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We spent the entire weekend freaking out.  “I can’t believe we actually bought tickets!” we kept saying to each other.  After all, less than a week ago I still thought I was going to Spain.  And now, we’re on our way to Ireland.  

The living room looks like a sporting goods store that’s been vandalized; gutless backpacks sprawl, straps scattered, over the couches and floor.  Rain pants, hiking boots, and cameras compete for space on the coffee table.  We were trying to find out what size backpack we would need.  We have two 5,000 cubic inch backpacks, and one 3500, and they’re either too big or too small.  

I’m a fan of packing as light as possible and taking the 3500 inch backpack, but my mom is convinced that we need to bring everything.  I’d take nothing but my laptop, clean socks, and rain gear, but she wants to bring everything from multiple towels, sleeping bags (despite the fact that we’re sleeping in hostels,) and four different types of pants–to hair dryers, purses, and small dogs (not really.)  

I can see her point on some things; I just think it gets excessive.  I’m going to make her pack up her backpack before she leaves and carry it around for a full day–she’ll decide she doesn’t need quite as much, I’m sure.  

We still have four months before we go, though, so there’s plenty of time to pack and decide what we’re taking.  And where we’re going once we get to Ireland.  At the moment, we have no plan at all.  

Wickford Way? Dingle Way?  Kerry Way?  Part of the Donegal Way?  How long should we stay in Dublin?  These are all questions that somehow, we must at least attempt to answer before we get on the plane, naive and clueless, on our way to Ireland.

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SPRING BREAK.  All right, let me tell the whole story and not get ahead of myself here.  

For a long time, I was planning on going on a group tour to Spain over spring break 2009 for ten days.  The final payment is due next week, and I suddenly looked at the bill, looked at how (not) excited I really was about it, and decided to cancel Spain.  I will lose the $600 I’ve already paid for it, but at least I won’t be spending another $3400 on the trip that I really don’t want to go on.  

I’d like to go to Spain, don’t get me wrong.  BUT, my reasons for not going outweighed my reasons for going and therefore, based on my superior mental acuity, I made a swift and powerful decision.

REASONS FOR GOING TO SPAIN:

  • I’ve already paid $600 unrefundable dollars for Spain
  • I’ve been expecting to go for almost three years
  • it’s a sure thing.  All I have to do is send in my check and show up at the airport w/ a passport and spending money.  

REASONS FOR NOT GOING TO SPAIN

  • It’s going to cost $4000.  I’ve known how much it was going to cost from the beginning, and I don’t mind that, but I can do a LOT more with $4000 than go to Spain with a bunch of kids for a week and a half.  
  • I don’t want to be constrained to a tour and a group and a guide, etc.  I want to be able to make my own decisions.
  • The tour company added a ton of extra costs on at the last minute, and they’re going to add more before I leave.  
  • I’m just not as interested in Spain as in other European countries…like IRELAND.
  • This is going to be the last summer before I go off to college and am dirt poor for indefinite number of years.  I want to spend my hard-earned money on something I really want to do.  

As you can see, one list is a bit longer than the other one.  Therefore, Ireland it is. 

 

SO, I bought my tickets about two hours ago.  I’m going hiking for two weeks along the coast of Ireland over spring break 2009 with my mother.  We have no plans as of yet, only ticket dates.

 I will be blogging the entire adventure.  We are going to stay as unplanned and spontaneous, sleeping in hostels and B&Bs, and I’m going to be taking the Macbook with me (it’s like my child. 🙂

I will be posting updates as they happen.  If you have any suggestions for us, let us know.  We don’t even know what area of Ireland we’re going to yet, only that we’re flying into and leaving in Dublin.  We want to see castles and Irish countryside, and possibly the Giant’s Causeway–and the Guinness Storehouse, in Dublin.  

Now that this blog has a sense of purpose again, you will all be getting bombarded with a constant stream of epic travel-ness!  Make sure you RSS my blog so that you can stay updated with the latest in my spontaneous travel adventure–HIKING IRELAND!

There is always the option to hitchhike of you’re really short on cash, really desperate, adventurous, or just crazy.  It’s possible.  People do it all the time.  If you do, for some insane reason, want to hitchhike, most of Europe is better than the United States.  

Now, for those of you who are determined to hitchhike, a few tips.  

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Answer: It depends.  On a lot of things.  Your transportation costs are going to be a big one.  Plane tickets, train passes, and the associated taxes, fees, and extras are going to eat up a considerable portion of your budget.  

But it’s not impossible to travel cheaply.  That’s what the point of this is.  You don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a good time.  In fact, sometimes the budget trips–staying in a hostel, eating from grocery stores, and using every student discount you can get your hands on–is the most profound, fascinating trip experience.  

When planning your trip, you need to remember that there are more than just the actual trip cost.  A big chunk of change is going to be gone before you ever get to the airport.  

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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

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!

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