Archive for December, 2007

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Make Your 2008 Travel Resolutions

December 31, 2007

signsHow many days did you spend traveling this year? Whether it was five or 50, you probably wish it had been more. Make it easier to get where you want to go in 2008 by being prepared to hit the road at a moment’s notice. Think of these things as a traveler’s kit of necessities:

Passport – Without it, you’re facing some serious delays in trip planning. The law requiring a passport to travel to Canada and Mexico went into effect last year, then was relaxed, but only some places, depending on where and how you entered and who was on duty that day. Don’t let a lack of identification keep you from joining friends on a last-minute run across the border, or from passing up an unbeatble airfare to Paris or London or Tokyo. Passports are good for 10 years, so once you have it in hand you won’t have to think about it again for a whole decade. Visit the U.S. State Department’s website for the forms. You should be able to file them at a Post Office near you.

ISIC, IYTC, or ITIC – Whether you’re a full-time student, a teacher, or a youth under the age of 26, there are thousands of different types of identification out there. Only one is internationally recognized as proof of your student, teacher or youth status. Get this card at a Travel CUTS store or order online and start saving money on museums, bus, airline, and train tickets, restaurants, and activities in more than 90 countries (and in your home town).

Hostelling International Card – This card can also be ordered online and will get you:

  • Discounts at more than 4, 000 hostels worldwide, including 11 in the USA
  • Savings of up to 85% on international phone calls, free email access, voicemail and travel info through eKit
  • Discounts at restaurants, stores, and attractions
  • Discounts on Greyhound transportation and tours
  • Discounts on Alamo and Hertz car rentals
  • Worldwide, commission-free currency exchange
  • Free seminars on traveling abroad
  • Luggage that won’t cause you pain – find yourself a few different pieces that you can afford, that you won’t be devestated if they get lost or damaged, and that are comfortable to pack and carry. A good backpack is essential and one that has the ability to expand or shrink will work for weekends away or longer backpacking trips. You don’t have to spend a fortune on luggage. In fact, garage sales, thrift stores, and discount shops have great deals.

    A library card – Great travels require great planning. You don’t have to put together a daily itinerary, but a basic understanding of the region you’re visiting, the languages you’re going to encounter, and the major sights you want to see will help a lot. Rather than spending your money on heavy books to lug with you, do your reading before you go for free, photocopy any maps or helpful language charts, and then buy a small pocket-sized guide to go with you. If you’re an AAA member, take advantage of their free roadmaps and books.

    With all of these things ready, 2008 could be your best travel year yet. Get out there!

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    Sleeping Is the Adventure in Treehouse Hostels

    December 28, 2007

    Once you’ve had enough pampering in a castle hostel, get back to nature with a night or two in a treehouse hostel. Here’s what some of the best in the world have to say about themselves:

    Hostel in the ForestBrunswick, Georgia, USA:The Hostel in the Forest has operated as an International Youth Hostel for 32 years. We are world renowned for our geodesic domes and 9 tree houses, which were built and have been sustained entirely by volunteers. The Hostel sits on 120 acres of forest and wetlands, 2 miles from H.W.95 in Brunswick, Georgia. It is located short distances from the famous “Golden Isles” of St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island. There are also many prisitne coastal barrier islands including the famous Cumberland National Seashore close by.” (Have a look at their photo gallery.)

    Mission BeachMission Beach, Australia: “The Treehouse YHA at Mission Beach is a truly unique backpacker hostel. This spacious, island-style, pole-framed timber building is nestled in lush rainforest. The YHA hostel features lofty ceilings and a sundeck overlooking a stunning pool area. Backpackers can enjoy sun lounges, hammocks on shaded verandahs, regular BBQ meals, the latest international newspapers and magazines, a great little library, CD player, board games… and the hostel has NO TV!”

    KadirOlympos, Turkey:Kadir’s Tree Houses now has two bars, serving guests from lunch until the last guest leaves, and a 150 seat seafood restaurant and snack bar. With its unspoilt scenery and fascinating Lycian history, this part of Turkey’s Mediterranean coast is the perfect place for an unforgettable holiday.

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    Travel Cheap. Stay in a Castle.

    December 27, 2007

    Carbisdale CastleAs long as you’re traveling, meeting new people and jumping into new experiences, you should make the most out of every night by staying somewhere that will offer you more than just a place to sleep and a warm-ish bathing opportunity.

    Even on a student traveler budget, you can stay in some very swanky places. The castle in this photo right here is just one of them, but not a bad one to start with. Carbisdale Castle in Scotland has the usual bunk beds and dining area, but it also has a collection of fine art, a statue gallery, and some rooms that may be a wee bit haunted. If that interests you, ask to stay in The Spook Room. 

    Also in Scotland is Loch Lomond Castle in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park and Rua Reidh Lighthouse (which is a lighthouse and not a castle, but still very cool and only £10 for a hostel bed). 

    Stahleck hostelIf you’re sticking to the continent, no problem. Germany, Italy, and Switzerland have castle hostels as well, all affordable prices. Jugendherberge Burg Stahleck in Germany (pictured here) is located above the wine-grower’s town of Bacharach in the Loreley Valley and beds start at £17.40 a night. For more German castles, visit this page and do a search using the handy “Castles” checkbox option.

    For castle hostels in the Netherlands, start with Kasteel Westhove. And if you’re more of a chalet person, then the Chalet Martin in the Swiss Alps is for you. Beds start at £12 a night and you can’t beat the view.

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    Winter Specials at a Hostel Near You

    December 26, 2007

    Lighthouse hostelThe holidays are about over and you’ve had more than enough quality time with your family, but school doesn’t start up for a few more weeks. What to do? How about a mini-holiday?

    Hostels around the country offer good deals and excellent sights and adventures that you can enjoy without going more than a day’s drive away. Winter is the perfect time to take advantage of special rates and smaller crowds, and Hostelling International can take you to some very cool locations.

    From November 4, 2007, through February 28, 2008, overnight guests at either the Point Montara Lighthouse or Point Reyes hostels in California can stay one night and get the second night at half price, for stays falling Sunday through Thursday nights, excluding holidays. Have you ever stayed in a lighthouse overlooking the Pacific Ocean? No? Then yuo can hardly pass up the chance to do it now.

    Visit the Snowboarding House in Maine for just $19 a night, or warm up with a weekend hitting the blues clubs and mountain parks in Phoenix for just $18 a night. Spend a night in New York, Chicago, Austin, or even Boise just as cheap, so you’ll have plenty of cash left for food and entertainment.

    Get spontaneous and book a bed today.

    While you’re surfing around, go sign the petition to support a “Centennial of Hostelling” Postage Stamp.

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    Get In the Olympic Spirit

    December 21, 2007

    2008 Olympic torchIf you aren’t going to make it to China for the 2008 Summer Olympics, you can still join in the spirit of the Games by catching the Olympic torch as it travels from Greece to Beijing at the end of March.

    The torch will be seen in dozens of cities, so whether you’re in Paris, Canberra, or the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, you can cheer on the flame and get in the mood for some volleyball and archery. 

    Read more about the 2008 Olympic Torch Relay.

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    New Year’s Eve Around the World

    December 18, 2007

    London fireworksWherever you are on December 31st, chances are there’s something exciting happening. Unless you’re home with your parents. Then I can’t really help you.

    If you don’t have plans yet, there’s still time to get together with friends, or make new friends, or call up old friends and plan a reunion.

    Spending the New Year Down Under? Visit newyearseve.com.au to find out where to see fireworks or get your dance on in Sydney, Adelaide, Hobart, Perth, or somewhere in between.

    If you’re in Edinburgh, you have to do Hogmanay, and in Dublin, Ireland the party will be all over the place. London will have its share of fireworks along the Thames, but if that sounds too chilly for you, how about celebrating Festa de Iemanjá on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro?

    If you’re looking for fun in Tokyo, Paris, Reykjavik, Las Vegas, Amsterdam, Singapore, or even boring old New York, this article on New Year’s Parties Worldwide can give you more details.

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    Where to Go from Melbourne?

    December 14, 2007

    Once you’ve seen all that “Mel-bin” (never say “Mel-bourne”) and St. Kilda have to offer, where will you go next? Adelaide is a nice drive to the west, Canberra a decent road trip to the east, and there are at least a dozen tour companies willing to take you either direction. Here are some of your better choices:

    Twelve Apostles Great Ocean RoadOz Experience: Don’t just get from point A to point B; stop and see the dozens of sights in between. The Oz Bus has several passes and routes to choose from at very reasonable prices, and they can take you around New Zealand too.

    Wayward Bus: Same idea as the Oz bus, but with different paths and stopovers. You may want to compare routes and prices to see which one is going to be right for you.

    Countrylink: If you’re short on time, and want to be able to eat at a snack bar, the train may be a better travel option. Countrylink operates in New South Wales, with extentions into Melbourne and Brisbane. Single tickets can get pricey, but they’re 40% off if you have an International Student Identity Card (ISIC); perfect if you need a one-way to Canberra, or just want to do a weekend in Byron Bay.

    For longer trips, look into their Backtracker Rail Passes. You can get a three-month pass, good for unlimited travel anywhere on the network, for AUD$298. Six-month, one-month, and 14-day passes are also available. Another option is the East Coast Discovery Pass, which covers travel in NSW and connecting service along the coast of Queensland, as far north as Cairns. Prices range from AUD$130 to $493.90, depending on how far you plan to travel. It’s good for unlimited stopovers, but only going in one direction.