True Budget Travel

I can’t tell you how often I hear from friends and acquain­tances, “You are so lucky. I wish I could travel as much as you do. If only I had the money!”

Trav­el­ing does not have to be expen­sive. How­ever I think most peo­ple are unaware of how many less-expensive options there are avail­able to us these days.

Per­son­ally, I’m not “cheap.” I have expen­sive tastes. My grand­mother used to say to me that I have cham­pagne tastes on a beer bud­get. When I can take advan­tage of the fancy stuff, I do. But that’s not real­ity. Real­ity is that I’m on a tight bud­get like most people.

How does one travel and yet not spend a lot of money? It can take a bit of time, research and energy, but fol­low­ing these tips can sure help you spread your money out — and enjoy more time on your trip, as well as sav­ing you enough to take trips more often!

I’m actu­ally in Colom­bia right now for 10 days. I got my ticket (busi­ness class) using miles from my credit card. I ended up spend­ing less than $100 for the few miles I was short, as well as the taxes. When­ever pos­si­ble, use a credit card that allows you to earn miles for each pur­chase. Then under­stand your ben­e­fits — and take advan­tage of them. You’re already spend­ing the money. Why not earn miles for free travel at the same time — with no extra cost? You can com­pare air­line fre­quent flier pro­grams using a very use­ful USA Today com­par­i­son tool.

The apart­ment I’m rent­ing I was able to find using airbnb. It’s a web­site where aver­age every­day peo­ple any­where around the world can list a room in their house, their apart­ment, or their whole house for rent. I was able to find a great, new apart­ment in Cali in a good neigh­bor­hood with an out­door patio, 24-hour secu­rity guard and a rooftop deck for only $25 per night.

Also becom­ing more pop­u­lar is Couch­Surf­ing. Despite its funny name, it’s an absolutely amaz­ing con­cept. Basi­cally, when you join Couch­Surf­ing, you’re join­ing a com­mu­nity and a cul­ture. You are able to tap into a great group of peo­ple instan­ta­neously any­where in the world.

Couch­Surfers” cre­ate pro­files and either offer to host guests in their home for free, or they offer to “hang out with” or give advice to trav­el­ers who will be in their area. Con­versely, one can search for a free place to stay using this web­site. Because there are groups and sub-groups, one can eas­ily find oth­ers who share sim­i­lar inter­ests or lifestyles. I have both Couch­Surfed — and hosted Couch­Surfers and have enjoyed both immensely.

I’m not sure how to explain this, but I find that all the peo­ple I’ve encoun­tered are very sim­i­lar in that they are respect­ful, kind, gen­er­ous and happy to spend time get­ting to know new peo­ple and places. For those who do not feel com­fort­able with the idea, I still strongly sug­gest get­ting to know peo­ple online before trav­el­ing to an area. Tips from locals are invaluable.

Depend­ing on your line of work and your inter­ests, you might also find there are grants avail­able to you, which would pay for all your travel expenses. I’m the Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of a non­profit orga­ni­za­tion in Costa Rica, Trop­i­cal Adven­tures Foun­da­tion. We run vol­un­teer pro­grams through­out the coun­try. I’ve seen a vari­ety of peo­ple, such as teach­ers, get their entire trip paid for through grants. It may be wise to spend some time research­ing this as well.

Shop­ping for spe­cials can be time-consuming online. There are so many web­sites out there. How­ever there are some web­sites that are worth mentioning:

  • Smarter­Travel has great Deal Alerts, as well as Trip Ideas and price com­par­i­son tools.
  • Air­fare­watch­dog is an indis­pens­able tool when search­ing for air­fare. You can cre­ate Fare Alerts which will let you know auto­mat­i­cally when there are spe­cials to a cer­tain city, from a cer­tain city, between spe­cific cities — and more. Why spend time search­ing for hours when you can auto­mate the task?

The bot­tom line is that trav­el­ing on a bud­get is sort of like cut­ting coupons for gro­ceries. One has to be con­scious of what they want, and spend some time search­ing for how to get what they want for less. I’ve always believed that where there’s a will, there’s a way! Happy Trav­els!

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