Life as a student certainly has its advantages -- you get to stay up late talking about deep philosophical matters, consume illicit substances if you live without fear of drug testing, sleep in without reprimand from your boss, and generally devote your time to expanding your mind. All of this comes at a cost, and it usually leaves little money left over; for most students, their cash flow is more of a trickle than a deluge. Movie theaters and museums certainly have figured out ways to attract students with discounts on admission. So why not travel? Fortunately, there are companies that cater to those who are usually high on imagination and ideas and low on money -- that would be students and teachers -- and who offer cuts, coupons, tips, and deals.
STA Travel (tel. 800/781-4040; www.statravel.com) has partnered with American Airlines for some great airfare rates for students this summer traveling to Europe. They have set up various rates if you're departing from Atlanta, Dallas and Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco; Miami and Orlando; Boston, Denver, New York. The cheapest destination, bar none, is London. Round-trip airfare to London from New York, for example, is $382; Paris is $545. The California departures, round-trip to London, are $558; Paris is $777. Some restrictions apply: The last day to book is May 15 and your journey must begin between July 11-August 14 and end form August 22-December 14.Fares are subject to availability and a Saturday minimum stay is required; taxes and other fees not included.
For students who are certain they're traveling to Europe this summer but haven't quite worked the details out yet, the Eurail Early Bird Special on STA Travel should be plenty of an incentive to start planning. If you go in groups, there are substantial fare cuts, too. If you book a 3, 4, or 5 Country Selectpass for 6, 8, or 10 days between now and March 31, you'll get an extra day free. The discount is good if you are under 26 on you first date of travel and they're honored in seventeen countries including Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Greece, Sweden, and Switzerland. You have the opportunity to choose three, four or five adjacent countries connected by train or ship, the passes are good for six months after the first day of validation, and there are saver rates available for groups of two to five people who are traveling together at all times. For the three-country rate, the first class travel, for any five days in two months is $370; saver first class is $316. The four-country rate starts at $414 for first class (any five days in 2 months) and goes up to $608 (first class) and $512 (saver); for the five-country pass, any five days in two months costs $495 (first class) and $388 (saver); any fifteen days in two months is $826 (first class) $702 (saver).
As those in the jet-setting educational circles might now, the International Student Identity Card (www.isic.org/sisp/index.htm) can be a passport to great travel discounts full-time students, teachers and travelers under the age of 26. Membership in this 4.5 million strong organization costs $22 (in the U.S.) and allows you to take advantage of a whopping 32,000 discounts on hotels, trains, buses, airfare, calling cards, museums, restaurants, and other attractions in over 100 countries. You're eligible if you're a full-time student, but provisions are available if you're under the age of 26 (International Youth Travel Card) or if you're a full-time teacher or professor (International Teacher Travel Card.) You also have access to an international emergency help line if something unsavory happens while you're traveling.
The cool thing about the site is that you can search for worldwide events that run the gamut and are far more reminiscent of Trivial Pursuit categories than anything else: arts, classical music, festivals and heritage, lifestyle, gay and lesbian, science and knowledge, sports and outdoors, and my favorite, "bizarre." Using the worldwide search from mid-May to the end of August reveals truly a scattershot listing of events, from AIDS Walks in Minneapolis and New York City; a celebration of the Birthday of the Lord Buddha in Hong Kong; a Destiny's Child concert in Oslo; Obando Fertility Rites celebration in the Philippines; and what initially (albeit mistakenly) seems like a uniquely Gallic fête -- the Snail Festival in the Catalonian town of Lleida, Spain. Wherever you go, the discounts make some cultural sense; Hong Kong's offerings include karaoke discounts, dining coupons, and lots and lots of shopping incentives. Norway's discounts include fifty percent off the special student fare using the Color Line, special rates at the Oslo Radisson, and fifty percent off special student fares at the Munch Museum, among others. Of course, it's unlikely you'd fly to Oslo just to see Destiny's Child . . . but you never know.
Or you can simply search by country, and narrow it down to by city and/or activity. A random, cursory search reveals that in Greece, discounts are available on car, bike, moped, and/or scooter rentals, and ferry fares. If you detest the heat, fly to Australia, where it's winter, and there are dozens of incentives: bicycles, Sydney day tours at 5-10 percent off available for the Northern Territory, Queensland, South and Western Australia. Or plan the perfect cross-country summer vacation -- the grand old US of A is also part of ISIC's purview. There is not, however, a simple tool that will reveal packages and deals -- you sort of have to know where you're going for this site to be the most useful.
Teachers who join can find some bargains, but like many things, ISIC seems to be biased toward youth, depending on where you want to travel. Students, for example, fare much better in France; there's one paltry discount listed for teachers in France. If you are a history teacher interested in exploring Moscow or St. Petersburg, Russia, the discounts for car rentals and airline tickets are merely in the single digits. Hotels and entertainment, however, provide some better deals. And oddly, there are only three discounts listed for teachers who want to travel to the United Kingdom, and they're in London. However, travelers headed toward Argentina and Brazil can find a surfeit of accommodation and dining cuts. The teacher deals are tough to predict so search carefully.
For those who seek airfare savings, visit Student Universe (tel. 800/272-9676; www.studentuniverse.com) for a wide selection of fares and destinations. One catch: you must become a member of the site, but it's free, you don't need an ISCI card, and -- here's where reading the fine print is beneficial -- it's open to both students and teachers. Right now, there's a Late Summer Sale running for departures from July 11-August 14; you must book by May 11 and return by August 22. Fares start from $439 for round-trip from New York to London; Boston to Paris is advertised from $598, and Los Angeles to London starts from $610. Book your flight to Europe and then order your Eurailpass; this site offers a more comprehensive listing of these discounts than STA. You can purchase the Eurailpass good for consecutive days (15, 21 or 1, 2 or 3 month increments); the Flexipass, which is good for 10 or 15 days in a two-month period; or choose the Selectpass, accepted in 3, 4 or 5 adjoining countries. The prices listed for this particular pass match the prices STA offers for the same pass.
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