Travel

Sure, running out of milk for your cereal, hangnails, and single-spaced papers are terrible, but is there anything truly worse than a poorly planned trip? The one you envisioned flawlessly in your mind, but everything that could have gone wrong seemed to? I have been there. Organizing an enjoyable trip or vacation takes serious inspiration and, more importantly, useful planning resources. In attempts to avoid fake tours, dirty hotels, and wasted days, I want to share a few of my favorite travel-related websites that aid in creating the adventure you crave and deserve.

1. Student Universe 

For those looking to save some money, Student Universe is your site. This travel company caters to students and provides discounted rates on flights, trains, hotels, and tours. While most people use the website for their flights, make sure to check out their “Tours” and “Activities” tabs to help in creating a fun itinerary. To get access to these perks from Student Universe, all you have to do is create an account and verify you are a student.

It’s easy! Now that you’ve grabbed cheaply priced tickets, it’s time for the nitty gritty details.

2. Airbnb

When I traveled to Panama I stayed in the heart of Panama City in a beautiful apartment in the artsy and historic Casco Viejo neighborhood. The home was stunning with 2-stories, ceramic tile, a balcony with a view, and impeccable decorating. Staying in an apartment was much more economical and enjoyable than staying in a hotel. Using Airbnb prospective travelers can search through various styles and sizes of houses, apartments, and bedrooms to rent from locals during their trip. The spaces belong to owners who have been thoroughly screened and reviews are posted on the site for each owner.

I highly recommend browsing Airbnb’s housing options before looking for hotels because they are cheaper and provide you with an authentic feel during your vacation. If you want to save some money and cook food, you can do that. If you want to stay in for a night and listen to the sounds of the street, you can do that, too!

3. National Geographic Travel 

When planning my next journey, I also check by National Geographic’s online travel section. Aside from the awe-inspiring photography covering every inch of the website, the travel section has a huge database of itineraries, destinations, restaurant recommendations, and so much more. You can search by trip type, country, city, and even theme.

If you are choosing between destinations, I would recommend using the photographs and articles written on this website to narrow your options. It’s National Geographic, so you’ll inevitably feel your wanderlust increase ten-fold.

4. Jet Lag Rooster 

Finally, a messed up sleep schedule can surely disrupt a vacation, so try using this website to learn how to avoid it! Just type in your departures and arrival cities, and the Rooster will give you suggestion times of when to sleep during your flight and the few days after. No longer will you be wide awake at 4:30 am and ready to pass out at 3pm, thanks to this neat site!

Image: Flickr

CultureTravel

You’re standing at the foot of a church built in 1147 with colored glass windows like nothing you’ve ever seen before. The air smells like smoke and you can’t understand what anyone is saying. You bounce from restaurant to restaurant, indulging in the local faire, only to find out that “black pudding” isn’t really pudding after all. You never thought you could experience so much joy, terror and excitement all in the course of one day.

This is only one of the experiences I’ve had traveling; equal parts daunting and surreal. I’d had experience traveling in Europe before, just never on my own. But when I was invited to visit my stepbrother in Vienna, my friend and I packed our bags and never looked back.

Having been to eight European countries in the course of my life so far, I’ve embraced the concept of traveling. Not only do I long to see more of the world, but I’m starting to fully understand what travel can teach you. For all the hours we spend in the classroom, there is nothing quite as enlightening and growth promoting as leaving home for a few weeks.

In the time I spent abroad, I learned more about the countries I was in than I ever would have by reading a textbook. I got to witness a type of natural, idyllic beauty that I only could’ve pictured in a dream. In the same week, I took my first subway ride…with signs I couldn’t read, might I add.

Whether you’re journeying to Croatia or Cuba, you’re forced to experience a culture that is nothing like your own. You’ll struggle to communicate with the locals and learn to not fall into traditional tourist traps. You’ll meet people that’ll change you. And, most importantly, you’ll develop a patience and understanding for others that you may not have developed on your own.

As much as I love drinking from coffee cups the size of my head, I realize that not everyone has the opportunity to travel as much as I did. Luckily, there are plenty of opportunities to cut the cost of your trip. Eliminate hotel costs by using sites like airbnb or hostelworld. Staying at a hostel gives you the opportunity to meet other travelers, while staying at someone’s home gives you the chance to live like a local.

Another great way to travel is by volunteering or working abroad. What better way to experience another culture than by giving back to the community? Organizations like Volunteering Solutions provide inexpensive opportunities to lend a helping hand, while workaway has a list of hosts who need help with their businesses or routine tasks. Last but not least, check what kinds of study abroad programs your school offers. Many schools offer countless scholarship opportunities, making the trip more affordable than you think.

To this day, I think the most important aspect of traveling is the memories. The rolling hills of Wales, gothic architecture of Prague and wine country of Avignon are all still vivid pictures in my mind. It’s not about the photographs, but the feeling; the part of you that has changed and the part of you that yearns to go back.

Image: Unsplash