For those who are students and eligible for this, Student Universe has a promotion for $30 off flights to Asia and various discounts for flights outside the US. Find the details here.
For the student travellers out there. It is not much but they are offering $40 off a ticket of $300 or more. Must be booked before 19 September, 2011. The promo code is bigdeal40.
Back in 1999 there was an interesting book written by this fellow named Tom Griffiths about travelling and student travellers. It was called The Virgin Student Travellers’ Handbook. It was my first introduction to the great world of travelling. Granted it is not about miles or points at all (in fact I do not think he even mentions them once in the book) but it does give many good tips on the experience of travelling.
The theme of the book is around what Mr Griffiths calls the “Gap Year”. This is essentially a year between high school and university or a year after university where you travel and explore instead of just heading into the next step of whatever it was you were going to do. With this in mind, he uses the book to explain how to travel for about a year all around the world. He assumes the reader had never travelled at all and for those who may be old professionals at travelling, this will seem a bit basic for many of the chapters. Some of the topics in the beginning of the book explain all about different types of visas, airport experience, how to pick destinations and even how to keep in contact with the folks back home who will be worried sick about you should you disappear halfway around the world for a year and the only time they hear from you is when you return at the end of it.
So for the total newbie traveller it is a gold mine of information. Even if you are not a total newbie, and even if you are not travelling for six months to a year; the book is certainly worth reading. The main reason for this is because it discusses how to get discounts and how to find inexpensive ways to get around and where to stay. Granted if you have 12,000,000 Hotel points from various promotions, some of these tips may not matter to you a whole lot. Since not everyone has those many points and many want to travel before they have loads and loads of points and miles this can help to make that happen.
Other than getting the great airfares and discounts and all… there is also a more practical aspect of travelling. This is planning where to go and what to do and what you are going to bring with you.
Library Card – Before you can go anywhere you need to know where you want to go in the first place. While this can be done by ordering guidebooks and downloading apps to your iphone or itouch, or e-books through Barnes and Noble, etc… one of the best (and free) ways is to go to your local library with your handy library card and do your research the old fashioned way. If you do not have a library card, get one! They are free as long as you are a resident or a student in the town or city (and sometimes if you are a resident of the state) and they take at most about 5 minutes to issue one to you. Aside from being free, the other benefit to using the library is that you can photocopy the sections of the books or magazines you need (unfortunately, this part is not free). While this may not be as high tech or cool as the gps location and talking personal guide assistant of the iphone guide, you will be quite happy to have the paper version in the event your iphone, kindle or fancy electronic whatever is lost, stolen, confiscated by customs inspectors or the batteries run out while you are on a jungle safari in the middle of the Amazon.
AAA and CAA – If you (or your parents) are members of an automobile club it is highly likely you will be able to take advantage of their free maps and travel books. As I said before, not as flashy but the paper map could be a life saver so it does not hurt to take one with you.
Now is usually the time students begin to plan where they will be “studying” during reading week. Before buying the tickets and all it is important to know some of the smart things to do in order to prepare for your great excursion. Over the next few days I will be writing about different things to keep in mind. While most of these suggestions are for students, many of them will also be useful for those who are not currently studying. There will not be anything about miles collecting in these but rather about planning for the actual travel.
International Student Identification Card – If you are a student, this is almost a must. The ISIC will allow you to get airfares at student prices and allow you to receive other discounts available for students in most major cities around the world. You can get one though STA Travel in the United States, from Travel Cuts in Canada and from various other places within the European Union. The ISIC official website has a little tool you can use to find the closest place to get an ISIC in your country.
In the United States, the card has many other benefits as well. It offers:
- 11% off JetBlue flights using the code ISICJBDEC2. (Useful for earning AA miles on select routes)
- 10% off Motel 6 reservations using this ISIC corporate account number CP542064
- 15% off Lonely Planet guidebooks using the promotion code LPMYISIC
- Up to 50% off CityPass coupon books.
- And various others I will not list in their entirety here.
For the full list in both the United States and abroad you can go to MyISIC.com or to isic.org.
Passport – In addition to the ISIC card it is important to have a valid passport. Passports are valid for 10 years in the United States and most European Union countries and for 5 years in Canada. Trust me, the last thing you want to have happen is that all of your buddies are taking a trip to Costa Rica on some fabulous last minute airfare but you cannot go because you need to wait 6 weeks for your passport to be issued or renewed. In both the United States and in Canada, passport applications can be submitted at the Post Office or at Passport Agency offices. If applying through the post office you will usually receive your passport in the mail in about 4 – 6 weeks. The post office route is usually the best one unless you need to have it quickly. If this is the case, you will need to pay an extra fee, have a reason why you need the passport so quickly, which is usually need for a foreign visa or travel within 14 days or so (and proof to this effect) and you must appear in person at the passport office. For expedited passports they can be issued in as little as 3 hours from the time of application but this is rare and it is unlikely your spring break trip will be seen as a valid reason to issue one so quickly, besides the expediting fees can nearly double the cost of the passport so it is always better to do it through the mail if at all possible. In addition to these methods, there are also passport delivery services. Essentially what these services do is appear in person at the passport office for you and charge you extra money for this service in addition to the fees from the government. In my opinion these are really not worth it since it can add between 45 and 200 USD to the price depending on how fast you want the passport issued. I have outlined the possible costs below for the issuance of a US Passport.
Post Office: 110 USD for the passport + 25 USD execution fee = 135 USD total
Expedited Post Office: 110 USD for the passport + 25 USD execution fee + 60 US expedited fee + 14.96 USD overnight delivery for the application + 14.96 USD overnight delivery back to you = 224.92 USD total
Passport Office: 110 USD for the passport + 25 USD execution fee + 60 US expedited fee = 195 USD total
As you can see, the original post office version is definitely the most cost effective so plan ahead.
Second time in a week I am stealing from someone else, but as every good student knows I am giving the citations as needed. One day hopefully I will be one of the pros at this and I will be the one people are stealing from and giving the citations for. Anyway, when I first began booking student travel I used an outfit in Canada called Travel Cuts, they are a student travel agency which offers student prices and also allows you to get an International Student Identification Card (ISIC), which is required for most of their services. Well to be fair, the ISIC is not required for the services, it is only required if you want the student discount, so essentially it is required if you want to make the experience worthwhile. Since Travel Cuts is owned by the Canadian Federation of Students, if you go to a university which is a member, you get the ISIC for free and there is usually a Travel Cuts office on your campus. When I started grad school in the United States I found STA Travel, which is essentially the exact same thing but the American version. The key differences being that STA is not owned by a student organisation, but rather is its own independent company. This means you need to pay for the ISIC and the horrible looking photographs you need to put in it (22 USD), “travelling” is spelled with only one “l”, the people in the offices are generally much nicer to you than the Travel Cuts office in Toronto and services are not offered in French. Unlike Canada though, STA is not the only travel office for students in the US, there is also a group called Student Universe. These guys seem to be a totally online version, they do not have offices to verify that you actually are a student but instead they verify you by your .edu email address (thus leading me to believe this is only for American students). Like everyone else they have a newsletter to sign up for as well. An interesting note about them however is that they also have coupon codes. One of the latest is with United Airlines. They are offering 40 USD off of any United flight within the US departing between now and 18 December. The promotion code is United40. To be fair and give proper credit, Lucky posted about the United code here.