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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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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!

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