Travel newbie

As mentioned in my previous blog, I will be going to the FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 next summer! I will be travelling alone for my trip to Recife, but will meet up with a friend in Recife for a couple of games (hopefully), before heading off to Rio de Janeiro for (hopefully) a quarterfinal game. Luck has already been on our side yesterday, when the World Cup groups were drawn, and our only confirmed ticket so far will be for the United States vs. Germany game on June 25th. We got incredibly lucky! I had a feeling we would end up watching a match featuring less prominent teams, but somehow we managed to get the Group of Death as Group G. Insanely lucky.

But as this blog is titled, I am a travel newbie. And by travel newbie, I mean the last time I was on a plane, I was 3-years-old, when my family immigrated here to Canada. So really, it doesn’t even count because I don’t recall a single thing from that trip – nor anything from when I was a kid in Hong Kong – I probably slept all the way through, knowing my childish self, hah!

But I digress. Ever since returning from Kingston (which is actually only a 3 or so hour drive from Toronto), it seems like I’ve been bitten by the travel bug. I just want to exploreΒ everywhere! I always see photos of Facebook friends going on trips outside the country, and have always been jealous of them able to make these vacations happen. But when I came back from Kingston, I realized that these trips are able to happen for these people simply becauseΒ they made it happen. They saved up, they booked off the dates, and off they went. They made it happen.

So now that the World Cup groups have been drawn, and dates are set, my friend and I have really hit the ground running in planning our Recife/Rio trip. We’ve started talking flights, looking at places to stay, and even booking the hostel itself. But all while this happened, I felt so incredibly lost. I will be going on a short three-day trip to Montreal later this month, and it had mostly been my other friend doing all the planning. This World Cup 2014 trip? Also, the friend I will be accompanying with. I realized that for both trips, I have absolutely zero idea on how to budget for trips or how to plan trips in general.

After realizing this, I spent most of the night – taking up precious time that I should have used for studying for final exams (but don’t tell anyone!) – looking up mobile and web apps that could help me take more initiative into planning. I have narrowed it down to two apps that I’ve liked so far (and actually work):

Pintrips is a new browser extension that was invented just earlier this year. It’s a really useful concept, where potential tourists can pin certain flights from travel website, and track their flight prices real time on their member dashboard. It being new means that there are still a lot of bugs that they have to iron out. Their in-browser pop-ups don’t always work, and their login processes aren’t as smooth as it could be. But what this extension/app feature that others don’t is that you can cross-compare various flights from various airlines all in one simple dashboard. You get to save and watch the ones you actually care about, instead of visiting one travel website repeatedly to ensure prices don’t go up, and being distracted by other deals and other flights at the same time. Hopefully in the future, Pintrips will also add a feature where you can track the price history of certain flights on your dashboard, so you can book your flight based on its pricing pattern. Its browser is a little bulky right now too, but hopefully that also gets changed soon.

Yes, there are dozens and dozens of travel planning apps out there, but how do you know which one is right for you? As of right now, I would say TripCase has certainly been the most helpful and the most aesthetically pleasing travel planning app I have used so far. I am incredibly picky with the apps I end up using, so yes, I have tried TripCase’s rival app, TripIt, but compared to TripIt, TripCase has a much better looking web interface, and it offers free flight notifications. I will be making three flights and at four different flight transfers, during my World Cup trip next summer. Flight alerts would be a necessity! So for now, instead of downloading a separate app for flight alerts (which will likely happen closer to June because travel newbie), I will be sticking to TripCase. Plus, TripIt sifts through all your email to input their itineraries! While that’s incredibly helpful and I wouldn’t mind that feature for TripCase, I don’t think it needs access to my contact list in order to accomplish that.

So, those are the two apps I would recommend for trip planning. For now. I’ve left the comments open for this blog because I’d like to hear your travel app suggestions if you have them! Please suggest only Android apps! As sleek looking iOS 7 is, I just love the functionality of my Nexus 5 over my iPod touch 5G much much more.

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I stood at the bar for like, 10 minutes trying to get the attention of one of the bartenders, but he just continued to look over my head. It was packed in this pub – at least two groups of #RealMadrid fans hanging around, decked out in full gear! – so what with busy bartenders and waiters, no one gave a two-shits about this East Asian girl standing and looking helplessly at the bar. Fair enough.⁣
Finally though, I managed to get the bartender's attention and ordered a mojito. (Also recommended on @foursquare.) The bartender yells at his co-bartender buddy, and I apparently have to wait some more for this mojito to arrive. After a bit, I'm tired of standing around, and walks over to his buddy's side of the bar and looks at him expectantly.⁣
This guy is cuuute. The top half of his face reminds me of @oscar_emboaba – the eyebrows, the eyes, the hair. But he still takes ages to give me this damn mojito and the free plate of tapas that comes with it. The whole meal cost only €6, but I still want my food, thanks.⁣
Anyways, after what must've been 15 minutes since walking through the door of this tapas pub, I'm finally served my food and drink. The mojito turns out to be way bigger than the #Foursquare tips said; it's about maybe 3 to 5 times the size of a normal glass of mojito in London or Toronto. The free tapas were decent, but nothing to shout about.⁣
While I was eating and drinking though, I had to entertain myself with either my phone or the hustle bustle of the venue. That meant a lot of people watching. A lot of people watching that included the groups of local Real Madrid fans – figured that  I should leave for the stadium relatively the same time as they do – and the cute bartender.⁣
(Continued below...)