AHHH! I might have jumped ahead a bit after paperwork, but nothing has yet to be as big (beside the acceptance part of course) as THE ticket purchase. So here are some things that I have noticed and used to inform my decision on tickets.
When starting to look for tickets for my big move, I wanted to try to get the best deal. They say the earlier the better for tickets, but I have heard many stories proving this theory wrong (sometimes if you purchase within the 60 day window you get the best deals…etc). However, in my search, it turned out earlier was better and I had to wait. So I decided to break down what I did and provide some tips for purchasing your ticket to move.
This is the only way that I found that you can actually purchase a ticket for as long as a stay as the Fulbright contract since you cannot book that eight months in advance. So truthfully, there is not much else you can do. But, if you are not on Fulbright, but moving to Spain for an undetermined amount of time, do it this way. If you are early enough and during the off season, airfare is cheap. Do it. This would have been smarter for several study abroad people that I met while I was in Spain my first time for the reason that changing flights is not as easy as the movies make it seem. I had a friend book her ticket for May, but ended up wanting to stay longer in Europe and had to pay $300 to change the ticket date and the difference of the two tickets. CRAZINESS. So if you tend to go on the side of “going with the flow,” book a one-way! Plus, it makes it more adventurous to only have a one-way right?!
2. Students, Young Adults, Teachers, DISCOUNTS, OH MY!
When I first traveled abroad I didn’t realize how many student companies were out there that are willing to give young people discounts on traveling. It’s like they want you to travel or something? Weird. Anyway, I would suggest looking into companies like Student Universe, which is the company I used when I traveled the first time to Spain. Student Universe is packed with tons of discounts on airfare and housing specials too. They also have a plethora of information regarding hotels, hostels (with discounts), tours, rail passes, etc. And the cool perk is that flights for students are discounted. I didn’t end up using Student Universe for my ticket this year, I used STA Travel instead. This is a similar company, but they had a cheaper flight for Madrid when I looked, so I used them. The only downside (or upside) that I have seen so far was that you have to purchase a student card in order to get those tickets. I didn’t know this when I purchased my ticket. They are $25 which is not crazy expensive, but part of me thinks purchasing the ticket from Student Universe (which was only $40 more) would have been better…I don’t know! Either way, I got a student discount and this discount card that I purchased provides me discounts at hostels and other airfare which are cool too!
3. Get a good credit card or find a milage plan for you!
So when I went to Spain the first time, I had neither of these things. I had just received my first credit card that was a super easy “student credit card.” This helped in situations of dire need, but really didn’t do much for me otherwise. I only say this because I just got a credit card that does gain me miles so I am a little biased. Anyway, I would highly recommend if you trust yourself and have good credit, apply for a credit card that has some pretty cool perks. I just started using Chase Sapphire. This card is amazing. On top of the mileage points that you gain when you use it on airfare, you also have no foreign transaction fees! WHAT?! This was pretty much the selling point for me. Also if you spend a certain amount in the first three month you get 50,000 points right off the bat. Since I ended up purchasing my ticket and my entire families tickets (who are visiting me in December), I met this amount and now reap all the points. Can you say free trip to Germany!? Just kidding. But it is nice so far! There are more cards out there to look at that could be right for you and your lifestyle. I also looked at Capital One and their traveling cards as well that had some pretty great benefits. Lastly on the miles, sign up for an American Airlines Advantage card. I did not do this the first time I went and I kind of wish I did. Whenever you fly with AA you track points on your card that can gain you some cool upgrades on your flight cars, hotels, etc. You can sync your flights from Student Universe or STA by calling them!
4. Don’t rush to the purchase, but don’t wait around forever
In my search for the best priced ticket, I found myself looking at a ton of different websites and reading even more reviews about airlines. The truth is, there are ways to travel extremely cheap, flexible schedules are the key component to getting those flights. I looked at flights that had me at layovers for 13hrs. In theory, this would be an amazing opportunity to see different cities for a day or so. However, to me, with all my luggage that I know I am going to have, it was not worth it. But, if you have the time and the patience, DO IT (I will be forever envious!) Once I was being realistic, I sat and looked for another few weeks at tickets when finally I just gave in and bought a ticket. This was an ok move because I did get a great deal and discount on my ticket, but, it was $20 higher than when I had looked a few weeks ago. Now, I know. $20 in the scheme of things, no problem and I am not upset with my purchase, but it is $20. Anyway, it is just something to think about when purchasing; know what your options are, but don’t wait for it to buy itself…because it won’t.
5. Habla con sus amigos! Talk to your friends!
One thing that I did not do when I was getting ready to study in Spain the first time was to use my resources. By the time I got back from Spain, I realized I had several people I knew that had studied abroad and had great advice on traveling…such as traveling on a Wednesday seems to be the cheapest day…who knew? Not me! I think I was so caught up in the excitement that I just didn’t ask around for advice. This time around, I changed my ways and thankfully used our Facebook-Fulbright group to make my decision on my flight. If you don’t have a group, ask an advisor at your university, look at blogs (cough, cough), email past participants, etc. Anyway to connect with people to talk about their experiences will help you make those huge decisions. I have had such a fun time researching about Haro, La Rioja from others’ blogs this summer, it has truly helped me in so many ways and more than just buying my ticket!
So those are my cinco consejos! I would love to answer any other questions and I hope these helped a little. Remember that your trip is your trip, do it the way you want to and be ok with those decisions!
Buena suerte a todos,