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Budget Travel Tips
Travel tips for those on a budget
A vacation should be a fun and exciting experience and not a source of stress. The key to making your vacation relaxing, fun and hassle free is to pay attention and learn how to travel smart.
Everyone who has traveled has at least one or two horror stories to tell. From losing a wallet or having it stolen, to spending a bit too much at the roulette wheel, every seasoned traveler has experienced their share of vacation problems. The key is to take these travel issues in stride, and not let them ruin your long planned vacation.
One of the most important considerations when traveling is money, saving it and protecting it. Saving money, by selecting the cheapest lodging and airfare you can find, is a great way to make even the most limited travel budget go further.
To protect your travel money, most seasoned travelers and travel experts recommend keeping valuables in a hidden wallet or travel pouch, either wrapped around your waist under your clothes or hung around your neck under your shirt.
Another great way to protect your money and reduce the chance of theft is to keep the majority of your cash in the hotel safe, taking only enough out each day to pay for small incidental purchases. Use credit cards for meals, lodging, admissions, souvenirs and other larger purchases. Credit cards provide valuable consumer protection and the best currency exchange rates as well.
Of course even the most well protected wallet can be lost or stolen, and there is one very valuable tip to keep a lost or stolen wallet from bringing your vacation to an abrupt end. Many seasoned travelers have learned to pack an extra wallet in their suitcase or backpack. This wallet will contain only a credit card or two and perhaps an ATM card. That way, if you lose your primary wallet, you still have access to ready cash with which to finish your trip.
It is also a good idea to make an itinerary, and leave it at home with family members or a trusted friend. Having family members and friends know your itinerary will help them contact you in case of an emergency at home. It is also a good idea to keep copies of your identification papers, travelers check numbers, and a photocopy of your passport, at home.
One word about the passport – I always take mine with me, even when traveling within the United States. The reason I do that is that the passport provides an additional piece of information, and that is important in the event your wallet is lost or stolen while on vacation. Since it is impossible to board a plane these days without id, having an extra form of id with you can make your life a lot easier.
It is also important to make several copies of your important travel documents, including flight reservations, hotel confirmations, rental car receipts, etc. Put each copy in a different place - one or two in different parts of the suitcase or backpack, one in your back pocket, one in your purse or carry-on, etc. Also record important phone numbers in the address book of your cell phone for easy access.
It is also important to carry basic medical information, such as your blood type, allergy information and information about medications you are taking, with you while on vacation. It is also important to carry your medications in your carry-on luggage or purse, and never to pack them in a checked suitcase.
Travel and Flight Deals and Info
Great ways to save money on travel to Europe
Europe can either be one of the most expensive destinations in the world, or one of the least costly, depending on what you do, where you eat, where you stay and how you get around. Europe is a hit with budget travelers and the well heeled alike, but this article focuses on helping the former get the very most from their travel dollar.
The goal of budget travel is not merely to spend as little as possible. The true goal of the budget traveler is to get the most value out of his or her travel budget, and to focus those limited funds on the things that mean the most to them. Often this means finding cheap lodging in order to enjoy a four star dinner at the finest restaurant in Paris. For others, it could mean buying food at the local grocery and cooking your own dinner, so that you can splurge on a night at the opera or the ballet.
Listed below are some of our all time favorite tips for saving money on a vacation in Europe (or anywhere else for that matter):
Ø Eat where the locals eat. Eating with the local people instead of the tourists is a great way to save money and enjoy some of the finest cuisine. The restaurants favored by local residents tend to be those that provide the best meals at the lowest prices.
Ø For a quick and economical breakfast, pick up a roll, some fresh cold cuts and a piece of fruit from the local market. Then enjoy a delicious sandwich and a cup of coffee in the local park.
Ø When eating out, choose the fixed price menu and the house wine for the best value. Most restaurants offer two or three choices on their fixed price menu, and these dishes are often a great way to sample the local cuisine.
Ø Sleep cheap on the train. Overnight trains are a great way to both get from place to place and sleep cheaply. Be sure to bring a meal, bottle of water and snack along with you. You will save money by not visiting the dining car, and you will enjoy some great food as well.
Ø Take lots of pictures and enjoy the people you meet on the road. Take pictures not only of local tourist attractions but of the friends you meet along the way. If using a film camera, it is best to bring the undeveloped rolls back with you and have them developed once you get back home, since film developing in tourist locations is usually quite costly. And of course a digital camera offers a great and cost effective alternative, and you can choose to print only the best shots.
Ø Try emailing your postcards. Find a website that offers some great photographs of local attractions, or upload your own from your digital camera. Use these shots to send some great personalized email postcards to family and friends back home.
Ø Try to learn at least a bit of the local language. If you know the language, or at least the names of the currency, it will be easier, and often cheaper, to buy the things you need.
Ø When making large purchases, it is always best to use a credit card. Not only will your cash last longer, but credit cards provide the best exchange rates.
Ø Get cash through an ATM instead of at currency exchange kiosks and hotels. Like credit cards, ATM cash transactions provide the best exchange rates, and you will avoid the sometimes costly fees charged by hotels and currency services.
Ø Take advantage of all the discounts you are entitled to. Many locations provide student discounts, senior discounts, etc. If you are not sure about discounts, always be sure to ask.
Ø Plan your vacation budget wisely. There are some excellent, and very inexpensive mementos of your trip, such as stickers, patches or postcards. For more expensive purchases, remember that the further you venture from the tourist attraction, the less expensive the souvenirs will become.
Ø Tour the city with the locals. A bus pass or subway token is a great way to meet the local people and see the sights. The public transportation service of most European cities is remarkably efficient, clean, safe and easy to navigate. It is not necessary to speak the local language to navigate on the subway or the bus system of most cities.
European travel on a budget
When it comes to traveling across Europe, many people assume that such an adventure is beyond their modest means. However, the legions of college students and others on shoestring budgets that descend on Europe every summer undermine this assumption. If these budget travelers can make Europe affordable, there is no reason you cannot as well.
Europe is actually quite a travel bargain in many ways, and if you choose your lodging, meals and transportation carefully a vacation in Europe can actually cost much less than a week in some of the most expensive cities in the United States.
One of the primary considerations of enjoying Europe on a budget is how to get around. When it comes to getting around, there are basically three choices – the bus, the train and air travel. Renting a car is often impractical in Europe, with the different types of roads, different laws and road signs in a myriad of unfamiliar languages.
Europe’s intercity bus lines offer passes, similar to rail passes, that can be purchased for various lengths of time and which provide for unlimited travel during those times. Single city to city bus tickets are often quite reasonable as well.
The main disadvantage of the bus system in Europe is that it is slow compared to rail travel and air travel. In addition, there is limited legroom on most buses, few opportunities to stand up and stretch, and some buses lack on board toilet facilities.
For many people, the extra convenience of the train more than justifies the difference in price, and train passes are still quite affordable for students and others on a budget. In addition to being faster, trains provide such amenities as toilets, and also sleeping quarters on overnight trains. Be aware, however, that there is often an extra charge for sleeping cars and other first class accommodations, even for rail pass holders.
One option that is overlooked by many budget travelers is that of city to city air travel. In Europe, however, air travel is actually quite a cost effective alternative to train and even bus travel. There are a number of excellent low cost air carriers all around Europe, and the fares they charge are often comparable to, and in some cases even lower than, train tickets between the same cities.
No matter how you get around, you will need a clean and safe place to stay once you reach your destination. There are a number of excellent low cost lodging options in Europe, ranging from hostels to hotels to bed and breakfasts. In most cases, hostels will be the least expensive option, but for groups of two, three or more it may be just as cheap, or even cheaper, to rent a small room at a budget hotel instead.
For those who arrive at their destination without reservations, there are hotel booking services available at most major train stations and airports. These booking services can usually find you a place to stay, even if the city is very crowded. For this service, they usually charge a small fee, either a set fee or a percentage of the room charge.
Budget travel – is hosteling right for you?
Hosteling was once thought of as the exclusive province of college kids traveling through Europe for the first time. However, hosteling has grow to include all ages, and all types of people. When traveling on a budget, staying at a hostel can be a great experience for the traveler with a sense of adventure.
Of course, hostel travel is not for everyone, and some travelers would rather spend extra money for solo accommodations. In general, hostel traveling is best suited to solo travelers, or to groups of young people traveling together. Hostel stays are generally not recommended for families traveling with young children, and many hostels do not accept children under a certain age.
Most hostels are set up as dormitory style rooms, with a number of bunk beds arranged throughout the room. The number of bunk beds in a single room varies, with the average from four to ten bunks per room. Each traveler is assigned a specific bunk upon check-in.
Almost all hostels in the United States divide their accommodations according to gender, with the female guests in one block of rooms and the male guests in another. In multi-floor hostels, each gender is often assigned a specific floor or group of floors.
In many European locations and elsewhere around the world, however, many hostel rooms have mixed genders sharing a room. If this is a concern, be sure to ask about it. I, as a man traveling alone, have personally never encountered a problem with these arrangements, and I have stayed in hostels throughout Europe, including Rome, London and Amsterdam. Some visitors, however, are surprised at these arrangements.
The bathroom accommodations at hostels vary as well, with some rooms containing a shared bathroom and shower, while other hostels will have shower and bathroom facilities located in the hallway. If this is an important consideration, you should make sure to ask about bathroom facilities when making the reservation.
And reservations are becoming increasingly important at hostels, especially during the summer months in popular locations. Where once it was common for travelers simply to drop by the hostel and get a bed, it is now not at all unusual for hostels in popular tourist destinations to be booked solid for months.
The main appeal of staying at hostels, of course, is the price. The nightly rate for a hostel rarely rises above $25 or $30 per night, with most hostel accommodations costing far less. With the average hotel room hovering around $100 to $150 in many locations, it is easy to see why hostels are becoming so popular.
In addition, the staff at most hostels are extremely accommodating and knowledgeable about the local area. Unlike many staff members of some luxury hotels, who travel in from the suburbs and rarely see the city in which the live, hostel staff tend to live in their city, and they have an intimate knowledge of the local attractions, including which attractions are can’t miss and which ones are a waste of money.
In addition, hostels often have access to discounts and coupons for local area attractions and restaurants, and they can provide valuable information on the best, lowest priced restaurants in the area.
While staying at a hostel is not for everyone, and the local hostel will never be mistaken for a Ritz Carlton, hostels can be wonderful budget accommodations for the budget minded traveler. After all, the goal of travel is to get out and see the world, and hostel travel lets you spend your limited travel dollars doing just that.
Lightweight backpacking for the budget traveler
When most people hear the term budget travel, they often think first of the hordes of young backpackers who traverse Europe on shoestring budgets each summer. This image is very true, and backpacking is one of the best ways to see the most sights, in the shortest amount of time and for the smallest amount of money.
Backpacking is one of the very best ways to travel light, and traveling light often allows you to travel more cheaply. Learning how to back your backpack the right way and to pack as lightly as possible, is an important skill, whether you are trekking through Europe for a month or just enjoying a weekend in the country.
The first thing is to start with a lightweight but well built backpack that is able to withstand the rigors of travel. A quality backpack should have heavy zippers, pockets and flaps that close easily and stay closed, and lots of easy accessible compartments. Buying a backpack with a lock can be important as well, particularly if your backpack will be out of sight often, such as when you are on a crowded train or staying at a hotel or hostel.
Another good alternative for many backpackers and other budget traveler is to buy a backpack that has wheels. The upside of such a design, of course, is that the backpack will be easy to wheel from place to place, and will function much like a rolling carryon suitcase, but without the bulk.
The downside of the rolling backpack, however, is that such backpacks are considerably heavier when you do have to use them as backpacks. Whether or not a backpack on wheels is right for you will depend on your style of travel and your personal preferences.
Of course what you put in your backpack is just as important as the backpack itself. It is important to pack wisely when planning for your backpack adventure. A good approach is to pack only a few quality and versatile items of clothing and combine them in new ways for variety. Packing a few accessories, such as scarves, ties and jewelry, are a great way to make the clothes you pack go further. They take up little room in the backpack, and they can provide new ways to wear the same clothes.
It is also important to pack travel size toiletry items into your backpack. Shampoos, conditioners, deodorants, toothpaste and even toothbrushes all come in small travel sizes, so be sure to gather these travel size items for your trip. These travel size items are a great way to keep the weight of your backpack to a minimum.
It is also important to buy a good pair of comfortable walking shoes, since you will be wearing them for a long time. Shoes take up a great deal of space in a suitcase or backpack, so stick with one pair of good shoes, and use the rest of your backpack for clothes and other items.
One good rule of thumb when deciding what to pack and what to leave at home is to pack those items that are not easily or cheaply purchased at your destination, and leave behind those items you can easily purchase once you arrive.
One important consideration for those who wear glasses is to pack an extra pair of eyeglasses. The importance of this tip will depend on the strength of your prescription and how important your glasses are go getting around. Most people who wear glasses have at least one extra pair. Investing in a hard sided case and packing it in your backpack could potentially save you a lot of money and trouble if you lose or break your glasses.
Enjoying a budget vacation through resale timeshares
Timeshares can be one of the most valuable resources for the budget minded traveler, but they are also one of the most frequently regretted purchases. Many people get roped into buying overpriced timeshare units through high pressure sales tactics, or they are lured into expensive properties by the promise of a “free” vacation.
No matter what the reason, there are a great many unwanted timeshares on the market at any given time. What that means for the budget travel is the opportunity to pick up some great timeshare properties at prices that are a fraction of the original price.
There are a number of places to look for resale timeshares, including real estate agents, bulletin boards, newspaper classified and even online auctions. Any of these places can be a great place to pick up a quality timeshare at a budget price, but it is important to shop around, and to understand exactly what you are getting before making your purchase.
One of the keys to buying a quality time share at a good price is to buy only in high demand areas, or in areas that are growing in popularity. Remember that a timeshare is primarily a piece of real estate, and we all know that the three most important factors for real estate are location, location and location.
Examples of areas in high demand include places like Hawaii, the California coastline, the coast of Florida, Orlando, Cancun, Myrtle Beach, and the Caribbean.
It is also important to know the maintenance fees of the properties you are considering. The maintenance fees are a large part of any timeshare ownership, and one of the primary reasons that current owners decide to dump their properties. It is important to avoid properties that have very high maintenance fees unless you can buy it at an unbeatable price.
It is always important to get the best price on any timeshare property you buy. It is also important to read any timeshare resale contracts carefully, and perhaps even have a qualified lawyer review the paperwork, before you buy. Remember that a timeshare is a real estate transaction, whether you are buying a brand new unit or a resale.
Of course, it is also vital to make sure that buying a timeshare is the right move for you. A timeshare can be an excellent deal for the budget minded traveler, but it is not right for every traveler. Timeshares are generally suited to those who wish to travel to the same location every year. Even though many people emphasize the exchangeability of timeshare resorts, the fact is that most timeshare owners spend the majority of their time at their home resort.
Of course, the exchangeability of the timeshare property will be enhanced if you take the advice of buying a unit in a high demand area. For instance, a time share unit in a property next door to Disneyland will obviously be easier to exchange than one a hundred miles away.
Mayan Ruins in Tikal, Guatamala
Travel cheap in Latin America
One of the biggest considerations when it comes to budget travel is where to vacation. Some vacation destinations are much less costly than others, so travelers on a budget need to choose their vacation spots carefully. One of the most exciting, and least expensive, travel destinations for the budget traveler is the countries of Central and South America.
Going where your dollars go farther is one of the cardinal rules of budget travel, and U.S. dollars are highly sought after, and incredibly valuable, in a number of Latin American countries. For instance, for the same budget, you could spend a week at one of those priciest Caribbean resorts, or several months in many fascinating parts of Central and South America.
Budget travel in Latin America has many advantages far beyond the monetary savings. For instance, some of the most amazing and unforgettable sights just happen to be located in some of the world’s least expensive countries. These easy to afford, hard to forget sights include the Incan wonders of Machu Picchu in Peru and the wonderful Mayan ruins scattered throughout some of the least costly parts of Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. A budget Latin American vacation can include such exciting adventures as exploring an unspoiled rainforest, white water rafting down some of the world’s most beautiful rivers, climbing active and extinct volcanoes, and diving off some of the world’s most spectacular coral reefs.
The key to enjoying all this adventure while staying within your budget is to shun the standard tourist sights, and to take your time when traveling around. By doing this, not only will you save money, but you will make contact with real people, and make some wonderful memories. While in Cancun you may meet only other tourists, in the wilds of Peru you will meet all kinds of people, from peasant coffee farmers to experienced mountain guides and white water raft guides.
Visiting an affordable country means you will enjoy wonderful meals, stay in unique and interesting places, and meet wonderful people you will never forget, all for far less than you would spend at home.
When visiting Latin America, it is important to take your time, not simply because there is so much to see, but also because the pace of life there is slower and more relaxed. And after all, relaxation is what a vacation should be all about. And the best thing is, your vacation budget can last for many months in this most affordable of destinations.
Taking it slow will allow you to spend time with and get acquainted with some of the most fascinating people you will ever meet. Getting the perspective of the local population and learning from their varied experience, is one of the best parts of travel, no matter what your budget. Travel provides a perspective and a view of your place in the world that nothing else can, and that is what makes it so uniquely valuable and exciting.
Traveling throughout Central and South America is also a great way to boost the local economies, and help the lives of the wonderful people who live there. Spending time in a small village, living with a local family in a small guest house, may well pay that family’s bills for weeks, help send their children to school, and help them enjoy a brighter future. Instead of spending your money in a large tourist resort, try stepping off the beaten path for a couple of weeks or months.
Not only will you save significant sums of money, but you will help people who need the money. The beauty of budget travel in Latin America is that your money goes directly to the people who need it, instead of being filtered through resort owners, tour operators and hotel managers.
Budget adventure travel
Adventure travel is one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry, but it is often difficult to find good bargains when booking adventure travel. With so many people itching to go on the adventure of a lifetime, the prices in those travel brochures can lead you to believe that adventure travel is beyond your means.
That does not have to be the case, however. The key to affordable adventure travel is to book directly from the providers of the adventure, instead of going through multiple layers of travel agents, tour operators and tour guides.
Booking a tour directly has many benefits besides monetary ones, including meeting wonderful local people and enjoying the local culture. Often the best way to enjoy a vacation on a budget is to book low cost airfare to the destination of your choice, take the local bus into town, and start asking around about the best adventure guides in town. Local tour operators know the area, they know how to please their clientele, and best of all they are inexpensive. U.S. currency goes quite a long way in many exotic locations in Africa, Asia and elsewhere, so dealing with local tour guides is the best way to make your adventure travel dollar stretch even further.
Many inexperienced adventure travelers are unsure how they can possibly book an adventure tour on their own. For one thing, there is often a language barrier in far off locations, and you may be many thousands of miles from home in an unfamiliar location.
What these first time travelers often don’t realize, however, is that finding a tour operator is often the easiest part of the journey. In many cases, the tour operators will find you as soon as you land, without you having to seek them out. And in most places, especially those frequented by American tourists, the guides will speak at least a little bit of English. Listed below are some of the best tips for booking your own budget travel adventure.
Ø Be sure to ask around before you leave. Get opinions from other travelers who have done the adventure you plan on.
Ø Refer to your guidebook for references. Guidebook writers are often quite knowledgeable about which tour operators are good and which are more questionable.
Ø Check on the message boards, both virtual and real. Real message boards are available at hostels and local guest houses, and they can provide excellent information on local tours and tour operators. The staff at local hostels can also provide excellent information about adventure travel. And internet message boards devoted to travel can be great sources of information, both before you leave home and after you arrive in your far off location.
Ø Interview your potential trip leaders carefully. Ask lots of open ended and probing questions about the equipment used, the experience level of the guides, the lodging the food, and what is and is not included. Be sure to negotiate everything in advance, since you will have little leverage once the adventure trip has begun.
Ø Finally, if your crew did a great job, be sure to tip them generously after the tour has come to an end. Good tour operators rely on these tips to supplement their often meager wages, and this helps to keep the best tour guides in business and the best tour operators in operation.
Tips for a vacation that is more fun and less expensive
Just about everyone loves to travel, and travel is one of the most intriguing and fun activities one can engage in. Travel provides the remarkable ability to see the world from a whole new perspective, and I for one believe that if people traveled more outside their country there would be far less war and trouble in the world.
When asked why they do not travel, one of the most frequently cited reasons is lack of money. Lack of funds, however, does not need to be a barrier to traveling the world. Obviously if you’re flat broke you may not be able to travel as you wish, but most people have at least some disposable income, and it can be surprisingly inexpensive to travel to many places.
One of the primary considerations for any budget minded traveler is where to stay. Fortunately, there are many budget friendly options when it comes to putting a roof over your head for the night. For solo travelers, hostels can provide, clean safe accommodations and the chance to meet and interact with people from all over the world. Best of all, the prices are almost impossible to beat. For instance, most hostels in major U.S. cities range from $20 to $30 a night, when a hotel room would set you back a cool $150-$200 or even more.
In Europe, Asia, Africa and South America, hostel accommodations are even cheaper, with many charging the equivalent of $5 a night or even less. The key is to check the internet and see what is available in your destination. Many hostels even provide online booking, so you can arrive with your lodging issues already taken care of.
For couples, a budget hotel can be a great choice. There are many such hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts, located all around the world. Again, many of them are on the internet, and like hostels many can be booked online before you leave home.
Another great way to save money while still having a great vacation is to use the public transportation system. Most destinations in Europe, and many in the United States and Canada as well, have excellent, fast, reliable, and cheap public transportation systems. You can probably by a weekly bus pass for less than what you would pay to rent a car for a single day. And public transportation also frees you from the hassles of parking the car, keeping it gassed up and learning your way around.
Another important key to traveling cheap is traveling light. Trekking around Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, or the Americas does not require a mountain of luggage. If you are unsure whether to pack it, chances are it is best left at home. It is best to take a couple of sturdy and versatile outfits, and a good pair of walking shoes, and leave the rest at home.
Getting the best airfare, along with finding the cheapest place to stay, is one of the essential cornerstones of successful budget travel. There are a number of strategies for getting the best deal on airfare, from using credit cards to rack up frequent flier miles, to using discount airlines, to traveling in the off or shoulder season. The strategy that is best for you depends on your individual needs, and on the location you choose.
Keeping the money you do have for travel safe and secure is always a concern when traveling. Most seasoned travelers have learned to use a hidden money belt to carry passports, plane tickets and the majority of their cash. Using an in room safe is also a good idea. It is generally best to use credit cards for major purchases, and keep only a small amount of cash on hand for incidental purchases. Not only do credit cards provide the best exchange rates, but you are not liable for fraudulent purchases as long as you report the card stolen in a timely fashion.
Travel does not have to be out of reach, even for the most budget minded traveler. The key is to shop wisely, focus on your priorities and get the most out of the money you do spend.
Fun Budget Vacations
Enjoy your honeymoon with a low cost Mediterranean cruise
A Mediterranean cruise is a dream honeymoon for many a couple, but many couples simply assume that such a dream is beyond their means. It is easy to see why people think this, especially since the cost of the wedding itself today is so high. Many couples feel there is simply not enough money left for a great honeymoon.
If a luxurious Mediterranean cruise is your dream, do not despair. Such a cruise may be more affordable than you think. For one thing, there are so many cruise lines and so many cruise ships vying for the lucrative honeymoon market, and that competition helps to lower prices. By shopping around, you can make your first cruise as husband and wife one you will always remember.
There are many travel related web sites that focus on travel and cruises to the Mediterranean, and they frequently offer discounted packages. It is important to search often, however, as these great deals are often snapped up quickly. It is important to be persistent to get the best deal.
After you have found the best deal on a low cost Mediterranean cruise, be sure to book it as soon as you can. There are many different packages available for Mediterranean cruises, so be sure to shop around to find the one that suits you best. There are a number of cruise lines and cruise ships that cater to honeymooners, and these ships often provide the most memorable, and most romantic, experiences.
In addition, these honeymoon themed cruise lines are often very good at providing some of the best deals to newlyweds. This is one area where you may want to consult a quality travel agent. Travel agents are often quite good at sniffing out deals on Mediterranean cruises for honeymoons, so be sure to let the travel agent know when you want to go and where you want to go.
If you can travel in the off season, or in the shoulder season, you may be able to spend a lot less on your Mediterranean cruise. The prices on these cruises often drop substantially after the high season has ended, so be sure to check for good deals in the off season.
It is important to start shopping early to book a honeymoon cruise, however. Just as the wedding takes lots of advance planning, so too with the honeymoon, particularly if your dream is a cruise to a popular destination like the Caribbean. By shopping around on the internet, however, shopping early and being persistent, you can probably score a much better deal than you ever imagined on the trip of a lifetime.