Everyone Can Travel

Travel has become increasingly popular over the years with the travel industry continuously evolving to meet the demands and needs of its diverse travel population and entice prospective travelers.  The result:  an abundance of options.  With a little practicality and minute sacrifices everyone can travel within their financial means.

While hotel stays are usually the bulk of travel expenses, there are ways to cut some costs and keep more of your money in your wallet and not on hotel rooms. Some factors that contribute to hotel costs are location, type of accommodations, amenities, and travel dates.  It’s a no brainer that the closer rooming is to a desired location (say, the Eiffel Tour) the more you’ll pay per night.  A likely solution: staying at an outlying neighborhood just outside the city center.  Okay, you’ll have to take a train.  Buy a train pass, it’s still cheaper than an additional $200+ per night room.  A 10-15 minute tube ride is a small sacrifice for what you’ll be saving in hotel costs.  I do this often, especially in Europe.  This will give you a chance to familiarize yourself with the train system, explore interesting stops, and “live” among the locals for a spell.  Who knows, you might stumble upon some kick @ss street fest known only to locals.

Every now & then a hotel mini fridge is a godsend because you can make snacks and lunches instead of eating at restaurants three times a day which certainly adds up.  (In my husband’s case, he needs somewhere to stash his milk for his nightly cookies and milk in bed.)  However, if you want a room with all the bells and whistles, be prepared to pay. Boy will you pay!  Seriously though, how much time do you plan on staying in your room?  Do you really need a wet bar?  Go on a pub crawl instead.  We all want a little elbow room when we sleep but how much room do you really need? Downgrading your bed or room size might save you a few bucks.  How about swapping internationally known hotel chains with those that are privately owned or that are local and lesser known, this applies to B&B’s as well.  Choosing accommodations without a toilet or shower/tub in your room, where applicable, will knock down your bill significantly. Under this circumstance, your hotel room is just like the others - private, with a bed - you’ll just have to share a bathroom (toilet and all).  This brings me to hostels. They should not to be easily dismissed.  Hostels have come a long way and some can even give well known hotels a run for their money.  The advantage to some hostels are better, more personalized customer service, (almost a B&B feel with homemade meals) and you can even do your own cooking.  Hostels offer a variety of clean rooms from dorm style (coed or not), private rooms (1-2 person) or family rooms (4-6 persons) with bath included or shared, and private lockers for storage of valuables.  Expect common areas where television, kitchens, books or board games, etc. are for everyone’s pleasure.  Some hostels even have small coffee shops in them where you can sit at the bar with an espresso and a freshly baked chocolate filled croissant or other baked good.  (I threw the chocolate croissant thing in there on purpose.)  Anyways, these are just a few amenities offered and they vary per hostel.  Keep in mind hostels are bare bones basic sleeping arrangements.  They’re more functional than luxurious and are a fraction of the cost of traditional accommodations.

Beware of major events like concerts, festivals (Germany’s Oktoberfest for example), and sport games; hotels tend to jack up their rates astronomically.  In Green Bay, our funky $80 room shot up to $350 a night because of a Packers game!  Unless you plan on traveling for a specific event, try organizing your trip around them.  Furthermore, weekends and some holidays will raise room rates.  Prepare to dish out, at a minimum, double the rate during peak travel seasons.  You can alleviate costs by going to your Caribbean dream vacation in summer instead of winter.  Off -peak travel will reward you with less crowds, reasonably price airfare and rooms averaging $100.  Bottom line, everyone can travel. Hotels are not one size fits all.  Finding hotels within your budget are attainable; it may take some research and flexibility.

I’ve previously made suggestions for anyone to be able to travel on just about any budget.  Continuing with this theme is group travel.  Group travel can be traveling with an escorted group to a predetermined destination and itinerary or with family & friends where there’s more flexibility in planning.  The latter encompasses 100% control of where you go, how you get there, how long and what activities, if any, you choose.  You have sole discretion.  If you can muster up the number of people required to make a group holiday, have at it.  If booking with a company, they with will determine how many people qualify for a group rate: in some instances that number can range from 8-10 people minimum.  The benefits of group travel are overall rate reductions on packages, accommodations, air, sea and possible car rental or shuttle service to and fro points of interests.  Also, if you’re interested in activities or tours (like snorkeling in the Caribbean), group pricing is usually offered.  However, it’s recommended to inquire in advance.

If you think you’re going to visit the Statue of Liberty next week on your NYC visit, you’re dead wrong.  Many top tourist attractions require advanced ticket purchase, as some are sold out months in advance during holidays and peak travel seasons.  If you know prior to your arrival what activities to do or what landmarks to visit, reservations/advanced ticket purchase can save both time and money.  I can’t stress the benefits of advanced ticket purchases.  Oh, don’t overlook city passes! They can be a bargain.  Offering discounted admission to local tourist sites, city pass pricing is based on the number of attractions you want to visit within a specified time. Some even offer additional discounts on restaurants, public transportation, and shows, just to throw a few out there.  An even more attractive perk to advanced ticket and pass holders:  NO WAITING IN LINE.  With some research into what the city you’re visiting has to offer, you’ll be surprised to learn that a number of attractions are free of charge. One such place is London’s National Gallery, it’s free for everyone.  If the places that interest you aren’t free admission, find out if they offer a free admission day and plan accordingly.  It could save you $.

Another cost saving alternative to traditional guides or walking tours are those conducted by volunteers.  Sometimes known as “Greeters” these locals provide authentic cultural insight into the city you’re visiting, with a personal touch.  Think of them as long lost friends who immerse you in all things local; you’ll forget you’re just visiting.  From neighborhood hangouts to shopping to insider info and events only the locals know, just tell your host what you want to see or do and they’ll deliver.  Again, these are volunteers and although free of charge, I suggest a tip or lunch in appreciation of their valuable time and service.  Greeters accommodate a single person or a group no larger than six people. Compared to traditional guides, you could be saving an average $65 USD hourly.

One of the joys of traveling is food!  There’s nothing like experimenting with new flavors and local cuisines.  However, those restaurant tabs certainly do add up and can put a dent in any vacation budget.  Luckily there’s alternatives to eating at restaurant’s multiple times a day.  Some of the best food we’ve encounter while on trips is “street food” - the little hole in the wall shacks or street food vendors who can usually be found near points of interest.  Over the years, street food has become an economical and palette godsend.  For one, these meals could rival, no scratch that, put to shame some commonly known eateries.  Secondly, the cost of meals or a la carte options are minuscule.  To put this in perspective, for what we would pay for a meal at an average priced restaurant, could feed (has fed) us for a day – breakfast, lunch & dinner.  Puerto Rico is the best example of this.  In Rincon, you can eat like a king for less than $10 at a little green shack along PR-115 called Rincon Criollo.  (I have to wear my Spanx when I go there, the food’s that good.)  If you’re in Ponce, indulge yourself in $2 pinchos or shishkabobs.

When browsing dining options, happy hours and daily specials are worth a peek into.  They routinely feature     seasonal and local specialties at a price you can’t beat.  You might even get the chance to try different foods- like rocky mountain oysters popular in Wyoming and Montana.  In Spain, tapas are the rage and in abundance during happy hours.  Let us not forget the drink specials that often accompany their edible counterparts.  This is where you can dabble in small batch made house wine or locally produced spirits. As an added treat, some are custom made by the very same restaurant owners.  All this and more at a cost lower than regularly priced menu items.  Did I mention this is an excellent way to sample a little bit of everything on the menu?

To further reduce dining costs while vacationing, turn to open air markets or grocery stores.  Picking up a few ready to eat fruit and vegetables make handy snacks.  A freshly made baguette, cheese wedge, and just enough slices of meat make a memorable and picturesque lunch overlooking the Tower of London.  Picnicking or “brown bagging it” is affordable and practical.  It’s also a break from dining out.

Overall, it’s a good idea to plan travel as much in advance as possible to better ensure that your trips fall within budget.  At times, cutting a day here or there from an itinerary (or modifying it) is sufficient.  Other times, the suggestions I’ve provided may suffice.  Your patience and resourcefulness will not only reward you with a well-planned and researched vacation, but, more $ savings.  So you see, everyone can travel. ~ Capricorn Vacations