Read a Newspaper & Feel Like a Local

April 18, 2011

When planning a trip you’ll certainly surf the web a bit. You should check in with National Geographic, check out some forums where you can talk to other travelers and get advice, and talking with an experienced travel agent is a good idea as well.

Whats hot in the Southern Hemisphere? Check out the New Zealand Herald to find out what people from Auckland to Dunedin are talking about.

Another simple thing to do is to find the local newspaper for your destination online and read up on what’s going on there. It’s an easy way to get weather reports, find out about local festivals or events you may want to attend, or just to get a feel for what the people there are talking about.

It’s much easier to strike up a conversation with locals when you’re able to ask them about a recent concert, important court case, big sporting event, or just something funny you saw (“What’s the deal with that surfing poodle?”).

Here are some of the best sources for news in other parts of the world:


Pack Smart for Long and Short Trips

April 13, 2011

Her bag isn't bigger on the inside. It just seems that way.

When it comes to packing your clothes, how do you roll?

Lengthwise, top to bottom, one pant leg at a time?

A recent New York Times article gave tips from flight attendant Heather Poole on how she packs enough into her carry-on bag to last 10 days. Who would know more about packing than someone who flies for a living, right?

Her main tip is to roll clothes, don’t fold them. I started rolling my clothes a few years ago, after seeing the tip on “Oprah” (What? She can be helpful sometimes.) and it’s served me well across Europe and Australia.

Rolling reduces wrinkles, makes the most of your space, and whenever I pick up a fragile souvenir, I find putting it in between my rolled clothes gives it good protection for the journey home.

This bag might actually be bigger on the inside.

Other things you might want to try when packing (based on my own trial and error):

1. Put your socks, underwear, gloves and other small clothing items into big zip bags. If you have to find clothes in a hostel, in the dark, it will be easier to reach in your bag and find one big plastic bag than to hunt for two matching socks that have gone their separate ways.

2. Pack a couple of empty plastic bags when you begin and use them for dirty laundry or wet towels as you go. It will keep your clean clothes from being tainted by travel grime and when you have time to do laundry, you just have to grab the “dirty” bag and go.

3. Plan mix-and-match outfits. No matter how cute that one top is, if it only goes with that one skirt and one pair of shoes, forget it. If you can bring maybe five tops and three bottoms that all work together, you can layer and swap items so that you aren’t always wearing the exact same thing, but aren’t lugging around your full closet either.

4. Keep your itinerary in mind. If you’re hitting London, Paris and Barcelona just to party, then bring the club clothes, the big makeup bag, the curling iron, the cute heels and whatever else you need to have a good time. But if your plan is to hike and camp for 90% of your trip, with just a few nights out, then leave them at home. Anything you might only use once or twice isn’t worth its weight in your bag.

What are your best packing tips?



When in Arkansas, Shop Like an Arkansan

April 11, 2011

Arkansas probably wouldn’t break my top 100 places to visit. Not that it’s a terrible place, it’s just not somewhere I ever imagined myself spending time.

But last week I had the chance to take a free trip to Arkansas for business, and I just can’t say no to free frequent flier miles, so off I went.

Unlike most of my travel destinations, there were no big museums, famous concert halls, large monuments or other well-known sights to see. So instead I looked at this trip as a chance to try some typical Southern experiences. That meant eating a lot of really good barbeque, and shopping at a really big Walmart.

When I grocery shopped in New Zealand I learned that they’re a lot more creative with their tuna than we are. When I shopped at an Arkansas Walmart Supercenter, I learned that people there have very diverse but intense needs for barbeque sauce:

They also enjoy their cheese puff ball things:

But they also have some decent choices in fresh produce, which surprised me:

And while most of what I saw looked like a big strip mall, the Bentonville town square, where you can visit the free Walmart museum (woo hoo!) is  kinda nice:

The lesson here is that you don’t have to run off to Europe to feel like you’ve really travelled. You just have to go somewhere new to you, and learn a little about what life is like for the people who live there.

And if you get a few thousand frequent flier miles out of the deal, even better.

Save money, travel better,


Sightseeing Must: Subway Stations

April 8, 2011

The Dome of Light in Formosa Boulevard station, Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Photo by

The Matador Network is a great collection of travel stories and resources, and I love when it points me to collections like this one:

Art in Subway Stations Around the World

I’ve written before that I think travel should include not just the big sights, but the everyday sights, too.

So along with the Louvre and the Sydney Opera House, you should also visit a McDonald’s or a laundromat or a neighborhood market. That’s how you get a feel for how the locals live and what their tastes are.

And in this case, you also get to see how some cities create art for everyone. You don’t have to be rich to see these creative works. You just have to wander into a subway station.

And now, I really need to get to the Place-Des-Arts metro station in Montreal.

What’s your favorite train or subway station?



Best April Fool’s Day Travel Pranks

April 1, 2011

For April Fool’s today, sniqueaway.com (no, the spelling of the name isn’t part of the joke – it’s just an embarrassing misuse of letters) is offering a great deal at Con Nuri Eleganza, where you get hourly double rainbows:

Unicorn rentals can be reserved remotely via a really strong wish.

This resort features a miniature Loch Ness monster, unicorn rentals, a bathroom mirror that shows you as you looked in 1996, fairy masseuses, a Jell-O moat and monkey butlers.

The description is over-the-top enough that you know it’s a joke, but it would still be a fun place to visit… in my mind. I’m going there now.

Check out some past travel pranks, like the time WestJet Airlines fooled its passengers by asking them all to help save energy during takeoff by stretching out their arms and flapping. Oh, WestJet.

Have a great weekend!


Spend Summer 2011 Soundwaving in Croatia

March 30, 2011

Imagine yourself having the following conversation with someone when you get back to campus after summer vacation:

You don't have to speak Croatian to scream "Woooooo!"

[Friend who had a dull summer]: Hey.
[You]: Hi!
[Friend]: How was your break?
[You]: Awesome. You?
[Friend]: Pretty boring. Just stayed home, worked. What did you do?
[You, trying not to gloat]: Not much. Hung with friends, worked a little, roadtripped from London to Petrcane for the Soundwave Croatia music fest.
[Friend looks at you with a mixture of disbelief and envy.]: Oh. Cool.

So start getting ready. Grab some friends, find a vehicle for less than $1000, and join the Run to the Sun caravan for a trans-Europe adventure before hitting Soundwave Croatia 2011, a 3-day festival being held July 22-24.

Did you know Croatia was so freaking pretty?

Once there you can enjoy music on the beach, in a tiki bar, on a boat or at Barbarella’s Discoteque.

Read more about Soundwave 2011, and practice saying “Živjeli!”

Roots Manuva,


Here’s An Air Safety Video You’ll Actually Watch

March 28, 2011

If you fly more than a couple of times a year, you probably know the bland safety warnings by heart.

I know that once I see the nice flight attendant stand in the aisle with his or her practice seat belt, I usually open my book, stare out the window, and start to daydream about where I’m headed, or wherever I’ve just been.

(Ok, that’s not entirely true. If the person is standing near me I try to look attentive because I don’t want to hurt their feelings. I’m sensitive like that.)

But not on Air New Zealand.

The airline that brought you a commercial of naked people in body paint has brought that same fun onto their planes by hiring Richard Simmons, the man who got people to sweat to the oldies, to star in their new air safety video.

Take a look:

What do you think? Will this keep your attention long enough to learn how to “stretch and slide”?

You’re a giraffe!


Spend Summer 2011 Touring Europe’s Best Festivals!

March 25, 2011

It’s not like there aren’t already a million things to see in Europe between the museums, monuments, battlegrounds, parks, canals, cafes, castles and tasty locals.

But hey, since you’re already going that far, you may as well throw in a once-in-a-lifetime cultural experience as well. Europe hosts some of the largest, most exciting festivals in the world. Time your trip right and you can take in one of these events:

La Tomatina
Bunol, Spain
August 31, 2011
It might be the world’s largest food fight. Certainly it’s the most well-known and best organized. Feel like a kid again when you spend an hour throwing tomatoes at friends and strangers and rolling around in the pulpy goo.

Notting Hill Carnival
London, England
August 28-29, 2011
Billed as “Europe’s largest street faire”, the Caribbean-flavored carnival includes a parade, DJs, and lots of glitter and sequins. Take a minute to get a photo of the shop with the blue door that was Hugh Grant’s book store in “Notting Hill”.

Festival FringeThe Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Edinburgh, Scotland
August 5 – 29, 2011
Anyone can perform at this open arts festival, including comedians, street performers, and other artists. In 2010, 21,148 performers put on 2,453 different shows for a total of 40,254 performances in 259 venues. So there’s got to be something there you’re going to love, right?

Munich, Germany
September 17 – October 3, 2011
Pretzels. Shnitzel. Beer. Music. Yum.

Find more festival ideas and, as always, chat with a TravelCUTS student travel expert before you go. They can help you find student airfares, hostels and rail passes, and they’re just fun to talk to.

See you there!


Book a Contiki Trip and Save $200 on Airfare

March 21, 2011

Exams will be over before you know it, so it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll be spending the summer.

If you’re looking for ways to save, then consider this deal: Book one of Contiki Holiday’s European tours at Travel CUTS by March 31st, 2011 and get a $200 air credit towards your trip.

Visit your local Travel CUTS store or call 800.667.2887 to take advantage of this deal. It’s good for travel through the end of the year, so you could plan to go before you start a semester abroad in the fall, or spend Christmas skiing Europe.

Not sure where you want to go? Read more about Contiki trips and find the one that’s right for you!


Take a Quick Trip to Paris

March 18, 2011

What are you doing for the next two minutes and seven seconds? Nothing? Perfect. Take a short trip to Paris, courtesy of Luke Shepard, a student at the American University of Paris.

Now you’re ready to start your weekend.

Bon voyage!