With everyone pinching pennies and tightening their belts in the face of higher oil and gas prices these days, vacationing seems like a luxury most of us simply can’t afford. But if you choose your destinations carefully and take advantage of a few tricks, you can still make traveling the joy it’s supposed to be.
Tip 1: Overnight trains and buses
This is one way to kill 2 birds with one stone, save time AND money. By opting for a train or bus you save one night’s accommodation and cover distance at the same time.
India, and Thailand’s overnight trains are quite comfortable and not much more than a night’s accommodation. Waking up to a fantastic sunrise in Northern Thailand while speeding along to the rhythm of the tracks is one of this writer’s most cherished travel memories.
In Spain, however, the overnight train can be quite costly, so check the prices carefully.
As for overnight buses, none compare to Turkey. Coffee, tea, cakes, clean rest stops, and lemon cologne put Turkey’s bus system in a league of it’s own.
Tip 2: Pick a hotel that delivers the extras
Some hotels offer a place to sleep. Other hotels offer a place to sleep, plus complimentary breakfast (and maybe dinner), airport pickup, Internet, walking tours, tea and coffee, and other creative extras. Usually small budget and boutique hotels are eager to please as they survive on word of mouth referrals and recommendations.
Tip 3: Pick a hotel that isn’t in a guidebook
A hotel owner in a popular destination in Turkey once shared a story about his first years in the hotel business. Every person who arrived in town was headed to the same competing hotel because it was given a glowing review in one of the “Travel Bibles”. Try as he might, he could not break the cycle of people flocking to his competitor. Finally, he started offering the first night free and unbelievable cheap beer to lure customers to his hotel. It worked, and ironically, today he is given glowing reviews in all the “Travel Bibles”.
Another seasoned traveler once related that as she looked back over her six-week trip to Rajasthan, India, she realized she had not once spent a night in any of the recommended hotels in her guidebook. She was perfectly happy with each and every one. So take a chance and spread your business around, you may be pleasantly surprised!
Tip 4: Day trips
If you check carefully, you’ll find some day trips are definitely worth their money, especially if you are paying in the local currency. Some places just can’t be visited on your own, or if you could, it would be such a hassle it would take the enjoyment out of visiting altogether.
The floating market in Bangkok and the underground cities in Cappadocia, Turkey spring to mind. Considering that many of these day trips include lunch and entrance fees on top of transportation it doesn’t take superior math skills to figure out that some are a good deal.
Tip 5: Look online and book locally
Not the huge, well-known, Internet booking monsters out there; think smaller, local agents. A travel agent based in Bali can recommend a reputable hotel in Ubud that will suit your honeymoon or family needs, compared to a huge booking site that lists overbooked hotels in every country on the planet. If you run into unexpected trouble, (missed flights, delays), or just want to spend more time somewhere, a travel agent will be able to shift your reservation at no cost to you. With a booking site, you will have just lost your hotel deposit.
Tip 6: Pick an off the beaten path destination
Get off the “banana pancake highway”. Every country has a “route”, take a few days to step off track and you’ll notice the people are friendlier, the experience is richer, and the prices are lower. How do you find these places? Continue to the next tip.
Tip 7: Get help
Although budget travelers are often reluctant to get professional help, often an agent working on your behalf will save you time and money. Local agents know of great places that are under-visited, new hotels that offer specials and ways to make connections that will save you time and money. Generally, agents don’t make their commissions from the customer, but from the hotel or ticket company you have booked with. Again, you’re spreading your money around and reaping the benefits.