Travel is a big part of the college experience. During Easter break we go on trips to the ‘Dam or some other European city; Berlin, Paris, Prague… In the summer we go on J1’s to the USA or Canada, or go travelling around Asia and/or Thailand. We go to music festivals, both at home in Ireland and abroad. We explore loads of different countries, learn about other cultures and experience them first-hand, broadening our minds and our concept of the world. It sounds romanticised when you put it like that, but it’s the truth.
So, we felt it was time University Express introduced a section dedicated to travel, in which we will discuss all the tips, tricks and how-to procedures for the travel excursions and world explorations we embark on to satisfy that college-life induced sense of wanderlust, complimented by the occasional story and anecdotal note. Last week we featured a story about one girl’s (my) slightly disastrous experience at a week-long music festival in Benicassim, Spain. This week, we have some practical advice.
Need a break? One that will take you far away from here, from your responsibilities and the horrible realities of adult life? How about city break? You may feel like you’re broke, so you can’t afford a luxurious, extravagant, sun-drenched week away in Abu Dhabi like the ladies of Sex and the City. You can, however, afford a weekend in one of the many beautiful, hassle free and easily accessible cities that Europe has to offer.
First thing’s first: flights. Skyscanner and other price-comparison websites (Trip Adviser, Trivago) are the handiest search tools for flights, and even accommodation, so definitely check those out before you book anything. Don’t rush a booking; keep your eye on prices to the cities you’d like to visit, and when they’re low, go for it! There are often reasonable direct flights with Aer Lingus to the likes of Paris, Edinburgh, Munich, and more. Depart on an early morning flight, and try get an afternoon or evening flight home; that way one whole day isn’t taken up entirely by travelling.
Accommodation. Air BnB is fantastic; when you’re staying in an apartment with the facilities to make some of your own food, you can save from time to time on eating out, as well as feeling like you’re getting the proper local, what-it-would-be-like-to-live-here experience. When on a budget, don’t rule out chain hotels (such as Ibis) or decent hostels; these may not offer you the culturally enveloped experience that an apartment would but when the deals are good why be picky? All you need is a comfortable and clean place to sleep. You’ll be spending hardly any time in your accommodation; a city break is all about diving deep and fast into the culture, history, art and atmosphere of a city in a short amount of time. Don’t waste it!
Spending money. Do not underestimate how much you’ll need, but don’t feel like you’ll need one hundred quid a day just to feed yourself. Going away for a weekend is treat enough, so prioritise what you spend your money on. You don’t need any more clothes or makeup; all you need is forty to sixty euros a day (depending on the cost of living in the area you are going) to get yourself one or two decent meals out, and then a snack and/or coffee or two in between.
Eating out. Trip Adviser will be your best friend. Anyone who has gone to Amsterdam will know how difficult it can be to get decent food. Always check out the reviews on Trip Adviser and explore the best places to go; it will always be where the locals love themselves. Avoid tourist-packed main streets and chain restaurants you recognise from home. You’re there to try something different, including new cuisine, so don’t go to any food places you’ve eaten in before!