Location, Location, Location!
I’m not sure whether or not I should start by apologizing or telling you not to worry, but this blog does not contain any real estate advice. Instead I will be talking about the trips I’ve taken over here and how I’ve been affording/planning them.
I’d like to preface this entry by saying that I usually like to have at least $100 in my checking in addition to my savings account, save half or more of my paychecks, and never spend more on my credit card than I am able to cover with money from my bank account. Since I’ve arrived to study abroad in Australia, I’ve thrown that financial caution to the wind spending $1000’s on traveling. In the next month I will be living like the stereotypical college student taking advantage of any offer of free stuff, eating at the dining hall 21 meals a week because I already paid for a meal plan, and being as frugal as possible with the amount of money I have left, potentially putting a few more things on my credit card. Although I am slightly anxious because I don’t even remember the last time I’ve spent to the point of being this broke (especially when I don’t have a job!), I know that I have enough money to get by and pay for the essentials. Worst case scenario I have over $1000 left on my credit limit…
So on that note, let me tell you all about the trips I have/ will be taking! When I first got here I was so excited about finally being in Sydney that I stayed in the area exploring the city, campus, and Newtown. I’d heard from various sources that you should do traveling when you initially get there because you have all the time in the world to explore Sydney, whereas it’s harder to get away from the city later on once uni has started. Well I ignored that advice, and things have worked out fine, but if I did the trip over I would have done more travel early on. I highly recommend that if you arrive at your australia study abroad destination a few weeks prior to the start of university that you pull yourself away from the exciting new surroundings you haven’t explored to go to some destinations a little (or a lot) further away. There are sporadic plane tickets at fantastic prices, so I’d say go with the wind and travel to wherever you can get a cheap flight for. There are happy hour deals from 12 – 1 for Jetstar, Virgin Blue, and Qantas. Utilize these deals to take weekend trips during uni as well, if you have the time and money for it. Although this method of trip planning takes more time and patience, it’s worth it in the long run because you will save a lot of money and get to visit more places.
My first weekend trip away was with surf camp. To be honest, I’m not even sure exactly where we were, I believe it was a few hours north of Sydney. Regardless, the beaches were gorgeous, whether was amazing, and I finally know how to surf! I had a blast and one of my good mates from ifsa-butler went with me. That trip was easy to plan; there is a company called colourful trips that runs trips at a discounted price for uni students so all we had to do was sign up and everything was taken care of for us: accommodation, travel, and food.
The next week it was already Easter holiday, the Australian equivalent of an American spring break. The Aussie students don’t travel as much as American students tend to, but I took full advantage of the time off and went to Fiji!! I booked a tour called ‘Coconuts’ through Extreme Adventures and spent three days on my own in addition to the tour. It was amazing, and as of right now Fiji remains my favorite travel destination. We spent a few days touring the main island of Viti Levu, two days at Beachcomber (which is hyped up to be a lot better than it actually is), and two days on Mantaray Island (which was beautiful and had AMAZING snorkeling! I saw a reef shark, ray, and lots of fish and color). Independently of the tour I took a day trip to South Sea Island and went on several dives during my stay at Fiji. The tour was a great value, but I had to pay twice of what you typically would pay for air fare because I didn’t book the trip until two weeks before it happened. So here’s another piece of advice: book your spring break trip early because air fare will cost an arm and a leg if you don’t. Spring break was only a month and a half away when I got to Sydney, so I didn’t feel like planning it because I was still making friends and meeting new people and trying to figure out where I wanted to go, but just book it and if you don’t go with people you know I guarantee you will be able to meet people easily.
Last weekend I went to Melbourne and LOVED it. I got a pretty good deal on flights by using happy hour, and thanks to my friend Pat (who was my tour guide in Fiji) I had a free couch to sleep on and some great tips about things to do while I was there. The first day I walked around Prarhan and shopped on Chapel St which was near Pats hostel Lord’s Lodge. After lunch my friends and I went to his apartment in St. Kilda, walked around that area, shopped on Acland st. All day Saturday we did the great ocean road tour. Sunday we split up. Since I was staying an extra day (no classes on Monday J ), I took a tour to Phillip Island to see the penguin parade!! It was a dream come true for penguin lovers such of myself. I went to the Esplanade Hotel, aka ‘the espie’, for some live music that night. On my last day I finally went into the cbd of Melbourne. I walked along the river, went through some neat shopping arcades, had the best cupcake I’ve ever had in my life, and generally just took in the sights. It was truly a fabulous and affordable weekend.
That takes me to the final trip I have planned. I’m going to Fraser Island, the Whitsunday Islands, and Cairns for 10 days during the exam/study period in June. That was a nightmare trying to plan. All I can tell you from my experiences with that, is that travel agents aren’t that helpful. In fact, going to a travel agent ended up having me spend several hundred more than I would have if I booked everything myself (and I say booked because I pretty much planned the whole thing myself anyway). I’m still frustrated about it, and I wouldn’t be so poor if I just booked it myself, but what are you gonna do? Live and learn. Hopefully you can learn from my experiences. If I had booked the trip myself I could have most likely found cheaper flights by using happy hour again, and I would have looked into taking the bus instead of flying. While in the office I was told the train and bus would be almost as expensive as flying and take a lot longer. While the bus does take a lot longer, you can take a bus through the night thereby eliminating one night of accommodation you would have had to pay for and saving heaps of many on your travel fare. Unfortunately I could not cancel my flight after independently researching that fact, I wish my travel agent hadn’t dismissed the idea of a bus when I asked him. The one plus side to using a travel agent is it’s nice not to have to call all the various hostels yourself and they put your itinerary and travel vouchers altogether for you in one little case.