Friday, October 27, 2017

20 (Cheap) Travel Tips

We just got back from a beautiful week in New England.  The leaves were beautiful (see above), the weather was beautiful (until the last day when it rained like crazy), and the food was beautiful (soooo much Italian food!!).  Here are some of the ways we stretch our travel dollars...

  1. I always find our air tickets through Google Flights.  This search engine allows me to search by price and by day so I can find the cheapest tickets for our (very flexible) vacation days.  Note that Southwest Air doesn't come up on this search engine so I usually search SW Air separately.
  2. I also look for alternate ways to get to where we are going.  If we can save $200 flying into New York instead of Providence, we will do this then take the subway/Metro North to our destination in Connecticut.
  3. We have also traveled by: Amtrak (OK), Greyhound (ick), Megabus (pretty good and cheap!), Bolt Bus (ditto), cruise ship, ferry, tourists bus, chicken bus, jeepney, tuk tuk, local Southeast Asian airline (the plane dated from WW2!)...basically we look at every travel option for cost, destination, ease of use, travel time, etc. and figure out what will best meet our needs.
  4. We don't check luggage because of the extra baggage fee.  We have refined the art of one-bag packing so everything we need fits into a carry-on sized backpack.  This greatly reduces travel hassle when you can easily carry everything you need with you.
  5. Some one-bagging tips: pack clothing that is dark and coordinates (this makes it easier to use fewer clothes to put together multiple outfits), plan on doing laundry once a week (either at a friend's house or local laundromat), bring less than you think you will need (you don't need seven pairs of pants for a seven day trip when three will work fine).  If worse comes to worst, you can always buy things you need at your destination!
  6. We bring our own food and snacks when we travel.  It's simple to run by a store wherever we are and pick up granola bars and other snacks to bring with us when we fly (and it's much cheaper than buying food on your flight or at the hotel gift shop--when I looked in the hotel gift shop and saw that two small candy bars cost $5 I nearly fainted!).
  7. We also bring our own water bottles on our flights.  Instead of going through security then paying top dollar for a bottle of water at the airport we just bring empty water bottles (I like Aquafina bottles because they are so sturdy) and fill them up at a water fountain after we pass the security check (I see many people doing this so it isn't a secret that this is a great way to save money).
  8. We usually stay with friends and family when we travel.  This is a great way to save on the sky-rocketing cost of hotels, visit with people we haven't seen in a while, and get a locals view of our travel destination.  Of course we always welcome friends and family to stay with us when they visit Las Vegas.
  9. We do take advantage of serendipitous lodging though.  During this past vacation my wonderful niece asked if we would like to stay in a casino hotel suite for five days.  For free.  We jumped on this opportunity and ended up in a $2300 a night suite which was amazing!
  10. People also use AirBnB to cut lodging costs and while we know several people who list their rooms/condos/houses on AirBnB, we haven't tried this yet (hubby is a bit creeped out about staying in a stranger's house).
  11. We look at ground transportation costs and decide which is most cost effective.  If it is just the two of us, we usually use public transit (city buses and subways).  We also use Uber if there is no nearby bus.  Cabs are a last (and expensive) resort.  On this vacation, since we were meeting up with other relatives, we all decided to split the cost of a rental car which was the cheapest, and most convenient, option overall.  Since we got into the rental place a bit late, instead of our cheap econo-rental car, the only cars they had left were Audi SUVs so we got a free upgrade!
  12. I always Google local sites and things to do then make a list of the things we want to experience while we are on vacation.  Many places have a lot of free and low cost things to do that many tourists overlook.  Chicago has a free zoo which is wonderful, Pike Place Market is free to wander around in Seattle, and I once hiked a short section of the Appalachian Trail which was also free!
  13. We do splurge occasionally.  What's the fun of travel and new experiences if you don't pay up for unique experiences that you can't get anywhere else?  I'd never had a lobster roll before and I wanted to try one this trip so off we went to one of the most famous lobster roll places in the state which happened to be nearby.  Now spending $18 for a lobster roll was IMHO ridiculous, but spend $18 we did because it was a new and unique experience for us.  tldr; I now know I can make these myself for a fraction of the cost!
  14. Free wifi is wonderful.  Our cell plan is really amazing--we get unlimited data plus free data and texting anywhere in the world which has worked great on previous international vacations (thanks TMobile) but sometimes I need faster internet so I always look for free wifi spots.  Fortunately they seem to be ubiquitous these days, unfortunately you need to take extra steps to protect yourself when using these free services.
  15. Have a budget and stick to it.  It's easy to splurge since you are "on vacation" but most of the things you find on vacation you either don't need (tourist tchotckes), can find cheaper at home (outlet malls draw millions of tourists but their prices are so high!), or will give you buyer's remorse almost immediately (cruise ship jewelry and art for starters).
  16. We generally carry cash (hidden) with us which keeps us on budget, as well as lots of small bills for tipping and spending on small purchases.
  17. Splurging on lobster rolls aside, we usually go local for our meals which saves a lot of money.  In tourists destinations famous steakhouses will separate you from your money quicker than nearly anything else but we can get steaks anywhere.  So we usually hit up a grocery store for breakfast items, then look for hole-in-the-wall places for lunch and dinner.  If the price is great and the restaurant is full of locals, that's where we eat.  Note we almost always split a meal which cuts a usual restaurant meal price in half as we both can't eat as much as we used to.
  18. For entertainment, aside from looking for free and cheap tourists activities, there are lots of free hobbies that I enjoy when we travel such as photographing graveyards, doing genealogy research, walking with local volksmarch groups, hiking and checking out local parks, etc.
  19. Speaking of hobbies, I've met many travelers who have free or relatively inexpensive travel hobbies like county collecting, national park stamp collecting (be sure to get an annual pass), MTP place collecting, walking, etc.
  20. And some random tips: use a fanny pack, it's uncool but super useful and secure; be nice to everyone even if you are having a crappy travel day as they are more likely to help nice people than mean people; put some acidophilous in your first aid kit, it fixes all kinds of stomach problems; don't be an Ugly American, try to fit in with the locals.

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