Repeat This.

Out of the zillions of things that I kind of wish someone would have alluded at to me before I stepped onto a plane (“Maybe you should bring more than five shirts.” “An extra charger will be useful for when you blow them all out.” “You should really be working more in the summer before you leave instead of spending so much time at the beach bar”) one of them that was mentioned to me which has remained true is to keep an open mind. 

This struck me the most when my friend visited from back home last week, who had a hard time with the various eccentricities that cloud Italy like:

1. How my apartment’s electricity switches off at least twice a day

2. Some people get drunk and run around screaming on all the days that end in “y”

3. Any listed times for public transportation have a buffer period of like a year

4. You will get whatever food the chef feels like making

When these, and various other things happened to us, she asked me, “Doesn’t this bug you?” when I realized, no, it actually doesn’t. If I was a random visitor and not well prepared, if I was me three months ago, then yes it would.

But thank you, advisor, for really stressing me to actually keep an open mind and not wholly freak out every time things don’t go my way. This truly is the most important thing in study abroad and perhaps in life: it is very easier to get frustrated, angry, irritable, and downright aghast when things don’t go your way. But if you stop for a second and think to yourself, Okay, what is the other side of this? What are these people thinking? your experience is going to be a whole lot happier.

For example: Those girls who drink every night? Maybe they don’t have the money to travel every weekend like you do, so they’re making up for it by having a good time when they can. That chef who gave you the wrong order? This is his favorite dish and he knew you were going to like it. The fact the bus is like twenty minutes late? Maybe this is teaching you that you need to walk a little faster and stop buying so many cannolis when you should be at the bus stop already.

So spend an extra five seconds thinking about the situation. Take a breather and a laugh after you realize you are lost- again- and yes, the tour group has already left you behind anyway so you might as well begin that self-guided tour now and make some friends. Trust me, having an open mind here in Italy, as well as back in America where you can argue your way out of anything, will take you farther than any plane will.

Stuff That I Learned on a Bus

I probably say this about eighteen times a day (rough guess) but I literally CANNOT BELIEVE that I really only have a few more weeks here. Before getting on my plane to Italy, as my mother cried at the airport, I thought to myself, Wow, a semester. That’s a long effing time. Guess what. It’s not. Not in the least. In a few short weeks I will be sitting on yet another plane, waving goodbye to beautiful Italy and saying hello again to my New Jersey, praying that it is still in one piece and that the world doesn’t end in December. Anyway, having been here a fair amount of time thus far, I thought I would share with you some things that I have learned as of now, mostly which I have mused on while sitting on six-hour bus rides to random places. I really hope this doesn’t sound like mom advice.

1. Sometimes, you have to hunt for reasons to like people. When you’re studying abroad, if you’re lucky enough, you’ll be with a group of other kids from your University. And, inevitably, you will find reasons to dislike some of them. Well guess what. Unlike being at school, you can’t just avoid these people. Whether you like it or not, this is your family for the next three months, and you better get used to it. With this in mind, and knowing there is no option to make someone disappear from your life, you’ll find that it’s actually pretty easy to find reasons to like anyone. And not only will this make your whole experience less stressful, but it’ll make you find values that you want to create in yourself. BOOM.

2. Nobody’s way of life is better or worse than yours. Being that the only place I have ever lived is the United States, I was under the extremely ignorant impression that more or less, everyone kind of does things the same way. This is not true. Depending on what country you’re lucky enough to call home, I’m guessing you’re drastically different, solely from the point that you live somewhere else. And this doesn’t make your way better, or their way better. It’s just another way, and just as your way is second nature to you, so is theirs. When studying abroad, there is a lot of talk on having an open mind, which makes you watch cultures intently instead of just shunning them.

3. Don’t stress the small things. Think of your last trip. Think of all the ways that you messed up, all the little things that make you go UGHHH because you wished you planned a little better or did something differently. Now multiply this by fifteen weeks of a semester, and that is studying abroad. When being in another country, it’s easy to want to get frustrated enough to want to punch a baby because you’re lost, you can’t figure out where the bathroom is, you haven’t eaten in sixteen hours, you missed the plane… well guess what, people. THIS STUFF HAPPENS. And if you let it get you down, it will kill you. Best to just be happy you’re there at all, sick and covered in odd red hives or not.

4. You are so obscenely lucky. All throughout my life, I kinda felt like I was getting screwed over. I always felt like I was working so hard and still not getting the respect I thought I deserved from my peers, my professors, my bosses, my family. I always felt like I was getting the short end of the stick and it just wasn’t fair. Now when I walk down the street from my class to my apartment and see this view, I am so humbled that I want to cry. I literally cannot believe how blessed I am to be here and I wonder why the hell, out of all people, that I was given the opportunity to live in such a magnificent place. This is how you should feel no matter where you are.

5. You don’t always have to be on the verge of an anxiety attack. Speaking of working my ass off, I am always working my ass off. This is a fact. And now that I’m here, where people eat three hour lunches and bike to work and fall asleep at 2:00 pm, I feel like an idiot. Not that being a hard worker is entirely bad, but if you stop working at 11:00 pm and get up at 7:00 am just to do it all again tomorrow, there may be a problem. Life is short. Chill out. Sit down.

6. Make the most of it. It’s easy to hear those dumb quotes at home like No regrets. Live your life. and it’s also easy to abide by them… from time to time. Unlike life, though, in study abroad, you know your expiration date. This makes it much easier to say, Okay. I have six more weeks here. That’s it. Better make it count. Now if only we could say that in the grand scheme of our lives.

7. Wherever you are, be all there. Even though I love Italy with all my heart, sometimes I get a little homesick. Sometimes I miss my friends and speaking English and feeling not so much like an outsider, and I think to the day when I get back on my plane to New Jersey (provided that it’s still there, thanks for nothing Sandy). But the truth is this- you can be miserable no matter where you are. You can wish you were doing something else or being someone else or with someone else. This doesn’t make where you are any less of a reality. No matter what you do, whether it’s cry to your mom or go out and get smashed with your new friends, you will still be home the exact same day. This is a promise. So… what do you want to do?

8. Spend your time (and money) doing things that matter. When abroad, it’s pretty easy to piss away your budget on badly mixed drinks and gelato. Trust me, I am well aware. But, when standing at that counter, slurring your words to the bartender, hopefully you can think ahead to where else that money could be going. So, when home, before dropping dollars on a new pair of shoes the second you get your paycheck, look at the big picture. See beyond the obvious so that you can do something worthwhile.

That’s all I have for now. I wanted to get to ten but I couldn’t really think of any more right now and I really should be packing for my trip to Ireland tomorrow. LEARN SOMETHING PEOPLE! Knowledge is power!

Things Your Advisor Didn’t Tell You

When you are studying abroad, locals don’t really like you very much. Vendors will lie to you about how much something costs, police officers will lie to you about offenses… the world is full of lies. Sorry to be the one to break it to you. But, here is something you may not know. Not only does your host country lie to you, but your ADVISOR has lied to you. Once again, sorry.

Before I came abroad, people gave me loads and loads of advice, many of which I meticulously listed like some kind of maniac. I packed according to these seemingly well known rules, planned my trips, organized my schedule. And then as soon as I got here, I realized all of these people were mostly wrong.

Okay, to be fair, everyone is different, and different advice works differently for different people. At the same time, I’ve only been here for two weeks, so you probably shouldn’t trust me anyhow. But for me, and maybe you, too, here are a couple tidbits of advice that will make you want to pull your own hair off once you cross the pond.


1. Don’t overpack. Well first of all, overpacking is a pretty broad term, but I’m guessing these people mean “Don’t bring a ton of shit.” So when I came abroad, I got to the gate with my two measly suitcases, and noticed… everyone else had a lot more than I did. Crap. Now that I’m here, I see that in some miracle, my roommate brought an actual appropriate amount of things to wear and actually looks nice for class while I am sitting in the back of the room with a holey t-shirt and shorts. This makes me sad. So if you’re not planning on spending a lot of money to shop (Um, I have clothes, I really didn’t need more) then bring an appropriate amount so that you won’t feel compelled to buy more.

2. Follow (this) list of clothes. On the many packing lists I saw all over the Internet, people would list like five t-shirts, one dress, one set of pajamas, seven pairs of underwear… Umm WHAT? Luckily, I caught on the absurdity of this before I got here, but really? I change my outfit like four times a day, and I like it that way. It’s the little things in life people. So don’t rely too much on those Internet packing lists. For instance, at home, I never ever wear jeans and instead wear leggings. So why would I bring three pairs of jeans to Europe? I’m sorry, but the best fashion in the world will not make me want to stuff those babies on my legs.

3. Have your parents send you money each month/week/etc. What are you, twelve? First of all, if your parents are anything like mine, they seem to be on another planet most of the time. I don’t know about you but the last thing I want to do is let my parents control the money I’M spending. I can see it now. Mom: “Really? You need a new bag? Why? I don’t get it.” Um, shut up mom. Plus, you’re TWENTY-YEARS-OLD! You might as well learn how to budget before you, oh I don’t know… graduate college?

4. Don’t plan trips before you leave. This is a NOT GOOD IDEA. Seriously. Yes, you will meet new friends who will be really cool and will want to plan trips with you. But let me tell you something– if you try to book Oktoberfest in any month after August with your new bff, there will be no spots and you will be spending the weekend in your dorm. Alone. So book the musts- maybe one or two (especially big festivals like Oktoberfest, and for Italy people, the Amalfi Coast)- before you actually hit the road. This will make you feel like you’re well on your way, too, which is nice.

5. This is a real school. I don’t know what colleges you guys go to (clown college, maybe?) but I have never gotten so little work in my entire life. I think the last time I had to do a bs worksheet was before the fifth grade. Don’t get me wrong here, classes are interesting and sometimes boring, just like classes at home. But you won’t have a panic attack every time you look at the syllabus and spend hours upon hours writing papers and presentations and reports. Instead, you will spend hours upon hours traveling the WORLD!

6. You will be homesick. Okay, to be fair, I’m two weeks in, so this will probably change. Anyway, during the summer, I was obscenely bored at home. I figured that once I got here though, I would miss it and make it seem like a utopia in my own head. Um, NEGATORY. I feel like I never lived there at all. It’s a really nice feeling to forget about my boring hometown for a bit. I try to forget about home as much as I can. I miss some of my friends and family, but I know that a day in the very near future will come when I will see them again, so I really just feel like I’m on vacation.

7. You cannot sustain a relationship here. Have you ever gone on vacation and not hooked up with someone? Uh, probably, unless you’re a huge slut. Like I said, this is like vacation, and thanks to Skype/ Email/ WhatsApp/ Phones/ Snail Mail/ Texting/ etc., it doesn’t even really feel like you’re away from them at all. Don’t end your relationship just because you’re going away for a little while. It’s not worth it because hooking up with locals doesn’t suddenly make you a citizen of the world– TRAVELING THE WORLD DOES.

8. Prepare for culture shock. I think that saying this is actually a stage of culture shock, which is when you eventually get really depressed and hate your host country for a bit because it’s so different from your real life. But if you have half a brain, you have probably realized that being a student studying abroad isn’t very much like being a real local. For instance, here in Italy, I speak English most of the time (even if I speak in Italian, vendors talk back to me in English… frick), I go out during the week (well, other students do, I have class at 9:00 am every day), I see American sorority girls in Lily Pulitzer dresses and Tory Burch sandals, and I cook sad meals that feature cheap pasta and bad wine. I think it’s safe to say that this isn’t as close to a “real Italian experience” as we would like to think. Don’t get me wrong, it’s crazy fun to be a student abroad and you learn a lot about yourself even if you think you won’t. But being a real Italian when you have been a ditzy American for the last twenty years? Yeah, no.

9. You’ll know your way around by day three. Uhh what? I still get lost in my college town sometimes. Even though I’m not too far into my living here, I really can’t imagine being able to give anybody directions without a map in my face (and even then) by the last day I have here. Jeez, I hope I can find the airport.

10. If you’re careful, you won’t get sick the first few weeks. In our group of about twenty, I think fifteen are sick right now. These are not good odds. As of right now, my dear roommate Andrea is passed out in a pile on her bed and sneezes so much that I told her I’m just going to make a recording of me saying “Bless you.” Let’s consider here– you’re in a foreign country, you’re in a city, you have many roommates, you’re eating food you have never had and you probably don’t know what it is, you regularly sleep on buses, and you drink on days that end in “Y.” I’m pretty sure you’re gonna get sick. Bring Theraflu. SERIOUSLY. You’ll be happy you did.

So that’s all I have for now. Like I said, I’ve only been here for two weeks, so who knows if any of this stuff will change for me. I’ll keep you updated. CIAO!

Day Trip Scrimpin’.

Last weekend, I didn’t go to the Bahamas, or the Dominican Republic, or Mexico (but I did go there the weekend before). I did not spend thousands of dollars or wake up at the crack of dawn to get on an airplane. I did not try to stuff a suitcase or budget my money so that I could go parasailing, scuba diving, swimming with dolphins.

However, I did get in a car and drive about two hours down the New Jersey Parkway to go to Wildwood. I spent about 1/100 of the cost of a normal vacation and had just as much fun, if not more. The beauty of New Jersey (yes, it exists) is that there are a thousand of hidden (and not-so-hidden) day trips that are in our backyards, and no matter where you’re from, I’m sure that they are in yours, too. So stop whining that you didn’t get to go on vacation this summer, read some of these saving-money-on-vaca tips, and get in the car.

1. Go for a bike ride. In Wildwood, we rented cute little beach cruisers (one of them, i.e. mine, was very little) for FIVE DOLLARS. You get the bikes for an hour, which is really all you need, and wander down the boardwalk in the morning when it’s still a little cool and you’re not ready to go sit on the beach and bake yet. I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t ride bikes often (because I have no balance) so it was a nice treat to cruise alongside the beach for less than what my breakfast costs.

2. Visit a theme park. Most theme parks offer tickets for between $20 and $40 (any more than that is a little ridiculous). At Six Flags, with the bringing of a Coke can from your nearest WaWa, you can buy one get one free, which is pretty sick since Six Flags is great. In Wildwood, we got a family pack and each paid $25 and all went on about seven rides together. Log flume, roller coasters, Dante’s Dungeon, “It”, and of course, the ferris wheel, is well worth $25 to me and a few hours out on the boardwalk.

4. Watch a sunset. This is the really cool thing about nature. It’s FREE. It’s so easy to bring a couple beers, maybe some chips, and go sit somewhere nice and watch the sun set. Now I wasn’t really aware of this, but the sun actually sets pretty fast, so by the time you get bored of identifying clouds and getting embarrassingly drunk it’s time to leave anyway. And if you visit the beautiful Sunset Lake in Wildwood, you’ll see this–

5. Check out the local night scene. I don’t know about you, but I get pretty bored going out to the same bars in my town once in a while. Same old same old. But when you’re away, even if it’s only a half an hour or an hour, you have the chance to go to all new places! In Wildwood, we each paid $3 for a cab to take us a few blocks to Keenan’s Irish Pub, which is a huge place with no cover charge and quite a few bars (one outside, one for an older crowd, one for dads, one with live music, one with dance music…) Point is, no matter where you are, the night scene is NEW. This is a good thing.

6. Eat cheap. It requires a little extra planning, but it’s worth it to bring along a couple bagels and boxes of cereal and snacks. This could save you buying a few meals, which when going on day trips, will save you like half the money you were going to spend anyway. Buy some sandwiches at WaWa and save your dollars for something that matters. And NEVER buy waters/soda. Just bring a damn water bottle. In Wildwood, they practically give food away on the boardwalk, which is actually surprising. Dollar hotdogs, 89 cent pizza slices? May not be too sanitary, but hey, you’ll live.

This Could Save Your Life.

Being from a place like the unnamed mountain range that is Northwest Jersey, you come to get pretty familiar with things like private schools and BMWs  (wish I was a little more familiar with this stuff). Luckily for me, I leave my dwelling under a rock from time to time, so I have a basic idea of how the world operates. My mother, however, is not so lucky, which led her to this remark,

“God, there’s a lot of homeless people here in New Orleans.” 

Well mom, hate to be the one to break it to you, but there are homeless people effing everywhere. Actually, there were approximately 636,000 in 2011, which is about 21 homeless to every 10,000 people who are… not homeless, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Because of where we live (i.e. the Edge of Nowhere), we don’t come across too many in our day-to-day lives. That doesn’t make them any less alive.

All this brought me to thinking about an article I read recently that basically theorized that Americans were afraid of the homeless because they represent the opposite of the American Dream; the population and economy’s own failures and our inability to help one another. The article told me to basically stop being such a grouch and hey, throw a nickel in their jar and make some friends!

Um, negatory. I’m not afraid of the homeless for any of those aforementioned reasons. If you want me to be honest, I’m effing scared of the homeless because 1/3 of them have untreated psychiactric illnesses, according to Also, I still get carded for R rated movies, I weigh less than some dogs, and I know damn well that if one of those 1/3 got pissed at me I would be up the creek without a paddle. I think this is fair reason to be a little nervous.

I have a pretty good game face. I tend to not be nervous and put my best foot forward. But like any good traveler, you too probably get a little nervous from time to time when you’re in a not so great area. So here’s a few tips that hopefully aren’t common sense. I’m not gonna lie to you and tell you how I am safe all of the time. But just try to follow a few of these, okay?

1. Wear a money belt. They’re these dopey fanny packs that (thank God) you wear under your clothes,where you keep your passport, majority of your money, credit cards, license, etc. This is so that if you get mugged and have to hand over your wallet, you’ll still make it home.

2. Look alive. Don’t look nervous or lost or be peering around like an idiot. Look like you have a plan and a destination. This won’t help you get invited on a seedy pub crawl (as I have unfortunately found) but it could save your life. And your money.

3. Keep a free hand. Always have one free hand while walking, carrying bags, etc. This is literally one way that people search for victims to mug or assault. If you don’t have a free hand, you look a little more jumbled and not in control.

4. Leave your backpack at home. Does it fit a ton of shit? Yes. Is it easy to carry? Yes. But is it easy to rob? YES. People will cut them open in large crowds and before you even realize, the jerks have taken off with your dough.

5. Don’t let yourself be easily distracted. Pickpocketers and other wonderful people have been known to work in pairs, even kids, by throwing fake babies at you, newspapers, basically anything to make you lose control and drop your bags or lose a good handle on them. DON’T FALL FOR THIS.

Steal This Blog

In the exact spot I am sitting, there are an endless amount of free resources, ones that are at your disposal as well as mine, and I’m quite sure you don’t even realize it.

As you may or may not know, this summer I have taken a liking to living out of my car. Don’t get me wrong, my home is a perfectly nice place. A perfectly nice place IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. So when I get bored (i.e. every week) I head off to wherever I am invited.

When you live out of your car, you often find yourself needing things, such as showers, gyms, food, bathrooms, beds, etc. Now what kind of magical place exists where you can get all these things FOR FREE? You may be thinking, “Well, nowhere! Everything costs money?” I’m here to tell you otherwise. As a matter of fact, it is a University that so elegantly provides all of these services.

Nor am I the first person to recognize this noble place. According to Abbie Hoffman in his 1970 how-to-get-everything-fo’-free Steal This Book, universities provide a ton of free services, and even if you’re not a student, you can get away with snagging them. Although security seems to have gotten a little bit tighter since 1970 (who knew?) don’t be afraid to use your own university (um, you pay tuition, don’t you?).

Got friends who are taking summer classes in the dorms? Ask them if you can crash and don’t be shy about it. But always be appreciative and do some favors for them; buy them dinner, clean their rooms, the works. You want a place to sleep, right?

Gotta stop and use a bathroom? Obviously there are 8 million at a university. Don’t be shy about brushing your teeth in here too.

Need a quick workout? Go to the gym and use the track, the pool, the weightroom. And it’s kind of gross, but use the shower while you’re there. Changing in the car is okay too.

And always remember…

The only reason you should ever be in college is to destroy it. -Abbie Hoffman

You Better Make a To-Do List.

As soon as July hit, I made a pact with myself- it was time to kick my studying abroad planning into first gear and stop being such a baby and actually accomplish something besides playing with the cat all day and making late night visits to Friendly’s ice cream window. Being that I was supposed to be on vacation July 22-27 and again from August 3-13 but I would be leaving for Italy the 28th, I figured this would make the sense.

(Me: “Dad, PLEASE let’s go on vacation earlier. I can’t only have two weeks and some to get ready to live in another country for four months.”

Dad: “No way. Life is hard.”) End of conversation.

Anyway, point is that I figured I would start getting ready in July. First off, I made a to-do list of all the things that I had to do (there were like thirty things. frick). and then I just very slowly yet steadily ebbing away at them until now I only have the super hard stuff left (what a surprise). Here is a condensed version of a few things that you may forget (and should definitely do) while venturing across the pond.

1. Make a list of places you want to go. It’s a little scary at first to go through the endless lists of things to do and places to see, but this is’t a concrete list. It’s just nice to get you thinking and get planning (just a little) of what you want to do. All childhood dreams are welcomed. Example: I have always wanted to go to Transylvania. No one I know has ever been there and I don’t even know of any cool sites. But I want to go there. So it made the list. After naming a few other general sites and cities, I felt a little more settled in my own adventure. This also makes it easier for step two (see below).

2. Call the damn bank. I WANTED to go in and speak to them myself about the places I would be visiting (kind of like what grandparents do) but apparently Bank of America doesn’t do that, although Wells Fargo does. Whatevs. I called the bank and told them the countries and dates I would be visiting. WRITE THIS DOWN. Because if you end up going to a country you didn’t name (which you probably will) you’ll be up the creek without a paddle once the ATM takes your card because it thinks you’re a thief. When you call, they’ll also give you an international number and a collect call number for once you’re away in case you run into problems. This is a beautiful thing.

3. Buy a guidebook. I love Amazon– I live 30 minutes from civilization and buying online is almost always cheaper, plus you can sell it back later. Utilize the “look inside this book” feature to make sure the book is what you thought it would be- are the maps comprehensive? Does it cover the countries and cities you want to hit? Is there detailed information about the sites (so you can give tours to yourself)? Are there nifty traveling tips that aren’t common sense? Getting the book early will also give you something to do when you get bored on the plane (i.e. read). Highlight and make some notes of the must-see sights.

4. Make copies of all your stuff. Your plane tickets. Credit cards. Student IDs. License. Passport. EVERYTHING. Make two copies- one to leave at home with fam or friends and another to keep with you in case something gets stolen.

5. Buy a money belt. They look super lame (like a small fanny pack) and they hide under your clothes where you can keep some money and your passport in case you get pickpocketed. They also have ones that are like a cross body bag (but als0 go under your clothes). Cheap and worth it.

6. Get some ear plugs. You’ll be glad you did once you’re on that 12 hour bus ride.

7. Exchange your money at the bank. Don’t you dare count on those exchange stations unless you HAVE TO. You’ll get the best rates at your own bank and you’re better off arriving with cash, since many European destinations aren’t huge on debit and credit cards.

8. Get an iPod converter. I love my Mac and my iPhone dearly, plus they’re the only things I own of value. So I’ll be damned if I waited this long to get this stuff (thanks Dad!) and then it blew out when I got there. Do yourself a favor and get the real Apple converters. Apple makes a World Travel Kit with all the adapters for all the continents, but it’s $40 and you don’t need them all. Just get what you need on eBay and save some dollars.

9. Send out a mass text and gather everyone’s addresses. Write them down or put them in your phone so you can send out postcards (way better than receiving or having to carry a magnet all day).

10. Credit card. Boom. If you’re like me, no one will give you a credit card. And even if they do (God bless) the limit is probably like $300. Get a co-signed one with your parents if you’re a young’n so if you need an emergency plan ticket or something, you can buy it and pay them back later (like over five years throughout the course of your life). You’ll be glad you did when you don’t have to spend Christmas in an airport because your flight got delayed.

There. That’s it. I think I have carpal tunnel now. THANKS. Anyway, please comment if you have any questions or suggestions to add to this list!

How to See the World Before 65.

In my closet, you will not find a sparkly Juicy Couture handbag or chic dresses by Michael Kors. You won’t find leather Coach wallets or Gucci sunglasses. But instead, you might find some piles of maps, an old purple suitcase, and some postcards.

This is because I would much rather spend my hard-earned cash on trips to Rome, London, Paris, the Bahamas, or Oslo than on a pile of fabric from the Monmouth Mall.  Unfortunately, when traveling, I’m still on a student’s budget, also known as the budget of someone who asks for ten dollars of gas at the Exxon on Second Avenue. Even with an $8.25 hourly wage, however, it is still possible to see the world while you’re still young enough to enjoy it. That is, if you know when to save and when to scrape as you go about planning your next big excursion.

If you’re planning a big trip across the pond, a travel agent is a great tool and starting point that many wrongly see as a silly luxury. According to “When Using a Travel Agent Might Be a Good Idea” from, “While they may use many of the same web sites as the ordinary consumer when planning a trip, they do have the added advantage of having access to the latest sale and promotional information.  Travel agents generally have a cache of upgrades and other perks at their disposal that they can offer to their clients. This is especially true if you are a repeat customer. And, many of these perks are not advertised or available to those booking their trip via the Internet.” suggests making sure you book an agent that is certified by the American Association of Travel Agents and is one who works close to you so you can meet face-to-face rather than over the web. This is also helpful when the time comes for your next trip: you want your travel agent to be your friend and want to help you get the best deals down the line.

Also, you have to figure out what’s worth the extra buck when traveling and what you can save on. For example, you shouldn’t be taking taxis unless you absolutely have to. Always search out the bus and subway stops when you hit a new city. It cost $28 to get from New York Penn Station to LaGuardia Airport, when in comparison it would cost $2 by subway. And, if you can, walk to that museum a few blocks down instead of getting a ride at all. This is also a great way to experience the hidden gems of a city while saving money, too.


Another thing that you can save on is city tours. How many times have you sat through a boring, unenthusiastic tour by a kid about your age? It’s much more fun (not to mention time-efficient) to give yourself your own tour. “Frommer’s New York City 2012” guidebook, consistently given five stars by users, cost about $15, while the price of an “All New York Tours” guided walking tour is about $100 per person. Who wants to be led around like a bunch of third-graders anyway?

Rick Steves, author of several European guide books, said on his website, “Before buying a book, study it. How old is the information? The cheapest books are often the oldest — which is no bargain. Who wrote it? What’s the author’s experience? For whom is it written? Does the book work for you or for the tourist industry? Does it specialize in hard opinions — or superlatives? Is it readable? It should have personality without chattiness and information without fluff.”

Everybody likes getting new stuff. Everyone likes funny t-shirts, cheap jewelry, and cheesy magnets… right? You’ll be doing your wallet, and your friends, a favor if you scrimp on the lame souvenirs and send out some handwritten postcards with what you’ve been up to instead, even if you’re only gone for a few days. Postcards are much more friendly and personal than yet another shot glass. Postcards will cost under $5 for quite a few, while souvenirs will cost more than $10 per item and they will take up space, and possibly break, in your bag when it’s time to journey back home. Donna Roth, frequent recipient of my own postcards, said, “Getting postcards makes me smile and laugh and they’re something nice to look back on as the years pass, while souvenirs tend to be kind of useless and just collect dust in our house.”

Sometimes when looking forward, going on trips and seeing what the world has to offer can seem like an impossible dream in the face of tuition, rent, and bills. However, if you do a little research before you embark with your travel agent and think outside the box in order to score some great deals, you’ll have much more to show for your summer than a pile of tank tops in the closet.

The Price of Adventure. No Really. You Need a Job.

We would like to think that we are free travelers with the endless opportunity to run amok, living out of our vans and eating what nice passerby hand us. Unfortunately, this is not the case. As with all things, travel and adventure has a high price, even when you’re just trying to get to the next town over.

Where I live, in the middle of nowhere, every place that you go costs you a fortune in gas. I feel like I find myself filling up my tank yet again every three days. However, on those days where you’re groaning in the car and handing the nice man every dollar that you made the other day from behind the desk, consider this– what else would you be doing with this money? Buying some beers? New t-shirts? No. You didn’t. Instead, you spent it on something that you will have today, tomorrow– hell, the rest of your days. You have the great times that you spent with friends, or maybe even alone, going somewhere that you love (or somewhere that you escaped and then went back home, yet again somewhere that you loved).

One thing that a friend pointed out to me the other day was the app Gas Buddy (which is free!) which compares both the distance and prices of gas stations all around where you are. You don’t have to make an account, either– just enter your zip code and you can see the varying gas prices around, all posted by other irritated travelers, just like you. You would think this self-sustained app would be a bit unreliable, but surprisingly, it seems like some people are really committed to posting gas prices.

Another tip that I found in a magazine or something was to fill up your tank in the morning, when the air is cooler. This will allow you to get a little more bank for your buck because the gas will be denser and you’ll really be getting that “full” gallon.

So be proud, soldier. Drop a couple bucks on gas and get in the car. Make sure you put a pillow in there, though, in case you end up sleeping in the car again. Image