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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?

Oktoberfest
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!
Lisa

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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!

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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!
Lisa

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Travel Safe: Be Prepared for Emergencies Abroad

March 16, 2011

After everything we’ve seen in Japan this week, it’s clear that you can’t plan ahead for every scenario. There are travelers there who arrived hoping to enjoy the food and culture and beauty of the country, who are now doing whatever they can to reroute their itineraries or just go home.

When you’re getting ready for a trip though, there are some things you can do to help yourself be safe and prepared for small but annoying travel issues, like having your wallet stolen, as well as bigger issues, like health problems or an overthrow of the local government.

The things you can or should do will depend on if you’re planning a weekend at the beach or three months backpacking Southeast Asia, but here are a few ideas to start with.

1.  Make sure someone at home has your itinerary. Give them your flight times, names of places you’re staying, contact information for friends you’re visiting, anything that can help them locate you if something happens at home and you’re needed back or if something happens where you are and your friends or family want to check on you.

2. Check with your mobile phone carrier to see if you’ll be able to text from your destination. You may not want to rack up huge charges to tell friends where you ate lunch, but it’s good to know that you can contact someone back home in an emergency and let them know where you are.

3. If you’re travelling alone, or going to a volatile area, let the local embassy know. You can visit the Registration of Canadians Abroad to file your itinerary online. Even if you don’t do that, you should write down the addresses and phone numbers of embassies near your destinations just in case you need them. An embassy can help you if you lose your passport, need medical attention, get arrested or are involved in an accident. See a list of Canadian embassies around the world.

4. Have a backup plan. Sometimes you might arrive in a small town and find that all the hostels are full. Or maybe the train you were expecting to take doesn’t run on Sundays. Advance research and booking (at least a day or two ahead) is best, but if you really want to be spontaneous, then you should have a couple of extra options in the back of your mind at all times.

5. Take some water with you every morning. Maybe the worst thing that happens all day is that it’s hotter than you expected and you don’t want to pay $4 for a drink. Or maybe you’re on a train or bus that breaks down and you’re stuck for a few hours. Don’t let dehydration add to your troubles.

6. Keep a couple of granola bars or some trail mix with you for the same reasons.

7. A mini first-aid kit with bandaids, aspirin, and anything you can’t go 24 hours without (eye drops, inhaler or other medications) should be kept in your daypack.

8. Keep an emergency cash stash. Foreign ATMs don’t always work the way you want them to. Wallets get lost or stolen. Some forms of transportation have to be paid in cash. So whenever possible, keep a little cash tucked away for emergencies only. This isn’t cash you use to buy another drink at the pub, it’s cash you save for when you’re lost at 2 a.m. and need to get in a cab.

9. Keep your eyes open and your traveller’s Spidey-sense on. Always be aware of your surroundings, or designate one of the people in your group to stay the sane and sober one. As soon as something feels off to you, go back to a main road, a well-lit area, a different hostel, whatever it takes for you to feel safe again.

Travelling should be an adventure to enjoy, not a hardship to endure. Stay prepared and you’ll have a better chance that the memories you create are happy ones.

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Travel to Famous Film Locations

March 12, 2011

If you like to have a theme to your adventures, how about movie locations?

Slashfilm.com is sharing an interactive world map (put together by boxofficequant.com) that pinpoints places where the top 2000 movies were filmed. Of course, your idea of the top 2000 might be different from someone else’s, but that’s a lot of movies, so there’s bound to be at least a few you like.

There isn’t necessarily something exciting to see in all these places – sets have been hauled away and the celebrities are long gone – but if you just want to be able to say you’ve been there, then this map will help you plan your brush with fame.

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Meet Me at La Tomatina, The World’s Biggest Food Fight

March 10, 2011

This could be you! Or me. But hopefully you!

I always have a list of places I want to go, usually because I have a friend I’d like to visit or because I’ve heard a place is really nice. But I also have a list of travel things I want to *do*.

For example, I’d like to celebrate New Year’s in Times Square, check out a viking festival in Iceland and learn to surf in Australia.

(I did take a surf lesson in Byron Bay once. It was a disaster, but it was long enough ago now that I’ve deluded myself into thinking that if I tried it again, I would be a natural.)

La Tomatina in Buñol, Spain has been at the top of my must-do list for a while now. It’s a massive food fight held on the last Wednesday of August every year.

You may have guessed from the name that the food being flung in this fight is tomatoes – more than 100 tons of them. It’s messy, crazy and incredibly fun – at least according to the friends I’ve talked to who have been there.

This year my Aussie friends have decided to go back for more flinging, and I’m joining them! Woo hoo! Tips on how to best do La Tomatina are welcome, and I can’t wait to share my experience with you.

Sure, there are other traditional events I could enjoy in Spain, but given the choice between running with bulls who might make big holes in me or having shirtless men cover me in tomato goo, I’ll take the goo.

See you there!
Lisa

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Happy Birthday Peace Corps & CUSO-VSO!

March 8, 2011

Everyone knows about the Peace Corps. It’s an American organization that sends people to developing countries to volunteer – the ultimate voluntourism experience, with most assignments lasting two years.

But do you know about CUSO-VSO? Just like the Peace Corps it was founded in 1961, so they’re both celebrating their 50th year in operation. And just like the Peace Corps, CUSO-VSO (a combination of the Canadian University Service Overseas and Voluntary Service Overseas programs) sends people overseas to volunteer (around 15,000 of them so far).

But unlike the Peace Corps, CUSO-VSO is open to Canadians, so it’s something you might think about doing at some point in your life.

Go ahead. Finish university, work for a few years, start to settle down, then have your quarter-life crisis and decide to pack up and start over again, but this time in Cameroon or Bolivia or Indonesia. You can blog about it, get a book deal and have Hollywood make a movie about your life. It’ll be a good time.

Learn more about CUSO-VSO and the good work they (and you) can do.