Hi Frugalistas! Do you want to be a frugal, but first class traveller? Do you always have good intentions to make the most of your travel dollar, but never seem to get there? Do you always blow the budget? Well, help is at hand! I absolutely believe everyone can have the trip of a life time, every time. Here are the Seven Deadly Sins of travel that are stopping you from being a frugal, but first class traveller (and what to do instead!):
1. Failure to plan
When I am talking to travel bloggers, it’s clear we fall into two distinct categories – those who never plan anything, and the planning nerds (guilty as charged!) The “never plan” brigade tend to be much younger bloggers who basically live on the road, for whom time is not a pressure. The “planning nerds” are people just like you – with limited travel time and a limited travel budget. They plan to make most of every day and every dollar.
Planning doesn’t mean being boring and not having time for spontaneity – that’s no fun for anyone. Planning is about being really clear about your priorities and identifying the cheapest and best way to achieve them.
For me in Barcelona, it meant working out that I wanted to visit Sagrada Familia, the beautiful Gaudi basilica that I have written about before. Then it meant going online and pre-booking my timed entry ticket. I walked straight in at the appointed time, and spent a wonderful two hours enjoying its delights – while those who hadn’t planned faced an hour and a half queue.
Planning allows you to fit more into your day, without spending any extra, or losing out on any comfort. I don’t know about you, but to me not having to queue is always first class!
2. Lack of research
Do you know how much your plane ticket to any of your dream destinations costs? Do you know when airlines offer special deals? I do. An airfare is normally the most expensive part of any trip, regardless of your destination. To me it just makes sense to follow prices and understand how much a ticket to any destination I’m thinking of costs. I subscribe to a number of airline and travel booking websites, and keep track of ticket prices – so I know a good deal when I see one. That’s when I buy.
Similarly I don’t just book the first hotel I come across. I check a number of hotels, and find the one that offers the best combination of price, location, amenity and ambience. I’ve found hotels with the best views in town for the price of a modest 3 star or a charmless chain hotel.
If I’m visiting somewhere new I always check out tourist passes and public transport tickets. A museum pass in a big city can save you a lot if you heading into big cultural centres, but even a humble rail pass can save big bucks if you know what to look for (and you bother to look!)
3. Not packing light
I know I say this all time, but packing light is key to frugal first class travel. Lugging a heavy suitcase is never first class, and having to spend money on taxis and porterage is just money you don’t need to spend. If you pack light and pack right you can still have plenty to wear. I met a solo female traveller with whom I spent a couple of days (and dinners) in the Cinque Terre. We had met on the train and she marvelled at my tiny suitcase. Every morning and every evening she looked enviously at my outfit and commented on the never ending treasures that came out of my “magic suitcase”. There was nothing magic about it – I’ve mastered the art of the capsule wardrobe that fits into one carry on bag!
4. Having someone else’s holiday
While it’s always great to seek advice from people, at the end of the day make up your own mind about what you want to see and do. Don’t fall into the trap of taking someone else’s holiday, if it’s not your thing. If you have no interest in art galleries and museums don’t go to the Louvre just because you are in Paris. If you have always wanted to see the Mona Lisa by all means go and see her – but if that is all that interests you, leave. Don’t feel obliged to see everything just because you are there – spend your precious time doing what you really want to do.
Doing what someone else said you “must” do is a waste of time and money.
Similarly if you are tired (and travelling can be tiring) don’t feel guilty about having a “rest day”. Spend the day quietly, recharge the batteries, then get back into it. You will end up doing more and enjoying more.
5. Eating and drinking like you do at home
To me eating and drinking local foods in a typical setting is one of my favourite things to do. It also saves me money. Local wines and beers are always much cheaper than the imported brands, as are local foods. You will find the foods “like they have at home” will be an expensive disappointment, and you will miss out on the opportunity to find a new favourite.
6. Trying to see too much in too little time
Trying to see everything is very tempting. Every time I book a flight to Europe I start thinking of everywhere I want to go and everything I want to see. It takes a lot of discipline to not go crazy and restrict my itinerary. Racing around from one destination to another is expensive – all those long distance train trips or flights between big cities add up. Instead, come up with an itinerary that you can manage and where you can spend time really getting to know a destination. Focus on regions and develop an itinerary that fits neatly together. I’ll be sharing some of my favourite regional itineraries in upcoming posts.
Sometimes time is greatest first class luxury of all.
If time is limited don’t try and see and do everything. Research and prioritise. Spend your time and your money on your key priorities. You will spend less, see more and have a much better experience.
7. Thinking you need to book guided tours of everything
You can do so much under your own steam. Think of the advantages….you can spend as long or short a time as you like at a particular site. You maximise your flexibility and can eat what and when you like. Freedom is priceless, and is easy to achieve. Learn how to use local public transport. Use a good guide book for sightseeing. Check out podcasts you can download onto your phone if you like to listen to a guided tour.
But don’t get me wrong. There are times when I love to do a guided tour. But I save it for something special. Like my walking food tour of Istanbul – I could never have found all those fabulous foods and restaurants on my own. Or my day trip to the Route des Vins in Alsace – I never drive in Europe, and public transport is almost non-existent. A small group guided tour was the perfect way to enjoy the region (and not have to worry about how much wine I drank!)
Unlike the traditional Seven Deadly Sins, the Seven Deadly Sins that stop you being a frugal first class traveller are easily conquered. How many are you guilty of?