How to Fly Successfully on Budget Airlines

How to Successfully Fly on Budget Airlines

Taking a budget airline flight can be very cost effective, but only if you can successfully avoid all the hidden fees and traps.  Navigating the regulations of budget airlines, such as Ryanair, Wizzair, and EasyJet, is similar to trying to understand the rules of the Federal Tax Code.  Here are a few tips to help you travel with ease and maximize the little space you have.

1)      Location, Location, Location.  Budget airlines can offer the crazy low prices they do for multiple reasons; one of these is by offering flights out of tiny airports that don’t get the traffic of the mainstream ones.  One example of this is The Paris/Beauvais airport which Ryanair regularly flies out of.  This airport is not really located in Paris, but in the neighboring city of Beauvais over an hour’s drive away from the heart of the city. Airports outside main cities require special travel arrangements and take more time.  In the Paris example, you should arrive at a bus stop to the airport over 3 hours before your flight at a cost of 15 Euro.  Don’t rule out these tiny airports right away, but remember to factor in the added cost of getting to them and the extra travel time to make sure the plane ticket is still a steal.

Map of the Paris-Beauvais airport in relation to Paris

2)      Always pre-print your boarding pass.  Some budget airlines may charge up to 60 Euro to print your boarding pass at the airport if you do not print it before hand.  Even worse, the ticket may not be available to print more than 24 hours before your flight and 4 hours or less before the flight.   Be sure to check the time restrictions to print off your ticket and research a place to print the ticket within that timeframe to avoid paying an extremely hefty fee.

3)      Choose your suitcase wisely. Budget airlines love to pick out travelers with baggage that is outside of the specified size to make them pay for breaking the luggage guidelines. Pack in a backpack or some form of bag that you carry on your person instead of a rolling bag.  Every time I witnessed someone get stopped by the “baggage police” (which happens very often), it was someone using a rolling suitcase.  They love to make everyone with a wheeling carry on try to fit it in the little metal cage that is the measurements of the restrictions.  Can’t get it in? Pay a large fee.  Our backpacks were usually larger than these rolling bags, but never got questioned.

Carrying a rolling bag is like carrying a giant target.

Hostels vs. Hotels

So you are considering a hostel instead of staying in a hotel, but why choose a hostel? Are there any benefits over staying in a hotel? There are a few differences that can help you decide whether it is a better choice to book a hostel or a hotel. What is a hostel? When you book a hotel, you book a room. When you choose to stay in a hostel, you book a bed.  You are literally reserving the spot in which you will stay instead of the room.  This typically means that there will be other people in your room that reserved the other available beds. What are the benefits of  staying in a hostel?

  1. Cost. The number one selling point of hostels is the price. I have stayed in multiple hostels for under $15 a night, which is significantly cheaper than many hotels.  There is often the misconception that hostels are dirty and much trashier than hotels.  This is not necessarily true.  Hostels are rated like hotels on sites such as hostelworld.com.  I have stayed in 4 and 5 start hostels that are as nice as some of the best hotels.  Since hostels are aimed toward the budget conscious traveler, they often include things such as guest kitchens where you can cook and discounted tours or attractions, especially for students.
  2. Social scene. If you stay in a hotel, you are isolated in your room.  Hostels are social settings and you are bound to meet other travelers that are sharing your room.  Additionally, almost every hostel has a common room or some type of lounge to encourage social interaction between residents; many even have bars attached.  I have met some amazing people in hostels who are usually like minded travelers ready to share stories.
  3. Hostel Staff.  The majority of the staff members I have talked with in hostels are younger people who love to travel.  They almost always have great advice, both on the local area and other destinations.  Particularly perfect for people who want to experience local culture, their suggestions are usually more off the beaten path than a concierge who often names the top tourist spots.
  4. Location.  Since hostels typically house a fewer number of residents than hotels, their location options are greater.  There are many hostels situated in restored historical buildings, big houses, old prisons, campsites, castles, etc.  

What are the cons of hostels?

  1. Bad roommates.  There have been a couple times when I have had to share a room with a particularly stinky guest, someone who snores, etc.  I will say these times are outweighed by the times I have met awesome people, but keep in mind you have no say in who is in your room, it is just the luck of the draw.  One night my friends and I returned to our hostel and found a guy that had crawled into my friend’s bed instead of his own. Awkward.  These usually make for good war stories though.
  2. Amenities.  It is common for a hostel not to provide towels for guests without an additional fee. Likewise, they may give you sheets when you check in to make your own bed.  If you are looking for added amenities and special treatment, hostels are probably not your best choice.
  3. Privacy.  Hostels are created to form a community.  The atmosphere is often much more relaxed and less formal than a hotel.  With this in mind, guests may stay up late talking loudly, you will be sharing a community bathroom, and you better get used to changing clothes in front of strangers.

Hostels can be an excellent option especially if you are looking for location character and travel buddies.  Just be cautious to do your research first. Below are some pictures from hostels I have stayed in, both costing a little more than $20 USD a night.

Equity Point Hostel in Marrakech

4 Easy Ways to Save Money While Traveling

Prices for flights and hotels can be daunting in themselves, but that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank on every other expense.  Here are four ways to help you save money on your next vacation abroad!

-Budget airlines and travel websites

When I most recently traveled from Oklahoma City to Paris (France, not Texas), I didn’t want to pay $1000 so I found a website called studentuniverse.com – a website that caters to ANYONE (student, teacher, employee, etc) with a college e-mail.  I ended up paying $624 for a round-trip airfare.  Pretty amazing, right? Generally speaking, the longer you go, the cheaper it is, so keep that in mind. But if you want to take a short trip within your trip, check out budget airlines such as Ryanair and EasyJet.  Some flights can cost as little as TEN AMERICAN DOLLARS, such as the one I took from Nice, France to Marrakesh, Morocco.  Not even their asinine baggage policies can put a damper on that price.

-Unconventional lodging

There are so many different ways around pricey conventional hotels.  For the daring traveler, try couchsurfing.com , a website that pairs you up with a local who hosts people from different parts of the world (normally these people are also globetrotters who love to meet people from different cultures . The idea is that this is a reciprocal exchange, meaning you need to host some people too and tell them the best spots in your hometown, so keep that in mind beforehand.  Also, if you’re traveling in a large group, look into renting out someone’s apartment.  In Amsterdam, seven of us rented a chic little apartment in a great location with more than enough space that ended up costing everyone less that $30 Euros a night.  We had free reign to do what we wanted, when we wanted, and in style.

-Internet booking

This might sound like a given, but when you add up the amount of attractions paid for during a trip, each dollar makes a difference.  Almost all attractions have discounts for booking online, such as the London Eye.  If you do this enough, you will definitely see a difference in your bank account.  Also, look for deals online such as Livingsocial- most people don’t think about it, but these deals are offered abroad too!

-Free Tours

Finally, the culmination of the of free – free tours!  Most people have the misconceived notion that these are not of the same quality as paid tours, but that’s entirely not true.  These guides make their living off tips and it shows in their presentation.  With the best historical anecdotes, the funniest personal accounts, and lots of information, free tours are among the favorite for most travelers. Plus, you can tip based on how you think they did.  It’s  a win-win situation for all.

Travel smart my friends.

7 Tips to make the most of your carry-on

With stringent luggage rules, you aren’t left with much room to pack clothing and other goods in your carry-on.  Here are some suggestions to help you make the most of that space.

  1. Wear layers of clothing on the flight.  A great way to get some extra outfits in for your trip is to wear layers of clothing.  Throw an extra plastic bag or reusable shopping bag in your suitcase to put the extra clothes in later.  Always wear your bulkiest shoes and fluffiest sweater or jacket since they won’t condense well.
  2. Pack small objects such as socks and underwear in your shoes. If it is small enough to fit in something, put it there.
  3. Pack your biggest and least moldable objects first, then squeeze softer objects around those items. Pack shoes, bags of toiletries, and anything else that cannot be forced into an odd shape first, then bend your t-shirts and pajamas around them.
  4. If you don’t need it, leave it.  Europeans are known for wearing the same outfit for days in a row, no one is going to notice if you are wearing the same pair of jeans.  Trust me.
  5. Pack dark clothes and plain clothing. If you pack dark jeans and plain clothing, your friends are much less likely to notice you wearing the same shirt in all 300 photos you upload.
  6. Pack accessories. A great way to trick people in to thinking you are wearing a different outfit is by changing something simple like a scarf.  Especially in winter months, focus on packing more of what people will actually see than shirts that will end up hidden under your coat.
  7. Spacebags are a lie, and irritate all fellow travelers off. One girl I have traveled with a few times carries the travel version of spacebags with her for short trips.  I guarantee I fit 3x more clothing in my backpack than she did, the hard plastic bags do not optimize space in any way.  Plus they are loud and take way longer to pack in than just rolling your clothing. The only thing spacebags are truly useful for is pillows or other incredibly fluffy items with tons of excess air in them.

Travel smarter, not harder friends.

Top 5 Tips to Avoid Being an Annoying Tourist Abroad

Ever had something negative to say about a group of tourists in your hometown? Chances are the answer is yes.  Just because you’re in a foreign environment doesn’t mean everyone has to know it.  Here are some tips to help you avoid being that “pesky tourist”.

  • 5. Stop traveling in giant cliques – We get it, you’re just getting off a sardine-packed tour bus or your entire group of study abroad students wanted to see Geneva together, or maybe your 15 other sorority sisters all want to look “hot” together on the way to the discotheque. Just because you all want to be together doesn’t mean you have to travel in packs of 20. Split up and tackle a city in smaller groups. I can tell you from experience  if you’re traveling in a large group, there’s going to be some decision-making issues anyway.
  • 4. Make an effort to know a few words –  How do you feel when someone asks you for directions in Spanish? Most people I know lament about how this is ‘Murica’, and therefore people should learn English or leave. Just because it’s a popular global language doesn’t mean everyone abroad speaks it. In the tourist sector, knowing 10 simple phrases will win you enormous bonus points with the locals and some might even reveal a secret; they knew English all along (so watch what you say)!
  • 3. You miss home, get over it –  Asking for ice at every restaurant in Europe, whining about the lack of Dr. Pepper, bee lining it to the nearest McDonalds for free Wi-Fi so you can post your 12th consecutive photo of the Eiffel Tower on Facebook (this is a great way to slim down your friends list, by the way) – all these hardships are not permanent. You will be back home soon, stop complaining about it to every living soul, foreign or otherwise, because guess what? Nothing you say is going change things.
  • 2. Pack the attire of a squire – Needless to say, you don’t have to wear a tuxedo and ball gown to hike the Great Wall of China, but that doesn’t mean wear your sweats and college football snuggie. There is a happy medium.  Generally speaking, people in other countries take more pride in their appearance than the average Wal-Mart shopper.  They also don’t want to see your, “I Heart NY” shirt, flip flops, “norts” (aka Nike shorts), fishing shirts or whatever. Could you identify a lederhosen-ladden group of men leaving a German beer house? Because if you’re wearing anything I mentioned above, they can probably identify you too.
  • 1. Stop YELLING –  Americans are loud. We get it, we’ve been there too. The volume in which Americans speak is much higher than other countries, so tone it down or risk being the loud obnoxious cliche tourist. The most common and deadly of the traveling sins, many have a hard time grasping the concept of intercultural communication, thinking their message isn’t getting across because either a) Their hearing is bad or, b)They must not be speaking loudly enough and/or enunciating.  Sadly, it is neither of these. They truthfully just don’t have a damn clue how to speak English.
Travel smart my friends.

Top 5 Fall Trips in North American

5 Fall Trips in North America

Looking for a great trip to take this fall? Here are some suggestions.  There is a little something for everyone whether you want to experience fall beauty or escape somewhere to forget about the impending winter.

1) Fall Foliage Trip 

Drive through New England to see the trees in hundreds of varying colors.  Famous Allegheny Passage from Cumberland, Maryland to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania boasts some of the most famous views of fall foliage.  Stop along to way to visit apple orchards or to take a hayride. Travel anywhere from South Carolina to Wisconsin to experience picturesque views in the fall.

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2) Escape the Winter Trip

Visit locations close to the Ecuador for one last summer-like trip. Puerto Vallarta still has temperatures in the high 80’s throughout the fall.  As an added bonus, the tourist season doesn’t pick up until mid-November, providing cheaper hotels and airfare.

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3) Unusual U.S. Trip

Every fall there are a number of festivals throughout the U.S., perhaps one of the most famous of these is the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.  Each year the festival draws thousands to view the hundreds of balloons ranging in shapes from a Pepsi can to a castle.

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4)British Columbia Classic Trip

Ski resorts in British Columbia, Nevada, and Colorado offer a place to stay in nature with an amazing view.  Like mexico, it is the off season in the fall, so you can stay in an upscale resort for bargain prices.

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5) City Trip

Prefer to take a trip to a location with lots of action and nightlife? Los Angeles can be a great option for it warm stable weather and plethora of things to do. Visit neighboring cities such as San Diego or take a trip to the farms in the valley while you are visiting.

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To Travel or Not to Travel

Globetrotters,

To travel or not to travel, that is the question.  Whether tis’ nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of global isolation, or take arms against a sea of losers, and by opposing, travel.

Shakespeare’s version might have varied slightly, but who really knows? One thing is certain though, Shakespeare’s influence spanned an entire planet, something he could not do personally in the 1500’s.  How many international tour dates do you think Shakespeare would have in 2012? My best guess is however many there were, they’d be sold out in every city across the globe.

Do you ever wonder why so many American artists do international tours? We’re the epicenter of culture and entertainment for the world.  We set standards for other countries in terms of music, movies, television, etc.  But that doesn’t mean we’re all the world has to offer. Up until four years ago, mainstream culture was 90% originating for the good ole U S of A.  Today, we have been ambushed by a sea of English pop-Gods; Adele, One Direction, the Wanted.  And as it turns out, America is welcoming the ambush with open arms.

The point I’m trying to make is the world is getting smaller and it’s happening fast.  For so long we’ve had this idea that the rest of the globe is one big greenhouse experiment; we send over American culture and news in droves while most anything that tries to escape the bubble is caught in a thick 12-mile layer of indifference and who can blame us? We barely have to time to swallow everything here in the states.  It’s time to start opening our eyes to different regions, languages, cultures, food.  The world as we know it is shrinking and believe it or not, that’s a good thing.  At My Buddy Abroad, we want to show what it’s like to ride four wheelers in the Moroccan dessert, to fall in love in Paris, to teach English in China, and to watch the sun rise after a long night in Ibiza, with hundreds of other people JUST like you.

And at the end of it all, maybe we can honor our beloved but not forgotten American culture with a few updated sequels, starting with, “Honey, I shrunk the kids world.”

Travel smart, my friends.