Travel Tips

Please excuse our appearance this page is under construction

Traveling in Europe
Traveling in America


Traveling in Europe

Hosteling
Transportation
Food
Cool Trip Ideas
What to pack
Things to be Wary of
Free Tours


Hosteling
General Information
Where to Book online
Hall of Fame

General Information
Hostel quality, price and service varies dramatically where ever you go because they are not held to ay sort of standard. Some of them are run out of people’s homes by families or people who enjoying meeting travelers, while others are run by students or individuals who are not there 24/7. Some are really cool and some are just a mattress on the floor somewhere. You must be very careful about this and there are plenty of available sites to help you find safe hostels which include ratings and comments from people who have stayed in the hostel before you.

Where to Book

The Hostel site offering the cheapest prices is http://www.hostelbookers.com/. This is the site I use most often because it has pretty comprehensive ratings and comments for other travelers and doesn’t charge booking fees so it gets you the best prices.

Hosteling International(HI) is a worldwide organization that has an agreement with certain hostels and it holds them to a certain standard so booking hostels through this organization is probably the safest way to find hostels because you know the accommodation will be clean, well-kept and safe. You can book hostels through this organization here: http://www.hihostels.com/. You can also find HI hostels listed on hostelbookers, but to specifically search for a HI hostel go directly to the HI website. NOTE: You must be a member of this organization to avoid paying a 3 euro fee per night on top of the listed price. It is cheap to join and worth it if you are using these hostels frequently. Actually after you stay at a HI hostel for more than 6 nights in a row you are automatically made a member.

There are other sites like http://www.hostelworld.com/ and you can sometimes find very cheap hotels through http://www.lastminute.com/http://www.hotwire.com/, and http://www.expedia.it/Hotel if you are looking for more upscale accommodation. But as a student travel, I found I usually booked the cheapest possible housing because I wanted to spend my money elsewhere and because you meet so many new and interesting people when you stay in a shared room.

Hall of Fame
I stayed in a couple of outstanding Hostels while abroad and I would highly recommend them to anyone. Here is my Hostel Hall of Fame:

Giovanni’s HomeLocated in Naples, Italy, my sister and I stayed here during our tour of Italy and really loved it. Giovanni runs the hostel out of his home and he is the best host ever. When you arrive he gives you water and makes you comfortable and tells you all about Napoli and the best places to visit, including a tour of underground Naples(which he can get you discounts to). If you are lucky Giovanni will cook for you and the food is amazing. Be forewarned that there is no elevator in the building and he lives on the fourth floor, but when my sister and I arrived he came down with another guy staying in the hostel and they helped us with our bags. For more information check out the listing on hostelbookers.com and the official website: http://www.giovannishome.com/

United World International HostelI stayed at this hostel for a weekend when I went to meet the group I would be working with in Madrid. It is very centrally located in Madrid and is located right next to a metro stop which makes it easy to get to the University and it is in walking distance of many famous sites like the Palacio Reale. I think it’s best feature is the location, but it was also very clean and safe. It was a dorm style hostel where you stay in a room with several other people and it was a little awkward because when I was there someone was always sleeping so you had to be quiet. But most people would hang out in the kitchens/common areas and talk, which was nice. For more information check out their website http://www.unitedworldhostel.com/.

Everton Hostel: My boyfriend and I stayed at this hostel in Liverpool, UK over New Years while we were travelling through the UK. This hostel was apartment style with a fully stocked kitchen, large bathroom, washing machine and beautiful decor. It was nicer that my apartment in Milan and really well-kept up. It was a little more expensive because it was a private room, but it was really cheap for everything that was included. For more information about it check out its reviews on hostelbookers.com or go to their website: http://www.everton.hostel.com/

Transportation

Flights from USA to Europe
Flights within Europe
Trains
Buses

Flights from the USA to Europe
Flights from the USA to Europe can be expensive, but if you have frequent flyer miles or any type of travel reward, this is the time to cash in because the cheapest round trip flight I have found from the USA to Milan is around $700. There are several good places to find deals on your international flight if you don’t have any rewards. The best that I have found is http://www.statravel.com/, which is a student travel site that can get you deals on vacations, hotels, international calling cards, eurail passes, etc. They are definitely something you should read before you go as they have some great money-saving student travel tips. Another great site is actually http://it.bing.com/travel/flights, because it does a good job of comparing many sites across the internet that other comparison sites seem to miss and it takes you directly to the sellers site so you don’t pay booking fees. Probably the best price comparison site I have found is http://www.bookingbuddy.com/ because it finds all the deals as well as regular price flights and it tends not to have as large booking fees as other price comparison sites. Sometimes bookingbuddy finds the cheapest flights and sometimes Bing does, so I check them both before making a decision.

Flights inside of Europe

Flights inside of Europe are pretty cheap and there are a couple of good websites for finding amazing deals. Both Milan and Madrid are large International hubs so the average round trip flight cost to all the Schengen countries( which include: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France ,Germany, Iceland, Italy, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden) is 80 euros. Of course the price varies and some will be higher and some lower. If you are flexible with your dates you can get some amazing deals. Bookingbuddy and Bing flights are still useful for price comparison but there are better sites for cheap flights inside the EU. One of the cheapest is http://www.bravofly.com/vg1/flights.do, but this site doesn’t work for all countries. One of the largest and most well-known is http://www.easyjet.com/EN, which is actually and airline, not a comparison site. Another airline company is Ryanair(http://www.ryanair.com/en), which is a little more sketchy than Easyjet, meaning they have some strict policies(like a 60 euro reissuing fee if you don’t check in and print out/bring your boarding pass before getting to the airport) Easyjet as been around longer and is a little better in my opinion, but if you are looking for the cheapest option Ryanair is sometimes the better choice. The last site I will suggest is http://www.edreams.it/, which is another comparison site that oftentimes comes up with the cheapest price, but beware because they also charge a booking fee and a fee for using a credit card and those fees can add up, making it more expensive than other sites. So basically shop around on these sites to find the best price.

Trains

Trains in Europe are more comfy that trains in America because you usually get more space and it is such a common form of transportation in Europe that it is really well-kept up. To find times/prices for regional train lines in Italy go to this site: http://www.trenitalia.com/. A good site that can map train schedules throughout the EU is http://www.raileurope.com/index.html.
Buses

I have never taken a bus over a long distance(say from Milan to Naples), only public transportation in a city or between cities that are very close. For information about buses as public transportation go to the public transportation section. Most people fly or take trains in Europe, but there are buses. They are just not always very economical. This website can help you find out about the bus services: http://www.eurolines.it/Home/59-1-en.html. If you are traveling a fairly close distance(Like Milan to Venice or Rome) the cheapest transportation is the train, but pretty much anything further than that is cheapest to fly to.

Food

When I first got to Milan I was disappointed by the food because I didn’t know where to find the good food. You will have to experiment with the restaurants, but you should be aware that there are shops just for meat, some shops are bakeries where you can get bread but also panini(sandwiches), croissants(for breakfast), pizza(it’s usually not very good at bakeries you need to go to a pizzeria/kebab shop to find decent pizza), pizza/kebab shops, etc. I do not eat red meat and eat very little chicken and fish, which I thought was going to be a problem(which it is in some places) but you will find that a lot of Europeans do not eat much meat because it is VERY expensive, especially fish for some reason. But I would recommend trying risotto, which is a rice dish that has a lot of variations and flavors so you won’t get tired of it.

When you are traveling is when you can really taste all the amazing food in Italy. Pizza was invented in Napoli(Naples) and they still have the best pizza in my opinion. I would recommend Gino’s, which is where I had the best pizza I have ever tasted, but I have no idea where it is. If you stay with Giovanni at Giovanni’s home he will mark it on the map for you and it is very close to the Hostel. The best Gelato I have encountered is in Rome, but it is delicious almost anywhere in Italy and it is like ice cream but better, so you should try it.

Cool Trip Ideas

If you are looking for a trip that’s affordable but out of the ordinary there are a couple of cool things that I have tried/will try before I leave.

In Naples, take a tour of the underground. There are a couple of different tours, but the one I went on goes through an old aqueduct that was used as a bomb shelter during World War II and then into a home that was occupied until a couple of years ago because it lies on top of the old amphitheater. The tour will tell you the history of how this happened and why and the difficulties archaeologists face when trying to uncover Napoli’s history. For more information you can visit this page: http://www.napoliunderground.org/en/component/content/article/64/64.html and if you stay at Giovanni’s home( See the description of the hostel above in the Hosteling section ) he can get you a discount.

Eurocycle is a company that plans bicycle tours in countries all throughout Europe. The price that you pay includes very nice hotels(4-5 star), bike rentals(you can opt out of this if you have your own bike), a bike basket with a bunch of stuff you may need on your journey, and an itinerary of where to go/how to get there. For more information about this check out their website: http://www.radreisen.at/en/home.html. This was one of my favorite trips so far and if you want to learn more about my experiences you can check my blog posts about my trip.

What to pack

You do not want to be dragging around  large suitcase to hostels and most likely if you are staying in hostels you are staying somewhere for a short time/moving around a lot and trust me dragging large bag around is annoying. SO here are my suggestions on what to pack and what not to pack.

1) Bring a towel. Many hostels do not provide towels and you could always use a shirt or pair of pants to dry off, but you probably won’t have many clothes to spare if you pack properly so just bring even a hand towel or roll of paper towels.

2) Bring a phone. Some hostels require you to let them know when you are arriving before you get there, others don’t have 24 hour reception so if you are delayed or don’t arrive during that time you could be locked out and it is always a good idea to have a phone for any type of emergency.

3) Don’t bring a lot of clothes. Guys will probably not have this problem, but girls like to bring lots of options especially if you plan on partying and stuff. However, if you are like m the first couple times I went traveling I brought a bunch of clothes and ended up not wearing half of it. It was heavy and obnoxious because there is not that much room for storage in hostels, so bring things that are easy to mix and match. Your stuff should be able to fit in a backpack or gym size bag, anything larger means you are probably bringing too much. Also you want to have room in your bag for any new clothes/souvenirs you buy while traveling, and bringing the minimal amount of clothes is a good way to save space.

4) Hair Styling tools. Note that I didn’t mention whether or not to bring them and this is because it is up to you. In many hostels I have stayed at there aren’t many outlets in the bathrooms/near mirrors/in a place with enough space where you can do your hair. Plus spending massive amounts of time in the bathroom getting ready is super rude when you are sharing the bathroom with anywhere from 2-20 other people. I personally have stopped bringing these hair tools to hostels because I don’t want to drag them around when there is a large possibility that I won’t even have a place to use them. Do whatever you feel you need to do, but this is another way to make space in your bag for other things.

5) Bring Band-aids. If you are anything like me, you are a little(okay maybe very) clumsy and band aids are good to have if you trip over yourself. But I have also found that many people underestimate the amount of walking that occurs when you are traveling and even the most comfortable shoes can irritate your feet after a while, especially if you are not used to wearing them for long periods of time or over long distances. You may be a hero to yourself or others if you have bandages for blistered feet.

Things to be Wary of

1) Pickpockets. I know you’ve probably heard all about the pickpocket problem in Europe, but especially in Italy. They usually tend to strike in crowded areas where you expect to be safe like train stations and airports. But you should always be aware of your surroundings. You should try to avoid carrying a purse because people can just run by and grab it out of your hands easily. Backpacks are a good alternative option but the best of all worlds are hidden pockets or neck wallets that hold your money and passport hidden under your jacket/coat. Try not to be to flashy and keep your valuables out of sight and close to your person and you should be fine. I haven’t had a problem with pickpockets yet.

2)  Gypsies. These are the people who hang out in touristy areas like the Duomo in Milan, on the metro,  and even on campus. They will even wander into restaurants and bother you until the owner or workers shoo them away but many people just choose to ignore them. They will often try to give you something like a piece of string on your wrist that they call a bracelet or a trinket or breadcrumbs to feed the birds, which they tell you is a “gift”. It’s not a gift. They will follow you around and ask for money so if they come up to you just be blunt and say no and move your hands away and then move away from them. It’s annoying and I know you want that great picture in front of the Duomo with your friends, but you need to move away or they will keep bothering you. You can come back later once they’ve started bothering someone else and take your picture. I know I sound really harsh but you will learn really quickly how annoying it can be and unless you want to spend 5 euros for a piece of string then you have to be blunt.

3) Faux Taxis. These cabs are run by ordinary people without a license to operate a taxi and they’re usually safe, but are much more expensive than a real cab. If the car claiming to be a cab doesn’t have any taxi symbols on it or the little light on top it’s probably a faux cab and they are usually only seen near airports and train stations and sometimes really late at night. The best way to avoid them is to not hail a cab on the street but go to a taxi stand or call a cab. They won’t sit at a taxi stand. I’ve never actually seen one because I don’t take cabs very often but I’ve heard stories about ridiculously expensive cab rides, so just be careful.

Free Tours

One of my favorite things that I did in Paris was a free tour. Even if you aren’t confined to a college student’s budget I highly recommend taking a free tour because the way it works is you decide how much to tip the tour guide. This means they have to work hard for your money because they get paid by how much you think they are worth and if they are terrible they won’t make any money. You are not obligated to give them money and can bail at any time during the tour but I highly doubt you will. This website gives you links to the tours in different cities: http://www.neweuropetours.eu/. I went on the free Paris tour with Alex and the Montmartre district tour with Jacqueline(which costs a little bit of money but includes a glass of wine at the cafe where Amelie was filmed so is definitely worth it) and thoroughly enjoyed both. NOTE: Just because you don’t have to tip doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. The tour guides have to pay $2.50 per person to the company so at least help them break even if you take the tour(unless you really hate it, but I doubt you will)


Traveling in America

Hosteling
Transportation
Food
Cool Trip Ideas
What to pack
Things to be Wary of

Hosteling

I’ve never actually stayed at a hostel in the USA, but I am pretty sure they work the same way as in Europe. Therefore, quality of the hostel varies dramatically depending on the hostel itself. Some of them are run out of people’s homes by families or people who enjoying meeting travelers, while others are run by students or individuals who are not there 24/7. Some are really cool and some are just a mattress on the floor somewhere. You must be very careful about this and there are plenty of available sites to help you find safe hostels which include ratings and comments from people who have stayed in the hostel before you. The next section tells you where you can book, and I’ve never booked a hostel in the USA through these sites, but I know that they offer hostel listings for American cities.

Where to Book

The Hostel site offering the cheapest prices is http://www.hostelbookers.com/. This is the site I use most often because it has pretty comprehensive ratings and comments for other travelers and doesn’t charge booking fees so it gets you the best prices.

Hosteling International(HI) is a worldwide organization that has an agreement with certain hostels and it holds them to a certain standard so booking hostels through this organization is probably the safest way to find hostels because you know the accommodation will be clean, well-kept and safe. You can book hostels through this organization here: http://www.hihostels.com/. You can also find HI hostels listed on hostelbookers, but to specifically search for a HI hostel go directly to the HI website. NOTE: You must be a member of this organization to avoid paying a 3 euro fee per night on top of the listed price. It is cheap to join and worth it if you are using these hostels frequently. Actually after you stay at a HI hostel for more than 6 nights in a row you are automatically made a member.

There are other sites like http://www.hostelworld.com/ and you can sometimes find very cheap hotels through http://www.lastminute.com/http://www.hotwire.com/, and http://www.expedia.it/Hotel if you are looking for more upscale accommodation. But as a student travel, I found I usually booked the cheapest possible housing because I wanted to spend my money elsewhere and because you meet so many new and interesting people when you stay in a shared room.

Transportation

General
Storrs, Connecticut
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

General

 


Storrs

Philadelphia

Food

Cool trip ideas

What to Pack

Things to be Wary of

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s