ADVENTURE COUNTDOWN: 33 DAYS

“Adventure Countdown: 33 Days”

by Whitney Blake via “Whitspeaks

Whoa. Thirty Three more days until I take my first flight alone and my first flight over 6 hours.

Im not even gonna lie, Im nervous. Like really nervous. The kind of nervous where my OCD planner self is absolutely freaking out at night before I fall asleep; mainly because there is an 8 hour difference between when my flight arrives in Rome and when my best friend arrives. 

I know thats not a big deal for the brave or travel-savvy, but for a girl who has never flown alone and doesnt know Italian, it’s a big friggen deal.

We are figuring out our plan today, and I can already feel the weight lifting off my shoulders. From picking our hostel and finally booking it, to me looking at a map and having a real game plan – it’s those little details that are helping me take a deep breath and mentally prepare.

Erica, my travel buddy, is such an experienced traveler seeing as she just finished up the Semester At Sea program and is doing an internship and taking courses in Spain now. No big deal, right?! Check out her blog here to read about her adventures from Burma to China to South Africa and beyond.

Now that I’ve shared my anxiety with the world Im sure you’re wondering what Im doing, besides biting off my fingernails, to prepare for the biggest adventure of my life!

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Things to do ONE MONTH before backpacking through europe:

/ / Make a trip calendar, if you havent already.
Narrow down where you want to go (generally speaking) after you get to that first city. We will definitely be going with the flow, but there are a few reservations that are cheaper (and guaranteed) if we make them in advance. Plus my family wants to have an idea of where I will be!

/ / Make hostel/hotel reservations.
Im a major planner so obviously I want to know that I have a bed with my name on it when I get there. Truly I think this is my biggest fear, besides getting insanely lost haha.Student Universe has been my favorite reservation site in all of the planning process, and I am making most all of my reservations there.

/ / Reserve flights/night trains that will get more expensive and may fill up

NOTE: dont reserve your small train rides while in the US. Tickets will be much more inexpensive to book while in Europe. Just be flexible with when you can leave and arrive, and look into getting a Eurail pass while in the US if you are going to be doing a lot of travelling.

/ / Find your backpack. 
You can choose to either buy or rent one so do your research and TRY IT ON. This thing is going to have your life in it for a few weeks and it is essential that it fits. Also, be sure to check airline restrictions so you are aware as to whether or not it can be checked, etc.

/ / Make a plan to get your crap back home.
Cool, so you’re travelling with just your essentials on your back, but how are you planning on bringing anything else back home? Mail it? Another Bag? For me, I am going to buy a small, and very cheap, suitcase when I get to Germany for my study abroad session so I can buy a few more clothes and stuff that thing to the brim with goodies for my family and friends! Then I will simply check it onto the flight when I head home. Much cheaper and faster than mailing a giant box internationally.

/ / Finish up your online shopping.
No one wants to pay for expedited shipping when they are already doling out thousands for this trip to begin with. Things I bought online (from Amazon):
Brita water bottle (with a filter in it) / / $9 / / my water will taste better anywhere! plus I can fill it up at the airport!
4 x 4GB memory cards / / about $6 each / / DO NOT buy just one big memory card. If you lose that thing your entire trip is lost and you will probably spend days crying. Avoid the tears and spread out the photos onto multiple cards . . . .

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When should you book?

Same is true of buying study Abroad tickets 🙂

When you should actually book your next vacation. Great tips for saving some dough on your next trip!:

via “Buzzfeed”

Tips for finding cheap airline fares

“Tips for finding cheap airline fares”

via “The Associated Press”

TIPS FOR FINDING CHEAP FARES

— Travel during off-peak times. Two of the slowest periods for air travel are Dec. 1 to Dec. 14 and then Jan. 4 to Feb. 15.

— Fly on slow days. Planes tend to have the most empty seats on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

— Do a flexible date search. Sites like ITA Software and Cheapair.com let travelers pull up a calendar with the cheapest days to fly between two airports.

— Consider nearby airports. Driving an extra 50 miles might save $100 per person.

— Look for routes flown by Frontier, Southwest and Spirit. Other airlines are matching or beating their fares.

— Take advantage of the 24-hour rule. Passengers have 24 hours after buying a ticket to get a full refund. The day after booking a flight, check back to see if fares have fallen. Cancel and rebook at the lower price. . . . .

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50 Things College Students Should Know About London

“50 Things College Students Should Know About London”

by Emma White via “Huffington Post

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Tips from a study abroad student in London

1. London is expensive- save money. The first thing that people will tell you about London is that it’s expensive. Between the exchange rate, going out and if you’re like me and can’t walk by a gelato shop without walking in get ready to spend some serious money. Before you go try to save up as much money as you can because whatever you think you’re going to spend, you’ll probably spend more. Things like a security deposit, buying books or forgetting something small will add up. And of course you want to have a little fun while you’re here too!

2. Show your student ID. Showing a student card can get you discounts at retail stores, restaurants and clubs. In terms of going out in London, most places have a cover charge but there are ways around it! For a lot of places, something as simple as adding your email address to a mailing list will get you free entry! Also, many bars and clubs have free cover if you go earlier before it gets crowded. You might be the first ones there but after seeing the cover charge add up over the weeks you won’t mind after a while.

3. Get an Oyster Card. One of the best student discounts London offers is the oyster card. It is a discounted card for the London Underground System. I thought that I would hate taking the tube to class everyday but it is essential to getting around London. A student rate for a monthly unlimited pass is about £80 and it will pay for itself in about a week. Almost everywhere is accessible by the tube so this card will become your new best friend.

4. Don’t let the weather/being lazy spoil your plans. It’s easy to let the weather or the excuse of a lazy Sunday intimidate you from going through with plans you may have had. Some days you’ll be tempted to stay in and watch tv or movies but there’s so much to do in the city it’s important to force yourself to get out.

5. Apps to get. There are a bunch of apps to get that will make your time in London a whole lot easier, whether for staying in touch finding a restaurant or catching a cab.

• Viber is great for texting (and calling as long as you have wifi.)
• Whatsapp is for texting. Download these two apps before you go as they will send you a confirmation email to register.
• Citymapper tells you how to get to any address via the tube, bus or walking. This app has been a lifesaver!
• Hailo finds cabs nearby and allows you to pay for in through the app with a credit card if you’re running low on cash.
• Tripadviser lists the top attractions and will give basic info like how much it costs, the hours and a general description.
• Zomato uses your location to find restaurants in your area. When looking for places on a budget it’s a lot easier than walking the streets and settling on a place out of hunger.
• WeHostels If you’re heading off exploring for the weekend, check out this easy to use app to find affordable accommodations. It’s easy to use on the go with great reviews of concerts and festivals.

6. Pub life. If you want to meet local British people your best bet is to go to the quintessential London pub. You will see people out drinking at pubs at noon and all throughout the day. With the lack of open containers laws at night people will linger outside of pubs spilling onto sidewalks and the street. Throughout the week, pubs are the place to be. Also, by going to bars and pubs by local British universities you can ensure you will meet British people your own age.

7. Commit yourself to a football team. You might not be a fan of a particular team before you come but you will be by the time you leave. Even if you don’t go to a game, watching one at a pub with friends and cheering on your team can be a great way to experience London culture. I was able to take a tour of the Chelsea football team stadium, locker room and press room through a school trip so now I have dedicated myself to Chelsea. GO BLUES!

8. Walk a new way home everyday. This tip was told to me by one of my flat mates’ brother who studied abroad in London a few years ago but I liked it so much I am passing it on. By walking a new way home, to class, to a different tube stop or even just walking to walk, you pay more attention to your surroundings. By walking places, you’ll see more of different areas or neighborhoods and find hidden spots you may want to go back to.

9. It’s okay to be a tourist. The London Eye, Tower Bridge, Big Ben etc. are sights that you need to see. What’s great about London is that many of the sights are free. Most of the museums and main sights you can see for free and if not, that student card I mentioned before can get you in at a discount rate. London has a history dating back over 2000 years, there’s so much to see that no one should miss!

10. Do all the touristy stuff right when you get here. When you first get to London everything is new and exciting and you’ll be motivated to take it all in right away. The longer you let pass, the less likely you’ll be to go out and see the city. Within the first few weeks of getting here, go out and see all the cliche stuff. You can always go back another time too but don’t leave London without seeing all the major attractions!

11. Write down your experiences. This one may seem corny but it’s a good idea to write down the places you go or travel to, what you see and how you’re feeling throughout your abroad experience. You’re going to want to be able to look back and remember everything you did. Whether you write in a journal, a word document or go as far as to write a blog to share with others, you’ll be happy you have it to look back on. Better yet, share your experience with the College Tourist. Create an author’s profile here.

12. Force yourself to take pictures. I am not a person who usually takes pictures but since being abroad I have tried to force myself to document everything I see and do. As a general rule, if you think you’ve taken enough pictures, take more. That way, you’ll guarantee you have at least one good photo from everywhere you go. You might think you’re taking way too many but you’ll be happy you did when you have good pictures to show from your travels. . . . .

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20 Helpful Tips for Pre-Study Abroad

“20 Helpful Tips for Pre-Study Abroad”

by Samuel Buchanan via “Huffington Post

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Preparing for a trip can be a laborious task, especially when you’re leaving your country. If you are studying abroad or planning to for the first time, you may have traveling anxiety. What will I do; where will I go; how will I survive? Don’t worry! Here are a few tips that will help you before takeoff.

Packing
If you’re anything like me, you probably want to pack everything you have in your luggage. Although well-intended (as you can never be too safe), cost and weight won’t permit you to do it. Therefore, you must Consolidate and Eliminate.

1. Do not pack every just-in-case-you-get-bored item.
2. Find 2-3 pairs of comfortable, multi-purpose shoes.
3. Learn how to mix-and-match 4-5 different outfits.
4. Pack lightly
5. Tightly fold clothes and/or buy compression bags.

Doing the aforementioned, will allow you to save both time and money. If you are still having trouble with deciding what to bring, there are some great YouTube videos for you to watch. See Travel Tips: How You Need to Pack to Study Abroad

Planning Your Adventure
When packing gets boring and the television is no longer entertaining, you will most likely be daydreaming about your trip. Though daydreaming what you could do can be… dreamy, it does not compare to what you will do. So, Stop Daydreaming and Start Planning your adventure.

6. Start planning for the things you will do.
7. Look up the activities your program offers.
8. Google things to do in [insert country here] and…
9. Do them!

In the words of Shia LaBeouf, “Just do it!” For a dream that is not actualized is only a fantasy.

Having the Right Attitude
For those individuals who like to guard themselves by thinking of . . . .

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How to fly with a bike: The cheap and easy method

“How to fly with a bike: The cheap and easy method”

via “Two-Wheel Travel”

How to fly with a bike: The cheap and easy method

If you plan to travel internationally with a bicycle, at some point you will be required to put your bike on a plane.

Taking a bike on an airplane as luggage can be a gut wrenching proposition.  In addition to the various and variable  fees imposed by the different airlines, there is the matter of packing and unpacking your bike for air travel, sourcing packaging materials and protecting your bike during transit.

The first time we combined bike touring and air travel I tediously and meticulously removed and bubble wrapped every single piece of both bikes, right down to water bottle cages.  I packed the pieces in re-enforced cardboard bike boxes, marked FRAGILE on every possible surface, crossed my fingers and was generally tense throughout the entire experience.   The whole process took about 1.5 hours per bike, on each end of the journey.

Other than the time and labor and stress involved, all went well.   We’ve done it few times since…  It always works, but it’s expensive, time consuming and stressful.

Isn’t there a better way to fly with a bike?

Pack your bike in a clear plastic bag.

With multiple benefits over packing a bike in a cardboard box, this is now our preferred method for flying with our bikes on an airplane.  At first we were skeptical, and honestly if we weren’t forced into using this technique by the lack of bike packing resources at the southern end of our Destination Dubrovnik tour last summer we would have never tried it.  It does feel a little like stepping off a cliff, until you realize that your bike will be treated much more carefully when packed in a clear plastic bag.

4 reasons why we like this technique.

  1. SimpleIt’s a plastic bag.  Think a big sandwich baggie for your bike, hold the mayo.  The CTC Plastic Bike Bags is specifically designed for this purpose.  If you order one before your trip, you can carry it in your panniers and it’s reusable.  No need to source anything at the last minute.   If not you can make your own.  In Dubrovnik we used a home-made version by doubling over clear plastic sheeting and duct taping the edges.  Slide the bike into the bag, fold down the top and tape it.  Natch!
  2. Quick– Total packaging/unpacking time including removal/reinstallation of pedals etc.. is about 15 minutes on either end of the trip.  This is fabulous compared with the one hour minimum build/pack time per bike when using a bike box.  With the plastic bag method almost the entire bike remains intact.
  3. Cheap – If you plan ahead. (Not our strong suit) then use the CTC Plastic Bike Bag or similar.  At present it retails for $13.50.  Not bad.  If you need to make your own, then the price is a little more variable, since you have to run around, find plastic sheeting and duct tape, which depending on your location at the time, may or may not be simple to locate. Still you shouldn’t have a problem.  Our homemade bags, sourced and made in Dubrovnik from plastic sheeting from the local garden shop cost us around $35 for two bags, not counting bus tickets running around town to find plastic.  Still a bargain when you consider how smooth the whole thing works. . . . .

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From “The Berry”

should i pack it?

“Should I Pack It?” from “The Berry” (Click image for website)