By P.J. Decoteau / Staff Writer
Good news, students! Now that Barack Obama is in office it’s once again safe to travel abroad without being generally hated by everyone – at least until you’ve finished your fifth beer and start acting like an asshole. Forget about the fact that the value of the dollar has dropped and give yourself the opportunity to bask in the new glow of being tolerated instead of loathed, like a misguided but well-meaning younger sibling.
The problem, of course, is that traveling remains an expensive and stressful undertaking that never seems to be worth the hassle. Fortunately for you, I’ve done the research and unearthed some tips and tricks to help make the process easier, quicker and cheaper.
Tickets: Most likely the biggest expense of the trip, you’ll find that the “Pricelines” and similar discount Web sites offer no real disparity between prices while boasting the “lowest priced tickets available”.
Luckily we students get pampered, probably out of pity for the insane amounts of money we spend on college, and can take advantage of student discounts that provide what the other Web sites don’t: actual discounts. I used StudentUniverse.com and saved over a hundred dollars, and all I had to do was re-enroll in school!
Passport: It’s pretty well known that getting your passport takes more time and effort than it would for you to write an 80-page dissertation on the passport-getting process. Aside from the fact that it costs, with picture included, around $115 for a tiny booklet with your photo inside, it seems criminal that it should take three to four months just to make the thing and send it through the mail.
You can save a few bucks by getting your picture done at Kinko’s, or you can just buy some cardboard paper and scissors, make one yourself, and hope you don’t get arrested (which you will). The real trick is in the timing. You can save yourself about two and a half months of waiting by applying at the end of the year, when the offices are all caught-up and applications slow down to a trickle. I applied in November and received it less than two weeks later – proof that bureaucracy only sucks most of the time.
Packing: Since most of you probably don’t want to do what I do, which involves about two or three days’ worth of clothing, a week or more abroad and no washing, I suggest picking and choosing what to bring wisely.
It’s an obvious but often forgotten fact that any checked luggage that weighs over 50 lbs. will cost you about $50 extra, depending on the airline. That’s money that could be spent on an extra night out. The simple answer is to admit that you don’t really need five pairs of shoes or ten wool sweaters for Italy in July. Besides, no one cares what you’re wearing abroad because everyone looks funny.
Money: The most important part is that you need some. With such a poor exchange rate at the moment, expect to spend more on everything, meaning that a dinner costing €10 will actually be costing you about $15.
As it is, traveling abroad is a lot like your first three or four dinner dates with a girl; put money aside to pay for dinner and then expect to pay about 25 percent more. Use the previous tips to save a bit, guilt-trip your parents into helping you out by reminding them that they still haven’t gotten you a present for your birthday (which was three months ago), and start buying Busch Beer instead of Sam Adams.
It’ll all be worth it when you can actually afford to do lavish foreign things like eating and going places. Just don’t forget the two golden rules of travel: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” and, in the words of that annoying neighbor kid from Home Alone, “bring me back something nice”.