Sunday, March 9, 2014
Travelling On The Cheap
1. If you are flying take your own set of earphones. Some airlines give them out free of charge to access entertainment on the seat back in front of you but most charge. No sense in paying for something you likely already own, and that are far superior. Consider that even dollar store ear phones are likely better quality than the ones the airlines charge for.
2. Pack some snacks and entertainment material like books or electronic devices. Although most airlines take care of this once on-board often you will have to wait for hours well after you have cleared security before you board your aircraft. Airport food is expensive, as are books and magazines. No need to be spending your hard earned travel money before you even reach your destination. Also consider keeping chargers in your carry-on as many airports offer free charging stations.
3. Don't over-pack. Make sure there is some room in your bags for souvenirs. Some airlines charge for the first bag. Find out restrictions ahead of time and plan accordingly. Checkout my blogger friend SonyaAnn's packing for Vegas without paying for luggage at A Mom, Money and More. Very funny lady! Most International flights allow for at least one piece of free luggage, but ensure your weight is not over or you will just be paying more at the airport. This is not the time to be packing a pair of shoes for every day of your trip. Don't ever spend tons of money on suitcases. The airlines don't care and will wreck the cheap ones just as quickly as the expensive ones.
4. Research how to get to and from all the airports well before hand. If you must park there are usually discount coupons available online. Often you can get a shuttle much cheaper than a cab. Sometimes in certain destinations like New York City and Amsterdam you can take public transportation to get close to your hotel straight from the airport.
5. Know your limits with regard to accommodation. I am not a hosteler nor do I enjoy Bed and Breakfasts. Neither makes me or hubby happy or comfortable, therefore we may spend more on our accommodation than others do. I admire those that can travel that way but still prefer to stay in hotels, and I think you know by now that I am certainly not a snob. We like our own bathroom and plenty of privacy and I have a hard time eating breakfast with total strangers. I rely on Tripadvisor.com to find the top rated moderately priced hotels in each destination. A case in point - most hotels in Amsterdam are extremely expensive, as are the decent Bed and Breakfasts. By staying on a short walk from the outer canal ring we are paying approximately $30-50 CAD per night lower. Our hotel is still in the top 25 as chosen by readers of Trip Advisor based on their personal experiences. We are not getting a nondescript hotel but a small 14 room family run hotel with attached restaurant. Our included breakfast is raved about, unlike many of the high priced chain hotels. By booking several months ago directly with the hotel we locked in a low price which for our dates prices are now much higher. I have been monitoring them, as if I happened to find a better deal, we still have the option of canceling as long as we do so before their required deadline. I also regularly use Expedia.com, Hotels.com, and Bookings.com to price compare but prefer to book directly with a hotel if they offer similar or lower rates. The hotel I have booked in Lisbon reserves their best rooms for those who book directly, on the best floors. The rates were similar to those found on Expedia but I booked directly with the hotel thus guaranteeing a higher floor in the hotel, which is important to me to get away from street level noise (plus we take earplugs which any traveler should have just in case). If you are thinking of staying more than a week somewhere consider renting an apartment as it may be cheaper. Check out Air BnB for private rentals. Travel agents will never recommend accommodation that doesn't pay them commissions. This is a fact and something to keep in mind. There may be perfectly good places to stay that won't be recommended to you. Do your own research - hey, its your money!
6. If you plan to take day trips research out the options and prices in advance, even if you don't book them in advance. That way you will be armed with the appropriate price ranges and will not get ripped off. I have booked two small van tours so we can go to places in Portugal that we could not otherwise travel to. On the second tour as it is a very small group they have agreed to allow us to bring our luggage for the day and drop us off at a completely different hotel in a nearby town at the end. This would have cost an estimated 55 Euro to get between the two hotels. By the tour company agreeing to do this at no additional cost we are saving that 55 Euro (approximately $88 CAD). I found the tour company on Trip Advisor as well. Based on their sterling reputation I believe things will go smoothly as they certainly corresponded easily and quickly by email to my requests.
7. Research inexpensive eating options. Renting locations with kitchen facilities is not always the cheapest option, which in our case it is not. Our hotels all include breakfast and we will snack our way through markets for lunch but will need someplace to eat reasonably each dinner. Two of our three hotels on our upcoming trip will have small fridges which we intend to use for snacks (**and beer and wine, a corkscrew is already in the travel drawer ready to be packed). Portugal is much cheaper than Amsterdam but still, you can easily spend a lot on eating out. Through research I have found that it is common practice for restaurants in Portugal to bring things like bread, olives and cheese to your table unrequested. They may appear to be on the house but when you get the bill you will have a bad shock as everything you use will be added to the final tab. Knowing in advance these things will relieve the added stress as well as be easier on the pocketbook. You can simply refuse the items if you wish as they are brought to your table. Standard tipping in Portuguese restaurants is 10%. In some countries tips are added to the final bill before they get to your table. In Canada it is standard to tip 15%, anything less is a bit insulting unless you received poor service. Knowing these kind of things can help you budget for your holiday. In Amsterdam our more inexpensive eating options are likely in bars. We don't tend to go for really expensive meals out at home, so why would we on holiday. If fine dining out is really your thing then budget accordingly and do your research ahead of time so you don't spend big bucks in restaurants that don't have good reputations. Most local restaurants that do not cater to tourists may be cheaper options but may also not speak your language. Consider researching ahead of time translation for basic food groups and arm yourself with this information. Try local wine and beers - they are always cheapest. This may also prevent you from eating something you do not wish to eat. I was researching a bar near our hotel in Amsterdam and realized their stew featured horse meat, which is common in Europe but not in North America. I do not want to eat horse by mistake (or on purpose - ever). Google Translate is a very handy tool in this regard.
8. Research your transport options. We are choosing not to rent a vehicle as Portugal has an excellent public transportation system of buses and trains at very reasonable costs. You may not need to take any cabs on your holiday. I expect only one, on arrival in Portugal after travelling for 16 hours. This is a splurge. We could get a shuttle for only a few Euros cheaper but in this case we likely will get a cab instead, and cabs are relatively inexpensive in Portugal (half what they are in Amsterdam). I have also found out that in Portugal it is common practice to charge the fare plus a Euro or two for each bag. This does not occur in Canada. In most countries cabbies will quote a fare to you before you get in, for instance in Mexico, in fact you are a bit crazy not to lock in the price before you enter the cab. Find out if that is common in the country you are travelling to. In Canada you pay whatever the meter says as cabbies are not allowed to quote flat rates, with exception of most have a set rate to and from the airport. In Amsterdam we will be taking airport shuttles as the train station from the airport is not close to our hotel. We intend on walking a lot on this trip as wandering is often our most favorite part of the trip. Ensure to also take great walking shoes as no one wants blisters on holiday.
9. Buy things like electrical converters and travel guides well in advance as if you have to purchase them at the last minute or at the airport you will be paying through the nose. I have an older converter and we ordered another online (free using amazon.ca GCs from swagbucks) so that we can plug in our ipad and laptop. Yes, we have to travel with those items for our business. We can partially disconnect but not completely so have also ensured that good WIFI is available wherever we stay. This does not mean that I will be blogging on holiday as I hope to be too busy doing fun things.
10. Try and stay away from buying things on your holiday with the name of the place you went to. I know, this hard to avoid as you want a remembrance from somewhere you went, but a year or two down the road it will be in your next garage sale. If you buy souvenirs, try and make sure they are useful. *Hubby still insists on buying T-shirts everywhere we go, so I may be alone on this one. At least he does actually wear them when we get home. Check out this post on old souvenirs found at the thrift tore by The Non-Consumer Advocate for a good laugh.
11. Buy appropriate insurance, especially medical. Only the unprepared travel without out of country medical insurance then open themselves up to huge liabilities if something bad happens.
There are a zillion more tips but hopefully, if you are still reading you got something from this post. Cheers!