The Challenge to the Frugal Traveler


So much as been written since the $5 A Day series back in the early 1960s on how to travel within a small budget that it seems that there is a competition to see who can pay the least. Personally, I think I win the contest because in 1981 I was rehired (after being laid off) by a consulting firm to go to Germany for 6 months on a job that no one else wanted to do just because it was 6 months in Europe. (excuse me???? What exactly is the problem?) Being paid to go travel seems to me the best option.

Was I really that young then?

For any trip it is important to set a budget and then stay within it. However, as the planning for that trip commences, it may also be necessary to adjust the budget.  For example, on our last trip to London I searched for some time for lodging. I wanted to stay in one of several areas of town, more centrally located than my last two visits. I finally located a hotel, made the reservations, and then called (yeah for Skype!) to ask if we could drop our luggage a few days early, as our plans included one more side trip beyond London. They assured me it would be no problem (and also a daily charge).

We found the place and from the outside it was all I had hoped for. Once inside I realized that there had been some trickery with the photography. The hallway was very narrow. Walking down the stairs to the lower level reception area required carrying the suitcase in front of the body…there was no space to hold it normally. We dropped the bags and went on.

The discussion then ensued about what we thought actual room sizes could be. While at our next destination I spent a bit more time researching, upped the budget considerably and  assured availability to change the hotel reservation. I then called the first place and was told my deposit would not be reimbursed. So warned, I told them we would be there for one night and one night only. It was a good decision.

Here is a photo of our room.We paid considerable more money for the new place.

My point? Make sure your budget matches your comfort level and lifestyle. At our age, we are no longer going to backpack nor sleep on the ground. We prefer a certain level of comfort.

My next point is about activities at your destination. When I was small my parents took the family on an annual trip around the United States. We camped, first in a tent and then in a small van-size RV, and by the time I had stopped traveling with my parents I had been to 45 states. It was great. But there were places my sister and I wanted to go that were never explored because they cost money. We never went to Disneyland and my parents eschewed tourist traps. All those signs heading to Florida, for example, touting South of the Border, were to be ignored. I finally stopped there as an adult and you know what?  If you like to pay a lot for junk made in some third world country and greasy fried food, be my guest. My parents were right on that one!

However, I have learned that although I can read my guidebook in Paris to decide which of the many museums to visit or which metro line to use to head to the marche aux puces, the private guided tour of the back streets of the Marais helped me better understand the history and the culture of the modern city. Yes, a private tour costs more than a bus tour with 40 other people that drives by a multitude of sites. But the opportunity to ask questions, to slow down in certain areas of interest and walk on by a site that is not appealing is the very definite benefit of the service level of a private tour.

My point? Make sure your budget provides enough for you to explore in a manner that will help you understand where you are visiting.

If you are planning a huge trip, do it right!If you can’t afford the vacation you want, postpone it. Save more money.  Go the next year.  GO! Enjoy!

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3 Responses to The Challenge to the Frugal Traveler

  1. Dubrovniklady says:

    Good advice, however there are still tourists who believe they can visit destinations and spend only $5.00 per day.

  2. Well, a cup of coffee and a snack is a start…will give them a taste of some local food and drop a little into the local economy. But it is very shortsighted. I know a lot of people say they have spent their budget just to purchase the cruise and can not afford to take the kind of indepth tour a personal guide can offer. My suggestion to them is to make sure to budget that kind of visit in at least 2 or 3 of their port visits. To just visit cities without any understanding of what is being seen is not giving them as full an experience that perhaps another $100 or $200 would. My advice…plan the trip and postpone it to save more money to get the most bang for the buck.

  3. Gunta says:

    What strikes me is that different folks seem to have such different expectations for their vacations or trips. My family seemed to think trips were for bragging rights. They came back and filled albums of pictures with them standing in front of all the iconic symbols from places around the world. They could have saved a lot of money and stood in front of some posters. Then they enthused about the McDonalds they found in Japan. Jeeesh! Give me a break! 😦

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