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 explore 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 because 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):

Pinstrips
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.

TripCase
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 did an epic journey via Uber and train from Canary Wharf, London to Gatwick Airport with three massive luggages and one carry-on on my last morning in the UK. It took me three hours because I had to somehow get all three bags – two of them were overweight, one of which was 31kg – from the second floor of my apartment building to the @AirTransat airline counter. An airline counter that wasn't even in the same terminal as the train station I would be arriving in.⁣
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So, from second floor flat, to a 30+ minute Uber to Blackfriars, to the second floor of the Blackfriars train station (by lugging two bags 20 metres, then the other two 40 metres, repeat), to the Gatwick Airport train station, to getting an airport employee to find a trolley for me (by asking him nicely as I stood there waiting by my four bags because lol I'm not going to drag four bags across a busy airport terminal), to somehow pushing my trolley cart onto the inter-terminal train, to finally, reaching the airline counter of #AirTransat.⁣
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For three hours, from 6:30 AM, to when I finally had all my bags checked in at 9:15 AM, I was running on pure adrenaline. I don't even know how I was able to do it. I was like a bull on a mission, to get from point A to point B to point C etc. But what I also remember, was my body basically crashing into a damn near anxiety attack while at the counter. I was gulping for air, taking deep breaths, and trying to calm myself down. When I finally walked away from the airline counter, I nearly forgot my carry-on on the trolley, and when I finally had the chance to sit down, my hands were actually shaking. For all the times I've solo travelled around the world in the past year and a half, this has never happened to me before. That morning, I finally understood why airports need therapy dogs.⁣
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(Continued below...)
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First up, a photo of the Kálvin Tér metro station in #Budapest, Hungary. Love the architecture at this station for some reason! So modern. More interesting than majority of the #TTC subway stations back home. Did you know that Budapest has the oldest underground train system on the European continent? 🚇