When you stop to think about it, Europe is actually pretty small. Look at a World Map and it becomes apparent that you can get from Dublin to Athens quicker than Perth to Sydney. It’s no surprise then that InterRailing has been, and will continue to be, one of the most diverse summer adventures you can have, and on a budget too!
The Irish Passport Office is possibly the most sinfully tedious and boring place to be. At some point in time, we’ve all realised that our passport is soon to expire and we’d have to set aside several hours of sitting on an uncomfortable chair, surrounded by people invading our personal space, while you wait to renew your passport. If you don’t you risk a summer holiday to Leixlip, instead of one to Koh Samui! No one wants that.
You can imagine our delight at the news that the Irish Passport Office is investing £18.6m into the passport applications service and soon you’ll be able to do ALL of it online! Huzzah!
According to our good friends over at The Irish Times, a tender has been released to seek a suitable provider of digitising one of Ireland’s most often criticised processes. Currently, all passport renewal or first-time applications must go through the post but having had to recently take on a significant amount of new staff, the Irish Passport Office has had enough and is calling in the tech guys.
The news is particularly welcome considering the massive surge in applications since Britain decided to
self-sabotage it’s own economy vote to leave the EU and those based in the UK with Irish connection (a lot of people) have sought to make steps to secure a valid EU passport in the future.
Initial timelines suggest that some form of online application to for renewals could be made available as early as Q1 of next year, with a full roll-out expected in 2019. Coming from a man who’s passport expires late next year, a hat tip to the honourable ladies and gents who are making this a reality. Now, if they could treat A&E injuries through a USB port, the days of waiting rooms would be all but over…
When it comes to choosing a holiday destination, many factors are at play – the weather, the resorts, the cost, the landmarks etc. All of these blend together for a while and battle each other Top Trumps style in your head until eventually you find a winner and thunderbirds are go!
Take a brief moment to rank your holiday priorities. Now, if we’re to guess that relaxing, unwinding and comfort immediately sprang to your mind would we be wrong?
From warm beaches to snowy resorts, holidays are something everyone looks forward to. Of course, there is a catch though. Going on holiday can cost a bomb and leave your bank account feeling empty inside-sometimes quite literally!
InterRailing season is in full swing with carriages upon carriages being packed out with excited students and graduates exploring the very best that Europe has to offer.
With teleportation still a frustratingly far off prospect, you still can’t travel any great distances around the world without enduring a certain amount of boredom/restlessness/discomfort as you get there. Even when you do, a situation will invariably arrive where you wish you had packed something from home.
Luckily for us, some very clever people are constantly innovating and creating gadgets to make the actual travelling part much more enjoyable. Between USIT’s own adventures (they’re plentiful!) and those of our customers we’ve put together these 14 Travel Gadgets that will be worth their weight in gold on your next adventure…
1. Trtl Pillow
This is some essential ‘napparatus’ (sorry) for air travel. Business class aside, it can be bloody difficult to get some comfort and shut eye on a flight. The days of drooling into your strategically placed jacket are over thanks to the Trtl Pillow which scientifically positions your head in a more relaxing position. One drawback is looking a bit like a football hooligan but hey, comfort is comfort.
Ever landed at your destination only to be left alone at the luggage carousel as your bag fails to appear? Not fun. Well, including a Trakdot in your bag acts as a GPS and also features a courier service to redirect it to you asap if it goes on a wander.
When you fly shorter haul, you can be pretty much guaranteed that the view from your seat won’t include an LCD display just a tray table. Propping or holding an iPad can be a bit of a nuisance and a juggling act but this little gizmo hooks onto your tray and acts as an anchor for tablets, and for your drink. Perfect.
4. Asobu Water Bottle/Pill Container
When travelling abroad, keeping tabs on any tabs can be a little difficult. Tablets check, but no water. Water check, but no tablets. Now this very cool little gadget packs both together.
5. Jet Lag Calculator
So many people use tracking apps these days which measure their entire existence by the numbers. Steps taken, distance run, calories consumed can all be tracked to the enth degree but now you can even track how much sleep you’ll need to recover from Jet Lag as quickly as possible. *clicks to download*.
Nostalgia is an endlessly enjoyable emotion to experience. We all long to play ‘the floor is made of lava’ or try to solve a Rubik’s Cube when the opportunity presents itself. This little gadget is an absolute must for those of you who grew up with Nintendo, allowing you to play all the old classics, using the old controller via an iPad. A bluetooth & app combination will make any flight whizz by. You can also play multiplayer on one device so buying two is a great idea!
7. Trail Wallet App
Trail Wallet is a simplistic free app that’ll help keep your travelling budget in check. You don’t want to be worried about the money running out, especially if you’re travelling for a longer time than just a week or too. This app will be your own personal bank manager. Crucial.
The vast majority of travellers will have audio of some description to help drown out their surroundings whether on a plane, train, bus or camel (maybe don’t wear earphones on a camel). We chose these BackBeat Headphones as the best option as they’re wireless, stylish and have a freakishly long battery life of over 24 hours.
This is the self proclaimed ‘world’s smallest washing machine’ and possibly the greatest recent invention for backpackers around the world! Weighing a grand total of 140g it packs a flexible internal washboard that you can manually wash your clothes from outside the bag. Genius, I’ll take seven.
This is the slickest mobile phone charger you can get. This Lithium Card is essentially credit card that can pop out of your wallet and give your phone some extra juice, although it is a little on the expensive side. Hey, we didn’t say being James Bond would cost you pennies!
Viator is your own personal travel guide (but without the terrible jokes), providing you with all sorts of cool info on wherever you might be plus an interactive map and most importantly the best deals on tours in cities. You can even book discount tours natively in the app.
12. Open Table
The final must have travel app in 2016 is Open Table, making sure you’re never disappointed in getting a table at a restaurant in the US. While the app is predominantly useful when you’re in the States, the app’s usage is growing internationally as hot spots like Abu Dhabi, Sydney and London are now listed.
13. Sandless Towel
What if I told you there is a beach mat out there that is impossible to cover in sand? Well, there actually is! This genius mat is made from two layers of polyurethane which, like a sieve, instantly filters any sand back from whence it came. Look!
In the third part of our Round the World series we’re appealing to those of you blown away by the vast cities that shoot high into the sky and sprawl wide across the landscape.
We’ve already shown you how to visit 4 continents on the cheap with East Bound & Down plus the foodie’s paradise of Down Argentine Way. This week it’s time to explore some of the world’s most vibrant and exciting cities with all flights covered for €1469, allowing you to explore the sheer scale of these five very different concrete jungles by the numbers…
Round the World Stop #1 – Dubai, UAE
So if you’ve been following the RTW series you’ll know how fond we are of this modern marvel of a city. We’ve already shown you the best places to go during your stay in the plush surroundings of Dubai but here’s a few crazy stats and facts about a city that, in 20 years has become one of the world’s most remarkable and a must visit for any city slicker…
- 80% of Dubai’s 2m population is made up of ex-pats from India, Pakistan & Europe
- At 4.8 visitors for every one resident, Dubai is easily the most visited destination per permanent resident in the world
- Dubai’s International airport is now the world’s busiest with nearly 71m visitors in 2015
- Dubai is home to the worlds tallest building, The Burj Khalifa at 828 metres
- Dubai has gone from having one skyscraper in 1978 to 148 and counting today
- In fact, 1 in 4 operating cranes in the world are in Dubai!
- The Dubai Mall is the largest in the world with 1,200 shops & the world’s second largest aquarium
- The Emirates Golf Club in Dubai uses 100% recycled water to maintain the course and has won awards for this sustainable feat
- The Dubai Police department has a Bugatti Veyron plus Lamborghini’s & Ferrari’s in it’s fleet of official police vehicles
It’s safe to say you’ll be blown away a city that’s evolving almost every single day but there’s still much more to explore so onto our second Round the World destination…
Round the World #2 – Melbourne, Australia
You’ll already know about these 15 Things To Do in Australia’s second largest city but there’s lots more unique about a city that used to be the capital until 1927…
- Melbourne, like Dubai is a diverse city with 38% of its residents being born overseas.
- Melbourne is sports mad with the MCG being the 10th biggest in the world holding over 100,000 people!
- It’s also is the only city in the world with FIVE international standard sporting facilities
- The highest temperature ever recorded there was in 2009 at 46.4 degrees. That’s hot!
- Melbourne has the highest number of restaurants & cafe per person of any city in the world
- Melbourne was originally called Batmania (no, seriously) after being founded by John Batman (also seriously) in 1869
- The people are credited with ‘inventing’ the 8 hour work day (this was when slavery still existed!). The ‘888 rule’ included the same time for recreation and for rest.
After two long haul flights, you’ll be chuffed with the 2 hour hop along the Australian Coast to another of the world’s most iconic cities – Sydney.
Round the World #3 – Sydney, Australia
Sydney is by far and away the most popular Australian settlement for Irish travellers and ex pats so it would be simply rude to go around the world without stopping by this city that is bursting with things to do and see.
So what makes Sydney another of the world’s top cities to visit? Well…
- Despite being a metropolitan area, Sydney has 180 miles of spectacular shoreline!
- This includes two of the world’s most famous – Bondi & Manly
- Sydney experiences 342 days of sunshine on average per year (do the maths!)
- Like your seafood? Sydney has the 3rd largest fresh fish market in the world
- As the first large city to ring in the New Year, Sydney spends millions on the world famous firework display – it cost $7m in 2015!
- The iconic Sydney opera was supposed to cost $7m to build, when it opened in 1973 it had cost $120m! So worth it though.
That’s three of the world’s best cities to visit, ticked off on your Round the World adventure but as is the only way to do a trip like this, we’re saving the greatest city of them all until last…
Round the World Stop #4 – New York, USA
Every traveller who finds themselves drawn to big city lights and the buzz of modern day living probably used New York City as the blueprint to dream up their utopia. It’s busy, it’s loud, it glistens in the sun and it is officially the world’s most visited city on the planet!
You probably think you know Manhattan’s streets inside out before stepping into the airport terminal at JFK but here’s some facts about NY you probably didn’t know…
- Demand for real estate in Manhattan is so astronomically high very often property developers will sell the air above a skyscraper! The air…
- It costs nearly $300k to obtain a licence to sell hot dogs in Central Park
- There’s more people in New York City than in 39 of the 50 states
- If Brooklyn was counted as a city, it’d be the fourth largest in the US
- On average, the Manhattan population swells by 1.3m people during working hours
- If you’re homeless in NYC but can prove a residence anywhere else in the world, the state will fly you there for free!
- The Empire State Building has it’s very own ZIP Code
- If you listen hard enough (and for long enough) you’ll here nearly 800 languages or dialects spoken in New York
- The furthest you can possibly be away from the Subway in Manhattan is 1.2km (Gracie Square).
- New York has approx 1,600 places where you can eat pizza
Ok, so we slightly lied about New York being the last stop on the City Slicker! We’ll fly you back to London where you can spend a couple more days in metropolis and when you come back you’ll think of Dublin as a village!
Heading off to the Euros in France this weekend? With only 2 days left until the big kick off in Paris on Friday night, your master plan for negotiating your way through France is probably the real deal by now (if not, maybe get on that!) and all that’s left is are the smaller details. That’s where we come in with 25 sacred tips that’ll maximise the craic and minimise the stress of making your way through Paris, Bordeaux, Lille and all the other games we’ll play on the way to the Final (Extra Tip: optimism is key)…
Let there be no further mention of that Belarus game in Cork last week, the real action is soon to begin! The 2016 European Championships kicks off in France on the 11th June and we have a funny feeling that more than most of you will have packed an Irish jersey for your US adventure.
Whether you’re on a Summer J1, The Grad Visa Program or just taking a holiday Stateside you’re not going to want to miss Ireland’s three (and hopefully more!) games in the tournament against Sweden, Belgium and Italy. That’s why we’ve got some seasoned football (soccer over there, you’ll get used to it) fans on the ground in some of the major US cities to make sure you’re clued in on where to watch the games, even the ones on at stupid o’clock (the Belgium game is a 6am start on the West Coast!).
There’s no way you’ll be stuck for a TV in the Big Apple but you want to hit a pub where the Green Army is biggest and loudest…
Formerly the Kinsale Tavern, this revamped Irish pub is New York’s newest Celtic Bar so you know it’s in keeping with the times (Ultra HD, Wi-Fi etc). Taken over by Dubliner, Donal Daly last year, The Weir has been open since January and is already attracting hordes of New York’s Irish community. This place is going to be hopping when Ireland open their campaign against Sweden on the 13th June.
New York’s biggest Irish bar is situated right next to the infamous Madison Square Garden complex in the heart of Manhattan. You also won’t be surprised to hear that the Stout does as good a pint of Guinness as you’ll get in NYC (not that an 8am pint is advisable) and serves some great food too. It’s also worth mentioning that there are now 3 Stout Bars in Manhattan but the one you want to head for is this one.
A big favourite of our J1ers and Grad Visa students, the Central Bar is usually full of a vibrant and young crowd most of which will be in full voice dreaming of a team of Gary Breen’s on matchdays!
Not even the Red Sox are going to get a look in for at least a week in June!
A pretty apt name for the noise this place is going to generate throughout the Euros, this is sports Mecca in Boston for Irish fans. Two levels, stacked with a dozen big flatscreen TVs, The Banshee is Boston’s most well known Irish Sports Bar and for good reason. It’s known as a Chelsea bar (sorry Chelsea fans but I didn’t know any existed?!) but don’t let that put you off, The Banshee will feel right at home when Shane Long pile drives a shot past Gigi Buffon to top our group on June 22nd.
Opened way back in 1984, this is Dropkick Murphy’s local! Enough said…
For something a bit different, this Italian themed coffee house doesn’t sell alcohol but instead some delicious coffee, pastries and gelato! Every Irish game will certainly be shown and the place is likely to be less crowded for those of you wanting a space where you can solely focus on our beating of Sweden on June 13th.
The most sports mad city in the US, bar none. We’ll take a good guess that many of our J1 & Grad Visa students will be easily spotted in one of these watering holes on the 13th, 18th & 22nd of June…
Cleo’s has a healthy obsession with three things – craft beers, beautiful food and European football (ugh, I mean soccer..). No doubt a large portion of Chicago’s Irish community will be descending on Cleo’s for our Group games but you can be guaranteed that every single game of the Euros will be watchable here.
‘The best sports bar in the world’.
That’s a pretty big statement to be making but you can argue they can back it up! An establishment completely consumed by sport, pretty much everything going on in The Globe revolves (see what I did there?) around kick off times. As a side note to watching the Euros, check out The Globe’s weekly FIFA tournaments and sports quizzes…quality.
70 HD Screens. 70, think about that for a second? An often stated bug bear of watching a big game in a pub is that you end up behind a pillar or some ludicrously tall dude who’s oblivious to your suffering. Timothy O’Toole’s most certainly solves this problem and while Cleo’s and The Globe aren’t strictly speaking ‘Irish pubs’, this one certainly is.
Watching the game is going to be more challenging in San Fran due to the time difference so don’t forget to check in advance if these places are opening early! Also worth remembering to have a coffee or two before the Belgium game.
The Kezar is one of the most popular Sports Bars in San Fran, from NBA and NFL to footb..sorry ‘soccer’ and rugby. Despite the rather odd name it is classed as an Irish Bar so it will be a safe bet for the early mornings cheering on Martin O’Neill’s men in France.
You’d be hard pressed to think of a Irish pub name more common than The Dubliner. We could probably count 20 homages to Ireland’s capital that we’ve frequented around the world, this being one of our favourite! The pub is full of characters, most of which with strong Irish connections so it’ll be so easy to strike up a conversation with them (mostly about how Belgium are overrated and will get turned over against us in Bordeaux).
Finally, a pub with a Happy Hour! Plus the friendly bar staff are often poor timekeeper’s meaning that ‘hour’ will feel suspiciously longer. Given the early starts, it’d be a wise move to check in with them beforehand to make sure they’re awake and open early in time for kick off!
The South Carolina hot spot has been crazy popular for J1 students this year, with more heading to Myrtle Beach than ever before. With so many of you already out there, you’ll want to get your plans sorted in time for the first game…
Watch Ireland stuff Sweden and then go celebrate on the beach! Sound good? Molly Darcy’s Irish Bar is in an amazing location and also packed with pool tables if you want to get out of the sun (unlikely!). While not renowned as a sports bar we have it on good authority from J1ers already in Myrtle Beach that you won’t miss a kick of any game here.
Pizza, beer and sports! Another great location by the sea, Remedies is jam packed with TVs showing sport morning until night plus they do some great pizzas which go down a treat no matter what time the game kicks off at.
So there you are, panic over! No shortage of ways to find and join the Green Army if you’re in the US as we March on France this June. COYBIG!
Got any more hidden gems where you are? Let us know and spread the word!
UPDATE: Holidaymakers can breathe a sigh of relief (for now) as last ditch negotiations on Tuesday & Wednesday have resulted in the planned strikes threatened this weekend with two of the ATC Unions withdrawing their threat. We’re unlikely to hear the end of the matter however, as the unions continue to press for better working conditions. Full details here.
First Thierry Henry, now this…
Bad news for holidaymakers flying to France this week and into next as the first of the planned French strike action by air traffic controllers has been confirmed for Thursday, the 2nd of June. This is likely to affect the many, many thousands of fans descending on the country for the 2016 European Championships which begin on the 11th June.