part of the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project
i’m a pretty cheap traveler. i mean, let’s face it. if you’re just a regular joe (or, in my case, a regular jon) and like to travel as much as i do, you can’t have champagne wishes and caviar dreams.
something i hardly ever spend money on: souvenirs. i used to get stuff, but really, it’s just going to take up extra room in your suitcase and i’m the type of person to let it just sit on the shelf for years and never look at it again (*eyeing dusty fez and cobwebby lantern from morocco*). that’s not to say i’ll never. if something really catches my eye, i will get it, but for the most part, they’re a waste of hard-earned moolah.
something i’m willing to scrimp on: lodging. when i was a grad student traveling around europe (shh, it was an easy program) i’d have no problem staying in hostels. traveling in winter was the best because they’d be virtually empty—i’ve had entire rooms to myself on several occasions (e.g., picture above). but even though i have a job that pays more than a Hiwi again, i prefer to stay cheap. if i didn’t have to tote my work laptop with me everywhere i went (and maybe have to work, even on vacation), i would still do the hostel thing. so, i now do the cheap hotel thing. well, the cheap-but-still-highly-rated-on-tripadvisor thing.
many of you will gasp, but i’m willing to be stingy about food. i will have fast food for several meals if that means being able to get the occasional nice meal. i mean, yes, i could probably afford non-fast food meals, but i balk at spending so much money. so yes, that means i have eaten at quick more times than i care to remember. silver lining? sometimes the tastiest food is cheap street food. one word: döner. also, the best sausage i ever had (har har, all you people with dirty minds, i’m serious) was from some random subway station stand in prague. cheapskate or not, i’m traveling to explore, so i make it a point to at least have a nice, typical meal at least every other dinner, if not more often.
speaking of subways, it’s key to do research to see what sort of public transportation deals there are at your destination, like all-day transit passes or discount combination tickets, etc. if i can help it, i will not rent a car or take a cab. public transit all the way! it’s cheaper, you don’t have to deal with driving/parking/speeding tickets, and, most important to me, i feel more connected with the place i’m in.
and speaking of transportation, flights. do. your. research. kayak and hipmunk are your friends. imho, definitely just go cheap, with a caveat. i am willing to spend slightly more (my cutoff is usually around 10-15% of the ticket cost) to stick with a single alliance (in my case, star alliance) because i can accrue miles on one airline while flying different carriers to different parts of the globe. and once you get those miles? USE THEM. no point in hoarding (burn baby burn, as they say). and when you have an unpredictable work schedule like i do, miles are like gold. even at the last minute, off-peak travel is usually easy to get at the lowest redemption option, and the flexibility with an award ticket really helps. i’ve had to reschedule tomorrow’s trip to japan three times, but because it’s an award ticket, changing the dates has been free! (although costs are dependent on airline and any elite status, and are subject to availability, yadda yadda)
so. what am i willing to spend money on? experiences. i will, and have, traveled for the express purpose of one thing (usually a long weekend trip for a concert):
- notre dame (indiana) for a this day & age concert (2005) (stayed with family who lived in that neck of the woods)
- winter olympics in turin, italy (2006) (i was living in germany so it was pretty cheap to get there, and stayed in milan and took the train in to turin — much cheaper that way)
- winter olympics in vancouver, canada (2010) (luckily was able to stay at a friend’s place—thanks again, clara!—as hotels were > $300/night by the time i was booking)
- london (well, cambridge) for an imogen heap concert (2010) (used frequent flyer miles and stayed with a friend—thanks again, trevor!—in london for several nights)
- berlin for the final virginia jetzt! concert (2010) (used frequent flyer miles)
oh, the easiest way to save money on travel? be lucky enough to have a job that will pay for you to go places. i don’t travel much on company dime, but my boss knows about my wanderlust so i’ve been fortunate enough to go to milan (which i extended to visit germany and luxembourg), buenos aires, and south africa. at least that way you get the plane ticket for free! for the same reason, i don’t mind traveling with my parents (spain and portugal, france [no pics, was too lazy to upload], and china are the most recent). usually they pay for the plane ticket or the hotel, and either way, they almost always pay for food—and they eat well! yes, i’m 34 but hey, if you can milk it, milk it. 😉 (p.s. love ya mom!)
and there you have it. this blog post ended up being a lot longer than i thought (i was expecting one paragraph), but i’m procrastinating packing…
Nothing Like a Hostel Room All To Yourself on Flickr.