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):

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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Instagram

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  • Sharing some old photos of my day trip to Bath earlier this month.

01) River Avon flowing under Pulteney Bridge.
02) The Bath Abbey overlooking the Roman Baths. 
03) A photo of some ancient engineering still working today. The Romans dug up the hot springs to flow into the steam rooms in the bath building.
04) Piles of rocks that laid underneath stone floors in these steam rooms.

Ancient Rome is such a fascinating era to learn about. Still a bit disappointed we couldn't stay longer, but it was super interesting to learn about how Romans used to visit a still standing building. They even had old coins and old jewellery on display! Who needs to visit Rome in person when you've got Bath? πŸ˜‚πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§
  • I was on 3" heels. I'm usually not that much taller than @k7cheung. #WeddingSelfie 🀳🏻 - Also, sneaking that candid photo in for the lulz because I want to learn how it feels to be an Instagram influencer who posts up photos of herself in mid-pose while in a fancy dress. πŸ˜‚
  • About last night. So happy that I was able to be there in person to celebrate you two. ❀️ Congratulations!! 😘
  • Checklist. Beautiful day to visit the mysterious Stonehenge. β›…
  • One of the top highlights of my weekend though has got to be meeting @momosface for the first time! My all-time favourite dog celebrity. πŸ• He's as adorable and cute and energetic as he seems to be in all of @andrewknapp's Instagrams!! 😍 He's also so well-trained. So amazing to see Momo "stay" in one spot for as long as Andrew tells him too. WHAT A GOOD BOY. I've had such a crush on @andrewknapp and @momosface for so long, I was too shy to even go up to them to say hi at first. 😭 But then I was like, "OK, it's just a dog, Wendy, get over yourself." 😭 Anyway, I did shyly say goodbye to Momo and Andrew at the end, so that's got to count for something. Such a great dog lover meet-up. London needs to host more of these!! (P.S. I didn't apply any saturation filters on this photo. Only some brightening fixes. The Google Pixel really is this great.)