New York to D.C. to Fort Lauderdale in 7 days – Part 1

So my pre-Christmas trip to New York wasn’t my only trip to New York over my winter break. Nope, I made two more visits, with a stop home and a few days in Florida in between.

Anyone who follows me on Instagram (@ybtraveler) may have noticed that I was posting obsessively about how my Sasha was coming to New York the second week of January. Sasha and I met on our Contiki tour over the summer (she was one of the wonderful souls who looked after me when I got sick all over the Louvre) and we quickly became lifelong friends. She lives in Australia, so after our Contiki ended, I figured it would be long before I got to see her again.

FALSO.

Sasha messaged me on Facebook in October confirming that she and her family were coming to the States on holiday in January. January! We were only separated for seven months! She was going to be in New York for almost two weeks and I knew I had to go up to visit.

So we concocted a plan that I would visit her overnight in New York, then kidnap her from her family and bring her back to D.C. for a few days. She loves Obama, so naturally a trip to the White House was a must.

On the morning of Jan. 6, I headed to Union Station once more to catch another Megabus (which was only $3!!!!!!!!) to New York. It was snowing heavily that day, so there were major delays and traffic on the road, but I finally arrived in the city around 2 p.m. I walked to our meeting spot, the McDonald’s in Times Square, and instantly saw Sasha. Ahhh! We squealed, hugged and nearly cried for several minutes, then finally started making our way back to her hotel so I could put my things down.

I met Sasha’s parents, a lovely, lovely couple, and her sister Corey, and then Corey, Sasha and I headed out for pizza and stroll down Broadway. We ended up walking all the way to Central Park and took our time perusing the snowy woods and long pathways. Soon, though, the cold got the better of us and we headed back to the hotel. We met back up with her family, grabbed some food, then made our way back out to go grab some drinks.

Three Irish Pubs and several $10 drinks later, it was nearly 5 a.m. We had made some “friends” at the last pub we visited and stayed wayyyyy too late. (Connor from John Sullivan’s, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry!)  And we reluctantly headed back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

We woke late the next morning (well, afternoon) just in time to part ways with Sasha’s family and catch out Megabus back to D.C. We arrived in the city around 6:30 p.m. and took the metro back to my apartment on campus. We had an early night that night, just grabbing dinner with my Parents at the best Indian restaurant in the world, the Royal Taj in Columbia, and spending a little bit of time at my parent’s home in Columbia. Then we headed back to my apartment to unwind with some Chardonnay and finally get some sleep.

The following day was our tour day of D.C. After our wholesome breakfast of leftover Indian food, we rode the metro back into D.C. and got off at the National Mall. With a temperature of 11 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 Celsius) the ground was covered in ice and snow and we realized we didn’t want to stay out long exploring the monuments. After snapping a few photos at the Capitol and Washington Monument we sought shelter and warmth in one of my favorite museums, the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History.

After two hours at the museum, we left to go hang out in front of the White House for a bit (Obama was apparently too busy leading the country to come out and say hi. Geez.).  Then, we headed to La Tasca, a great Spanish restaurant, to meet my roommates for happy hour. The Sangria was great, the tapas even better, and the happy hour prices were unmatched for an otherwise expensive D.C. restaurant. Even so, after three pitchers of sangria and six rounds of tapas later, Sasha and I realized we didn’t have enough money to continue partying in D.C. It sucks to be broke sometimes! Back to my apartment it was then, to continue the festivities in a much more affordable setting.

The White House
We didn’t get any pictures with Obama, but at least we got a snapshot of his house!

 

Of course, we had another late night that night. But as opposed to hanging out in bars and clubs, we hang out in my apartment building and I introduced Sasha to more of my friends from school. I was so happy everyone got along so well! Almost too well… We stayed up until 4 a.m. again just talking, laughing and dancing. I’m just happy I got to give Sasha a glimpse into the American collegiate experience.

We had yet another early morning the next day. This time I had to get Sasha back to Union Station to catch a bus back to New York, and then I had to head to the airport to get my flight to Fort Lauderdale later that afternoon.

It was incredibly hard to say goodbye to Sasha. It’s so rare to find a friend that you connect with so quickly that within days of knowing each other you know you’ll be friends forever. She is so fun and hilarious and unbelievably kind and full of life—it makes me so sad we live on exact opposite sides of the planet! But we decided that now that she has come to the U.S., it’s my turn to visit Australia. So I guess I better get to planning…

Sasha’s visit was way too short, but we packed a week’s worth of adventures into three and a half days so I can’t complain. I left her at the bus station, and got back on the metro to make my way to the airport. But as this adventure came to an end, I was about to head off on a new one, this time in sunny, sunny South Florida. 🙂

Yes, I still traveled over winter break

I haven’t written anything for a while and there’s a good reason! I’ve been on winter break and have taken a complete hiatus from everything — blogging, Twitter, working, studying — to save my sanity. I was beyond stressed out last semester with trying to balance work, school, a social life and traveling, and was incredibly burnt out by the end. To make matters worse, next semester, I’ll be working 37 hours per week (with three, maybe four jobs)  on top of five of the hardest classes I’ll be taking in college. So I needed a break.

Of course, a break for me doesn’t mean sitting still. I made sure to fit some travel in where I could. Since I’ve been extremely low on money lately, I couldn’t afford to go anywhere international, but I stuck with cool places nearby — New York, Florida and a staycation in Washington, D.C.

First stop was a day trip to New York City with my friend Brian two days before Christmas. It was super spontaneous, given that we decided to go just two days prior, but we wanted to experience New York at Christmastime.

On Dec. 23, we woke at the crack of dawn (4 a.m.) to catch our 6:30 Megabus from Union Station in D.C.  We got to the city around 11 a.m. and, after some much-needed coffee, headed to Rockefeller Center to see the iconic, 85-foot Christmas tree. Ice-skating at the center was ridiculously overpriced, so we let other people spend $50 to skate and then happily watched them glide and topple on the rink.

Next we headed to Brooklyn to have our share of world-famous pizza at Grimaldi’s. The wait was horrible. There was no waiting space inside the restaurant, so Brian and I along with maybe 50 other people waited outside in a line stretching down the sidewalk. We shivered from the cold as a slushy rain/snow mix fell from the sky. By the time we got inside we were famished, but of course, the restaurant was so packed that  it took at least half an hour to get our pizza. And service was awful; we saw our grumpy waiter only twice; once when we ordered, and once when he delivered the check (which was cash only). But let me tell you, the pizza was delish. We got half pepperoni, half meatball (toppings were a whopping $3 each) and devoured entire large, brick-oven pizza. That being said, the dish was still not exquisite enough to make up for the otherwise unsatisfactory dining experience. I’m glad we went, but I don’t think I’m going to be a repeat customer.

Grimaldi's Pizza
The rest of the day was more pleasant. Despite the cold rain, we walked around Brooklyn and got ice cream at the Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain, an adorable ice cream parlor with great staff that was recently featured on Food Network’s Top Ten Restaurants, a deserving award. Then we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time, and went to meet some of Brian’s friends for dinner in the West Village.


The bridge was more stunning than I imagined. The long wires that stretched from the center of the bridge down to the entryways created a web-like network that was intimidating but beautiful. The lights from the cars driving below added an interesting illumination that just added to the overall aura of the bridge. And, of course, the view of the New York skyline from the peak of the bridge looked just as it does in the photos.


Later, during dinner, one of my friends from school saw something I had posted online about being in West Village and messaged me saying she was at a jazz bar just down the street! What a coinkydink! So Brian and I parted ways with his friends after dinner and went to meet my friend Lily at the Fat Cat Jazz Bar. Luckily the bar was 18+, so Brian, who is 19, could get in. I grabbed a cider from the bar and Brian and I joined Lily and her friends at a table where we talked, played games, and listened to the jazz musicians jam. But soon it was nearly 11 p.m. and Brian and I had to make it back to the pickup stop to catch our midnight bus back to D.C.

It was a long, tiring day, but an absolute blast. We were zonked by the time we got back to Union Station at 6 a.m. Christmas Eve and headed home quickly. But I had work at 10 a.m., so I only got a few hours of sleep before I had to fire up the engines again (go figure). But totally, totally worth it.

Off to a…not so good… start

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So. This journey has not been faring well so far.

I was ready to go as planned this morning — I had everything packed up and ready to go sitting by the door.

What I had not prepared for, however, was the rain.

I ran outside to take the trash out on my way to the bus, and subsequently got drenched in a torrential downpour. I had my suitcase and backpack with me, so of course they got drenched too. I made it to the bus stop to catch the bus to the metro, but the bus I got on took a route I was not used to. I asked the bus driver If I had gotten on the correct bus, and he said yes, but because of flooding on the roads, he had to take a different — significantly longer — route.

This is where panic set in. If I got to the metro late, I’d get to the Megabus terminal late. And if I missed the bus, I’d get to New York late. I’m taking a flight from New York to London, so if I got to New York late, I’d miss my flight!

Of course, I was overreacting and made it to the metro stop only 5 minutes later than planned. The ride was fine getting to Union Station in Washington, D.C., where the Megabus terminal is. I got in line at for the 1:00 bus to New York and waited. And waited some more. Waiting, waiting, waiting. The line wasn’t moving! I then checked my email to find that Megabus customer service sent out an email saying the bus would be 60 – 90 minutes late because of flooding on the roads. OH HELL NO.

So this is where my good friend Panic came back to visit. I calculated in my head that if my bus left at 2:30 instead of 1, I’d get to New York closer to 7:30. Then I’d have to catch a cab to the airport, which adds another 30 – 40 minutes to my ETA. There’s no way I’d have enough time to find my terminal, go through customs and get situated between arriving at 8 p.m. and when my flight leaves at 9:45 p.m.

So, I freaked out. Internally, of course — I still need to appear cool and collected. I asked around to the other passengers in the queue and they had gotten the email too. I explained how I had a plane to catch, and another woman said she had the same problem. She told me she would go to the front of the line and ask the Megabus attendee what was up.

When she came back, she said they told her she could catch the Bolt bus to New York for $25 if she really needed to get there on time. She relayed this information to me and we both dipped out of the Megabus line. By then, it was 1:15 and the Bolt bus left at 1:30. We rushed over to the Bolt bus port, just to find out they only accept cash. And I had only $2 on me. So in that next 15 minutes, I had to run to find an ATM and still catch the bus at 1:30. By some stoke of luck, I pulled it off and was able to get on the bus (for $30 because the driver only had $10 of change for my two $20 bills from the ATM).

So now I am on the Bolt bus headed to New York. We should be there a little before 6 p.m., and I will have enough time to catch the subway to the airport. I’m typing away on my iPad to pass the time, and will probably fall asleep after posting this. Meanwhile, I will be contacting Megabus for my money back.
So while all of this sucks, what’s travel without a few mishaps? I keep telling myself this is all just a challenge to see how well I do in the face of adversity. I know things don’t always go to plan, so I just need to deal with it and keep on keepin’ on. So, keeping that in mind, I’ll enjoy the rest of my ride to New York and hope that everything goes well with my flight. Stay tuned!

Toronto in 30 Hours — How I Did it and You Can Do It Too

Toronto_skyline_tommythompsonpark_cropped

TORONTO, CANADA spans 2,751 square miles and has a population of more than 5,580,000. It boasts more than 100 attractions, from museums and historic sites to restaurants and markets. With so much going on, it seems nearly impossible to truly explore the city in 30 hours. But my friend Sarah and I managed to do it — and here’s how:

OVERVIEW:

DAY 1
Getting Acquainted to the City (1 HR)
Checking into the Hostel (.5 HRS)
Buying a CityPASS (.5 HRS)
Climbing to the Top of the CN Tower (3 HRS)
Exploring Downtown Toronto (2 HRS)
Getting Dinner in Greektown (2 HRS)
Going Out at the Hostel (4 HRS)
Sleep (5 HRS)

DAY 2
Going to Casa Loma (4 HRS)
Stopping for Lunch (2 HRS)
Exploring the Royal Ontario Museum (3 HRS)
Grabbing a Quick Sushi Dinner (1 HR)
Picking up our bags at the Hostel and Heading to the Bus Terminal (2 HRS)

_________________________________________________________________________

1. GETTING TO TORONTO (16 HRS)
Sarah and I both live in the Washington, D.C. metro area, so we took the Megabus from Union Station to Toronto. We left at 8 p.m. Thursday night, anticipating our arrival in Toronto at 10 .m. Friday. We passed through Philadelphia, Penn. and Buffalo, N.Y., making stops at both before finally crossing the border. Once in Canada, we of course had to go through customs, but that was quick and painless. By that point, getting off the bus and stretching our legs was extremely welcome. Two hours after we left customs, we were in Toronto. ($73/each, round trip)

 

2. GETTING ACQUAINTED TO THE CITY (1 HR)
Having some bus troubles along the way, we finally arrived at the Toronto Bus Terminal at 12 p.m. on Friday. Famished, we first stopped to grab a bite at Druxy’s Deli. Then we headed to the ATM to take out some Canadian money and found a subway station. The Toronto subway, officially known as the Toronto Transit Commission, is refreshingly easy to navigate; there are only three lines and the stops are clearly labeled, both on the maps and at the stations. It took us about 15 minutes to get from St. Patrick’s Station to Donlands Station, which is less than a minute’s walk from the hostel. ($11/day for a 2-person subway pass)

 

3. CHECKING IN TO THE HOSTEL (.5 HRS)
We had a fantastic experience at The Only Backpacker’s Inn, which is located just on the outskirts of downtown Toronto. We stayed in a six-person mixed dorm (I could have sworn I booked an all-female dorm! It wasn’t too bad though, we didn’t see the guys much, and we kept our valuables locked in a safe). The staff was incredibly friendly and accommodating and they made us feel right at home. We stayed long enough to get our bags settled in and freshen up, and then we were off on our adventure. ($25/each for one night)


 
4. BUYING A CITYPASS (.5 HRS)
In doing our pre-trip research, Sarah found that it was highly recommended to buy a  $61 CityPASS for Toronto. The Toronto CityPASS is a booklet of admission tickets to 5 must-see tourist attractions in Toronto that saved us 43% compared to combined regular box office prices:

  1.  CN Tower: A Wonder of the Modern World (Reg. $32/each)
  2. Royal Ontario Museum: Engage the World (Reg. $12.50/each)
  3. Casa Loma: Toronto’s Majestic Castle (Reg. $24/each)
  4. Toronto Zoo: Canada’s Premier Zoo (Reg. $23/each)
  5. Ontario Science Centre: Canada’s Leading Science Center (Reg. $22/each)

The passes were valid for nine consecutive days and allowed us to skip ticket lines. We bought ours at the Royal Ontario Museum, but decided to wait until the next day to explore the museum. Instead, we took advantage of the gorgeous weather and headed to the CN Tower. ($61/each)

 

5. CLIMBING TO THE TOP OF THE CN TOWER (3 HRS)
I still get chills thinking about it – what a thrill. According to the tower’s website, the American Society of Civil Engineers classified the CN Tower as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World (the others being the Itaipu Dam on the Brazil-Paraguay border, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Panama Canal, the Chunnel under the English Channel, the North Sea Protection Works off the European coast and the Empire State Building).

After skipping the ticket lines, Sarah and I went through a brief security check and got in line for the evaluator. We queued for an hour and finally rode the glass elevator up 1,136 ft (346 m) to the LookOut Level. The views of the cityscape, the Toronto Islands and the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport on Lake Ontario were breathtaking. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get a light lunch and some red rosé at Horizon’s Restaurant.  We ended our visit with a stop at the CN Tower gift shop. (Tower cost covered by CityPass, $15/each for lunch, $15/each at the gift shop)

 
6. EXPLORING DOWNTOWN TORONTO (2 HRS)
After the tower, we had some spectacular maple lattés at Second Cup Café. With our fresh energy boost, we walked around for a while taking pictures and searching for souvenirs. Finally we made our trek back to the hostel. (About $30/each)

 

7. SITTING DOWN FOR DINNER IN GREEKTOWN (2 HRS)
Our hostel was in a part of Toronto called Greektown. The streets were lined with Greek restaurants and shops, and naturally, Greek people. We stumbled upon Pan, a magnificent, candle-lit restaurant featuring authentic, gourmet Greek food and walls lined with wine bottles. The food was exquisite and there was even a live band and a belly dancer. I have to say it was one of the best meals I’ve had. ($35/each)

 
8. GOING OUT AT THE HOSTEL (4 HRS)
Back at The Only Backpacker’s Inn, we relaxed a bit and hung out in the common area with the other young, broke travelers. Then we all went downstairs to The Only Cafe, an awesome local bar on the below the hostel with over 200 beers from around the world. I’ll spare the details of the night, but let’s just say we had a rootin’ tootin’ good time. Cheers to the Maple Leaf.

 

9. SLEEEEEEEEEEEEP (6 HRS)



10. GOING TO CASA LOMA (4 HRS)
We had an incredible breakfast at the hostel, then headed north via the subway to Casa Loma, Toronto’s majestic castle. The castle allows you to “step back in time to a period of European elegance and splendour.” As Canada’s foremost castle, it is the former home of Canadian financier Sir Henry Pellatt and complete with decorated suites, secret passages, an 800-foot tunnel, towers, stables and a garden that we weren’t able to see because it is winter. Both the inside and outside we simply stunning and, as a princess in training, I felt right at home. (Cost covered by CityPass)

 
11. STOPPING FOR LUNCH (2 HRS)
When in Canada, one must eat at least once at Tim Horton’s. So we did. Then we went to Starbucks for some more maple coffee and to charge our iPhones.

 

12. EXPLORING THE ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM (3 HRS)
Last stop on the trip was the Royal Ontario Museum. Again, we got to skip the lines and go straight to the entrance. The museum has four floors of world history and cultural exhibits, divided into eight categories: fashion and textiles, Earth and space, ancient cultures, biodiversity, fossils and evolution, contemporary culture, Canada, and world art and culture. Tired from the previous day’s events, we only stayed a few hours, though I’m sure anyone could spend the entire day there. We still had a chance to see hundreds of ancient artifacts, fossils and works of art from around the world.

 

13. GRABBING A QUICK SUSHI DINNER (1HR)
We seriously ate well during this trip. After we left the museum, we headed back to Greektown for our last meal in Toronto. Craving sushi, we stopped at Casa Sushi, a nifty sushi place with more than 100 items on the menu. Sarah got several different rolls, and I got a huge vegetarian platter and a mojito for less than $16. The food was fantastic, the service was eh, but overall great bang for our buck. (about $20/each)


 

14. PICKING UP OUR BAGS AT THE HOSTEL AND HEADING TO THE BUS TERMINAL (2 HRS)
We headed back to the hostel after dinner to pick up our bags and be on our way. Having about an hour to spare, though, we decided to grab one last drink at The Only Cafe. It was the best possible way the end our amazing trip. Afterward, we headed to the terminal and were (kind of) first ones in line, destined for the front seats of the double-decker bus. The ride home went a little more smoothly since we were too exhausted to care about the tight space, and after 14 hours, we were back in D.C.

REVIEW

There ya have it: Toronto in 30 hours, excluding travel time to and from the City. Though we didn’t hit all of the attractions covered by the CityPASS, we still saved a few bucks with it.  If I could have done anything differently, I would have tried to squeeze in the Science Center on the second day, but we were just too tired for that. Oh well, it’s just an incentive to go back.

*Updated 3/35/2014

My Trip to New York City

ny2

I went to New York City last weekend to visit some of my friends from study abroad. One friend lives there, the other was visiting from Alabama. Since I’m only four hours away from the city, I figured it’d be easy enough to go up for a night and see them. I figured correctly. I had a blast.

My friend who lives in NYC studies at Hunter College, and her dorm is down 1st Ave. She was sweet enough to let me stay with her and sleep on her couch, which saved me a TON of money on accommodations (when I was first looking for a place to sleep, I considered staying at a budget hotel or hostel in the city. Hell no. Even those cost at a minimum $50/night, and those were the sketchy places. While I’m broke, I still do somewhat value my safety. Thankfully, my dear friend saved me from this nightmare).

To get to New York, I took Megabus, of course. Because I waited until the day before I left to get my ticket, I had to spend a little more than I had expected: roughly $60 round trip. Generally, RT tickets from D.C. to NYC cost about $40, sometimes even cheaper.

Waiting for the bus!
Waiting for the bus!

HIGHLIGHTS

1. City Streets

Oh, how I love the city. When my bus arrived at 3 p.m., I chose to walk to my friend’s dorm instead of call a cab. It took about 45 mins, but I loved every second of strolling along those New York streets, skyscrapers towering over my head, eclectic people hustling by, vendors selling hotdogs on every corner and uneven sidewalks making it super difficult to carry my stuff.

2. Mis chicas!

When I got to my friend’s apartment, we spent spent hours catching up over a bottle of red moscato. It had been over eight months since we studied abroad together! Then we got ready for a night out and went to meet our Alabaman friend at West 4th. Mmm, the New York subway. When we finally saw her, of course shrieks, hugs and “I missed you”‘s were in order. After that, we walked around, took in the city air and took lots of pictures.

3. A Night on the Town

For dinner, we went to The Park, an awesome American restaurant with great food. We had some drinks, caught up even more, then went to the lounge area of the restaurant to get cray and dance.  The Park has an incredible, earthy interior, and the dance floors were perfectly situation between the bars. I’ve also got to note The Park’s fantastic music selection, which was ridiculously on point all night. We stayed and danced for a few hours, being sure to watch the dance off that broke out on the second floor; then headed to Finnegans Wake, an Irish pub down the street from my friend’s dorm, to wind down over some cheap IPAs. We stayed til 3 a.m. and finally parted ways as our Alabaman friend went back to her hotel and my NYC friend and I headed back to her place.

I wish I could have stayed longer, but I had to leave early the next morning to get home to study for exams. My sweet friend saw me off in the morning, and then I traveled to the bus port to catch my bus back to D.C.

LOWLIGHTS

1. The Buses

As much as I love Megabus, I’m going to throw the company a little under the bus here (pun intended) and say that I was a bit disappointed with the service. My bus from D.C. to NYC was a late getting to the terminal, and the bus wasn’t even a Megabus bus — rather a generic Dillon’s Bus Service one. I was comfortable nonetheless, but the bus didn’t have wi-fi or power outlets — two things a blogger can’t live without. Also, the bus I took back to D.C. got to the New York terminal late as well. I’m not usually one to complain, but it was not pleasant  having to stand out in that New England cold for an extra 30 mins, nor to get home 30 minutes later than anticipated.

2. Urban America

The Big Apple was majestic as always, but I always take note of the bad smells, polluted air, rude people, crowed streets, trashed sidewalks, traffic jams, street urchins and dirty subways.  I know these are all things that make New York such an iconic city, but I can’t help but compare to the beautiful streets and wonderful people of the cities I visited in Spain. But that’s America for ya.

OVERALL

Despite a couple late buses and bad smells, I had a fantastic  time. I can’t wait to go back in the summer and visit my friend again — after my Euro Trip, of course. 🙂

Planning my weekend trip to Toronto

Toronto-Branch

So I have a confession: I am teensy bit obsessed with Canada. When I was a kid, I visited Nova Scotia with my parents and fell in love with the adorable, quaint town and the alarmingly polite people. My trip to Niagara Falls two years later left me with the same impression. Fast-forward 10 years, and I’m ready to experience it again. I think it was the Winter Olympics and rooting for the Canadian hockey team (don’t hate me!) that finally reignited my love for the country. I finally told myself enough is enough — I’m going. 

1.) Picking the Date

After begging a friend to go with me, I started making a plan. First item on the agenda: pick a date. It honestly stinks that I am still in school and my only time to travel is on weekends. I could go during spring break, but I need that time to work so I can continue to save up for my trip to Europe this summer. Given this, I chose the first weekend of spring break as the optimal time to go — I won’t be missing work, and I won’t have homework to worry about.

2.) Choosing the City

Some may argue that this should be the first step, but I’m a spontaneous gal. I’ll go wherever the wind — and my budget — takes me. My decision really came down to Toronto versus Montreal. I wish I could say I conducted extensive research, carefully weighing the pros and cons of each city and making an educated decision, but ain’t nobody got time for that. I asked a few friends who have visited both places and reached out to some Twitter followers for advice. Essentially, this is what I collected:

  1. Montreal is a vast, dynamic city that demands much longer than a weekend’s visit.
  2. Toronto is bustling and enticing, but is doable in a weekend.

So, off to Toronto it is.

3.) Finding Transportation

Okay, maybe the greatest factor in selecting the city really was the accessibility. Being based in Washington, D.C., I felt like I could find cheaper transportation to Canada than flying. I looked at trains and bus services in the area, but none had direct routes from D.C. to Montreal. A trip there would require transfers and possible delays, which I would not have time for in a short weekend trip. Luckily, my go-to bus service, Megabus, offers direct routes to Toronto at exponentially cheaper rates than airfare: $75 round-trip. This was a huge selling point for Toronto.

I relayed this information to my friend and she and I booked Megabus tickets for that Thursday night. Because it’s a 14-hour drive, we’ll get to Toronto Friday morning.  Then, to be back at work on Monday, we had to choose the return bus that leaves Saturday night in order to be home by Sunday. This gives us the greater portions of two days and one night in Toronto. I mean, it’s something, right?

4.) Hostel, Hostel, Hostel!

I think it was all of the great experiences in European hostels that made me actually prefer to stay in them rather than budget hotels. Naturally, I went to my favorite hostel-finding site, Hostel World, to find a place to stay in Toronto. Since $75 on transportation is already taking away from my Europe fund, I could not spare much more money on accomodations. Using the site, I found a high-rated hostel that will only cost us $25 each for a Saturday night. The Only Backpacker’s Inn is located just on the outskirts of downtown Toronto, and is central to all of the attractions we want to visit. The bonus is that it’s built ontop of The Only Cafe, a supposedly awesome bar with over 200 beers from around the world. As it stands, I’m 20 years old, but the drinking age in Toronto is 19. When in Rome…

5.) Figuring Out What to Do

Ah where to begin. Like I said, Toronto is bustling. I checked out the city’s official tourism website for ideas for what to do, but I was pretty overwhelmed by the possibilities. I wanted to know what are the top must-see attraction in the city than my friend and I could knock out in one day. That’s when I stumbled upon Tripomatic. It’s most likely not the first site of its kind, but it is the first I have found, and I am quite jazzed about it. This website is the ultimate trip-planning helper. It swiftly guides you through its operations making it superbly easy to use. Once I entered my destination and dates,  Tripomatic presented me a map of Toronto with all of the major attractions, restaurants, hotels and public transportation routes pinpointed. All I had to do was choose a spot and a day and Tripomatic would add the attraction to my itinerary as well as show me the travel time from one spot to the next. The site even has filtering options for most popular attractions. I used this positioning software to determine what was sights and activities are nearby our hostel and our bus terminal. After adding a few items to our itinerary, such as the CN Tower and Casa Loma, I think I have devised a plan to get the most out of Toronto in 36 hours.  After I saved the itinerary, Tripomatic generated a personalized travel guide with maps and travel tips, including currency information, where to eat and how to get around, all available online and in a printable PDF form.  Visit my itinerary here.

Tripomatic

6.) Waiting

Somehow, I managed to plan all of this in literally a few hours, and now, I think I am all set. With the trip only two weeks away, all I have left to do is pack and try not to spend money in the meantime. One of those things will be more difficult than the other.