How to Travel on the Cheap
Everyone dreams of flying around the world to visit far off places, but the financial burden of such an endeavor always seems an insurmountable barrier. What with plane tickets, hotels, and daily expenses such as food and drink, to reach the distant shores of adventure can present itself as an unlikely enterprise. But world travel is not a pleasure exclusive to the wealthy. To achieve it, you only need to think of creative solutions to the obstacles that stand between you and the exotic lands you strive toward.
Getting your trip off the ground
The first and obvious step involves getting there. Plane tickets, especially for international flights, are not inexpensive. But there are a number of ways to keep the price to a minimum. For students, there are a variety of companies and organizations that provide reduced airfare, such as Studentuniverse.com. Websites such as these verify your school enrollment within a matter of minutes, then supply ticketing options at a dramatically reduced price.
For non-student travelers, a good way to save money on airfare involves the careful consideration of your destination and when you wish to arrive there. For many countries, choosing to arrive during their tourist off-season presents a number of savings. In-bound flights are less expensive, as are hotel rentals. Airline tickets also vary in price a great deal depending on which day you fly. Departing on a Monday, for example, is generally much cheaper than leaving on a Friday.
A willingness to deal with multiple connections and layovers will also present a good deal of savings. Websites such as Priceline.com (you can trust William Shatner) or Expedia will almost instantly arrange a travel itinerary that encompasses several airlines and connections. While it can be tiring and—when it comes to whether or not your bags will arrive due to all of those connections—just a bit nerve-wracking, this will almost always lead to your best price option.
Finally, once you have made it across whichever pond you must traverse, inner-continental travel is extremely affordable due to the increasing availability of smaller, regional airlines. In Europe, for example, there are a number of relatively reputable carriers such as Ryan Air and Vueling which provide a limited number of city to city flights.
Some places are more expensive than others
Second to saving on your travel arrangements comes keeping the costs low once you have arrived. This can be achieved by electing to visit a country with a relatively low cost of living. Thailand or a number of countries in Latin and South America have extremely inexpensive prices in relation to other similarly exotic regions. Certain currencies—such as dollars, Euros, and pounds—will go a long way in these places.
If you’re eyeing that European vacation, consider visiting a less expensive city, such as Barcelona or Madrid instead of the notoriously pricey places like Paris. In Paris, the same Heineken you order in Barcelona will cost three times as much, or possibly even more. Furthermore, branch out from the large cities. That Heineken will cost you anywhere between three and six Euros in Barcelona, but in Granada it will not cost more than two—and each one you order will be accompanied by a small, free plate of food called tapas. Order four beers and you have just had a full meal of exquisite food for nothing. Country living…
Where to stay
One of the heftiest day to day expenses will be your hotel, but there are a number of ways to reduce its impact on your wallet. Once again, consider traveling in the off season when nightly room prices are generally much less. And, once again, there is a wide variance between the price of a hotel in Paris to that in Barcelona, and an even further variance between Barcelona and Granada. The more willingness you show to stray from the beaten path, the less you will have to shell out.
Much has been said about the benefits of staying in a hostel. Hostels are, generally speaking but not always, much less expensive than hotels. They usually present a variety of rooming options, such as large, community dormitories; smaller, four to eight person bunk rooms; or private one and two person rooms. Beyond the financial advantage, I myself have found staying in hostels to be an excellent way to meet other travelers from a wide range of backgrounds, especially if you are on your own.
Another good way to find a cheap place to stay involves doing a bit of research in order to locate a short term apartment or sublet. Europeans love going on vacation; it’s built into their culture. This being the case, they often leave their residences vacant for weeks or months on end. Many of them look to bolster their rent or mortgage by renting their space out to travelers. Using this method, I once spent a period of four months living in one of the most expensive Parisian neighborhoods for just $400 Euros a month. That sum wouldn’t have gotten me a hotel room in the same arrondissements for three days.
Keeping down the daily expenses
Renting a hostel or apartment with a kitchen provides another opportunity for savings. Eating out can be a staggering hit to the wallet. The ability to make one or two meals a day will reduce the overall cost of your trip substantially. It also provides an excellent chance to invite any special-someones you might meet back to your place to impress them with your culinary skills. (Side-note: an aptitude for cooking is always an attractive talent.)
An extension of this recommendation involves what and where you drink. Yes, peruse the bars a bit. But every once in a while buy yourself a bottle of wine or local liquor and find somewhere to enjoy the outdoors. I could describe endlessly the number of philosophic and/or romantic moments I have enjoyed sitting along some canal or in some city park, the object of my affection at my side, the stars above, the city spread out all around.
When it comes right down to it, aren’t these some of the experiences you long for the most when you dream about heading out into world?