Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Getting More out of Your Travels


Greetings, friends new and old!

Welcome to my blog. It's been upgraded and is fully functional again. Let me know what you think!

Recently, I've had the pleasure to work with some really cool people through Gzowski Club and been fortunate enough to do some traveling. This included a work term in Europe and more recently a budget Eurotrip that focused on maximizing experience and minimizing costs. Can you imagine flying from Portugal to Toronto for $94 (all incl.) and not being in a baggage container!? There are many cool posts on travel at the club website that I wholeheartedly suggest paroozing though.

Throwing around a Frisbee at the town square in Edinburgh, Scotland.
As time winds down with my undergraduate studies, you may be asking what am I doing next? I have been asking myself that for a while, too. As a soon-to-be BBA: International Business Management graduate, I've been seeking to identify my passions and fit for the future. I will go into this further in a later post, but I will say that I want to be able to grow myself with further education, push myself to experiment, travel, explore new cultures, give back to the community and integrate all of this with my business education. I had SLP brought to my attention, which is a leadership development program funded by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I thought that this was a great opportunity relating to what I was looking for so I applied and got in. As I had such a great time in Europe the last couple times, I have build another Eurotrip around this schooling. Some highlights include a one-way flight to Athens for $274 CAD (all incl). or $3 (plus fees) from Warsaw to Belgium. The trip looks something like this:

2012 Euro-trip #2
Minus Poland, these are all places that I have not visited yet. I am looking for cool places to visit at these stops, places to stay, cool things to try, and to meet cool new people. I am also looking for travel companions, so if you're in the area, make sure to get in touch!

Enough about me...how can you save some money and do some traveling?...I have been approached several times lately and asked how I can pull off going to Europe 3 times within a year, find the time to balance school and score good deals on flights. The short answer is that it's a trade-off between your time and your money. Let me break it down for you...

Firstly, you need a willingness to explore. This may involve leaving your comfort zone. Five star hotels and similar luxuries costs you big money (no revelation here). I recommend using something like Couch Surfing. Yes, you won't have Geoffrey from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air serving you. What you will have is a chance to meet incredible new friends that will likely show you the city, take you in for free, and much more. And the biggest perk isn't that it's for free, but you get to see more than the 'touristy' perspective that typically just scratches the surface. You will likely see that and also the local view, which I've found much more exciting. If you're just starting out and a little hesitant, I recommend using HostelWorld as hostels aren't what you see in the movie Eurotrip. They are also a great way to meet people and find out where you should explore.

On the notes of next steps...Personally, I'd like to figure out a way to make Asia, South America and Africa work in the near future. If you have some stories or ideas, I'd love to hear them.

How to Get More out of Your Travel:
I've assembled some additional tips to help save money and in my opinion increase the fun and exploration in traveling. Remember, it will likely take some time and you may not find exactly what you want on your first try. It's your time versus opening your chequebook to your money.

  • Pack light. Lay out your stuff on your bed. From there, take with you half of the clothes and double the money. Also, bring a tie. It never hurts to be classy.
  • Check out Tripit. It's free and a great tool to keep track of your trip and share with friends. They will take your itineraries and organize them all for you and even sync them with your calendar. They also have a Facebook application.
  • CouchSurfing: I mentioned it above and will mention it again because I think it's one of the coolest things on the internet. I've used it several times and plan to use it again this time around.
  • Google Flights: What doesn't Google have these days? This is a good starting point to compare prices on different departure dates.
  • Discount Airlines: Some of my favourites include Wizz Air, RyanAir, or easyJet. I have found flights for as cheap as $0.33! With the service charge, it came to around $6.00 CAD. When using discount airlines, make sure to check how much checked luggage will add to the price before checking out as some charge more than others. Another reason to pack light! 
  • PolskiBus.com. Their website says, "Fast, Cheap and Comfortable." I would say that this description is bang on. With free Wifi Internet on board and potentially free snacks, this low-cost option in Eastern Europe is something that you should definitely try. 
  • Carpooling.co.uk is the UK version of carpooling.com. I think this one is self-explanatory.
  • Kayak, SkyScanner, OneTravel, are good places to start for cheap flights. Flight Centre does a price-match similar to Expedia on identical flights, but I haven't had a good experience with Expedia. If you do use Expedia, the .com version tends to have better deals.
  • When flying to Europe, AirTransat is a great start for deals. Some of their one-way European deals are even shocking. Check them out here. On the way home, the best prices I've found through Canadian Affair.
  • Although I haven't done it myself (perhaps in the future), some people swear by hitchhiking in Europe.

From Warsaw, PL to Stockholm, SE for 1PLN or ~ $0.33!
I hope that was helpful and I'd love to hear your feedback. Leave a comment, send me a tweet, reach me on Facebook or email or the conventional snail mail is always cool, too. All of these good things can be found on my main page. You take your pick.

Hoping to see you somewhere along the way!