Archive for August, 2008


Party Under the Full Moon in Australia

August 28, 2008

Full Moon PartyThe first Full Moon Party took place on the beach of Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand back in 1987. Over the past 20 years it’s grown from a few dozen revelers to more than 10,000 celebrants each month. It’s a destination for many backpackers, and has spawned several other Full Moon events around the world.

If Thailand isn’t on your agenda, but you’re still headed south for the winter, check out the happenings on Magnetic Island, just off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Every month there’s a new Full Moon party at base backpackers. Plan ahead for these dates:

  • Friday 15th August 2008
  • Friday 12th September 2008
  • Friday 10th October 2008
  • Friday 14th November 2008
  • Friday 12th December 2008
  • Wednesday 31st December 2008
  • Friday 6th February 2009
  • Friday 13th March 2009

Magnetic Island is a popular destination for diving, kayaking, touring the Reef, jetskiing, and just kicking back as well, so when you’re bored with Sydney (is that possible?), and looking for something further off the beaten backpacker track than Byron Bay or the Whitsundays, hop on a ferry and forget about civilization for a while.

And ladies, if you want to get away from it all, but not so far away that you can’t find a hair dryer, try base’s Sanctuary – girls-only accommodation that includes niceties you don’t usually find in other hostels. Co-ed dorms can be fun, but sometimes it’s nice to get away from the snoring and smelly shoes and things that go ‘burp’ in the night.

As always, get your ISIC before you go to take advantage of the great discounts. The more you save, the longer you can play.


Spend New Year’s In New York!

August 27, 2008

It doesn’t matter if you’re still busy with back-to-school shopping and haven’t even thought about your Halloween costume yet. New Year’s is one of those things that sneaks up on you. Procrastinate now and before you know it you’re scrambling for a date, a party, a ticket to a concert, anything you can get your hands on to keep you out of the house and away from Dick Clark’s shabby replacement.

One of the easiest things to do is get a friend or two together now and book a trip to New York where you can greet 2009 in style – screaming at the top of your lungs in Times Square.

Contiki is offering just such a trip with a package that includes twin-share accommodations, a metro pass, tour guide and some meals. They’ll get you settled with a place to stay, basic sightseeing and some other student travelers that you might hit it off with, and then you can personalize the trip by planning your own must-sees around that. The package is reasonably priced at USD $845 for five days and can be booked right now.

Will the Naked Cowboy be around for a New Year’s kiss? That I don’t know. But there will be plenty of other lips around for you to meet and greet. Book this now so that you can cross it off your To Do list and start putting your real planning efforts into Spring Break 🙂


Exiled! To a Student Traveler’s Dream Location!

August 26, 2008

ExiledOh MTV, how you spice up our lives and drive us crazy with tales of losers, princesses, and princesses who don’t realize what losers they are.

Mostly, I think MTV does a good job of encouraging young people to get involved in the world around them. They’ve run some excellent election coverage in the past, interviewed candidates and talked about issues in a way that shows young people how their votes count and the impact they can have. They’ve also been vocal about environmental issues, education, and safe sex.

Then there’s “My Super Sweet 16”. Ugly from top to bottom, whiny inside and out, the show demonstrates everything that makes people around the world hate Americans. Not in a political way, just in a culturally vacant, greedy, self-righteous, indignant way. I cringe at the waste and expense and arrogance that useless people go to just to celebrate themselves, when they’ve never done anything worth celebrating.

However, if there’s one thing that people all over the world love to watch, it’s someone who is pompous and selfish being dragged off the pedestal they had custom made and bedazzled. So now MTV is giving their party girls and boys the comeuppance we all knew they deserved… which also happens to be the holiday of my dreams.

In “Exiled”, MTV’s former Super Snotty 16s are sent to live in remote parts of Thailand, Kenya, Peru, and other places that most of us would have to save up lots of cash and vacation time to get to. They are placed with locals (no tour buses or hostels for these kids), given insight to local culture, and immersed in the daily tasks and traditions of their hosts.

Isn’t this the kind of experience most travelers would kill for? It’s not like these teens are being sent to a really bad part of Chicago or L.A. They aren’t being asked to tutor death row inmates or work 12-hour days with a dry cleaner in Chinatown. They’re being sent to gorgeous locations, given privileges and adventures that would take other travelers weeks to arrange, and they’re crying about it. Why? Because they won’t have any cell phone reception, and there isn’t a mall or nail salon anywhere. Daddy, come get me!

To MTV’s credit, this is more than just a show where people have to eat bugs and make fools of themselves. There are lessons to be learned, a bigger world to understand. MTV even has a whole “Think” campaign that provides more detailed information about the issues these unwilling travelers discover, like the importance of clean drinking water in Africa.

And I suppose the premise that some people have to be told that travel is good for them isn’t so far-fetched. I remember the first People to People Student Ambassador trip I did in high school, where somewhere between Geneva and Paris one of the girls on the trip decided that she was sick of this foreign stuff, she couldn’t possibly be away from her boyfriend for another 10 whole days, and since the whole thing was her parents’ dumb idea, she called and harassed them until they agreed she could fly home early.

Meanwhile, many of the kids on the trip had spent months working part-time jobs, holding fundraisers, washing neighborhood cars and dogs and mowing lawns to be able to afford the experience. They appreciated every moment of it, probably more than those whose parents just cut a check.

Is travel better when you want it enough to work for it, or can you unexpectedly, spontaneously develop an appreciation for it? I don’t know. I’ll have to watch a few more episodes to decide.


Food, Folks and Fun at the Big Mac Museum

August 22, 2008

Big MacDid they? Did they really? Did McDonald’s create a Big Mac Museum? Yeah, they did, and it celebrates its one-year anniversary this weekend.

Thank you,, for finding these treasures and sharing them with us.

If you find yourself near North Huntingdon, PA, stop in for a bite to eat at this working McDonald’s and take a picture with the giant hamburger in the window. Why? Because people like to take pictures of giant things. It kitchy and silly and for years after your trip you can look at it and say, “Remember the Big Mac Museum? That place was so weird.”

Most travel is driven by things we want to see, experiences we want to have. But sometimes curiosity or the fact that something seems bizarre or repellent is just as good a reason to get in your car and go. Why else would circuses have moustached women, albino alligators or two-headed goats?

Two all beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun…


Another Travel Photo Contest

August 20, 2008


National Geographic Traveler has extended the deadline for its World in Focus photo contest to September 8, 2008. That gives you all of Labor Day weekend to get out, shoot a few dozen frames and then choose a favorite to enter for a chance to win a 15-day trip for two to Antarctica aboard the National Geographic Endeavour or one of the other great prizes.

If you don’t enter, you’re guaranteed not to win, so why not take a shot? So to speak.

Good luck and happy clicking!


Take a Sweet Holiday in Connecticut

August 18, 2008

Sundae Drives

Here’s a quick vacation idea that’s cheap in dollars although maybe costly in calories.

Mystic Country in Connecticut has put together a trail of 35 ice cream shops which they have creatively called “Sundae Drives”. Get it? Get it? Sundae?

Many of the shops offer homemade treats, and you might even see a real cow or two. Get more details at

It may not be as exotic as you’d like a vacation destination to be, but the happiness factor with ice cream is high, and any journey that makes you smile is a journey worth making.


Connect With the World Down Under

August 14, 2008

I had no intention of switching from Myspace to Facebook. Everyone I knew was on Myspace, I was all set up there, and it’s blue hues felt cozy and homey compared to the stark whiteness of Facebook.

About a year ago though I found out that Canadian Chris, who I met in Sydney, was on Facebook. If I wanted to swap messages and links and YouTube videos with him, I would have to join. Ditto English Chris, who I met in a Sydney nightclub. Also, Sparky (real name Chris, but there are already too many of them).

Pretty soon Facebook helped me to reconnect with lots of the people I met traveling, some of whom I hadn’t talked to in two or three years. I met dozens of wonderful people while traveling Australia – more people than I’ve ever met on any other trip anywhere. Why? I think it’s because the whole country caters to backpackers and student travelers. There’s an entire industry in place to help you move city to city, adventure to adventure.

Australia Zoo

Australia Zoo

That (back)pack mentality may make it harder for you to get off the beaten path, but it also makes it much easier to meet likeminded travelers, to socialize with large groups of people who are enjoying the same experiences, and to find great deals. After all, the larger the market, the more options you have, and the more power you have when choosing where to spend your travel dollars.

Two of the best ways to see Australia with limited fuss and maximum enjoyment are a Contiki tour and the Oz Experience bus. Contiki provides tours with set schedules and activities. If you have a set amount of days and specific sights you want to see, Contiki can get you around and hit the highlights with almost no independent planning required on your part.

Oz Experience gives you more control over your schedule. It’s an open bus pass – you hop on and off buses when it suits you. You can choose to stay in one place for two days, two weeks or two months. There are some restrictions, and the buses may not always fit your schedule as precisely as you’d like, but you are guaranteed to meet a ridiculous number of other backpackers as you go.

Learn more about both of these options from Travel CUTS, or call an agent for more details.