Summer vacation season is approaching

by Janet A. Steele

Daily Cougar Staff

If you're hunting for cheap air fares, budget accommodations and advice on personal safety and trip planning, the Budget Travel Workshop is the place to be.

Sponsored by the Bluebonnet Council, the free workshops will be offered at 7 p.m. Thursday and 9:30 p.m. May 4 at the Bluebonnet Council office, Suite 213, 2715 Bissonnet.

"Our local goal is to ensure that people who want to travel have a good, safe and enjoyable trip," said Charles Evans, president of the Bluebonnet Council.

The council is the local chapter of Hostelling International, the largest accommodation network in the world. Travelers can choose from more than 6,000 hostels in 70 different countries.

"Hostelling got its start back in 1909 with a German school teacher," Evans said. "He lined up homes for students to stay in because he believed it would give them a greater understanding of the area around them."

Travelers should expect dormitory-style facilities when staying in hostels. Occupants may be asked to furnish their own linens and clean their rooms before leaving.

"The No. 1 reason people stay in hostels is because they are so much cheaper," said Teresa Bryan, workshop volunteer.

She said the average price of an overnight stay is less than $15 a night.

Evans said the workshop will teach strategies in finding the cheapest air fares.

"There are high and low periods during the year," Evans said. "We tell the people to first look in the paper and find out what the fares are. We then give them places to call where they can compare prices and get the lowest rates. For instance, most people don't know that the lowest air fares are Tuesday through Thursday."

Volunteers teaching the seminars have traveled internationally at least twice for a total of five weeks. They have firsthand knowledge of train systems and have stayed in hostels themselves. Along with knowledge of expected weather conditions and suggested clothing to pack, travel seekers will learn about the best places to eat, shop and sightsee.

"The seminar will get into personal safety issues too, like traveling on an overnight train," Evans said. "We tell people to bring locks for their backpacks and warn them about areas that are not safe for them to go."

The council suggests making copies of all personal documents in case of loss or theft. Information on passports, birth certificates and visas will also be included in the workshop.

Eurail and BritRail passes can be purchased at the Bluebonnet Council office, but airline tickets must be bought elsewhere.

"When you stay in a hotel, you are usually by yourself," Bryan said. "Hostels give you the opportunity to meet people from all over the world."

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