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Tips For Affordable Travel, Part 1

October 8, 2014

imageDo you have a travel bucket list? I don’t yet, but I’m excited to start working on one. What I’ve discovered is that the more travel I do, the more places I want to see. Funny how that happens!

Having just returned from a 5 week trip (our longest ever) to Spain and Portugal, I thought I’d share some tips while they’re fresh in my mind. My husband, the “chief travel planner” did a superb job, yet again. So good, that he’s retaining his title for our next destination, wherever and whenever that will be. My role was the budget and spending- awful job but someone’s got to do it. The jury is still out on how well I did. I promise not to procrastinate and do a final tally of the costs very soon even though it will be PAINFUL. Still, it’s “must know” information for planning our future getaways.

I’m sure my suspicions are correct- that we spent more (OK, a fair bit more) than planned. Really, does anyone ever spend LESS than planned? Nevertheless, IT WAS WELL WORTH IT, even if it means “downsizing” our next vacation! I’m glad I put this in print so I can remind myself what I said before our next trip!

Yes, travel is expensive but there are ways to make it more manageable. Here are some tips to get you thinking about your own, well-deserved vacation plans.

1. Know What’s Important To You– Goes without saying but remembering this can make a real difference to a happy, budget-friendly vacation. Know your primary motivation for travel and make decisions accordingly. If it’s sightseeing you’re looking for, do you really need to travel in peak season or to the most popular destinations? Or, if you’re longing for warmth during the cold, Canadian winter, maybe driving to Florida will do just a nicely as splurging on Hawaii or Barbados?

2. Never Underestimate The Importance Of A Plan/Itinerary– The planning process takes more time than I realized but you will get out of it what you put in! Knowing why, what, where, when and how you’re travelling is the first step to a successful, affordable vacation. Focus on the big, important, expensive stuff first like destination, airfare, accommodation and transportation. Leave the smaller, cheaper details to later or work them out as you go.

3. Always Have Slack In Your Budget (Ideally, A Lot!)– This is the accountant in me talking now. Even the best laid plans will change/fall apart at some point. You want to be able to adjust or do what’s needed without worrying too much about each dollar you spend. That can really spoil your fun! Be prepared (in advance). Know where you will cut spending in other areas of your life if you overspend on travel. Our unplanned stop in Madrid for two days (with car and big parking fees) cost more than expected but this change made sense for other reasons and I’m glad we did it.

4. Consider Timing/Sequence Of Destinations Carefully– Slightly off-season travel is more economical than prime time, crowds more manageable and weather still acceptable. The more flexible you can be with your travel dates, the more likely you can take advantage of deals, overnight flights etc. If you’re travelling to multiple destinations, consider the economics, distances and sequence of travel. We discovered that flying into and out of different cities was no more expensive than choosing one and gave us the opportunity to cover more ground during our trip. We also found that we had to adjust our itinerary to pick up and return our rental car in the same city/country to avoid excessive surcharges.

5. Where You Go/Stay Matters– Often, everything costs more in major cities than in smaller towns. Same goes for locations near large tourist attractions. We found Portugal better value than Spain and full of just as many fun things to do/see. Off the beaten track destinations can be equally wonderful and great value. One of our favourite spots along the way was a beautiful, reasonably-priced B&B called El Diplomatico Feo in the country-side of southern Spain. It was a perfect place to relax, enjoy nature and a great base for day-tripping. And, the Canadian-born owners were gracious, friendly and excellent travel resources!

6. Think About Length Of Stay– Usually, the longer you stay, the lower the “cost per day” is (especially when including airfare). Does it make sense to combine two trips/destinations into one? Or take advantage of hotels that offer 3 nights for the price of two? Can you stay longer in one spot and use it as a base to explore other locations?

I have just scratched the surface here. Next week, Part 2 will provide more cost-saving ideas so stay tuned.

Here’s hoping you can make your own trip happen very soon!

Image- Spectacular mountain drive along Formentor Peninsula in Mallorca, Spain

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