Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Travel: 5 Steps to a Cheap Vacation

Published in Explore Travel Guide

Traveling would be a cinch if it wasn’t for the cost. If money was no object, I think many of us would be dipping our toes in foreign waters quicker than you can say carpe diem. Fortunately, cheap holidays are not myths, and there’s nothing stopping you from a priceless getaway—provided you’re willing to plan ahead, open your mind, and cut down on luxury. Remember, fun is free—as are these tips to traveling on the cheap.

1. Create a budget, and stick to it

Nothing like getting home from holiday and realizing you carelessly dipped into next month’s rent. Avoiding this is simple, but it does require discipline. Decide in advance how much you can afford to spend in total, and work towards it. Do it today, and your dream vacation will be so much closer than yesterday.

Next, work out how much you can swing on transport and accommodation, and then decide on a spending amount that’s doable during this soon-to-be cheap vacation. Decide on a daily budget by dividing your spending total by the number of days you want to go away for, careful to leave a little extra to spend on things you can’t possibly plan for:  unexpected costs are inevitable. If it’s too little to live on, reduce the days to spend away. Don’t risk running out of money too soon. At the end of the day, take as much as you can without spending next month’s bills, and don’t overspend your daily budget.

2. Book in Advance

Budget airlines are on the rise, and even America is learning fast that the people need cheap holidays. Many airlines do crazy-great deals for small windows of time, so find a few in your area now and subscribe to their newsletters so you’re the first to know of any and all cheap airfare. These deals can either be a few months away from the travel dates or very last minute, so you can stay spontaneous about your holiday if you’re lucky enough to catch one of those—just be financially prepared! Remember, though, that many budget airlines are synonymous with no-frills travel. Think of it this way: is there really such a thing as complimentary snacks? Not really. Getting a cheap, luxury-free flight is worth it as a means to a guilt-free getaway. Always book in advance. Whether you’re traveling by train, plane, bus, or boat, most companies hike prices late in the game, so outsmart them: book weeks, or months if possible, before your vacation. This will doubtlessly put an extra wad of cash in your pocket to be spent on better things later on.

3. Get Not-So-Traditional Accommodations:

Next come the accommodations, and this is where you need that open mind. It’s baffling that many spend unnecessarily high amounts of money on accommodation when it can be done at a much more reasonable rate. I’m not saying you have to stay at a hostel in order to have an open mind. Other options are out there now for those who are still adventurous but want a little more privacy. Despite the misleading website name, there are many quaint and cheap hotels on I’ve booked several cheap,private rooms in both Paris as well as New York by using that site, plus the reservations included free breakfast. But there are other popular choices that are increasingly chic too, like Airbnb hooks you up with hosts who have extra space for you in their humble abodes, which allows you to have a much more meaningful travel experience while saving money, too. From urban apartments to country castles, there are millions of options all over the world. Go here to learn more about how it all works.

 4. Find Cheap Eats

Stretching your budget in terms of food is easier than you may think. If you were able to find a budget hotel with free breakfast, or an actual home with its own kitchen, you’re off to a good start. Many budget hotels have common rooms with refrigerators for their budget travelers to utilize, and so you should. I bought fresh fruits and chorizo for my Barcelona budget, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes for the fridge in Rome, and cheese and baguettes for my place in Paris. If you love experiencing cultures through food, shopping at the local markets is the way to go, and you will save tons of money. If you want to experience other affordable treats, I highly recommend street foods. There’s nothing in the world quite like spending your days in Paris feasting on street vendors’ crepes and croque monsieurs.

5. Buy Simple Souvenirs

Sure, it’s nice to be able to splurge on unique items you want to have forever, but you can remember your travels with even the simplest things. Find street markets selling knickknacks like old jewelry; pick fresh flowers and press them into your book or journal; or buy a cheap but frameable postcard from an art museum that will remind you of what you saw that day. One of my favorite pieces of jewelry I still own is a small cameo necklace charm I bought for three Euros from a sweet old lady on the side of the road in Avignon . I quite possibly took a bit of her own personal history home with me while creating some nostalgia of my own.

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