Sunday, March 8, 2009
Travel That's Easy on the Wallet
(photo courtesy World Money.com)
It's a Sunday night in ATL & we're talking about some of our favorite ways to travel smart on a budget. Thought you'd like to see a few of our tips. The rest will be in our upcoming book! Here we go:
* Use FareCompare.com & other "fare aggregator" sites to see the best airfares offered by many airlines.
* Monitor the ups & downs of your airfare between your town & your intended destination (fare alerts) at Farecaster.com.
* Buy international airfares through an experienced travel agent for the best consolidator/wholesale deals in high season; otherwise, consider traveling in low or shoulder season to your destination to save big.
* Be flexible with your travel dates, if possible. Buy your ticket immediately if a good fare pops up. "You snooze; you lose," esp. in the airfare world.
* Go to whichbudget.com or flybudget.com for great inter-European, etc. fares to places more "under the North American tourist radar"...i.e. certain eastern parts of Europe, Scandinavia, etc. Then buy airfare from your gateway city to the more affordable European hub & connect on a "puddle jumper" to your destination. (i.e. fly into London Gatwick on Delta/British Airways) & get a separate ticket to Dubrovnik on easyJet, Monarch, etc. Not recommended for packers who take a lot of luggage or travelers extremely particular about roomy seats!
* Use those soon-to-expire frequent flyer points for your complete ticket or to get a partial discount on your fare.
* Explore the U.S.A. & Canada! Find the perfect campsite listing in Kampgrounds of America's online camping directory: http://www.koa.com/ Or, head to our national parks for affordable lodging near the best of America's natural wonders: http://www.nps.gov/
* Consider staying in hostels to save money. From castles to more rustic digs, many of these budget accommodations are no longer only for youth. Good sites to check out: hostelbookers.com, hostels.com, hostelworld.com, or hostelz.com
* Join homestay programs like Coachsurfers, Servas, Women Welcome Women World Wide (5W), Hospitality Club, etc. Not only will your wallet smile, but you'll meet some fascinating people too.
* Rent an apartment, stay on a farm, & overnight in a convent or monastery. There are some wonderful opportunities out there both in North America & worldwide. For organic farmstays: wwoof.org. For apartment rentals: vrbo.com, interhome.com, homeway.com. Check out our post January 14, 2009 "Sleeping Pretty on a Beer Budget" post for more details.
* Tourist offices & chambers of commerce are terrific sources of free info.
For a listing of many world tourist offices, go to: towd.com. Remember to time your museum visit for the day admission is free or greatly reduced. Advance research before your trip can pay off royally!
* Spice up your stay with a neat folk festival, free concert, or other local happening. In addition to the tourist office sites, this one offers a good overview of events: whatsonwhen.com
* Many shops/stores give discount coupon booklets for savings on local attractions. (movies, concerts, skiing, etc.)
* Eat your main hot meal at lunch time when specials are common.
* Buy supplies at a deli or grocery store & picnic in your room or outside (depending on weather) for suppertime. Carry healthy munchies in your small daypack to stave off hunger during the day. Avoid impulse eating.
* Ask a local (esp. college or university-age student) where he or she most enjoys a good affordable meal. We've discovered many a great restaurant value by following a person-in-the-know to a favorite hole-in-the-wall. Believe it or not, university cafeterias ("Mensas") in Europe are often open to visitors of all ages.
E. Local Transportation:
* Recheck your rental car rate just before you go on vacation. If the price is lower than before, you can score even a better deal.
* Consider rail passes, esp. in the countries "with the more expensive cost of living." Twin passes (for 2 or more travelers joined at the hip for the whole trip) can be a great value. Did you know for example, that the Swiss Rail Pass is valid on lake steamers, on private mountain railways, & for free admission to over 400 museums all over the country?
* Get in shape before you leave. Use local transport, your feet, & bikes for the environment, your wallet, & your waistline. Happy travels!
Ann Lombardi & Wendy Swartzell
The Trip Chicks 404-320-3033