Archive for May, 2010

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Enter to Win an Air Canada Flight

May 28, 2010

Feeling lucky? Then enter to win an Air Canada flight by taking a quick, 5-question survey. The deadline is May 31, 2010, so don’t wait!

Any customer who purchases an Air Canada return ticket from Canada to Europe from Travel CUTS during the contest period will receive one additional entry in the contest. So if you have a flight to book, make it count by doing it this weekend.

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Make Friends With Travel

May 27, 2010

It’s not always easy finding the time to research where you want to go, when you should go, what tours and activities are available, how to get around and all the other questions that have to be answered. So why not let the information come to you?

Iceland is my friend.

Facebook is a handy tool for more than just farming and poking people. By “Like”ing or “Friend”ing travel groups that interest you, you can get a daily feed of new travel opportunities, deals and news.

Many of these sites are well monitored, so if you have a question about applying to Semester at Sea, or about what kind of Eurail ticket you should buy for Italy, leave them a comment and someone should reply to you soon.

Travel agents and tour providers:

Work and study programs:

Countries:
(Many countries have multiple unofficial fan pages, so don’t believe everything you read until you’ve checked the page out.)

  • Iceland – Official page, and very funny. Something about an island talking about itself in the first person makes me laugh.
  • France
  • Australia – Official page

General travel:

Lonely Planet

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Read Up On Local News From Around the World

May 24, 2010

When planning a trip you’ll certainly surf the web a bit. You should check in with Lonely Planet and other travel guides, maybe check out some forums where you can ask questions of other traveller’s and get advice, and talking with an experienced travel agent is a good idea as well.

Herald TribuneAnother simple thing to do is to find the local newspaper for your destination 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 election, 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:

Find more news: www.world-newspapers.com

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Be a Castle Stormer in Scotland!

May 21, 2010

If you go to Scotland, what are a few things you have to see?

1. The haunted Carbisdale Castle

2. Loch Ness, with or without monsters

3. Glencoe (where they had the infamous massacre)

Lucky for you, Haggis Adventures now has a two-day tour that will take you to all three sights. The Castle Stormer can be done by itself, if you already have a Scottish holiday planned, or you can combine it with another Haggis tour to see more of what Scotland has to offer.

The great thing with the hop-on hop-off style of tour that Haggis does is that it can make travelling a lot easier for you (no worrying about rental cars, maps, driving or booking rooms and activities), but it doesn’t force you to do a bunch of things you don’t want to. They put a framework together and you can fill it in however you’d like.

If you arrive in a city and fall instantly in love with it, or with the bartender at the local pub, you can hang out as long as you want and hop on the next bus through town when the thrill is gone.

A tour also provides a great opportunity to meet people. Even if you’re with friends, being thrown in a bus with a bunch of strangers can be helpful for those days when you love your BFF, but don’t want to have to listen to her talk about her jet lag for another single second. (It’s five hours later here. You’re tired. We get it.)

Check out all Haggis Adventures has to offer, and have a look at the Shamrocker Irish Adventures as well. When you’re ready to book, talk to a student travel expert at Travel CUTS and they can hook you up with a special student airfare and also help you sort out an ISIC (International Student Identity Card) for discounts.

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Student Travel Deals to Latin America

May 19, 2010

Summer vacation is here, even if it doesn’t quite feel like it in your neck of the woods, and it’s time to get planning. You might not have money for a big trip now, but if you’re getting a summer job then you’ll have funds to spend on a late summer trip before school is back in.

So how about a couple of weeks in Costa Rica or Peru? Hike the Incan Trail, see Machu Picchu or do a couple of nights in the Amazon. There are great deals for student travellers who want to backpack around the beaches and jungles of Latin America.

Pick your trip now so that you have a goal on what you need to earn. It will make early-morning waitressing or late-nights closing up at the mall a lot easier to get through if you know what your reward will be when you’re done.

If you have questions about where to go and how to make your dollars stretch from here to Lima, talk to a student travel expert.

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Couchsurf Your Way Around the World

May 17, 2010

Make yourself at home.You probably spend a lot of time thinking about getting away. Wherever you are, you want away from there. If you have snow you want sand, if you have sand you want mountains, and if you have mountains you want cityscapes.

I was cruising around online looking for some destination inspiration of my own. I decided to see where Londoners were reading about and went to the travel section of a UK newspaper. Where were they recommending readers go on holiday? San Francisco, about 20 minutes from my front door. Hmmm. Where else? The small town of Deal, not far from the white cliffs of Dover. Deal is home to my friend, Luke, and someplace that I once spent a week’s vacation, mostly listening to Luke talk about how dull Deal was and how he wanted to get away.

Well Luke’s living in Tokyo now, but apparently somebody thinks his hometown is worth a visit. And after reading the article on the beaches outside of San Francisco, I thought that sounded like a pretty good trip as well.

Sometimes you don’t need a new destination, just a new perspective.

The best way to try on someone else’s hometown might be to try out their home. Have a look at couchsurfing.org. I haven’t tried this myself, yet, but I’ve heard good things about it. Travellers around the world offer up their couches (or guest rooms) to each other. Along with a place to stay you get a tour guide, someone to share dinner with, maybe even a friend.

Going to a stranger’s house is something your parents would probably be against, but if you do your homework, check to see if the person you’re staying with has been vouched for by another surfer, and make sure you have a backup plan (as in some cash and the name and address of a local hostel), it could be a great experience. Just be smart, be safe, and be open to the differences you might encounter when living like someone else.

Welcome home!

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More Australian Adventures: Merrymaking in Melbourne

May 12, 2010

Melbourne trainsOn the surface, Melbourne and Sydney are a lot alike. They’re both coastal cities with the two largest populations in Australia. Both have Chinatowns and huge markets and good nightlife and nearby beach getaways that are popular with locals and tourists.

But Melbourne and Sydney do have their differences. Melbourne is smaller, more quaint, and has a sort of cozy, cultured feel about it. There are crazy works of public art all over, and even the streetlights and utility boxes are painted with bright murals and patterns to liven things up. Sydney isn’t exactly a huge metropolis, but it’s a hefty walk from one end to the other, whereas Mellie is more manageable, hence the NY/Boston comparison. And just like their American cousins, most people love one and hate the other. (Personally, I find New York much too big and overwhelming, but I love Sydney.)

Out of Time?
If you’re planning to drive Great Ocean Road or visit Grampians National Park, Melbourne is worth a stop. I only had three days there, but could have easily filled a week with all the things I didn’t get to do.

Stuff to Do
Spend your way through the Queen Victoria Market. It’s a huge outdoor flea market, produce market, and souvenir extravaganza all in one; Much like Paddy’s Market in Sydney, but bigger and with some better deals. Besides the usual t-shirts, stuffed kangaroos and koalas, and postcards, you’ll also find custom car seat covers, shoes, kitchen supplies, beauty products, slicers and dicers, watches, jewellery, sports jerseys for your favorite footy and AFL teams, and live chickens and ducks in the produce area. The booths tend to repeat themselves, so don’t rush into buying something the first time you see it.

Stroll the Treasury and Fitzroy Gardens. This is a beautiful place to go on a sunny day for a picnic, some aimless meandering, and relaxation. Don’t try to powerwalk here, it just won’t work. Be sure to see the Fairy Tree and the Model Tudor Village, both located right next to the Pavillion Café. The fountains are also worth a look, and make good picture spots, and there’s a small trail that goes down the middle of the park that almost makes you feel at one with nature. If you want something historic, go by Cook’s Cottage. It once belonged to Captain James Cook’s parents and was brought over from England in pieces and reassembled. Cost is reduced with a student ID.

Melbourne aquariumHit the Melbourne Aquarium. There’s a coral reef, rock pools, a fish bowl, and a spot where you can watch the fish swim right over you. Also included with your ticket is a motion simulator ride. Don’t eat before you hop on. Admission is reduced with an ISIC or student ID. For a lot extra, you can arrange to go diving in the shark tank. Call ahead for that.

Get culture at the Melbourne Museum. Lots of European and Australian art and innovative type things are featured here. There’s also an IMAX theater next door if you want something less taxing. Check their website to see what exhibits will be on display during your visit.

Shop Bourke Street. Every kind of store you could possibly want, including a Target for your budget clothing and toiletry needs can be found here. This is also the place to find fast food, movie theaters, and street performers. On a good day you might get some activists too.

Ride the Free Tram. It’s high on my list of things to do on a budget that won’t tire out your feet. It runs along with the other trams, but it’s painted gold and burgundy and says “City Circle” on it. Hop on and enjoy a loop around town as the computer voice announces what attractions are located at each stop. It’s an easy and relaxing way to learn your way around.

Ramble along the Yarra River. Oh la la, it’s just like the Seine, except for being totally different. There are cafés and fountains and shops and things, though, so if you say a few “merci”s you might get into a European mood.

Munch at the Hard Rock Café. Not that you would want to go there, of course, being a real traveler and not a tourist, but if you have to bring a t-shirt home for someone, you may as well stop and have some of their excellent spinach dip. Drop in for Happy Hour and live music to meet locals and other backpackers.

Explore Melbourne’s backpacker bars. You should throw in a few local places as well, but if you’re looking to stretch your dollars out, backpacker bars offer some of the best deals for food and drink, and you never know who you’re going to meet. Try the Industry Bar and Lounge downstairs from the Nomad’s hostel on Beckett Street for live music, trivia contest, and dscount drinks. The Pint and Punt offers cheap backpacker meals and is located near the race course and the Grand Prix if you’re planning to take in some sport.

If you make it to St. Kilda, head to base Backpackers and The Red Eye Bar for karaoke, comedy, and ladies night specials.

Eat in Chinatown or the Greek Precinct. Melbourne has the largest Greek population in the southern hemisphere, and there are plenty of tasty restaurants to prove it. Walk along Lonsdale Street, between Swanston and Spring and see what smells good. Chinatown is just one block over, on Little Bourke Street.

Take a day tour of Phillip Island. There are penguins and other wildlife and swimming, and depending on which tour company you pick, you can get a barbeque and wine tasting thrown in. Ask at your hostel for recommendations.

Tour Great Ocean Road and Bell’s Beach. It’s along Great Ocean Road that you’ll see the Twelve Apostles. Never heard of them? They’re huge rocks poking out of the seashore that are pretty impressive, if you like nature stuff. You’ll see other breathtaking scenery along the way to Bell’s Beach, a surfing hotspot and filming location for Point Break. Whoa!

Melbourne’s Luna ParkTram it to St. Kilda. This is the seaside area where they used to film the popular Aussie show The Secret Life of Us, so you shouldn’t really need any other reason to go. If TV connections aren’t enough for you though, there are the rides and amusements of Luna Park, plenty of bars and cafes, sandy beaches, and it’s all just a short tram ride from downtown Melbourne. Plan to get a hostel room there and stay the night.