Thursday, 28 April 2016

How to bag a return flight to Thailand for £49!

On Wednesday around 4pm on twitter I saw STA Travel posting about £49 return flights to Thailand. Curious, I inquired further and found out they were going to be 49 tickets at each location for £49 each on sale at both the London and Birmingham branch. It was only 1 ticket per customer, and was flying with Qatar Airways between 1st May and 30th June, returning any time within 6 months, with great deals available on the day for accommodation and tours in Thailand too. 

It had been snowing during the day and so I decided I wouldn't pursue this offer as I couldn't be bothered to wait in the cold for Birmingham for 2 nights, given people had already started queuing. My mum was encouraging me to do it, but I just couldn't face it! Anyway, driving towards university at 6:30pm I was stuck in huge amounts of traffic and couldn't get it off my mind. So, I turned around my car, drove back home and began to pack. I sent a quick message out on facebook and found a friend to join me, and we agreed to leave Leamington Spa at 4am and hope there was still space!

When we arrived, there were only 15 people in front of us, but they all had tents to protect them slightly from the cold! We later found out they hadn't taken a tent either, but it was so cold two of them popped in a taxi to the 24/7 Tescos and got everyone one for £15 between two people. They weren't waterproof at all really, and everyone woke up rather damp as they were only single lining, but it did the job! Dan and I, however, just laid on yoga mats on the floor instead and tried to get some kip in. It was honestly freezing, genuinely -2 degrees! Luckily I was wrapped up like a giant teddy bear so the only part of me that was actually really cold was my toes.

During the day everybody just chilled out, we all got to know one another, joined each other for food and toilet breaks and generally just had a fun time discussing our future plans for Thailand. STA Travel were lovely, and kept coming out to bring us hot chocolate, bacon sarnies, sweets, crisps, cans of coke etc. Big shout out to Tokyo toys too for giving us some food/ drink and keeping us entertained every now and then with some crazy odd games!

It was a shame because the 49 tickets didn't actually fill up until around 4pm, which meant we had been queuing unnecessarily for hours! But hey, better safe than sorry right? And we got first choice of flights so they may have been sold out had we got there much later. We ended up buying a tent from Argos for £15 during the day in case it rained, the clouds were looking a bit grey! Well worth the investment really. 

I will say actually, there were a few disturbances during the day, and there were certainly a few negatives to the event. All day we were asked if we were homeless, or refuges from France (apparently there was a rumour going round that's what we were!). Some people genuinely tutted with disgust at the thought of us 'invading' their country (as one lovely lady so eloquently put it). Then, and this part I felt super bad for, genuine homeless people were getting upset and angry because if it were them doing this, they'd be kicked out sooner than we could blink. But, because it was a one-off event, the police and council said it was ok for the moment so long as we weren't getting rowdy. STA Travel even provided a security guard from 7pm onwards in case we had any trouble because some very shady characters kept coming back. One homeless man, we're not sure if it was supposed to be a joke or what, had a 'Beginners guide to Al Qaeda' in his back pocket which was slightly odd...

Number 14 in line!
Well, the morning FINALLY rolled around, and it was glorious. They began to blare out music from the shop, and bought a tuk tuk along, and had authentic Thai dancers and you could even get a Thai massage to sore out the kinks! I felt bad for her when she lifted up my armpits to crack my back hahah, poor lady! Finally, I got my ticket and rejoiced, happy to finally be able to head home, shower and take a well-deserved nap.

Overall, I'll admit, I don't even have the money to visit Thailand really. I've got £1000 to last me 2 months in the USA! But, where there is a will there's a way. I'd really like to catch a flight to either Bangladesh, India or Nepal while I'm out there, so we'll see what happens and watch magic deals I can catch in the next few weeks. Part of me is tempted to just wait till I get to Bangkok airport and see I can go on stand-by for a last minute flight anywhere!

One thing I'd recommend for other people in future years is just bring LOTS of layers, if you think you have enough, bring two more layers haha. Also, poundland is great to get little heat packs from to stuff in your socks to keep them toasty. Don't forget an eye-mask and earplugs too as the streets constantly have lights on and it's starts getting noisy around 5:30am.Experience was 5 out 5, and STA Travel were great to us! Huge shout out to the Birmingham team for doing such a great job. 

Stay tuned for updates on where I decide to go!

Friday, 15 April 2016

Couchsurfing success

I don't know why I'm so surprised by it, I guess maybe it's because last year I never made any public trips, but last night I made two public requests on for Washington DC and Cleveland, Ohio. The only reason I asked so far in advance is because of the dates I need a place for. In Washington it's the fourth of July, and in Cleveland it's for the Republican National Convention. So far, I've been overwhelmed by the responses! I've already been offered 3 places in Cleveland and 2 in Washington.

Most interestingly, one man on there is 74-years-old and lives in Cleveland. He was actually a Democratic Senator for Ohio for 16 years! He'll have the most amazing stories ever. He even helped pushed through the Civil Rights Act. Imagine being about to talk history and politics with him?! Anyway, he said he may not be in Cleveland for the convention, but I was welcome to come meet and stay with him and his wife at his lake house about an hour away. He even gave me his e-mail and phone number so I could stay in touch with him.

Another man in the Cleveland area offered me a place to stay, but unfortunately he is a bit out of the way. He can teach me how to shoot guns and show me the best rural places in Ohio, sounds great! I'll try getting there if I can, but I'm not sure I will have the time. Moving onto to those who have offered to host me in Washington, well, I just can't put into words how fascinating all of these people are; baffles me!

I forgot how beautiful and friendly the CS community are, and it makes me over-joyed to see so many people willing to accept me into their homes and share their lives with me. It makes me super hyped for the summer!

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Screw Superman, Megabus is the hero I need.

This is by far the most stressful trip I've organised as I'm trying to do it as cheap as possible so am having to book every bus in advance. Today megabus USA just released their new calendar, but unfortunately it wasn't as cheap as I'd hoped. I had to re-schedule again and again to get cheaper prices. For example, a megabus ticket from New York City to Cleveland, Ohio for the Republican Convention was $55 for the day I wanted, but only $10 a day earlier. So unfortunately I'm having to spend a whole week in Cleveland instead of the few days the convention is on, but I'm still excited anyway. I really hope my media pass comes through, but if not it'll be an interesting atmosphere regardless.

I also still have a lot to arrange while I'm out there. In some places local transport was best instead so I haven't booked that. On the east-coast I mainly plan on ride-sharing through sites like Craigslist because I have no idea when I'll be done in archives so can't book in advance. I could just book a whole bunch of buses and catch whatever ones I feel like, but I don't want to take away from other peoples cheap seats! I'm scared as to how much this trip will cost me. I plan on couchsurfing everywhere that I can, but some places I know will be hard (like Cleveland during the convention). I also read a very interesting idea the other idea about meal-replacement shakes to save money while travelling. Obviously I love a lot of the local food in America, but having one powdered meal a day may be a great way to save money. I'll just eat out for dinner. I'll see how my budgeting goes!

So, low down of locations and costs (in no particular order):
- Toronto to Washington DC ($15, 14 hrs 15 mins)
- Washington DC to NYC ($1, 5 hrs 5 mins)
- NYC to Burlington ($1, 7 hrs 45 mins)
- Burlington to Boston ($1, 4 hrs)
- NYC to Cleveland ($10, 8 hrs 55 mins)
- Cleveland to NYC ($10, 8 hrs 55 mins)
- Philadelphia to Newark ($1, 1 hr 10 mins)
- Newark to Baltimore ($1, 1 hr 10 mins)
- Baltimore to Richmond ($1, 4 hrs 10 mins)
- Baltimore to NYC ($5, 3 hrs 20 mins)
- NYC to Chicago ($15, 18 hrs 20 mins)

Then flight from Chicago to Las Vegas, including $30 baggage was $117, 4 hours with Frontier Airlines. I also booked my London to Toronto flight for £219 including baggage with Wow Airlines.

Total so far: £48 approx (Megabus), £302 approx (flights) = £350