5 Steps to a Vacation in Pictures!

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  1. Pick your destination. Do you want a beach vacation or a ski trip? A short car drive or a plane ride? Do you want to go solo or bring someone? Make these decisions first!
  2. Set a budget. This part is very important! This goes along with choosing your destination, as some destinations can be out of your money range. When setting a budget, don’t forget to factor in food, hotels, transportation, and adventures while you’re there!
  3. Plan your visit and buy your tickets. A lot of excursions and activities can be booked in advance, and it could save you some money!
  4. Pack your bags!! This is the fun part! Make sure you have your passport, boarding pass, and start making sure you have everything you could need, depending on where you’re going. A first aid kit and a language translator are never a bad idea.
  5. Enjoy your vacation. Make some memories. Your vacation is going to be a memory that you’ll have forever, no matter what it is. Make it count.

If you need help with any of the steps above, click on the names & it will take you to an outside source that can give you more detailed information!

Summing Up Just Me & My Passport

When I began this blog in January, I was less than excited to start it. I didn’t know what I could write about, and I didn’t know if anyone would care about what I had to say. However, as I wrote this blog throughout this semester, I got more and more into what my blog had the potential to do, and the people (like myself) that I could help. That maybe something as simple as helping college students become citizens of the world, and not just San Marcos.

The tools I found most effective were inserting hyperlinks into my content, so if a visitor wanted to look more into it, or even start trying to plan a vacation using my tools, it could be a simple start. I believe I could continue doing this blog, and cover the endless other tips and tricks for budget traveling, in addition to what I have already covered.

While writing this blog, I started paying more attention to my writing skills, learning to write more clear and concise, and of course avoiding the oxford comma (my biggest problem). I plan on pursuing a career in Public Relations, and writing is the most important skill that employers look for in a candidate, and I believe writing this blog has strengthened my writing skills overall.

The one thing I wish I could’ve done differently with my blog is to experience the topics of the posts first hand. For example, instead of doing research on the costs of European trains and busses, I wish I would have been able to provide information for my viewers first hand. I wish I could have been able to give my readers my actual costs, instead of other travelers. Being able to actually experience these things as I write about them: hostels, trains, railways, airlines, they all would’ve been so much more impactful and informational to the readers, and to myself.

My most popular post overall (based on views and likes) was the post about Tourism Cards, and whether or not they are worth the cost. I think this post is something that a lot of travelers want to know more about, and that’s why it was the most viewed. My blog also reached multiple countries, such as India, United Kingdom, Canada, Jordan, Sweden, and Germany, and the United States, all the way up to Alaska. Many of these readers have contacted me, and now we are able to follow each other’s blogs, and keep up with what we are doing.

Overall, starting this blog was an experience I will never forget. It showed me how simple it is to connect with people from all over the world, and hopefully be able to help strangers next time they are trying to travel Europe on a budget. My idea for this blog from the start was to show 20 somethings and college students that being able to see the world isn’t an impossibility for us because of money. Just like the first post I wrote, which lists many reasons why, this is the perfect time for people like us to be able to explore, go on adventures, make memories, and find yourself as a person. And if my blog can help people do that, my job as a blogger has been successful.

Until Next Time,

Kelsey.

P.S. There are bloggers who continually show their experiences with traveling as they go, and they are great blogs to follow, and who knows, maybe one day you’ll run into them! Some of my favorites are Nomadic Matt, Ed Rex (not technically a budget traveler, but still a great blog!), and The Budget Traveler.

Getting Around Europe, Finding The Cheapest Way: Part Two, Railways & Trains

Eurail Pass

Railways have been competing with the rise of budget airlines, and therefore have changed their pricing to be much like the airline pricing model. Now they tend to offer cheap prices for travelers who book early, but more expensive if you’re booking last minute. Just like the airlines from the previous post, your prices are going to fluctuate depending on when you book. Tickets usually go on sale 90 days out, and you can find deals such as Rome to Venice for $38, or Paris to Amsterdam for $46.

Europe has a rail system that is cheap and rather good if you plan on travelling a short distance. However, when you want to travel across multiple countries, and boarding night trains, the standard rail system turns out to be more expensive, even costing well over $100.

However, Rail passes are another option for travelers who are taking the trains for long-distance, extensive travel. Rail passes, such as EuRail, are a great way to save money, and definitely a must for people looking to travel long distances. Other travelers have reported saving a few hundred dollars every time they bought a rail pass.

Moral of the story: If you plan on traveling long distances and seeing multiple countries, using a lot of trains, and travelling last minute, a European rail pass is going to save you some cash.

EuroLines

In Europe, typically buses are much cheaper than taking trains. Within Europe, most countries have their own individual national bus system, but Eurolines is a good option for international long distances. Eurolines is the umbrella organization for international bus travel, and they have routes that will take you across the entire continent. If you were to take Euroline from Berlin to Paris, it would cost about $100 USD, but a last-minute booking on the train is $248. Although travelers have reported a downside to bus travel: being cramped. Instead of a much roomier train, you could be cramped on a tiny bus. This one comes down to a personal preference, pay a bit more and get on the train, or stick to a tight budget and hop on the bus.

BlaBlaCar

BlaBlaCar is a very popular and widespread service throughout Europe that allows people to get a ride with locals who are going that way. The website lets you share rides with people, and I have seen a lot of positive reviews regarding pricing, meeting more locals and being able to get off the interstate and see the countryside. Many say that it’s more exciting than taking a bus or train, and it will save you money.

Otherwise, there are websites that let you ask for rides, if you pitch in to pay for gas. Gumtree has shown to be the most popular with backpackers.

 

As we said in the last post, the cheapest way to get around Europe is by budget airline or bus. But it truly comes down to the planning, for the most part, the earlier you book your ticket, bus/plane/train/anything, the cheaper it will be. Last minute train and bus fares can be double what they are during early booking. Overall, the key to travelling around Europe cheaply is PLANNING. Plan it, book it in advance, and save you some money.

 

Photo Courtesy Of: [By Yasu (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

Travelling Around Europe: Finding the Cheapest Way, Part One: Bus & Airlines

In the last few years, the euro has fallen and traveling around Europe is cheaper than it has been. Although it still can be expensive for most travelers, especially if you don’t use US dollars. However, the fall of the euro has helped the traveler in a few ways: weaker currencies, new bus options, and lots of new budget travelling options. All of this combined has made getting around Europe a bit cheaper, maybe even affordable. Here are a few ways to get to see what Europe has to offer without breaking the bank.

Megabus is a cheap way to get around England, Scotland and the United Kingdom, where tickets can cost as little as about $1 USD. To get the cheapest tickets, you’ll need to book far in advance for popular routes. Even if you can’t get these deals, you can still use the national bus system, which tickets don’t usually get higher than about $25. Megabus also has a few trains for some places in the UK. Megabus is the cheapest way to get around the UK, and now that they’re launching routes to Paris and Brussels from London.

Busabout is another bus service that is mostly used by backpackers. You can get on and off the bus wherever along their set routes. They also sell tickets that let you travel their entire network with a set number of stops. One of the options they have for this is a nine-day flex-pass, which gives you nine stops from wherever you start, that can be as long as you want, wherever you want. That pass is $669 USD, which comes out to about $72 per trip. Busabout isn’t as handy as regular bus or train pass, because if you want to see a city that isn’t on their route, you have to find another way.

 

These are good options, by far the cheapest option for getting around Europe are the budget airlines. Often times, you can find tickets where the fare is just the taxes. Book at least a month early to get the best deals, although there are sales, especially during the off-season. Some companies such as Transavia, EasyJet, Ryanair and Vueling that offer super cheap flights throughout Europe. Some travelers have reported flights from Barcelona to Nice for $25 USD, and $30 to fly from London to Amsterdam.

Although with these budget airlines, it is important to remember that since the tickets are so cheap, they make most of their money from fees. Baggage limits and having your boarding pass are just a couple of the things these budget airlines are serious about, so be sure to read the fine print before you have to pay extra fees. If you’re travelling with a lot of luggage or gear, it might end up being cheaper to fly with one of the larger airlines. Here is a complete guide to flying around Europe, http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-tips/how-to-find-a-cheap-flight/ .

The cheapest way to travel around Europe is by budget airline or bus, but planning is an important part of the process. The earlier you book, whether you’re using a bus, plane or train, the cheaper it will be. Last minute tickets can be double what they would cost if you had booked earlier. Overall, the key to travelling around Europe on a budget is planning. Plan your trip, book your tickets in advance, and save the money. However, if you are indecisive and spontaneous, maybe a rail or bus pass can help you keep low prices, but let you keep the flexibility.

 

Tourism Cards, City Passes, Go “Wherever” Cards: Are they Worth It?

For most big tourism cities, there is some sort of tourism card or pass that gives the purchaser access to several tourist attractions throughout the city. There are pros and cons to these, so a budget traveler would probably want to consider the pros and cons before purchasing one.

For the most part, visitors are forced into seeing more attractions than they would usually want to, so you might not actually save much money. Sellers and owners of the attractions make money from the cards, at a flat rate up front, even if the traveler skips out on some of the included attractions. So, it makes sense that to the people who produce them, these passes are profitable. Most visitors won’t want to use these passes, but for some visitors, they are the right choice.

PROS:

  • You’re more inclined to visit the best cultural places. It is easy to decide against visiting some of the top museums if they are expensive or crowded. If it’s included on your City Pass, you’re more likely to go.
  • They give you somewhere to start when planning what to do. If you’ve already paid for certain attractions, it’s easier to not waste time trying to decide what to do.

CONS:

  • You’ll probably end up spending more, but you might see more sights!
  • Usually, to save money on these passes or break even, you’ll have to see at least 4 attractions a day, which might be exhausting and make you enjoy your day less.
  • You might feel obligated to do the checklist of things that are included, instead of just enjoying the city, which could be wonderful. You’ll also probably meet less people, or see less of the things the locals enjoy doing. Which will probably end up in you feeling like you lost money if you miss out on some attractions.

Based on my research, there are some people who could get beneficial use out of these cards! People like families, people on tight schedules, who want to see the top attractions and people on their first visit to the city. If you are in any of these categories, then buying one of these passes might be a great idea. However, for college students, most budget travelers and independent travelers, they probably will do more harm than good. There are multiple sites that offer other pros and cons and show the prices, but 501Places has an article on tourist cards, which can be found at: http://www.501places.com/2012/09/does-a-city-pass-or-tourist-card-offer-value-for-money/

RexyEdventures: The Ultimate Traveller

RexyEdventures is a blog written by a man named Ed Rex, who chronicles the “Adventures of a Deaf and Handsome Luxury Backpacker Travelling the Unexpected.” RexyEdventures is a cleverly named, easy to follow, inspirational blog that makes all of us twenty-somethings reading it want to go out and travel the world.

In 2011, Ed decided that the corporate job life wasn’t for him, and he went on a trip around the world, and decided to never come back. He then started this travelling blog, and has experienced incredible things that we are lucky enough to read about in RexyEdventures. His blog has received a lot of attention, been featured in many travel publications, and has been named one of the top 25 budget travel bloggers by FlipKey, along with many others. Ed has a very unique outlook on the travelling experience that I admire greatly, he writes about his experiences as a deaf traveler, and helps other deaf travelers by sharing his experiences on many disability related platforms.

RexyEdventures has many different parts that go into the “Adventures of a Deaf and Handsome Luxury Backpacker Travelling the Unexpected,” and he has explained each part of that title in his blog, but to enlighten my readers here, we will break it down a bit.

  • Isn’t that what we are all looking for when we travel? Ed clearly has an adventurous spirit, and writes about his many exciting adventures that he has taken part in, like throwing himself out of planes.
  • Deaf Travel: Ed goes to these places to “prove that independent solo travel for deaf people is truly possible!” His blog is extremely inspiring for anyone, whether they are deaf or not, and offers advice to any of his readers on how being deaf could actually be useful at times.
  • Handsome! This section is new to RexyEdventures, which stemmed from his readers’ appreciation of his selfies while traveling. There is now a section called Handsome Travels, in which he encourages any traveler to take at least one selfie on every trip.
  • Luxury Backpacker – Ed uses this part of his blog to show people how you can travel with luxury even on a budget, and how he appreciates the small luxuries in life, and wants to share with others how to get them without breaking the bank.
  • Travelling the Unexpected: It seems that Ed enjoys being surprised by his destination at times, and will travel somewhere and discover the location without planning to be there at all. These blogs are entertaining, and just further show his adventurous spirit coming out!

Ed’s blog has many different pages that are easy to navigate, very modern, and definitely make the reader want more. One page I like in particular is his travel timeline, where he recounts where he was during different times, and where he went from there. He has it all laid out from the very beginning, sometimes visiting more countries in a month than most people see in a lifetime. And of course, the page is complete with pictures to fill in the experience!

RexyEdventures has at least 650 travel articles of his adventures, with sections for each country he has visited, as well as sections that focus on the rest of his mantra, the deaf travel, luxury budget, handsome travel, and unexpected. On his site, www.rexyedventures.com you can also watch interviews with Ed, travel planning tips, find out how to become a partner of RexyEdventures, or even contact Ed himself.

Overall, Ed has visited 35 countries, 6 continents, done 65 walking tours, and has spent four years blogging professionally about his experiences. RexyEdventures is an INCREDIBLE resource for anyone who is planning on travelling, especially if they are deaf or have hearing loss. He seems to be a great guy, just looking to explore everything this world has to offer, and doesn’t let anything stand in his way.Ed RexEd Rex, Travel Editor, Courtesy of RexyEdventures.com

Accommodations Part Two

As we covered in the previous blog post, finding ways to decrease the cost of your lodging will save you massive amounts of cash during trips. Part one was focused on hostels, what they are, and how to get into them, and part two will be focused on a more private living situation, but still being cheaper than a typical hotel room.

Short term exchanges are rentals that allow travelers to stay in apartments that are typically furnished while travelling. These rentals are only a bit cheaper than hotel rooms, but they offer many more amenities, and give you the comfort of home, even though you’re abroad.

Places like Europe and Australia have a lot of apartment rentals that are usually rented on a week to week basis. Therefore, if you’re staying less than a week, this probably isn’t the option for you. However, if you’re planning on making a long-term trip abroad, renting an apartment or condo is going to be your best bet if you want the privacy of a hotel room, the comforts of being at home, but still saving money in the process.

Renting these apartments can be a nice link between hostels and hotels, though if you’re traveling alone, they can get a bit expensive, just like a hotel room would. Roughly, they are about double the cost of a hostel dorm room, but typically a bit less than a hotel room. This is going to be the ideal situation if you are a part of a group or a couple travelling who aren’t wanting to stay with tons of strangers in a dorm, and save money by not staying in a hotel. Another great reason for this option is you would get a kitchen, including a fridge, sink, freezer, and anything else you would need to cook your own food, and therefore reducing your food costs.

Two of the most popular booking sites for these rentals are Airbnb and Wimdu. Depending on what you’re looking for will determine which site you’re more likely to find what you need, but I would suggest checking out both before making a reservation.

Airbnb is one of the top vacation rental services for American travelers, and they have over a million listings in about 200 different countries. The majority of these listings are entire homes or apartments, private rooms, and shared rooms, although cabins and villas are also available for rent. On Airbnb, guests will usually pay between a 6 and 12% service fee for the rental, although it will go down if you book multiple nights. Here is a link to Airbnb booking site, where you can search property listings by the location you will be visiting: https://www.airbnb.com/

Wimdu is the top European platform for city apartment rentals. Most of the properties are apartments, but they also have homes, boats, and even treehouses. Their inventory is around 300,000 properties in over 100 countries. You don’t have to be European to use Wimdu, but the site does interest travelers from Europe. Wimdu charges a flat 12% fee for their bookings, based on the listing price. This is a link to Wimdu’s booking site, where you can search for what you’re looking for: http://www.wimdu.com/

There are tons of other sites for these services, I just mentioned two that are popular among travelers. Always remember, read the reviews, talk to the homeowner, and if it feels sketchy, don’t take the chance!

Airbnb Office, courtesy of Airbnb Flickr

Wimdu Logo, photo courtesy of Julian at Wimdu

Accommodations and Where to Sleep, Part One

Your accommodations are usually the most expensive part of any vacation. However, there are ways to reduce these costs and help you save big! I’m sure you have a certain level of standards for where you are willing to sleep, but no matter what you don’t want to spend a fortune on it. Since you have to have somewhere to sleep every night, reducing this cost can save you a lot in the total costs of your trip. Other than finding a cheap flight, getting inexpensive lodging will have the largest impact on your trip budget.

Luckily, there are quite a few ways that travelers can find a place to stay without spending their entire savings. Here is the first option for today’s travelers, and a few more will be posted in the next few blogs.

This is a hostel in Taiwan, courtesy of HostelManagement.com
This is a hostel in Taiwan, courtesy of HostelManagement.com

Hostels

Hostels are a very popular option for young travelers, and a great option if you’re trying to stay on a tight budget. Hostels are a lot like the dorms you stayed in during freshman year, and the facilities are shared by all visitors. While some are for huge rooms with lots of strangers, there are many hostels that offer small rooms, single rooms, and double rooms for couples or people traveling alone. The myth that hostels are dirty, gross, and full of hippies is completely wrong, and many hostels actually have more amenities than hotels do. Hostels are most likely going to be the best option for budget travelers, and generally, the bigger the room, the cheaper the bill is going to be. However, if you are traveling in a group, you could get a room for your entire group and not have to share with strangers.

It is true that many hostels are more aimed towards younger travelers (some even set age limits), many of the larger international chains such as Hostelling International or YHA are known to focus more on group and older travelers. Many families, tour groups, and older people stay in hostels all over the world.

Basically, a hostel is a great place for anyone who wants to save money, and meet other travelers. Generally, hostels are secure, safe, and relatively cheap. Don’t overlook hostels because of the way they are portrayed in movies.

There are a lot of hostel sites that you can look at pictures, reviews, and see deals. My favorite is Hostelworld, as I have found they usually have the best inventory, prices, and booking is easy.

Here is a link to Hostelworld, the hostel booking site where you can search by city to find available hostels: http://www.hostelworld.com/

Check out the blogs to come for more tips on finding accommodations on a buget, and until then, happy traveling!

Step One: Getting There

Since this blog will be mostly focused on travel tips for exploring Europe, these suggestions will be specific, but with a little tweaking, can be changed to fit virtually any country you’re interested in.

Traveling around Europe is many college student’s dream. While getting across the ocean may seem like the most daunting part, it isn’t a deal breaker, and can be manageable. One site, StudentUniverse, will literally save you hundreds. Become a member (yes, it is free) and you will have access to discounts and promo codes that you never thought possible. The first step to getting to Europe as cheap as possible is to fly into wherever the sales are happening. While this is usually London, there are exceptions when sales might be going on with other airlines. Then, from wherever you landed, take a rail or bus to get where you want to be.

Timing is also very important. Try to avoid travel during peak season, and don’t travel around European holidays. Do your research before you book, and get the best deal. Some example flights I found on StudentUniverse right now:

  • One-Way Flight from New York to Paris: $265
  • One-Way Flight from Washington D.C to Amsterdam: $289

Europe is so compact that it is easy to see multiple countries in one trip. If you don’t know where to start, there are tour packages of Europe from StudentUniverse that take you to the most iconic places, and it’s not difficult to navigate through them. However, if you know where you want to go, there are more than enough ways to get you there without emptying your bank account. The Euro Rail is a scenic and fast option, but it’s not always the cheapest. Look out for student discounts on train tickets! Busses are going to be the cheapest way to travel from country to country, as they can take you across borders for as little as $15. Eurolines and Megabus are two companies that can show you routes. Last way to get around Europe would be with international budget flights. StudentUniverse can help you find these as well, while a plane ticket from Rome to Paris will only cost you about $25.

I would advise every traveler looking for a budget friendly trip to avoid a car. The daily fee may seem low, but there is always extras such as tolls, gas and parking, which ends up being much more expensive. Don’t rent a car thinking it will be the cheapest and easiest option, it’s not. Plus, Europe is covered in speed guns that will photograph you and send the ticket to you in the U.S. Not a great souvenir.

If you plan your trip, you can experience any city on a budget. Some cities are cheaper than others, which could make a week-long trip and a month long trip the same price. So, if you want to get the most from your Europe trip, visit more affordable cities like Budapest and Prague. Do the research, check out the current exchange rates, find out where your dollar will be the strongest.

My next few blogs will include the other aspects of your trip, such as accommodations, food, and activities. Stay tuned to find even more money saving tips.

Go to https://www.studentuniverse.com/ to become a member of StudentUniverse and save big money on travel.