“Look kids, Big Ben!” — Those Crazy Roundabouts

One of the best travel-related scenes in a movie is from European Vacation when Clark and family enter the huge roundabout in London and can’t get out. “Look kids, Big Ben,” he says over and over again each time they round the circle. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? Here’s the scene on YouTube.)

My family and I found ourself in a similar situation once. We were in Paris; Dad was driving a rental car and we accidentally ended up in the hectic mess of cars that surrounds the Arc de Triomphe. I was pretty young at the time, but old enough to remember plenty of expletives coming from the front seat as I tucked my head between my legs and prayed. What’s worse is the only reason we found ourselves in that mess is because I wanted to go to the Hard Rock Cafe. Here I was in one of the largest cultural centers in Europe — home to places like the Louvre, the Pantheon, and Chateau de Versailles — and I wanted to see the Hard Rock Cafe. Let’s never speak of this again.

The photo above is of what’s known as the Magic Roundabout — “the world’s ultimate traffic-control system” — in Swindon, Wilshire, England. It was built in 1972, and features five mini roundabouts inside of one larger, parent roundabout. Check out more pictures and video after the jump. Yikes!

You can buy a t-shirt with this design on it.

Here’s video from the driver’s prospective. Note: wicked techno soundtrack included.

Easy, right?

This scares me.

And yes, we finally made it to the Hard Rock Cafe. I’ve got a shirt to prove it. [via]

Five Tips for Students Booking Trips Abroad

Summer is right around the corner, which, for students (or anyone else who has their summers off) means the chance to travel. For those of you planning a vacation abroad, here’s five tips to keep in mind while you’re booking your trip.

Note: Some of these came ideas from a press release by Lessno.com — a travel website that, not surprisingly, specializes in backpacking trips for college students. So, keep in mind, they’re trying to sell you something. However, the advice seems useful, and I’ve amended their suggestions with personal experience.

1. Keep Travel Dates Flexible: This one may seem fairly obvious, but it’s worth noting, as — in my experience, at least — ticket prices can occasionally change dramatically, even from one day to the next.

2. Book Many Legs of a Trip at Once: By doing this you avoid purchasing one-way tickets, which — oddly — are sometimes more expensive than round-tip tickets. That being said, while you’re technically not supposed to, there’s nothing stopping you from buying a round-trip ticket, and forgoing the return journey if it doesn’t suit your overall travel plan.

3. Use Frequent Flier Points: Again, kind of obvious. But you may not know that you can use other people’s miles if you haven’t amassed many yourself. My dad often travels internationally for business, which came in very handy when I was in college, broke, and regularly trying to book expensive flights oversees.

4. Look For Local Airlines: Especially budget airlines. A lot of US-based travel sites don’t include the often absurdly cheap European options, like Easy Jet, or Ryan Air. (Though, it should be noted, the flight attendants on Ryan Air are a surly bunch.)

5. Book Travel with Friends: Again, worth doing, particularly if you’re in for a long haul. For those of you heading to multiple destinations, a large part of your experience will be the actual transit from place to place. If you don’t book together with friends, the chances that you’ll end up next to one another on flights — or on the same flights at all — is slim.

Finally, a suggestion that isn’t mentioned by Lesso.com — probably because they don’t offer this service — is, especially if you’re traveling through Europe, take the train. You’ll meet more people, the view is fantastic, train stations are way cooler than airports, and the whole thing will feel more “authentic.” Trust me.