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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!

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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I borrowed this book from a friend the other day and absolutely fell in love with it.  It is a rough travel guide type of thing; the first half is devoted to general information on things like eating, sleeping, and getting around in Europe; the second half is filled with amazing places to see in Europe that are much sweeter than the standard tourist traps.

The friend who I borrowed it from just used it in Italy and said that it saved his life over there.  It is absolutely packed with useful information.  It was so interesting that I ended up reading the entire thing straight through like a novel….what that says about me I don’t know, except that it is an amazing book and if you’re planning on going to Europe or are even interested in it, you should buy, beg, borrow, or steal (not really the last one) Europe Through the Back Door.

There was information on planning your itinerary, places to see and avoid, times to go, how to act, where to eat, how to get around when you don’t speak the native language, how to get good, cheap hostel/hotel rooms, and so much advice that you can only get from someone who has been there a thousand times.

The best part is that the author, Rick Steves, actually has a sense of humor and can write well.  This is always a refreshing change after thousands of guidebooks that sound as though they were written by someone who didn’t know how to laugh.

It’s updated every year or every few years, too, so you can always have an updated edition.  It’s definitely more than just a guidebook.  I would recommend this book as a suplpement to any more location-specific guidebooks that you are buying for your trip.  No matter where you go in Europe, you will find useful information in here.  I give it five thumbs-up burritos for simple amazingness and usefulness.

Now I can’t wait to go try it out in Europe myself.  Oh, for the day…

Cheers,

Senoritaburrito

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

There are several ways to travel for free if you don’t mind taking the path-less-traveled; if you have a sense of adventure and an openness to new things, you can have the time of your life while spending little or no money. 

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