By now, you're well into your J1 summer and may be wondering where to explore when the working ends. Clíona Ní Dhúfaigh gives us her go-to guide to getting around.
With J1 season in full swing and thousands of Irish students making their way across the Atlantic for the summer, many will be planning on or thinking about travelling to some major cities before they return home. However, travelling as a student is obviously very different to holidaying with your parents, and students often struggle with getting to travel on a tight budget. Whether you’re in the US or Canada, here are some tips on how to see and do as much as possible in a big city without completely splurging all your hard earned money.
 
Plan Ahead
 
While it’s often said that last minute decisions are the best ones, it’s important to plan your trip properly and to give yourself plenty of time to get organised. Travel and accommodation are always cheaper the further in advance you book, so it helps to have a plan of where you’re going and for how long. This will also give you time to save up any extra cash you might need.
 
Make a list of all the places that you would like to visit and all the things you want to do when you get there. Most major cities will have a tourism website that will give you a list of things to do and will also give reviews of places to eat or stay in the city. Such sites include blogto.ca in Toronto, or timeout.com. Be sure to check out other sites such as Trip Advisor or Trivago to get a full picture of what each city as to offer.
 
Getting There
 
One thing to bear in mind when travelling on a J1 is that the US and Canada don’t always offer the same cheap flights that we get in Europe (God bless Ryanair). This may make travelling that bit more difficult. However, there are other ways to get from city to city in North America.
 
Bus companies such as Greyhound or Megabus offer cheap intercity bus fares both within the US and Canada, or from one to the other. While the journey may not be the comfiest, 4 and half hours on a bus from New York to Boston for only US$5 one-way is an opportunity not to be missed. But as mentioned earlier, the key is to book several weeks or even months in advance, otherwise prices for the same journey booked closer to the time go up to nearly US$60.
 
If you would still prefer flying, Skyscanner.net helps to find flights for your route, and if booked in good time, they can work out relatively cheap. Flights can be filtered by price range, direct flights versus several stops, airline and hours of travel.
 
Accommodation
 
Often when students travel to large cities, the go-to place to stay is in a hostel, given their central locations, cheap rates and lively atmosphere. As with any kind of accommodation, hostels can be hit and miss, so it is important to research them properly before booking anything. Hostels.com has a database of hostels located all over the world, and the site allows you to read reviews, look at images of the hostel, filter by value and price, as well as being able to make your reservation for the hostel with them.
 
One service that has become increasingly popular in recent years is AirBnB, a website whereby you can stay in a privately owned house or apartment, and properties range from meticulous downtown condos to quaint little cottages in the countryside. While owners often list the amenities and conditions of staying in their home on their profile, prospective visitors can communicate with them through the site before they arrive to make any other arrangements, such as an earlier check-in time, making them much more flexible than a hotel or hostel.
 
Sightseeing
 
Before you arrive, you should make a list of all the sights you want to see, and activities you want to do during your trip. Many North American cities offer a tourist pass, allowing you to experience a certain number of attractions for a discounted price. For example, the New York City Pass allows you to see 6 of the city’s biggest attractions for US$122, as opposed to spending US$210 to see them separately. CityPass is a company that operates in 12 North American cities including Toronto, New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and is an excellent way of saving money, all the while not missing out on the world’s most iconic tourist attractions.
 
So whether you’re rolling in dollars, or a bit strapped for cash, don’t let that stop you from getting the most out of what American and Canadian cities have to offer this summer.