Posts Tagged ‘student travel’

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Get Your 2011 Student Travel Must-Haves

December 9, 2010

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 2011 by being prepared to hit the road at a moment’s notice. Think of these things as a traveler’s kit of necessities, and put them on your holiday wish list:

Passport – Without it, you’re facing some serious delays in trip planning. 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 in the U.S. and five years in Canada, so once you have it in hand you won’t have to think about it again for a while. Visit the U.S. State Department’s passport website or the official Canadian passport website for the forms.

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 will get you:

  • Discounts at more than 4,000 hostels worldwide
  • 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 bus transportation and tours
  • Discounts on 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 (small carry-on, mid-size backpack, larger rolling duffel) that you can afford, that you won’t be devastated 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. Check garage sales, thrift stores and discount shops for 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. (Yes, there’s an app for that, but when your batter is dead you’ll be thankful for the backup plan.) If you’re an AAA member, take advantage of their free roadmaps and books.

With all of these things ready, 2011 could be your best travel year yet. Get out there!

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Only Two Weeks Left! Enter the Student Travel Video Contest

September 18, 2010

What’s so great (or terrible) about your life? Why do you need free tickets to fly or rail around Canada?

Tell your story in a video and you might win one of Travel CUTS’ prizes in their Travel Video contest. Tell your story from your dorm, your car, your crappy job, wherever you can get a few minutes to yourself to express just how much you need to get away.

To be eligible for this contest you must:
• be a legal resident of Canada (excluding the province of Quebec);
• be of the age of majority in his/her province or territory of residence or older at the time of entry;
• be the sole owner of all right, title and interest (including copyright) in the video

The contest ends September 30, 2010 so get your best phone camera out and start shooting!

See full rules and submit your video.

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Winning a Trip to Britain Rocks!

April 23, 2010

britainrocksCheck out VisitBritainRocks.ca to enter to win a trip to London for you and three of your closest friends. The contest is sponsored by Contiki, Transat and Travel CUTS, so you know the prizes will include heaps of student travel perks.

The contest runs until April 30, 2010, so you have plenty of time to get all of your friends to enter.

The site also includes excellent information for planning a trip around one of the U.K.’s big music festivals, letting you know when and where to go and giving you some history on the English music scene. Sign up for the podcast and you can enjoy the musical flavors of the U.K. wherever you are.

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The Best Way to Keep in Touch With Travellers You Meet? Travel Cards

April 22, 2010

A while back I went to Vegas to meet up with my friend, Chris. Chris and I met seven years ago, Halloween night, in a backpacker bar in Noosa, Australia. We talked and danced and compared travel notes for a few hours, then went our separate ways. The fact that we’re still in touch and still friends after all these years comes down to one simple act:

Before we said ‘goodbye’, he handed me his card.

What, you don’t have personal cards? Not business cards that give away enough details about you to make you easily stalkable, but cards that list just your email or blog address so that you can keep in touch, if you want to.

Here are some options for creating your own, to help the people who you want to remember, remember you.

moocardMoo Cards
These cute little mini cards can be made using one of the Moo designs or by importing your own favorite photos. Pick one photo you really love or upload a bunch so you have an assortment. Moo can tap into your Flikr or Facebook accounts to pull those photos so you don’t have to waste time uploading the same photos over again.
Get 100 mini cards for $19.99, plus shipping.

minicardZazzle
Zazzle is a little cheaper and offers lots of designs and editing options. It also allows you to upload your own photos or designs, but isn’t connected to Flikr or any other site, so you’re starting from scratch.
Get 100 mini cards for $18.98, plus shipping.

buscardVista Print
Vista doesn’t offer mini cards, but you can get 250 free regular-sized business cards from them (if you don’t take any of the offered upgrades and you don’t mind having an ad for Vista Print on them – shipping is another $5+).

And if you want to be really thrifty, why not make your own cards? Use your printer, some photo or other thick paper, or some marker pens and a photocopier.

Meeting people as you travel is wonderful, but being able to keep those people as friends and travel companions for years to come is an even better reward. So keep in touch!

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Stay in a Castle, or a Jail

July 6, 2009

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.

jail hostelThe only downside to castle living is that after staying at one, you’re going to want to leave your usual dorm-style accommodation to the commoners. If that’s the case, how about a couple of nights in a jail? After that, even a thin, plastic mattress will seem pretty good. The Ottawa Jail Hostel in Canada was a working prison for more than 100 years before being taken over by travelers. It does offer wi-fi, and you probably won’t have to eat any gruel, but you can pretend that you’re a hardened criminal and stalk the corridors looking shifty.

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New Zealand Travel Guide: Christchurch

April 14, 2009

Days 9, 10 and a little 11

Cathedral Square

Cathedral Square

After a week on my own in New Zealand’s North Island, hopping buses, reading maps and sleeping in bunk beds, I was very ready to relax and let someone look after me for a bit.

From Wellington I flew to Christchurch (just US$35, one-way, on Pacific Blue) to meet up with Elizabeth, a friend of mine from college who moved to New Zealand after graduation. Her mom’s a Kiwi and Elizabeth already had citizenship there, making it simple to get a job and apply to do her master’s degree in Christchurch.

I don’t think there’s anything I like more than being met at the airport by someone I know. Seeing a friendly face, getting a hug and having someone ask me, “Can I grab your bag for you?” is heaven. Prying my bag off of my body, out of the permanent indent it had formed in my shoulder, is even more heavenly. Then getting into a real car, without having to sort through change and figure out the price of a ticket? Civilization has never been so satisfying.

Aside from the pampering, the other benefit to staying with a friend is that they can take over the planning, and can show you more of what real life is like where they are, with some sightseeing sprinkled in.

I’ve been to Christchurch once before, so I wasn’t too concerned about seeing all of the sights in the day and a half I was there, but here are the things you should be sure to catch:

  • Have lunch, do some shopping, and catch a lecture in Cathedral Square. It’s not huge, but there’s a lot going on in the middle of town. You have the famous landmarks (Christchurch Cathedral and Chalice, the torch sculpture thing), a local celebrity (the Wizard gives regular soapbox speeches on everything he thinks is wrong with the world), and lots of vendors selling clothing, pottery, bags, souvenirs and bone and jade carved jewelry. There’s also a visitor’s center here if you need any maps or brochures.
  • For a combination of history, shopping and a trendy pub stop, take a walk around the Arts Centre. It used to be Canterbury University, and now is home to artist studios, markets, cafes and the Dux de Lux, a very cool vegetarian cafe/bar. They have a very interesting take on a Mexican pizza.
The Botanic Gardens

The Botanic Gardens

  • Christchurch is The Garden City, so you need to visit the Botanic Gardens, if only to take some pictures to show your mom. She’ll think you spent your whole trip seeing the most wholesome sights, and will never have to know about the English backpackers you picked up in cheap bars. It is a beautiful park though, and a good place to nurse a hangover or write some postcards.
  • For an art stop, you can take your pick from the Centre of Contemporary Art, the Christchurch Art Gallery and the Canterbury Museum. The first features modern works, the second has a lot of local and Maori pieces and the third includes geology, zoology, Maori, Asian and European collections.
  • Punt your way down the Avon. No, it has nothing to do with football. You hire a punter to steer you serenely down the river in their boat. It feels very English and is far cheaper than the gondolas in Italy.

If you still have some time on your hands, here are a few more options:

  • Find a TV and watch the worst morning show ever. TV is never essential to travel, but if you’re in a place for a while and want to get a better feel for how the locals live, it doesn’t hurt to listen to their radio stations and watch their TV shows. Elizabeth let me know that the morning show was beyond bad, and since I had a morning to prop my feet up and rest, I had a look, and it was dreadful to the point that I now consider Matt Lauer to be a hosting genius.Honestly, a woman named Astar spend 15 minutes trying to teach people how to glue buttons on canvas to make art when all she had to say was, “Glue some buttons on a canvas to create your own art.” Oi.
  • Right in Cathedral Square there’s the Southern Encounter Aquarium where you can see all sorts of fish, sharks, snakes and buggy things, plus kiwi. They have two in a dark habitat that you can sneek into and watch (as long as you stay silent so as not to scare them). This isn’t the biggest or best animal-watching place in New Zealand, but if you haven’t had a chance to see a kiwi anywhere else, it’s not bad. Try to go early though, as the kiwis get lazy after lunch and you might not see them at all.
The Cupcake Parlour: Perfect for an afternoon snack.

The Cupcake Parlour: Perfect for an afternoon snack.

  • Stop for a snack at the Cupcake Parlour. Cupcakes have been the new black in the States for a while now, but the trend has spread all over. At this place you can try some regional favorites, like Passionfruit Lovelies or Ginger Goddess.

While I didn’t feel like Christchurch was as energetic as Wellington, it still has far more charm than Auckland, and I’d recommend that you spend at least two days there.

I was sad to leave, but very excited that Elizabeth was joining me for my next destination:  Sydney, Australia!