Traveling the World on a Dime – a Handful of Actionable Tips
Movie stars and mega-rich jet-travelling sports stars aside, there are three types of travelers.
The business class traveler whose expenses are tax deductible and is looking to splurge because the corporation is footing the bill.
Retirees on the trip of a lifetime, flying economy, but booked on a luxury cruise with hotels ringing bellhops and red carpet on the front step.
And then there’s the rest of us.
Hitting the Road on a Budget—Destinations That Make a Difference
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When asked about going abroad to places travelers would put on a bucket list as a must see, the inventory would probably run to Vienna, Milan, Barcelona, New York, Paris and a few other hubs of civilization.
All great destinations, but expect to pay top dollar to see them.
Off the beaten path
Flying to Ireland will give you a British Isle holiday experience for a lot less than across the Irish Sea. Head up to Galway and save up to 20% on accommodation costs.
The city boasts of great pubs, live bands, and nightlife second to none. You can enjoy an extra Guinness and not break the budget.
European economic downturn hit the economy in Greece worse than most. Stay on the less touristy islands such as Paros and you can lay-back in the Mediterranean sun and drink Mythos—a light straw-colored lager—for as little as $2.00 a pint.
For travel with the best bang for your buck, you can’t go past Cambodia. A hostel bed will cost around $3.25 and you can eat for less than that.
Other great destinations are Vietnam, India, Bolivia, and for tropical getaways, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.
Cheapest Times and Ways to Travel
Budget airlines have over the past few years discovered a way to boost their profits by slugging passengers with hefty charges for checked-in luggage. While carry on, or cabin bags hold essentials, there are other ways to cut down luggage.
The easiest way to carry extra clothes is to wear it. Wearable luggage is a convenient way to save money. The Stuffa Jacket is designed for additional storage space with 12 concealed pockets in the lining. The mesh pockets can hold underwear, socks, and lightweight clothes.
For example, the Bagket Waistcoat Jacket has 22 different sized pockets. It is rated as holding up to 7kg or 15.5lbs of belongings. Some of the pockets are big enough for an iPad or laptop.
Off season travel
Traveling off-season is the best way to snag a good deal. In Europe, the off-peak season is October through to April. Be wary of Christmas as accommodation surcharges may apply. Summer breaks are generally best avoided as the queue to attractions and booking travel will be more expensive.
Booking a flight to major cities such as Rome or London, look for cheaper flights landing at lesser known airports. For example, flights to London’s Gatwick Airport are around 19% cheaper than if you choose Heathrow Airport.
Don’t choose flights based on awarding Frequent Flyer points as flyer points are generally useless. There are many budget airlines (low-cost carriers) such as Lion Air, Cebu Pacific, Air Asia and Jet Star. In Europe you’ll have options like Ryanair, Eurowings and EasyJet.
Although travel agents can get better deals on flights when comparing online you can see the wide variance in charges. For example, a short haul flight departing at 5 am will in many cases be half the price of a flight departing at 11 am. The same goes for late-night (red-eye) flights. Airlines are desperate to fill these unpopular flights and give big discounts.
Doing the math
Cheap flights may not be the best option. Flights from London to Paris are cheap at $116. Eurostar for the same trip will be $156 and will take you from the center of London to the center of Paris. It takes around two and-a-half hours by train from London to Heathrow and about an hour from Charles de Gaulle to Paris. The extra costs of getting to and from airports must be taken into account.
Nearly all budget airlines do not include full service. Food and entertainment are even offered as extra. Save your dollar budget for better things by taking your own food such as packets of nuts, health bars, and savory snacks. Airlines ban liquids on board such as yogurt or honey.
Car rentals, insurance, and parking fees gobble up a travel budget. Public transport is a good alternative. Second class train travel is better value as first class is half as much again while the difference between the two is minimal.
As always, it pays to compare. A train from London to Edinburgh, Scotland is around one-hundred and ninety bucks. A tour bus will cost you sixty dollars.
Accommodation & Sleep
Hotels with a marbled lobby and complimentary soaps and shampoos will put a big hole in your travel budget. Hostels and airbnb are good choices, but as many are low cost, you can’t always be sure of a good night’s stay.
A television journalist rented an airbnb room for two consecutive nights under false names in a desirable location.
Cheap rooms, couch surfing, shared bathrooms are cost savings but for peace of mind, some lightweight essentials could be included in your cabin bag. After all, you want a holiday, not a holiday horror.
Come nigh time, the thought of throwing yourself on that questionable mattress will surely creep in.
Air mattress as an option
You can avoid using the classes in the room, you can the toilette seat an extra scrub using alcohol wipes but there’s little you can do about the mattress you’re supposed to lay your head on. You can’t invite a steam-cleaning surface into a hotel room.
Instead, think about an alternative – an airbed that you can pack into your luggage or (if it’s a longer stay) buy locally. It’s a very cheap option to secure yourself a sleep surface that nobody used before you. Even the best air mattresses are cheap compared to the alternatives.
If you’re packing your own airbed for the trip you’ll probably go with something light and small that will fit right into your suitcase. On the other hand, getting one locally gives you more options, like getting a good raised air mattress that might be every bit as comfortable as that shabby hostel mattress. Before you choose one, you might want o read the reviews of specific air mattress models to find one that will be the right fit for the situation.
Pro tip – to be even more comfortable, choose an air mattress that can be mounted on the frame of the hotel bed.
Best Value Dining
Although the buffet breakfast looks tempting as you pass by in the morning, better and cheaper breakfasts can be found in many cities just around the corner.
A good tip is to find where the locals eat. If it is a family run business, especially in Europe with tough Union laws, it will be value for money.
Keep it simple
Beware the restaurant with stunning views by a sea shore. Tourists pay top dollar to dine beside that view and will not be good value if all you want is something wholesome to eat.
Also, avoid themed restaurants that appeal to homesick travelers. A German cafe in Thailand is bound to have imported, expensive food. It is better to eat locally grown and cooked. There are ways you can explore to eat in luxury restaurants without spending a fortune, but it’s not worth the hassle – keep it simple, you’re there for the experience, not the chairs and plates.
When settling the bill, it is customary to tip 10 to 15% in the US. Do not assume it is the same in other countries. In fact, tipping can be seen as a form of gratuity and offensive in countries such as Japan. Other countries allow a service charge to be included along VAT taxes. Tipping in such cases would be paying double for a service.
Other countries such as Australia have minimum wages for those in the service industry.
Buying food at the markets or shopping centre and cooking in a shared kitchen or having a picnic is another good way of getting nutrition and saving money.
Traveler’s checks are more-or-less past currency. ATMs recognize foreign debit cards with Amex, Visa, and MasterCard becoming global standards for secure transactions. Banks do charge withdrawal fees and the amounts can vary from one country to the next. It is more economical to withdraw as much as you need over going back to an ATM frequently.
Beware of currency exchange shops who don’t advertise the buy and sell rate. As a rule of thumb, foreign currency exchange rates should be under 5%.
In Europe, pickpockets, scam artists, and beggars will have spotted you as a tourist well before you see them. Don’t talk to anyone who randomly approaches. From personal experience, my boss was approached in Rome by a woman carrying a toddler asking directions. Before he or I knew it, the toddler had reached inside his coat for his passport and wallet (true story).
Keep valuables well hidden in hard to reach places.
Which type of traveler are you?
We mentioned that there are few types of travelers, and whether you find the tips above useful will depend on what you’re seeking to get from the trip.
If it’s about pampering yourself with luxury, you’ll find little value in what we said above.
However, the type of people most worthy of being described as travelers will look for authentic experiences to enrich their lives.
If that’s you, dining in a small in a small family Greek tavern where the waiter is the owner and Granma of the house makes the Lamb Kleftiko will be the way to go.