Despite the fact that many college students profess not to “give a damn” about their grades, they love telling everyone within a five-mile radius their test scores.

College students learn a very important skill in high school and even junior high: how to tell people something without acting like you want to tell them or that it’s really important, yet still getting the message across.

They utilize this vital communication skill whenever they get their test results back and discover that they did well–or at least better than the person they’re talking to.  A conversation might go like this: “Hey, er…what’d you get?”  –other person tells test score.

If this score was low, the first person then goes, “Ah, yeah, that test was a bitch,” then proceeds to casually say, “yeah, I only got a ninety-eight percent…the next test should be better, though…”

If the other person received a good grade, the first person will then say something like, “That test was so easy!”  If their score was higher, they will then continue, “I got X percent better than you, but that’s alright, I did study a bit.”  If it was lower they will then become unaccountably quiet and say, “Well, it wasn’t that easy.  And I was out partying so I didn’t get a chance to study.”  Good luck trying to find out what their grade was.  If you ask directly they will suddenly and oddly forget.

Standardized test scores are also big conversation pieces.  Even if you didn’t get a good score on your ACT or SAT, you can still get a few points by knowing someone who received perfect or near-perfect scores.  If you did receive good scores, expect to be approached by people who say, “I heard you got a perfect score from so-and-so.  Smile; you just gave so-and-so a few points by being their smart friend.

All right, I think this will be my last airline review for awhile. But before we get onto a new topic, let’s look at easyJet, yet another discount airline based in Europe. Don’t you wish they had these in America? Pop down to Florida for forty dollars for the weekend…ah well. It’s nice to dream, right?

Ok. On to easyJet.

First thing I think is “oops.”  I managed to find their page on linking to their site.  The restrictions area bout a mile long and very lawyer-speaky.  Oh, I have to tell you that if you click on their link here you’ll be redirected to a new window, and I’m not allowed to say anything “defamatory” about them.  Does this mean I can’t say that I don’t like them, or does it mean something different?  Now I’m feeling a little nervous about this whole thing.  Oh well, I guess I’ll find out that I’ve broken their laws when they contact me with a lawsuit or something.  Oops.

Ok, now that that is out of the way, what do their policies look like?

Luggage policy: You get a free carry-on, and then you pay £5.00 online or £10 at the airport for each piece of checked luggage that you bring (up to eight pieces with a combined weight of not more than 20 kg.)

Check-in: You can check in online as long as you don’t have any checked baggage.  Then you can go straight to security at the airport; just print your boarding pass at home.  The boarding gate closes strictly twenty-five minutes before departure–DON”T BE LATE!!  You’ll forfeit your seat.  Unlike Ryanair, they don’t appear to have any check in fees; definitely a bonus.

I couldn’t find any other fee information on their website.  I don’t know if there are any or if they’re pretty sweet and fee-free.

Refunds: you will get a refund if you cancel up to two hours before the flight, as long as it’s within twenty-four hours of the original booking.  This refund excludes administrative fees.  Then there’s a thirty Euro cancellation fee.  They don’t provide refunds for cancellation due to medical reasons, blah, blah blah, unless it’s within the twenty-four hour booking period.

If there’s a death in the family and you need to cancel, you may get a refund provided you give them the Death Certificate.  That seems a little brutal, doesn’t it?  But then again, there are a lot of people who will lie about stupid things like that.  I could tell you so many stories of people trying to lie to get out of paying tiny amounts of money at the restaurant I used to work at…and those were for just a few dollars.   I can understand their need for confirmation.

Their flight from Dublin to London…is not available.  So let’s go with a flight from London to Barcelona in June, like the other flights.  Their best price was offered on June 16th at £32.99.

That included all taxes and fees, according to the site.  Now I realize that this is not equal to the Dublin-London flight, but it’s still pretty cheap.

Conclusion: I was a little baffled by their website, and a little nervous because of their lawyer-y language once I got past the standard pages.  But their prices seem pretty reasonable, and there aren’t many taxes that I could find.  They have a decent check in policy and baggage policy.  What’s not to love about that?   I guess there’s nothing wrong with this airline.  It seems similar to Ryanair, but more commercial and less personal.  Of course, that’s just my opinion.   I haven’t actually used either airline, although I can’t wait to get the chance to.  have you used a European budget airline listed here?  My readers and I would love to read about your experience.

This concludes my budget airline series.  Next up: cheap and amazing hostels in the U.K.

Cheers,

Senoritaburrito

Germanwings was a fairly unknown discount airline to me before I started looking into this. I soon found out that their website is not particularly easy to find information on. But I finally found their terms of use at the bottom of the page…obviously, I’m not that great at finding things.

So let’s see what their policies look like as compared to Ryanair. Like Ryanair, they are a discount airline operating in Europe. Obviously. They had just 7.1 million passengers in 2006, compared with Ryanair’s 50 million. But is smaller worse…or better? Let’s find out.

Luggage policy: They have a free checked luggage allowance of up to 20 kg. They do not specify how many bags you can take; it sounds like you can take as many as you want as long as they weigh together under 20 kg. You also get a free carry-on allowance as long as it’s under 8 kg and 55*40*20 cm. Anything over this is excess baggage and goes for a fee, but they’re not saying how much this fee might be.

Check In: They don’t mention a check-in fee like Ryanair does, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. They only ask that you check in by thirty minutes before departure. Late arrivals may not get checked in. If that happens, you’re not eligible for a refund or voucher, because it was your own fault.

They do offer refunds and/or vouchers for the following circumstances: if you’ve already purchased your tickets and they change the time drastically, it doesn’t work out for you, then they will offer a full refund. If your flight is canceled or delayed by more than two hours, then you may be entitled to compensation.

Fees: So far Germanwings has seemed surprisingly fee-free compared to Ryanair. Let’s look at what they say under fees and total costs sections in their policies: there doesn’t appear to be any charges a standard traveler should worry about. There is a “reimbursement handling fee per booking in accordance with Article 10.3” of 5 euros or eight US dollars. If that’s the only fee, we’re lookin’ good.

So what does the flight from Dublin to London cost? Unfortunately, although both cities are in their list of hubs, you can’t get a flight from one to the other. Their flight from Dublin to Munich in June costs 69 euros for one adult, plus 40 euros in taxes, bringing the grand total to 109 euros.

Conclusion: Germanwings seems to be more flexible and more like a traditional airline than Ryanair. It’s more expensive, too, although still cheaper than most standard airlines. I don’t know a lot about this airline, but it does seem like a pretty good one. It does have more limited hubs than Ryanair and is not as old. They flew their first plane on October 27, 2002. Overall, they seem like a small, traditional-type economy carrier. For the traveler truly on a budget, I would recommend Ryanair or a Eurail pass.

Next up: easyJet.

Cheers,

Senoritaburrito

There are a ton of discount airlines in Europe, but they are not all created equal. In this series of articles on discount airlines offering flights in Europe, I give you links to their homepage and a brief summary of their features: luggage, check-in, and cancellation policies…and what’s not so great about them.  And if you’ve used one of these airlines, let me know what your firsthand experience was like!

First, we have Ryanair. It is Europe’s largest discount airline.  They serve over 50 million customers a year and add new bases almost monthly.

Luggage terms: You don’t get a free luggage allowance.  You can carry up to three checked bags not exceeding 15 kgs total, but you have to pay £12.00/€18.00 each.  If you go over your weight limit they have other hefty fees in place.  Babies don’t get checked bags, and sports and musical equipment is discouraged.  Mobility equipment is free of charge.  You can carry one piece of carry-on luggage, not exceeding 10 kg and dimensions of 55cm*40cm*20cm.

Check-In:  You have to pay to check in at the airport, a fee of a few euros.  Sometimes you can check in online, but there’s a long list of restrictions for people who can’t, including people with mobility equipment, checked luggage, a person who’s traveling with one of these people, and passengers traveling from Italy to the U.K. (?)

Boarding closes ten minutes prior to departure, and don’t be late.  They won’t wait for you even if you”re only thirty seconds late.  They make you purchase a new ticket for a later flight.  If flights are canceled for reasons outside of their control, you won’t receive any monetary compensation.  However, if they cancel or reschedule your flight and you’re unable to work with that, they will compensate you.

Conclusion: Strict policies, but cheap prices and decent hubs.  But also remember that many discount airlines fly out of airports that are miles from the cities they claim to be in, so factor bus/cab expenses into your ticket prices as well.  Tickets can be dirt cheap, (I searched a flight from Dublin to London and it said fare was 0…?) but there are taxes, check-in fees, luggage fees, and transportation to and from the airport.  Every situation will be different, so just know what you’re getting into when you book.  Even with all these extra fees, though, these flights look super cheap.  How can a flight be free?  They only charge for tax.  It’s ridiculous!

Tomorrow: Germanwings.

Cheers,

Senoritaburrito

The most important thing to consider before purchasing a Eurail pass is how long you’re staying in Europe and what your itinerary looks like.

If you haven’t come across a Eurail pass before, it’s basically a prepaid train pass for train travel in most countries in Europe.  Their website is http://www.eurail.com/eurail_home.

Of course it’s not always that simple.  The U.K. does not use the Eurail pass.  They have their own train pass, called the Britrail, but if you’re traveling there it’s probably more economical to take their bus service.

Back to Eurail passes.  There are a multitude of different plans that you can buy.  For instance, the one I’m most interested in is the global pass, which gives me access to up to twenty European countries and from ten days to three months of travel.

I’m planning on going for eight weeks, through at least six countries…so I want a pass that will do all that.  I will probably want at least ten days of travel, and so I’ll probably choose the Global Pass with ten days of travel in two months for 387 euros plus ten euros for the pass security.  ($625.02 in U.S. dollars.)  This is for the Youth second-class (people under twenty-five).  If you want first class you’re going to pay more.

For a trip that involves a lot of train travel, or a short trip, it may be cheaper to buy individual tickets, though.  The Eurail pass does not mean you can just hop on a train whenever you want for free.  You usually have to reserve a spot beforehand and on some high-speed trains there is a supplement.  On the other hand, the Eurail pass can entitle you to discounts on other modes of transportation, like ferries and buses.

Also before you buy your Eurail pass remember that short flights in Europe can be extraordinarily cheap.  Ryanair, for example, offers flights as low as five euros.  Of course, their destinations are limited and so are the times when the extremely cheap flights are offered.  I searched for a flight from Paris to Rome (there weren’t many destinations available) for June 21 and came up with a price of 29.99 EUR.  A train ticket for the same would cost 187 US.

You really need to take into consideration the duration of your stay, your budget, the amount of traveling that you will be doing, and the countries that you will be visiting.  These all factor into how much money a Eurail pass can save you.  If you’re only doing one or two long-distance journeys then you should look at discount airlines and individual train tickets to see if they will cost you less than a pass.  On trips where you are going to multiple destinations in mainland Europe, definitely look into a Eurail pass.  It can save you a ton of money.

To further flesh out my example, let’s say that I was going to go from Paris-Brussels-Berlin-Vienna-Zagreb-Venice-Bern in June and July, peak months.  Individual tickets would cost, respectively, (for second restricted class in US dollars where available, all leaving in the evening to save on lodging) $43–$145–$297–$119–$75–$126.   Totaled up, that’s $805.  With the Eurail Global pass, you’re spending $180 less, plus you still have three more travel days to use.  That’s a significant savings, as well as getting discounts on other things.

The best way to find out what is the most economical is to do your own research and find out where you’re traveling and what individual tickets cost.  You can do this by going to http://www.raileurope.com for train tickets or for discount plane tickets, http://www.ryanair.com/site/EN/.  There are other discount airlines too, but generally even the cheapest plane tickets will cost more, and another point to air travel is the amount of security and lines that you have to go through, not to mention frequent delays.

Just take all these things in to consideration and make sure you do your own research before you go.  That’s really the thing.  You can’t just rely on someone else to tell you everything–go look it up yourself.  You’ll find the best information.

Good luck with your travel plans, and if there’s anything I can help you with, feel free to contact me!

College students love the theory of independence in their own life.  After eighteen years of dreaming, they’re now out in the world and finally mom and dad aren’t telling them waht time to go to bed.

Freedom?  What could be better?  College students love this concept.

Unfortunately, actually carrying it out is often a disaster.  True freedom from your family requires that (gasp) you pay your own bills; you get a job (or two); you have to clean up after yourself, etc.  College students are not so fond of these ideas.  They require work, a concept many high school graduates have not yet grasped.

As a way of finding an acceptable compromise to actual freedom and living with their parents, college students will guilt-trip their parents into giving them money, cars, cell phones, furniture, free laundering services, and so on and so forth.  This makes them feel independent, as they can live in their own dorm or apartment, but they still have mom and dad’s financial security and a complete lack of money woes. If the bank looks low, call grandma or Aunt Sue or dad and give them a custom-tailored sob story.

If you are a college student paying your own way and you meet one of these, please remain calm.  Yes, they will discuss how poor they are as they sip their fourth five dollar Starbucks of the day.  Yes, they will ask you for money to attend the movies, buy drinks, go on a hot air balloon ride, etc.  Just smile and say no.  Don’t try to tell them you are actually broke.  They will willingly engage in an I’m-poorer-than-you contest which will end in tears and lead you to slap them.

For you see, being poor as a college student is a sure sign of freedom, giving the illusion that they are supporting themselves.  So they must, at all costs, appear dirt poor.  The poorer the better.  They will get a definite one-up on you if they complain about their lack of money first.  First complainer gets ten extra hip points.

Well, I just watched Sicko.  It was quite interesting.  The premise is that Michael Moore creates a documentary on healthcare in the United States, comparing it to other countries with socialized healthcare such as France, Great Britain, Canada, and even Cuba.  Conclusion: Michael Moore hates American healthcare.

I often don’t agree with the things Michael Moore has to say, but he still managed to get a few good points in.  The part where he was extolling the virtues of Hillary Rodham Clinton did make me barf a little, but that’s alright.  I believe the part when he described her as “sexy” was really the clincher there.  It’s hard to take the rest of the movie seriously after that.

But seriously, he does inadvertently strike on a few good ideas.  It’s too bad he only does research for one side of the issue and either completely neglects or glosses over things that don’t fit with his agenda.

For example, he spends a great deal of time comparing healthcare in the U.S. with other countries like France.  Healthcare in France is free, you get long paid vacations, you can get a government nanny to your house for free to help take care of your baby, etc.  And he does point out that taxes must be very high to be able to pay for all this.

Then he finds a family with a nice flat and asks them how much they earn.  About a thousand dollars a month, is the reply.  They have a quite a nice apartment; it’s standard middle class.  The happy couple talk about the vacations they go on–and not once do they mention what kind of taxes they pay.  Avoiding the question, Mr. Moore.

This pattern was repeated several times in the course of the documentary, which rather bothered me.  If I’m going to watch something like this, I would like an unbiased report, or at least one who explores fully both sides of the issue.  He can have an opinion, but give the rest of us the chance to form our own.

It is very true that healthcare in many other countries is paid for through your taxes and not at the time of your visit.  I was rather struck by the Canadian golfer’s explanation that everyone needs to help others, that he willingly pays his taxes which go toward other people because they would do the same for him.

Now, I don’t know how prevalent this feeling is, but it is a nice one to have.  It almost made me want to pack up my bags and head across the border…

But here’s the other issue with this documentary.  These “case studies” of people in the U.S. who haven’t received healthcare or who have been denied by their insurance companies–these American healthcare horror stories–how prevalent is this overall?  I know for one that my insurance company paid for everything after I got on my car accident and had fractured ribs.  My grandfather’s insurance covered everything relating to his heart attack and associated medical problems.  Now why, Mr. Moore, didn’t I see even one story of a person whose healthcare request was approved?  Because Michael Moore didn’t want me to.

And what about these happy people in France, Great Britain, Cuba, and Canada?  I’m sure there are stories of people who ended up paying for healthcare.  I’m not entirely sure, and I certainly didn’t find out from Sicko, but I can make that assumption.  One lady said, at a restaurant in France when asked what they paid for their healthcare, “We get reimbursed.”  Now, the documentary made it sound as though they never paid a cent.  

And in an interview, a man (I don’t remember if he was from Canada or Great Britain) said that things were covered–with some exceptions.  Unfortunately, I never got to find out what those exceptions were.

So, overall, this documentary was food for thought, but it brought up more questions than it answered and left huge, gaping, bleeding holes in the logic and research in some areas.

Watch it, but watch it skeptically.  And skip through the part where he extolls Hillary Clinton’s numerous virtues.  They will make you violently ill.  I wonder how much he was paid to say those things…

Now, my duckies, don’t think I looooove the American healthcare system.  I don’t.  It has major, major issues.  However, I’m just trying to point out the flaws that I noticed in Moore’s logic.  There are probably flaws in my logic too, inadvertently.  

Final conclusion: don’t let yourself get brainwashed!  Think for yourself and research both sides of an issue.  Remember that everyone has an agenda.  

And that, I think, is a good thing to remember in this tumultuous election time.

This is probably self-explanatory to a lot of people, but it took me (completely computer inept that I am) a couple of hours to figure out. Don’t laugh, please.

I know there are other people like me out there, so here goes: how to attach an RSS feed to your blog or website.

1. It took me a long time to figure out that everything I was reading was for subscribing to someone else’s blog, not the other way around! Yeesh. I felt smart. But anyways, to get people to subscribe to your feed, I did it this way: I went to feedburner.com and entered my blog’s URL into the box handily provided on the homepage. Now how hard was that? I then followed the on-screen innstructions. When I was done with registering, I did:

2. At the top of the page you should be on are tabs: analyze, monetize, publicize; click publicize and it will take you to a different page. On the left there is a menu; one of the links should be chicklet chooser. Click it.

3. You then get a list of buttons. Choose whichever one you want your subscribers to be able to click on to subscribe to their feed. After you select it, scroll down to the bottom of the page. There is a box full of HTML code. Copy it, and

4. For a WordPress blog, go to your widget editor and add a text widget to your sidebar. While you’re still in the editor, click edit on the right of the little text widget box. A square screen will pop up. Copy your HTML code into that box, and save your changes! You’re ready to have people subscribing!

Subscribe in a reader

If you want to do this for another type of blog, like Blogger, I believe Feedburner has directions. In any case, it should be similar. I don’t know, though, as I’ve never used Blogger or any other type of blog site.

For websites, simply copy and paste into your HTML editor or directory where you want it to go. If you have a website that you built yourself, you’ll know what to do with it. (At least I hope!) And if you’re using a template, there will probably be an HTML editor box where you can insert HTML code. On Google templates it’s at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. On some other templates, like Bravenet, you edit your HTML by clicking the HTML editor tab on the top of the text box you’re working on (like WordPress write a new blog screen, there is the HTML button at the top. Exact same thing.)

I hope I explained things for the people like me who instantly start hyperventilating every time they hear HTML. Which, I’m discovering, is a lot easier than it appears. I now know how to do headers, body text, bold, breaks, paragraphs, different sizes of headers…and that’s about it, but I’m pretty impressed with myself.

Would you like to add a point on here that I missed? A different way of doing this? Comment me and I’ll get back to you! Like I said, I’m pretty ignorant. I need all the help I can get.

Cheers,

Senoritaburrito

 Heh my first one was so popular I decided to do another.  Yes, I got the idea from Stuff White People Like.  See #1.

For some reason the average college student, on any given day, will consume a mind-staggering number of these concentrated poisons, guzzling them as though their life depended on it.  Energy drinks are the new alcohol, and college students waste no time in picking up on the latest trends.

Masculine types will never be found with a small can of the stuff.  No, it’s the XXXXXXXL size for them.  The most interesting thing is that they advertise their dependence on that monster can.  They can often be found saying things like, “I heard Billy drank nine of these in one go.  I beat that every day.  Can’t live without this shit, man.”  Or, “I don’t know, it’s the only thing that gets me through my day.  I can’t live without it.”  They will spend an enormous amount of their nonexistent money on cases of energy drinks.  They will then leave the cans around in conspicuous places and swear by one particular brand.  Comments on their dependence to energy drinks are often similar to what their parents used to say about coffee, but much more hip.

When they get on the topic of how many of these they drank last weekend, and the odd things that afterward happened to them, (they will describe in excruciating detail), simply nod and make the appropriate faces at even intervals.  NEVER suggest that they just stop drinking them.  This is considered the pansy thing to do, and you will get scorching looks and a cold shoulder.  Listen to their stories of hallucinations, vomiting, dizziness and craziness with a sympathetic expression on your face.  Immediately follow their monologue with a tragic story of your own, and you will earn at least five cool points, maybe more–if your story involved rabid stalker squirrels, a massive campus-wide energy-drink addled chain-toting posse, a critical injury, and a massive caffeine hangover, your points may even shoot up to ten+. 

Don’t assume that anyone is immune to the energy-drink addiction.  Women will either guzzle huge cans to impress the guys, or discreetly sip small silver cans of it as though it were a rare and life-changing drug.  If they do this, expect rather emotional conversations about how they’re not addicted to it, they just like the taste–it has no effect on them; they liek it better than coffee.  These poor ladies are denying that they have an addiction.  But as we all know, the first step to recovery is acceptance. 

Good luck, America.  The government will be here shortly to outlaw it as an illegal drug, adding it to their long list of Stuff Old White Men in Congress Do Not Like. 

What do you think of when you think of Australia? 

Do you think of the Sydney Opera House, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Crocodile Hunter? 

Probably.  That’s about all the West knows about the country Down Under.  As Bryson points out, according to the number of Times articles appearing on each topic, “Australia is slightly more interesting than bananas.” 

That won’t last long.  In this engaging, funny book, Bryson takes (multiple) trips to Australia to try and get a glimpse of every angle of this enormous country–the only country that is also a continent, and the only continent that is also an island, by the way, as Bryson will tell you. 

He gives a ton of interesting history on Australia while he talks about his journeys through both the coasts and the bush of central Australia–wandering through each state and many of the cities as he explores what it is to be an Australian. 

The book is hilarious–I was reading it and couldn’t stop laughing; people tended to give me funny looks, but I didn’t care.  This book is too good to put down.  I learned more about Australia than I ever have.  In fact,  I don’t remember learning about it at all in either elementary or high school, and certainly not college. 

I don’t care what kind of book you like to read, I don’t care if you hate Australia or travel or nonfiction or humor or anything like that.  Read Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country.  You’ll learn about Australia, Australians, and how funny Bryson can be. You’ll be wanting to hop the next flight there.  I just discovered him a few days ago but I’m definitely going back to library for more!  Next up: Bill Bryson’s account of backpacking (kind of) through Europe for the third time in his life. 

Cheers,

Senoritaburrito

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