Our style is sassy because it is a bit different, a bit bold, a bit adventurous, and as inexpensive as possible. Follow along for travel tips galore.
Trends are more and more toward adventure travel, which we love, but we like comfort too, so we don’t do hostels and backpacking. On the other hand, luxury travel is out too because we like to experience the local culture, and like the average person, we simply cannot afford luxury travel.
Still we travel somewhere every year, for at least a month, to one country, usually a little-known place. Our logic for spending a month or more in visiting that country is that if we are going to spend money on a flight, we want to truly experience everything about the country – it’s people, it’s culture, it’s food, it’s natural wonders, and it’s ambiance.
How do we choose little known places?
We choose countries that have less expensive food and accommodation.
Sometimes (don’t tell anyone), we check airfares to places that have had some unrest in recent years (not countries still in the midst of wars) or places that have had recent economic problems, and you wouldn’t believe how reasonable the prices can be for everything from airfare to hotels to food. Of course anywhere with recent terrorist activity is out of the question.
For an actual best time to buy, try Kayak’s Travel Hacker global pages. The Hopper app, hopper.com/research/tools, can also help with price predictions, and Rio2Rio is great for finding the easiest route to get from A to B whether by train, bus, plane, taxi, ferry, walking or driving.
If you are not sure which airline flies to the countries you have chosen, Wikipedia has lists of all commercial airlines serving most countries.
What time of the year do we travel?
Travelling in off-season or shoulder-season, when prices on flights and accommodation are down is a good plan.
How far ahead do we start planning?
We start to watch airfares six months ahead of time using Kayak, Google Travel, Airfarewatchdog, Bing Travel, Vayama, Which Budget, Facebook Travel, Twitter Travel and other flight search sites, and directly on the airlines sites as well. On most of these sites, you can set up alerts to be notified of flight deals, and there is also an option to be notified of flight sales to anywhere from your city.
What days of the week are best for flying?
Try to book flights to leave Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays because they are always less.
Is there a best time to book flights?
Book late at night or early in the morning when specials usually come up.
What about Air Miles/Points?
Air Miles or Points do add up. Using our air miles credit cards for everything, and paying them off every two weeks so we don’t pay interest is easy and doesn’t cost a penny. Even if you only get one short haul flight a year, it will reduce your long haul flight expenses. The PC Points Card is only good for groceries, but we have found their flight centre to be one of the best for prices and complicated flight routes.
How can we travel more, and spend less?
Prioritize. If we bought everything we wanted, we would never be able to afford to travel. Little things add up, so we don’t buy trinkets for the house, or digital tech toys unless they are practical for writing and photography. We don’t eat out often, but we certainly do once in a while. Of course we buy clothes, but not a lot – we can often buy better quality clothes for less wherever we travel. Taking trips locally is a money-eater because we find that they cost almost as much as a trip across the ocean. We drive older model cars, but keep them in good repair. You could have a garage sale, quit coffees, or cut-down on drinks – there are a hundred ways to save.
Every time we are tempted to buy something expensive, we have to ask ourselves if these items would give us more pleasure than a trip somewhere, and the answer is usually no.
What type of accommodation do we use?
We seldom stay in hotels, and we never book more than the first and last night’s stay. Because they offer much more room and amenities, but are often much less expensive, it is much cheaper to stay in apartments, time-share rentals, boutique hotels or something really unique, like a cabin at the top of the rain forest, or a tree house or some other unusual accommodation.
There are many websites that advertise vacation rentals by owner; one of our favourites is VRBO.com, https://www.vrbo.com/, Vacation Rentals By Owner. For hotels, if we need them, we like Booking, http://www.booking.com/. It has everything: hotels, homes, apartments and best of all, cancellations are usually free up to 24 hours before arrival date.
How do we get around a country inexpensively?
Renting a car gives us the freedom to explore and keep our highly-valued independence. Stopping when we like for that perfect picture is important to us, and eating when we want, where we want, stopping at a road side stand, or exploring that little side road is easy when you have your own transportation.
How do we find safe, comfortable and hospitable accommodation?
Since we are driving and we don’t know where we will end up each night, we can’t book ahead, and often end up in a small town where we find hotels priced much lower than in cities. These places are far more authentic than big city resorts. If you’re willing to take a risk and want to have a genuine and real experience of that country, than it most likely will be found in the smaller cities, towns, and villages. If we love a place, we’ll stay awhile, meeting locals and participating in local activities. Never has there been an issue with safety, and we almost always find that the people genuinely make us feel welcome.
How do we get free accommodations all over the world?
Hosting people from other countries in our home through international websites, such as globalfreeloaders.com, hospitalityclub.org, and other international free accommodation sites is just a generous thing to do, but ends up to be a fascinating cultural experience with bonuses you never even thought of. If we end up visiting their country, we might not only have accommodation, but hosts to tell us what places are worth seeing. It’s like a home stay people pay for, but without the cost for either party. House sitting or house swapping are two other great options.
Do we need to research a country before travel?
Yes, we put in the time to research a country thoroughly – from food, accommodation, off-the-beaten path areas, local customs, people, costs, cautions, language, must-dos, and transportation to maps. We use Lonely Planet, Frommers, International Living, Trip Advisor as a starting point, but honestly Travel Blogs have the best information for those little known local spots that are amazing and have no tourists. Blogs provide far more honest travel experiences on a local level.
Researching is time-consuming but also provides you with some exciting spots to visit that people have yet to discover on a mass tourism level, plus the more you research, the more excited you become to get there. Sometimes the anticipation is worth as much as the actual travel.
What is the one best way to save money?
The real way to save a ton of money is to stay away from the tourist groups, the fancy resort hotels and the fine restaurants. It’s great if you can afford that style of travelling, but we feel it should be more about experiencing the real culture rather than the fancy places you saw. Go where the locals go is probably the first and best suggestion.
Are there any Trip Planning Websites?
Yes, there are. You can try TripHobo, https://www.triphobo.com/, Tripit, https://www.tripit.com/, and Sygic, https://travel.sygic.com . Personally, we find these too formulaic and touristy for our style. If you want to get away from the crowds, you really need to do your own research and planning, but it’s not difficult. Just start with a Search for “blogs on the best inexpensive countries to visit”, and go from there or check 40 Cheapest Places to Travel. Start making notes, and pretty soon you will have your fabulous vacation all planned.
These are just a few of the best travel tips we use. If they are helpful, please let us know. If you have some travel tips of your own, please share them in the comments below. Our readers all want to know how to spend less and travel more!
In short, we use every possible trick to keep our travel costs down, so if there’s a bargain to be had, we’ll find it! (S is better at this than T.)
The World is in Your Hands
*This article was originally published on Travel To Little Known Places, June, 2013.
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