Some hosts will even volunteer to take you around the city and show you local spots!

2. Book everything on Google Chrome Incognito browser

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This is EXTREMELY important. If your browser history is filled with visits to the same hotel, train, or plane booking sites, the next time you return to the website, you'll most likely see an increase in prices. If you don't have access to Google Chrome, make sure to clear both your browser history and cookies before booking anything travel related.

3. Prioritize where you want to go each place

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Before each trip, make (at least) an outline and research everything you want to do. That way, you can budget and make sure you have time for each activity. A mistake I ran into traveling was having a list of things I wanted to do, but not looking into them beforehand so I was shocked whenever I found out that going on the London Eye would cost me $30 and it was a 50-minute walk from my next destination.

4. Buy a phone or date plan

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This is especially important if you're traveling for over two weeks. The LAST thing you want to happen is receiving random data or phone charges upon your arrival to the US. So before leaving, research the different phone plans in each country you're visiting. If traveling throughout Europe, I recommend looking into Vodafone or Sprint. Immediately after arriving in Prague, I paid around $100 for a two-month 20 GB data and 2,000-minute calling plan (which is a lot cheaper than any amount you'd pay in international charges to AT&T or Verizon).

5. Try to avoid eating in the main city center

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I promise that you can find the same food you're looking for within a ten-minute walk from the main city center. When eating in the touristy areas, food prices are usually incredibly inflated. Besides, if you're looking for authentic food, it's going to be extremely Americanized and overpriced than anything you'll find that's a slightly further walk from the main attractions.

6. Pack efficiently

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This one may sound a little weird, but seriously! The last thing you want is a $75 overweight baggage fee both ways. Avoid bringing extra clothes, shoes, or jewelry- even if it's SUPER cute.

7. Book far in advance

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This again may seem (very) obvious, but there are some places or things that you wouldn't expect would go up in price when booking last minute. For example, when booking a train ride, hostel, or cab ride from the airport, these prices can inflate pretty drastically if you don't book at least 1.5 weeks in advance. That being said, it's always best to have everything booked before your trip, even if you think it won't matter that much.

8. Don't eat out every meal

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This one may seem obvious, but seriously! It's okay to not have an Instagram-worthy brunch every day. Go grocery shopping for some meals and cook if you have access to a kitchen. Having a picnic with friends in a park is a great way to save money (and also really fun).

9. Use Google Flights

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On an incognito browser, of course. But seriously, this is the perfect tool if you know you want to go somewhere, but you're not quite sure where. Using this tool, you can put in your departing airport, how long you want to stay, and Google Flights will show you a map of the different prices to various locations. That way if you're deciding between Barcelona or London for a weekend, this will make it an easier choice.

10. Capitalize on specials each place you want to go

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In each place you travel, there are bound to be a plethora of free events, classes, etc. CAPITALIZE ON THAT! Research different events happening in your city beforehand, and who knows, you may have more fun there than doing any paid activity. For activities or other things that cost money, make sure to look into any discounts or specials! For transportation, Go Euro offers different summer and travel passes so you pay a one time fee for traveling by train or bus instead of separate payments. For lodging, many places offer large group discounts or student discounts.

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I Visited The "Shameless" Houses And Here's Why You Shouldn't

Glamorizing a less-than-ideal way to live.
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After five hours of driving, hearing the GPS say "Turn right onto South Homan Avenue" was a blessing. My eyes peeled to the side of the road, viciously looking for what I have been driving so long for, when finally, I see it: the house from Shameless.

Shameless is a hit TV show produced by Showtime. It takes place in modern-day Southside, Chicago. The plot, while straying at times, largely revolves around the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. While a majority of the show is filmed offsite in a studio in Los Angeles, many outside scenes are filmed in Southside and the houses of the Gallagher's and side-characters are very much based on real houses.

We walked down the street, stopped in front of the two houses, took pictures and admired seeing the house in real life. It was a surreal experience and I felt out-of-place like I didn't belong there. As we prepared to leave (and see other spots from the show), a man came strolling down on his bicycle and asked how we were doing.

"Great! How are you?"

It fell silent as the man stopped in front of the Gallagher house, opened the gate, parked his bike and entered his home. We left a donation on his front porch, got back to the car and took off.

As we took the drive to downtown Chicago, something didn't sit right with me. While it was exciting to have this experience, I began to feel a sense of guilt or wrongdoing. After discussing it with my friends, I came to a sudden realization: No one should visit the "Gallagher" house.

The plot largely revolves the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. It represents what Southside is like for so many residents. While TV shows always dramatize reality, I realized coming to this house was an exploitation of their conditions. It's entertaining to see Frank's shenanigans on TV, the emotional roller coasters characters endure and the outlandish things they have to do to survive. I didn't come here to help better their conditions, immerse myself in what their reality is or even for the donation I left: I came here for my entertainment.

Southside, Chicago is notoriously dangerous. The thefts, murders and other crimes committed on the show are not a far-fetched fantasy for many of the residents, it's a brutal reality. It's a scary way to live. Besides the Milkovich home, all the houses typically seen by tourists are occupied by homeowners. It's not a corporation or a small museum -- it's their actual property. I don't know how many visitors these homes get per day, week, month or year. Still, these homeowners have to see frequent visitors at any hour of the day, interfering with their lives. In my view, coming to their homes and taking pictures of them is a silent way of glamorizing the cycle of poverty. It's a silent way of saying we find joy in their almost unlivable conditions.

The conceit of the show is not the issue. TV shows have a way of romanticizing very negative things all the time. The issue at hand is that several visitors are privileged enough to live in a higher quality of life.

I myself experienced the desire and excitement to see the houses. I came for the experience but left with a lesson. I understand that tourism will continue to the homes of these individuals and I am aware that my grievances may not be shared with everyone -- however, I think it's important to take a step back and think about if this were your life. Would you want hundreds, potentially thousands, of people coming to your house? Would you want people to find entertainment in your lifestyle, good and bad?

I understand the experience, excitement, and fun the trip can be. While I recommend skipping the houses altogether and just head downtown, it's most important to remember to be respectful to those very individuals whose lives have been affected so deeply by Shameless.

Cover Image Credit: itsfilmedthere.com

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Snow Hinton Park Is A Blast, If You Can Get Over Your Fear Of Heights

Sometimes you need a little adventure to spice up your day, which led my friends and me to take a quick side trip to Snow Hinton to tackle the giant rope course. Here's a recap of our experience.

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Last week, my friends and I decided to take a quick trip to Snow Hinton Park. "What's Snow Hinton Park?" you might be saying, "I've never heard of that park before!" I bet you at least know what it's known for. Have you ever seen the mountainous, red climbing structure along McFarland that seems to be plaguing people's snap stories? Well, Snow Hinton is where to find it!

My friends — Sydney, Alexis, Eva and Jacob — and I just finished eating lunch, and, on our way to Walmart, we saw the iconic structure, and Sydney interjected that we should take a quick stop there. As I've never been before, either, I agreed, and we took a sharp left towards the park instead of continuing straight down McFarland. As we walked towards the ropes, Jacob and Eva, who'd been there before, started to back off; they weren't up for the challenge a second time.

Syd and Alexis walked towards the structure as I took off running. As soon as I reached the structure, I reached for the highest rope I could, did a pullover, and hung upside down, my hair a couple feet from touching the ground. Sydney and Alexis took a more cautious approach, starting from the ground up, and carefully planning each step, as I scaled the structure with ease, tearing up the red rope with each step. I got to the top in less than five minutes, doing acrobatic moves while holding onto the ropes along the way. I was being so extra, that Syd shouted at me, "Stop it! I don't want to have to get a new roommate this semester!"

Once I finally reached the top, I felt like a king, towering over two stories above Tuscaloosa. I waved down at Syd and Alexis, as they finally got halfway up the ropes. Going down the giant, silver spiral slide was one of the most satisfying things in the world, sealing the fact that I made it to the top of the mountain; a fun reward for a slightly terrifying journey. As Sydney and Alexis were almost to the top, I scaled it again and encouraged them to continue climbing. Once we were all were finally at the top, we waved to Jacob and Eva, who were seated on a bench nearby, to signify our success. We wrapped it up by going down the slide, but I guess Sydney wanted to leave a piece of herself on the mountain because she managed to lose her phone before she hit the ground at the bottom.

I'm glad I finally got to experience the rope tower at Snow Hinton, as it's really fun if you're athletic or looking for a challenge, especially when you have friends to conquer it with you. While the height of it may seem scary, getting to the top is satisfying because, you did it, you managed to get past a possible fear of heights (or fear of falling, in my case), and are at the top of the world, or the top of Tuscaloosa, at least.

Me casually flipping upside down about 15 feet off the groundAlexis Whitfield

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