Archive for January, 2011


Celebrate Australia Day with Biscuits and VB

January 26, 2011

Making Lamingtons is long, slow work, so I improvised and made a Lamington cake instead,

Happy Australia Day!

Sure, it’s pretty much over already in Australia, but that’s no reason that you can’t keep enjoying the spirit of the land down under.

One of the best things about traveling is everything you get to bring back with you to share with others. Not just the t-shirts and snow globes and local candy bars, but all the experiences you’ve had and everything you’ve learned about the people you met and the culture you got to be part of.

For example: When I did my year abroad in Sydney, studying at UNSW, one of my first campus events was an orientation and mixer for international students.

To introduce us to Aussie cuisine, we were fed Lamingtons (yellow cake, sandwiched together with strawberry preserves, then dipped in chocolate and rolled in coconut) and given billy tea to drink. It was a great way to meet some of the other students and start to feel comfortable in my new home.

Now, to commemorate my time in Australia, I have a little Australia Day celebration every year. I make Lamingtons or a Pavlova, buy ANZAC biscuits or Tim Tams if I can find them, get some VB (Victoria Bitter, the real Aussie beer), decorate my place with my favorite travel photos and souvenirs, and invite friends over to watch my “Kath & Kim” DVDs. (You may substitute in “Crocodile Dundee” movies or something with Heath Ledger, but definitely not “Australia”. Be ashamed, Nicole Kidman!).

If you can’t get out into the world, bring the world to you (and your kitchen)!



Travel New Zealand Your Way

January 25, 2011

Thinking about a summer trip to New Zealand? Of course you are. New Zealand is a student traveler’s dream destination, and you’re someone who likes to dream big.

New Zealand is affordable, full of adventure, and very easy to navigate no matter your time or bidget. Part of that flexibility comes from the number of transportation options you have. What you should choose depends on your style, your situation and the experience you want to have.

I Want Total Freedom
If you don’t want to be on anyone’s schedule but your own, you’re best off traveling by standard get-me-from-point-A-to-point-B bus. Book as you go, picking the times that are best for you, and answer to no one!

You might also consider renting a car, especially if you’re traveling with friends and can split the cost.

I Want Some Freedom, But Don’t Want to Plan Every Detail
The hop-on hop-off bus is for you. These services stop at different sights between pick-up and drop-off points, can help you organize activities like skydiving, rafting or pub crawls, have drivers who can tell you about what you’re seeing, but also let you jump off whenever you like. Passes are typically good for 12 months, so you can get back on the bus days, weeks or even months later. You aren’t stuck with the group like you are with a full-on tour, so you have more flexibility in your itinerary.

I’m doing most of my travel by Magic Bus, with some day trips of my own thrown in between stops. This way I don’t have to worry about booking lots of separate bus trips, but I can also take time to do things I want to do that aren’t included in the usual schedule. I’ve also used the Oz and Kiwi Experience buses in the past and had a great time.

I Want Someone Else to Plan It All For Me
You need a tour company, like Contiki. All of your transportation and lodging will be planned for you and some meals will be included. You won’t have to do anything except show up on time and enjoy yourself, but you also won’t be able to abandon your group and hang at the beach for a few extra days if the mood strikes you. If you’re on a tight budget and only have a fixed number of days for traveling though, this can be a good way to maximize the amount of ground you cover.

Once you decide how you’re happiest when you travel, you’ll be able to narrow down the options and find what’s right for you.


Take the Royal Wedding Tour of London

January 19, 2011

If you’re a big fan of Kate and William, then the next time you’re in London, check out the Royal Wedding walking tour that will take you to places where they ate, danced, broke up and attended other royal get-togethers.

The £15 walking tour is given by Celebrity Planet, which also offers a Princess Diana memorial tour, a Harry Potter tour, Notting Hill/Portobello Road tours, a Jack the Ripper walk and a Beatles London tour, among others.

Don’t want to pay for a tour out of your student traveller budget? Then make your own map. Many of the Royal Wedding locations are listed on the Celebrity Planet website, and there are many sites that list Harry Potter locations in London.

Grab a map and a highlighter and you can plot your own day around London, at your pace. You’ll miss out on the color commentary though, which can be part of the fun if you have a good guide.

Know of any other good walks in London?


Reading Week 2011: Fantastic Student Travel Deals

January 18, 2011

Hopefully you already know what your Reading Week budget is going to be this year and you’ve started to make plans with friends that will keep you within that budget.

There are dozens of options for Reading Week destinations depending on how long you have and how far you want to go. Interested in one of these hot spots?

These destinations and more are available at student prices.

If skiing or snowboarding is more your idea of a good time, talk to a student travel specialist at Travel CUTS about fares to Whistler or wherever you like to play in the powder.

Vacation may have just ended, but that doesn’t mean you should put off planning your next one.


Stay Under the Sea and Sleep With the Fishies at the Utter Inn

January 15, 2011

I try to stick to writing about affordable travel experiences, things that you can easily do on a student budget. I just found this hotel though and had to share because it’s so unusual.

The Utter Inn (which translates to “Otter Inn”) in Sweden looks like a tiny houseboat or floating cabin:

The Utter Inn: More than meets the eye

But that’s not where your beds are. From the cute little red house you climb down a hatch to a room underwater, where you can count fish until you fall asleep:

What kid wouldn't love a secret hideout like this?

Is that worth $250 or more a night? I guess it depends how much you like fish.

This isn’t the only underwater hotel out there, but it’s one of the cutest. What do you think – would it be worth saving up for? Or would you prefer a castle hostel at a reasonable price?

Keep on swimming,


Crossing the Border? Leave the Kinder Eggs at Home

January 12, 2011
Banned in the USA!

Banned in the USA!

Hopefully you’re smart enough not to try to smuggle drugs or alcohol across the border. Any border, really, but especially the Canadian-U.S. border. But what about your candy?

As one Canadian woman learned, Kinder Surprise eggs are not welcome in the United States. They’ve been labeled a choking hazard, and if you’re caught with one, you could face a fine, or at least a very long, serious letter.

According to the CBC News story:

“The U.S. takes catching illegal Kinder candy seriously, judging by the number of them they’ve confiscated in the last year. Officials said they’ve seized more than 25,000 of the treats in 2,000 separate seizures.”

So, note to self: When packing for my next North American road trip, just buy M&Ms for the snack bag.

Safe and legal munching to all,


Get Up-Helly-Aa and Get Your Viking On

January 11, 2011
up helly aa

Awesome photo by the BBC

“Oh boy, sleep! That’s where I’m a Viking!” – Ralph Wiggum

Unlike Ralph, I’ve never been able to dream myself into Vikinghood, but I’ve often thought it would be cool to experience the raw, primal Viking lifestyle.

Not for weeks, of course, but maybe for a few hours. After that I would probably want a hot shower, a comfy mattress and electricity.

Well, if you make your way to Scotland you can get a look at Viking life through one of their fire festivals. It might be too late to plan for this year, but Up-Helly-Aa, Britain’s biggest fire festival, is held in Lerwick on the last Tuesday of every January to mark the end of the pagan Yule season, so you can start planning now for next year.

And just what is a fire festival? According to it’s “a 1000-strong torchlit procession of ‘guizers’ followed by the spectacular burning of a viking longship or galley. The squads of guizers then perform acts and dances in various halls into the early hours.”

Fire! Dances! People dressed like Vikings! I love it!

Lerwick’s Up-Helly-Aa isn’t the only fire festival though. Celebrations continue throughout January, February and March:

Scalloway Fire Festival                    
Nesting Up-Helly-Aa                      
Uyeasound Up-Helly-Aa                  
Northmavine Up-Helly-Aa                
Bressay Up-Helly-Aa                        
Cullivoe Up-Helly-Aa                         
Norwick Up-Helly-Aa                         
South Mainland Up-Helly-Aa           
Brae Up-Helly-Aa                               
Friday, January 14
Friday, February 4
Friday, February 11
Friday, February 18
Friday, February 25
Friday, February 25
Saturday, February 26
Friday, March 11
Friday, March 18

I can’t believe I’m missing this, but it’s going on my travel to-do list for next year. See you there?