Amazing, affordable travel – What is this?! An oxymoron? How can travel be affordable?
I am a mom of two and a wife to a frugal, frugal man, to put it politely, yet we have been all over the world! Prague, Italy, Spain, Egypt, Russia, Turkey, and Greece, to name a few! My friends always ask me, “Geez, how do you afford to travel like that?!”
My job, every year, is to plan our summer travel plans. I have to make it fun, educational, relaxing, luxurious, and within a strict budget! So, where can you go on tight budget that is also affordable? Your mom’s house again? Luckily, my mom lives in the Florida Keys, so we love to stay with my mom, but if your mom does not live in a vacation spot, then you should keep reading!
Well, I am here to share a few tips to help you travel like a rock star without breaking the bank. And don’t worry – I’m not going to advise you to couch surf, or house sit, or pay for everything with a credit card for the next 12 months so you can get some frequent flyer miles! Not that there is anything wrong with these things; I know many people who travel this way; it’s just not the right fit for my family. Just do a little research, plan ahead, and negotiate!
First, make a budget! How much do you want to spend? How much can you afford to spend? How much can you save by the date of your trip? Now that you have a budget, where do you want to go? When do you want to go?
Planning ahead is a must. I often book tickets and accommodations 6-12 months in advance.
I have so many places I want to visit, I often do what I call “The backwards search!” I go where the sales are! I often go to websites like Kayak, Expedia, and Skyscanner to look at what is on sale. Usually, they have a list of places that are on sale. Hey, a beach, blue water, and white sand are good for me in any country! This is my starting point. I usually take a few options. For example, last summer I looked up Spain, Portugal, and Greece. I’m not picky! In the USA, I would look up Florida, Mexico, and California, for example. I compared where I can get the cheapest flights in and out of the destination. Then, I compare all the airline prices and go to each airline site to see if I can get a better price.
I said it would be cheaper, but not without a little bit of work; however, when you are at your dream destination, it will all be worth it! Sometimes I do this type of research for a couple of days to ensure I can get the best flights because this is normally the least affordable part of your trip. Remember, I am married to the Scrooge, so I need cheap!
If you are going to the USA, it is best to fly on a large airline than find a small, local airline such as Southwest, Jet Blue, Fast Jet, Hawaiian Air, Jet Star, LAN, and West Jet, to name a few. If you are traveling to Europe, same advice! Fly east coast to London or Frankfurt (large hubs), then take a commuter flight through German Wings, Ryan Air, Baltic Air, Easy Jet, Tarom, Wizz Air, Norwegian Air, Icelandia Air, or Blue Air to your final destination. Each airline has specialty routes they fly for cheaper. I always google airlines in the country that I am traveling to in case they have a local, low-cost airline that flies in and out!
Then, be flexible – search different routes. For example, if we go to Spain we could fly to Seville, Malaga, or Faro, Portugal, and drive over the border; or, from my home in Denver, if I want to go to the Florida Keys, I could fly into Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or Naples. Always check surrounding airports! Expedia has a great tool to search airports close to your arrival city. Use it!
Also, fly during the week if you can. This can save hundreds on plane tickets. Watch out for baggage fess on all airlines, and pack accordingly. You don’t want your savings to go toward baggage!
Before you buy your cheap tickets, let’s take a look at where you are going to stay. I, normally, have all the prices written down and then look up accommodations so I can get a total price to tell the hubby. You know I have to sell him the whole package before he hands over the credit card!
Look for private housing. Why? Most of the time, they are half the price of a hotel, if you search! For example, if you want to spend a week in a three or four-star hotel in Malaga, mid-summer, you will pay around 1500.00 Euros for the week (for four people through Booking.com). Plus, you will most likely pay extra for washing clothes and internet in your room. You can rent an apartment for four people for anywhere from 359.00–750.00 euros for the week. That saves you half on accommodations! Normally, you have a fully-equipped kitchen, washing machine, and internet. These all cost extra when you stay at a hotel.
I always try to book a local apartment, or flat, with a kitchen. I like to have my coffee in the morning in my pjs! I like to feed my kids breakfast before we start the day! Coffee, from my coffee pot, costs about .10 cents a cup. In a hotel, or eating out, it will cost about four euros! On a one-week holiday, coffee and breakfast can really add up! I also go to the local grocery market on the first day and get essentials. Wine, coffee, more wine, oh, and food so we can cook most of our meals at home. We actually enjoy this because we can buy local products, like seafood or fish, at a fraction of the cost and cook them in our flat. This saves us hundreds and hundreds of dollars each vacation!
Think of this – feed the kids, put them to bed, then have some wine with your honey, eat your home-cooked meal on your own patio. No stress, no whining kids, no “Are we done yet?” when you are enjoying your bottle of wine, and best of all, no worrying about how much you are spending! You also don’t have to go very far to get some romantic, sexy time with your baby – the bedroom is very close. Oh la la!
**Hint – I always look for a washing machine as an amenity. This way, we can travel lighter and wash what we need. This is better than packing two suitcases of things that we never wear. I always look for free internet, too!
So, you ask, “Where do we find these nice little flats for half the price?” Like the airline tickets, I normally compare multiple places. I always look on Booking.com and use the apartment option. I search airbnb.com, vrbo.com, homeaway.com, and bookingbuddy.com; tripping.com will show you properties from all of the above to help consolidate the research for you!
Lastly, email the owner! Ask some questions about the property and wait for a response with a full price. This full price is normally not set in stone, especially if you are staying for more than a few days. Ask for a discount if you stay more than two nights. I always negotiate the price. If you don’t feel comfortable, tell them your husband won’t pay that much, but you want to come and stay in their flat! I call it, “Good guy, bad guy” that takes the heat off of you, and you are more likely to receive a lower price! We stayed beach-front last summer for the half the price that was listed on the website! I have negotiated everything from cars, to cruises, flats, and RVs – I am not too proud!
Just be persistent, flexible, and do your research. You will be amazed at the options that will pop up! Follow travel sites so when things do go on sale you can jump on them. Read travel blogs – you will find some amazing information on the internet.
Have wonderful travels, eat great food, and I hope you have plenty of wine!
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