12,464 Miles with Emirates

12,464 miles and 36 hours later this little girl from Vermont (the tiny state near Canada) has found herself in Perth. For the next four months, I’ll embark on one of the most soul-searching journeys there is- studying abroad.

A lot of you may not know me or what I do, so here is a little inside scoop. I’m a biochemistry major, pharmacology and nutritional food science minor, studying at The University of Vermont (UVM). UVM is a rowdy University nestled in the quaint city of Burlington, Vermont. Burly is absolutely breathtaking and full of genuine, down-to-earth, kind souls. It’s hard to get bored here, there is always something to tie dye, a new vegan recipe to try, a rally of sorts, or just a creeemee (fattier soft serve) to accompany you at sunset on Lake Champlain. However, being the sixth generation to grow up in the same town, I figure it was time to get away, about as far away as possible.

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Picking My Flight

I began searching for my flight four or five months before my departure, and although I wanted to get one of the cheapest flights possible, I also wanted to ensure that I had a smooth and safe trip as well.

Residing in Vermont blesses you with one of the most expensive international airports in the U.S.– BTV. Therefore, by simply getting your friends, family, or Megabus driver to take you a state or two away you can save hundreds of dollars. The cheapest airport I found to fly out of (round trip) the East Coast to Perth, Western Australia was Boston at $1200.  REMEMBER the cheapest is not always the best, it had a 17 hour layover in Qatar. A few hours later and I settled on Emirates with a seven hour layover in Dubai on the way there and a three hour layover on the way home for a whopping $1350– before traveler’s insurance.

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The Departure- Flight One

A six hour car rider later and I was in Boston to have one last dinner with my family until Christmas. Navigating the airport wasn’t hard, everyone was helpful enough and the halls were labeled. Security took about an hour to get through and the barista at Starbucks made a mean green tea frap in record time. However, all good things must come to an end. There was a problem with overbooking certain premium economy/ economy seats so not everyone got the seat they had originally paid for. Luckily, Emirates being the kind, sensible airline that they are upgraded all of those who had paid for premium economy (and lost their seat) to business and first class. YES, I got upgraded to FIRST CLASS for free, talk about the biggest blessing for a 13.5 hour flight. 

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In Cabin Experience- Flight One

Hot towels. Scented hot towels. Then, a kit with a luxury sleeping mask, Bvlgari perfume, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, and other toiletries was passed my way. On top of that, a menu where I got to write what I wanted from my own personal chef WITH the option to request times to be woken up if I’m asleep, came through. Oh, and did I forget to mention that I had my own cubicle with a desk, lamp, TV, and bed? 

I wasn’t feeling too hot– I get really bad jet bloat– so, I decided to sleep for most of the flight and requested to be woken up for a scrumptious French Toast breakfast an hour before arrival. 

The French Toast was delicious, way better than I anything I was expecting to come from an airplane. The hostess was absolutely marvelous, always checking in on me asking if I needed anything, offering mimosas and more hot, scented towels. Unfortunately, whatever goes up, must come down and we began our descent. Bellies full and hands sanitized. 

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The Layover

Seven hours is just too long for a layover. In my opinion, the perfect layover is 3-5 hours max. I arrived in Dubai at 19:00 and wasn’t scheduled to depart again until 02:00– what is there to do? I explored, walked around, ate an overpriced, subpar muffin, and tried to rest while clutching my personal belongings. Time crawled. 

The Departure- Flight Two

I’m sure your wondering if I’m the luckiest person alive, but sorry to burst your bubble. I’m not.  It was back to the peasant life of economy for me. One hot towel rather than endless, a mere toothbrush, prescribed meals, and bare minimum leg room was what I had to look forward to for the next 12 hours. That being said, I can’t complain about Emirates, the second flight was good for what I paid and I’m sure there are much worse stories about flying around the world. 

The Arrival

Legs wobbly, and not a single familiar face in sight, I touched down on the place I’ll call home for the next four months. Emirates was very quick with baggage retrieval; they managed to keep all of my things together and in one piece! 

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The Verdict

All in all I would give Emirates an 8.3/10 for my experience. Their customer service was impeccable, but I got to see how both sides live on an airplane and let me tell you money certainly talks. However, I would recommend Emirates to anyone who is looking to travel long distances and who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky like I did! 

Stay tuned for many more adventures in Perth! 

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-XO 

 

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Flyin’ Frugal

A lot of people ask me how I can afford to travel the world while in college, but to be brutally honest with you, I can’t. Whenever I decide to go on a trip I start planning about eight months in advance. I have to think about my destination, the time, and most importantly the cost. Everything I do is calculated and I fund almost all of my trips.

The Destination

The first thing that I do when planning an excursion is sit down with a calendar and look at possible dates. The two things that I keep in mind are my desired duration and destination. For example, I don’t want to travel to Asia in monsoon season, nor do I want to go to Africa for only a week. To me, in order for a trip to be enjoyable it should last anywhere from 10-30 days.

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Europe is typically cheaper in the fall and winter months (November to March), while Asia and Africa are cheaper in the summer months (May-August). That being said, make sure to research the weather patterns during the time in which you wish to travel. Cheaper flights typically correspond to a less picturesque experience.

Guesstimating The Cost

Once I have settled on a place and time frame I check lots of websites in order to estimate the cost of the flight, living, and potential adventures. I find that one of the easiest ways to keep track of everything is to make a spreadsheet listing the cost, activity, and website link– just in case I accidentally close out of something or forget where I saw a coupon.

I typically start my search by using an incognito browser. I’ve read articles in the past that explain how an airline company tracks your interests and can potentially raise the cost because they know you’re interested. That being said, I’ve also read articles that debunk the myth, so to each their own– but I personally like feeling stealthy.

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With my incognito browser open, I first go to Skyscanner or STA Travel. Skyscanner/STA are some of my favorite tools because you can set a range of destination dates (Tuesdays and Wednesdays are usually cheaper), which allows you to see a range of flights for all different prices. It also helps you get an idea of layover lengths/locations. In Skyscanner/STA, I play around with various departure locations as well. Sometimes flying out of JFK vs. YUL can make a $500 difference and it would only cost you $50 to take a train/bus or you could opt for a 7 hour drive. Once I’m satisfied with the departure location I take my search to other websites in order to find the best deal.

In addition to Skyscanner/STA Travel, I like browsing other travel websites in order to find deals. I wouldn’t recommend purchasing your ticket from Skyscanner, you could from STA but in my experience I always find a slightly better deal on the other websites. One of my favorite websites to visit is Student Universe, they have endless deals for people who are trying to fly frugal. I also really enjoy Kayak and Google Flights. That being said, do not forget to check the host airline company’s website. Sometimes you’ll find that they are providing the same deal and you can earn miles for future trips!

 

All in all, the key to flyin’ frugal is patience and research. The more research you do, the better deals you’ll find. Rome wasn’t built in a day, meaning I don’t know how you thought you could plan a trip there in one either.

Bon Voyage! 

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-XO

 

Vietnam

Vietnam is a country abundant in opportunity. Whether you’re interested in religion, history, or relaxation, there is something for everyone! I spent a month exploring the country and these are the things worthy of your interest.


Hanoi

Hanoi is home to the Noi Boi International Airport (HAN), an excellent place to start your journey around the country. Due to the immense time difference from the United States, I landed around 22:00 Vietnam time in an attempt to rectify my soon-to-be shattered sleeping schedule. I was fortunate enough to start my trip off in style and stayed at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi.

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Once I was rested and bathed in a fresh coat of SPF 70, I decided it was time to let the adventure begin. In Hanoi, there are no road/lane marks, and the only traffic rule seldom followed is that red lights means stop. It is almost impossible to navigate your way through the city without calling a taxi (if you’re in a group) or renting a moped. The moped is the cheapest option, but be prepared to honk and WEAR YOUR HELMET.

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In Hanoi there are a lot of temples/pagodas and museums. Some of the religous sites wirth noting are: The Tran Quoc Pagoda, Quan Su Temple, Temple of Jade Mountain,Cua Bac Church, and the pagoda in the Hoan Kiem Lake. Some museums worth seeing are: The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology and The Vietnam Fine Arts Museums. However, if temples and museums aren’t your style I suggest visiting the Old Quarter or taking a trip to the Hanoi Botanical Gardens. The one thing that everyone should experience in Hanoi is a water puppet show.

 


Halong Bay

If you get the chance to visit Halong Bay, I suggest a junk boat cruise or outing. An outing will be cheaper and you’ll still have access to dangerously sweet beverages, but some of the cruises offer extra exploration activities such as kayaking away from the ship through caves in order to find hidden temples and fishing villages.

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Warning: The jellyfish in the bay can be very large, they look comparable to a gallon of milk and spiders may fall onto your canoe while kayaking through caves. That being said, wear a life jacket and you’ll be set.

 


Hue

Hue is a city full of exquisite detail and history. I would highly recommend visiting the Imperial City in order to learn about the dynasties and a few temples if you have time. In my opinion, the ones that are worth your time are The Pagoda of the Celestial Lady and Thê Mieu.

 

If you’re feeling athletic and would like to hike or climb stairs I would recommend Mount Ngu Binh (Royal Screen) or the Tomb of Khai Dinh. Any other interests should refer to google search.

 


Hoi An

Shop until you drop, relax on a beach, drink pure coconut. Simply indulge. However, if you’re feeling adventurous head into town and make a wish on a paper lantern at night while eating food on the river.

 


Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Night life, traffic, and more shopping. Check out the amusement parks if you’re traveling with kids who need to cool down in the Sun. Eat a bowl of pho, I promise it is more flavorful in the South.

 


Mekong Delta (Vietnam’s Venice)

One of the coolest places to explore, both literally and figuratively. Enjoy fresh fruit from the river market– obtained by linking boats that are MOVING– and see how the other half lives. If river lounging isn’t your pace head into the depth of the delta and bike around winding narrow paths with the locals.

 


HOPE YOU ENJOYED TRAVELING WITH ME!

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-XO