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Lauren Juliff

Lauren Juliff Student Travel Blog


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How Was Your Spring Break?

Monday March 31, 2014
Spring Break Cancun

Spring Break is one of most enjoyable times of the year for students. It gives you some time to take a break from college, head to warmer destinations and meet lots of new people.

This year, I celebrated Spring Break on the islands of Belize, in Central America. This was my first visit to Belize, and it definitely exceeded my expectations. I spent my couple of weeks relaxing in the laid back town of Placencia, sunbathing and meeting new people on backpacker hangout of Caye Caulker, and exploring Mayan ruins in the jungle near San Ignacio.

Would I recommend Belize as a Spring Break destination? Absolutely! However, while there is lots of partying on the cayes, Spring Break isn't a big celebration. If you like chilled out, relaxed destinations without hoards of tourists, spend Spring Break in Belize. The only downside was that it's slightly more expensive than other countries in Central America (though still cheaper than the USA). If you're going to be traveling on a budget, consider visiting Guatemala or Honduras for Spring Break 2015.

How was your Spring Break? Have you made any plans for next year? Check out the list of dates for Spring Break 2015 and get planning!

How I Found BoltBus Tickets For $5

Monday March 31, 2014

I spent the majority of summer 2013 in the Pacific Northwest. While staying there, it didn't take long for me to fall in love with BoltBus -- a fantastic bus service that serves the West Coast and North East of the US. I used BoltBus to travel from Seattle to Portland and back, and from Seattle to Vancouver.

From Seattle to Portland I paid just $5 -- fantastic value! The trick to finding cheap BoltBus tickets is booking your tickets as early as possible. BoltBus releases their schedules six weeks before the departure date, and the very first tickets go on sale for $1. I didn't get to the site in time to get to $1 ticket, but just 12 hours after they went on sale, I managed to pick up a ticket for $5. For that price, I got to travel in a clean environment, with air conditioning, comfortable seats, power sockets, a free drink and free Wi-Fi! I was very impressed, and felt like I should have been paying much more for the experience.

What tricks have you used to find cheap Boltbus tickets?

Traveling Eastern Europe by Train

Monday March 31, 2014
Students on train

One of my travel highlights was the summer of 2012, which I spent traveling across Eastern Europe by train. From Germany, I traveled overland to Turkey, visiting ten countries along the way. I spent time in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey!

One of the biggest misconceptions I had about trains in Eastern Europe was that they'd be uncomfortable. While Eastern European trains are certainly far less comfortable than Western European trains, they're not as terrible as some travelers make them out to be. On my journey, I found clean carriages, friendly locals, lots of legroom, and even the occasional power socket to keep my laptop charged! I rarely came across another tourist during the entire month I spent on the rails -- yet another reason to head to Eastern Europe before everyone else does! And, if you do, you should definitely take the train.

You can read more about my experience in my latest article: What are the trains like in Eastern Europe?

Have you traveled Eastern European by train? How did you find it?

What’s Your Best Jet Lag Cure?

Monday March 31, 2014

Jet lag is a necessary evil of travel, and one that every traveler wishes they could avoid. Short of slowly traveling across one timezone at a time there are a few things you can do to minimize your chances of getting jet lag while making it last for as short a time as possible.

My best jet lag tip is to try and get accustomed to my new timezone before I arrive. If I'll be crossing a significant amount of timezones, I'll try and adjust my daily routine to take this into account. I'll wake up and go to bed earlier or later, will adjust my mealtimes to fit those of my destination, and make sure to get plenty of sleep. When I get on the plane, I'll refuse to eat any of the meals offered unless they're served at the correct time of my destination. That way, I can be prepared for my new timezone before I arrive.

How do you avoid jet lag while travelling?

Keeping Your Laptop Safe on The Road

Monday March 31, 2014

As more and more travelers opt to take a laptop with them on the road, keeping technology safe has become much more of a priority. Here are some of our top tips for protecting your laptop:

Invest in a Case: Travel isn't kind to your technology and throwing your bag from bus to train to plane to dorm room floor and back again will result in quite a few knocks. Invest in a hard shell case to keep your laptop protected from inevitable bumps.

Buy a Keyboard Cover: A keyboard cover will make sure that if you accidentally spill that bottle of Angkor Beer over your keyboard (as I did on the beach in Sihanoukville, Cambodia!) you won't destroy your laptop. As an added bonus, a keyboard cover will muffle the tapping of your keys so you won't keep everyone in your dorm awake if you stay up late.

Cover it in Stickers: Cover your laptop case in stickers and duct tape to attract less attention. It will look like it's old and beaten up, resulting in a lower risk of it being stolen.

Use a VPN: There are many benefits to using a VPN when you travel. It provides security when you're signing into your private accounts on shared networks, allows you to access blocked websites in a country such as China, and prevents banking lockouts due to your frequently changing location.

What do you do to keep your laptop safe on the road?

Has Travel Made You a Minimalist?

Monday March 31, 2014

You don't have to sell everything you own before you leave to travel but it cane be a great way to build your travel fund. I raised close to $3000 for my travel savings, just by selling things I didn't actually need. It took just an hour a week to list some items on eBay and Amazon and, because I did so six months before my departure date, I had plenty of time to get things packaged and sent off.

Travel Makes You A Minimalist

After a few weeks of traveling with everything you need in a backpack, you'll soon find that you actually don't need all that much to survive. It's not uncommon for backpackers to return from a big trip and feel overwhelmed by how much they own -- I know that I did. You can minimize this shock by starting to sell your things before you leave.

To see how I managed to sell everything I own, take a look at my latest article: Saving For Travel: Selling Your Possessions

Has travel turned you into a minimalist?

How Many Pairs of Shoes Should You Take Traveling With You?

Friday March 28, 2014

Narrowing down how many pairs of shoes to take traveling with you can be challenging. When you're so used to have dozens of pairs to choose between, how can you narrow it down to just two? What if you need to hike? Or run? Or wander along a beach? Here's how to figure it out.

What Activities Are Important to You?

Decide what activities are going to take priority on your trip. If you're a keen runner then you'll want to take some running shoes with you. If you plan on hiking extensively throughout your time away then you should invest in some hiking shoes to take with you. If beaches are your priorities make sure you pack a pair of flip flops or sandals in your backpack.

Prioritizing Which Shoes to Take

I decided to travel with Vibrams because I was able to combine several different types of shoes into one. With Vibrams I combined walking shoes, with running shoes -- and I'm able to hike in them, too! When I throw in a pair of flip flops, I'm covered for every single occasion on the road, and they take up barely any space in my backpack!

You might be able to find that you can combine your walking shoe with your running shoe, or your hiking boots with your walking shoes in order to save space in your backpack.

How many pairs of shoes do you travel with? How did you come to that decision?

When Should You Book Your Hostel in Advance?

Friday March 28, 2014
Hostel in Portland

I'm a big proponent of not planning in advance while you're traveling. I've tried planning every spare second of a trip before and ended up stressed and unhappy -- I wanted to change my plans but couldn't! By not planning, you'll be able to go wherever you feel like and do what you want, without being tied to a schedule. You might make friends with people in a hostel and decide to travel with them for a bit, or you might hear about somewhere amazing and choose to drop everything to go explore -- there are so many reasons to keep your plans loose.

However, there are a few times where I'll always been my hostels in advance.

Book The First Few Nights: I'll always book the first few nights in a hostel, especially if I'll be traveling long-distances. I always feel groggy after any kind of travel day and the last thing I want to do is wander around looking for accommodation for hours. If I'm taking any kind of flight, or travelling for more than six hours, I'll book my first couple of nights in a hostel.

Book if Traveling in High Season: If I'm traveling through Western Europe in summer I will book every single hostel months in advance. Hostels get booked up quickly in this part of the world and you don't want to end up with nowhere nice to stay -- it does happen. Other parts of the world where you should book in advance (during high season) include Australia, New Zealand, the US and Canada.

Book for Peace of Mind: Sometimes I worry that I won't be able to find somewhere decent to stay so I'll book my hostel in advance to give me peace of mind. Knowing that I won't have to search for somewhere to stay in a new country helps keep me relaxed, and allows me to focus on navigation.

Finally, if you don't plan on booking your hostels in advance, there are a few things you can carry to minimize your risk of being unable to find somewhere to sleep. One example is to travel with a hammock. If you arrive in a new destination and can't find a single place to stay, you'll always be able to find somewhere to string up a hammock and get some sleep -- and this might even be a hostel if they have space for you to hang it.

Do you book all of your hostels in advance? What are your reasons for doing so?

Why My Wi-Fi Extender Is One of My Most Useful Travel Items

Friday February 28, 2014
Travel Blogging in Bali

As someone who blogs and travels full-time, Wi-Fi has been more important to my travels than I'd like to admit. I often find myself choosing travel destinations based on the quality of their Internet and avoiding places where I won't be able to get connected.

One item that has helped me get past my fear of slow Wi-Fi while proving to be incredibly useful has been my Wi-Fi extender. I wasn't expecting much from this tiny device, but it's saved me on more than one occasion. It's simple to set up and use -- it's just a case of plugging it in and searching for available networks. I'll often see three times the amount of networks with the extender than I do without -- and the networks that I do connect to are noticeably faster. Thanks to my Wi-Fi extender, I've been able to spend more time traveling and less time wrestling with slow Internet. It's now one of my travel essentials.

The Wi-Fi extenders I use and recommend are made by Alfa. There's a Windows version, and one for Mac.

See what else has been useful for my travels in my latest article: 5 Essential Travel Items You'd Never Think to Pack.

Why I Love My Sarong

Friday February 28, 2014

I'd never travelled with a sarong up until a few years ago -- I didn't really see the point in them. After reading dozens of packing lists from female travelers and seeing that every single one of them raved about the versatility of sarongs, I decided to try it out for myself.

I picked up a cheap sarong before I left and found myself using it within the first few days of my trip. I used it to cover up while I visited temples in Thailand. I used it to protect my sunburnt shoulders in Croatia. I used it as a pillow on any overnight flights, and I used it as a headscarf to attract less attention in Islamic countries.

My sarong is the most useful travel accessory I carry. You can see a list of the uses it's had for me on the road in my latest article: Why You Should Pack a Sarong in Your Backpack.

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