If you're home from college and you're spending far too much time lounging around the house, playing too many video games, or updating your Facebook account, perhaps it's time to get off the couch and plan your summer vacation. Fortunately, there are still options available, from sheer escapism to European exploration to humanitarian endeavors, if you want to commune with nature and make a difference.
London-based Busabout (tel. 44/20-950-1661; www.busabout.com) describes itself as a "freestyle travel network," and it offers flexible travel options throughout Europe, great for backpackers and independent travelers, and fixed prices, so you don't suffer from seasonal fluctuations. They're priced either by trip, such as "short breaks and island hopping" or "flexible travel network" (short breaks specials for 2006 include Greek 3 Island Explorer ($215), Greek 4 Island Hopper $245, or Italian Explorer (three days, $179) -- you'll need to get yourself to the departure points, of course. The Greece trip includes round-trip transportation between Athens and the islands and the services of an experienced tour guide; it's described as a "flexible island hopping tour." The Italy trip entails a three-day fixed itinerary, and the price includes transportation by coach, guided tour of Pompeii, and return ferry to Capri. Accommodations can be booked in advance though Busabout and require a small deposit; you pay the rest as you go.
The flexible option allows you to basically design your own trip, travel at your own pace, and hop and off their coaches whenever you please: they travel through each destination every other day. You can book either by Flexitrip, which is the most flexible option they offer, or by choosing "the loops," broken up geographically into Northern, Southern and Western loops. You can combine two or three loops if you want to create your own trip.
Contiki (tel. 866/CONTIKI; www.contiki.com), which specializes in travel for 18-35 year-olds, (the most likely student traveling demographic) is offering a number of last-minute summer specials mostly on European destinations. You can currently save $100 on each of the following trip, such as Spotlight on Greece, which departs June 24 and costs $819 ($1,999 including airfare); London and Paris Getaway's July 9 departure ($1,045 land, $1,875 including airfare); Amsterdam to Barcelona, July 20 ($1,595 land; $2,679 airfare); or European Magic, July 31 ($1,305 land; $2,135 airfare).
If you scroll down the page with these promotions, you'll find that as usual, Contiki offers discounts dependent up on the number of people you sign up. With their "funky four" you get five percent off per person if four or more people sign up for the same trip at the same time. Similarly, booking a group of 7 or more yields each person a 7.5 percent discount per person for those booking the same vacation at the same time.
If the last minute deals don't appeal to you, perhaps Contiki's 12-day trip called "European Horizon" will. It's priced from $1059, starts in London and ends in Paris. The quoted price is for land-only and good for September 4 and September 12 departures. Summertime departures are available June 26, July 20, August 8 and August 21, and they are priced at $1079 for land and $1909 for land and airfare. The trip itself includes Amsterdam, the Rhine Valley, Munich, Venice, Lucerne and Paris. You'll get ten nights' accommodations and breakfast and dinner, a tour manager and travel by air-conditioned coach.
STA Travel (tel. 800/781-4040; www.statravel.com) is offering a free night's hotel stay when you buy a Eurailpass, but you must act quickly as the offer ends June 30. Purchase a Eurailpass, Eurail Selectpass or Eurailpass Flexi and they'll treat you to one night's accommodations in a number of cities, including London, Dublin, Barcelona, Florence, and Prague. Reading the fine print reveals that you must book the hostel the same time as the railpass, and it's only good for purchases made over the phone or in one of their store locations.
STA's airfare specials include flights from Boston-Washington from $119; New York City-London $511; Los Angeles to Paris, $579; Boston-Amsterdam $584, among others -- search carefully.
STA is also offering a 70 percent off if you book a last-minute package, but it's not easy to determine pricing unless you know where you want to go. Fortunately, it's relatively easy, as you can browse by trip type, such as "great outdoors" "under $250" "offbeat retreats" and "sun and beach." The latter includes Ft. Lauderdale from $258 per person, Cancun from $372 per person, and San Juan (Puerto Rico) from $374 per person. All these include airfare, hotel and taxes and fees. Once you select the trip, you can choose the date and see a wide range of prices depending on the day of the week and date you're departing -- this is a very useful tool if you're traveling on a budget; it is the rare student who doesn't.
American Hiking Society (tel. 800/972-8608 or 305/565-6704; www.americanhiking.org) offers volunteer vacations held in most states in the U.S. that involve helping rebuild paths, cabins and shelters. The trips cost only $130 ($100 if you are a member), which includes membership, and no previous trail experience is necessary. Accommodations can range from campsites to bunkhouses or cabins, and food is provided unless otherwise indicated. Among others, right now there's a moderate to difficult trip July 23-29 in Alaska's Point Bridget State Park, and a moderate work level trip at the Marin Headlands, part of Golden Gate National Parks, from July 9-15. If you live near or in Virginia, Douthat State Park needs volunteers July 30-August 5 for a moderate to difficult work level vacation.
Founded in 1957, the nonprofit Student Conservation Association (tel. 605/543-1700; www.thesca.org) gives students the opportunity to volunteer their services toward ecological restoration, environmental education, wildlife management at over 425 locations across the United States. College students can click on "search for internships" which launches a search wizard. Typically, internships last 13-52 weeks, and more than half of participating students go on to become conservation professionals, according to Kevin Hamilton, vice president for public relations and communications. All expenses are paid while you're there, and you'll receive a small weekly stipend. Often, student volunteers are lodged in the premises of the national park in which they're working. As of this writing, there were 74 open positions in the Northeast, one of which is at the Elm City Parks Conservancy in New Haven, Connecticut. It starts June 21 and runs until August 30. There are also 48 opportunities in the "Far West/Pacific" region, which encompasses California and Nevada.
Hook up with other students, ask questions and plan your trip on our Student Travel Message Boards today.