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Citymapper: choose your adventure.

“Karoline?”

“Eben.” My host mother smiled and hugged me. She wore glasses, a beanie, scarf, stripey gloves and boots, her small frame swallowed up in the big coat she wore to shield her from the January cold.

Struggling to find the right word and ending up persisting with one I knew was wrong, I asked my host mom if both she and her husband were from Berlin originally. Yes, they both grew up there, although she was born in Austria.

On that first trip home I tried to pay attention to our three transfers, knowing I would have to come back to the university the following day. I asked my new host parents for help, wrote down their directions on a piece of paper and prayed to God I would figure out the way back. And I made it! It felt pretty good.

Those months in Berlin I spent alot of time on public transportation, and I often used Citymapper to help plan out routes. Although I prefer getting to know the city myself and figuring things out on my own, Citymapper was really helpful when my route involved buses (the bus schedule was more complicated to figure out than the subway) and when I wanted to find the fastest route.

Citymapper is an app that has public transportation info on currently over 30 major cities worldwide and will put together a route for you via public transportation, walking, or cycling. It offers pretty much anything you could need – realtime travel estimates, offline map, online map, and you can set a home or work address to make things go faster when punching in a destination.

Although I wouldn’t recommend using it as a crutch if you really want to get to know a city, it’s an extremely helpful app when visiting new places or when you don’t have time to plan your route. If they don’t have it in your city, you can vote to get them to start working on it! It’s very well put together and I’d recommend it to anyone who needs help regularly planning the fastest routes. Just don’t forget that there’s nothing like the adventure of figuring it out on your own.

https://citymapper.com/

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Book Your Ticket… Then Find Out Where You’re Going

You may have heard of the European Airline Germanwings on the news when one of its airplanes tragically crashed into a mountain in the French Alps last year. Thankfully there’s another, much more positive, reason to be talking about Germanwings.

In the last several years, the Lufthansa subsidiary has come up with a groundbreaking new method to fill empty seats on flights within Europe. Their blind booking gives passengers rock bottom prices on tickets (starting at €33 euro, about $38)  for flights throughout Europe. The catch is this: passengers buy the tickets before finding out their destination. What a fun idea! After selecting their departure location (currently only in Germany and Austria), travelers then select the type of experience they are looking for: Sun & Beach, Party, Gay Friendly, Culture, Metropolis, Shopping, or Nature, Trekking & Hiking. For a small fee, passengers are then allowed to black out specific destinations (maybe they spent a weekend in Paris last month and want to go somewhere new).

I’d say this is a pretty genius way for airlines to increase revenue: those flights will be taking off whether or not every last seat is filled. For travelers this is an exciting and fun way to travel to a new destination… for under $100.

I’m looking into moving to Germany after graduation. If I end up there, I will definitely be trying this out.

Here’s the link the check it out:

https://www.eurowings.com/skysales/BlindBooking.aspx?culture=en-GB

 

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Why Pack When you can DUFL?

Air travel. One of the most hectic things one will ever experience. From baggage check-in to claim, boarding to landing, TSA guidelines to overhead baggage compartments, there has got to be some way to make this commonly used commuting carrier (say that 5 times fast) easier, right?

Enter DUFL

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Airbnb…but why not Couchsurfing?

When it comes to travel, I consider myself somewhat experienced. I’ve seen a lot of sights, stayed in a lot of run down hotels (and even some nice ones), and experienced a vast number of airlines. Since my family is somewhat frugal, we tend to stay with friends or at the cheapest hotel whenever we go exploring or visiting in a new area. In our planning, we’ve also run across overnight options like “Couch Surfing” and “Mennonite your way,” which—sketchy though they sound—are actually pretty attractive options for the flexible, cheapskate traveler.

Recently, though, Airbnb has caught my travel-tuned eye. This new housing alternative first showed up in the summer of 2008, the brainchild of innovative trio Nathan Blecharczyk (CTO & Co-Founder), Brian Chesky (CEO & Co-Founder), and Joe Gebbia (CPO & Co-Founder). The creative business aims to give customers a unique travel experience—nearby or international—by connecting them with local resident hosts.

For a night-by-night price, hosts rent out anything from open rooms, to bedroom suites, to vacant apartments, to entire houses for the use of visiting tourists. Travelers can find their ideal bed-and-breakfast rental on an easy-to-use website or via mobile phone. On the sight, one encounters bright photos, customer reviews, and amenities listings for each rental location. Additionally, Airbnb offers an easy online-payment system to cut down on the awkward exchange of cash between the newly-befriended host and visitor, while the business holds onto a certain set percentage of the total payment. By connection with a local host, exploring tourists also gain access to experienced insight on which places to see, what attractions to visit (and avoid!), and where to find a quality meal.

Overall, the ease and uniqueness of the Airbnb accommodations system offers travelers a matchless vacation experience, whether they are journeying just a city or a whole continent away.

For those of you familiar with Couchsurfing, however, you may be asking yourselves: what is the advantage here? Especially if you remember that Couchsurfing is FREE. Why pay to stay in someone’s spare bedroom or empty apartment if you could just stay on someone’s couch for no charge? Either way, you reap the benefits of personal connections with a host.
So what is the draw? For some it’s the professional assurance that the location you are renting is really worth your time. For others, it’s the assurance of a little more privacy and freedom offered by the Airbnb system. One more advantage to Airbnb might be the flexibility in numbers–while couchsurfing hosts might have two couches to offer, one can definitely find accommodations for a larger group in the Airbnb listings. Experienced traveler Lauren Hogan offers her opinion on Getcomparisons.com:

“While it’s easier (and cheaper!) to meet like-minded travelers through CouchSurfing, I don’t mind paying a little bit to ensure I have a comfortable place to rest my head and the freedom to come and go as I please. With AirBnB, there are many more options and it’s still possible to feel like a local versus a temporary traveler.”

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