Travel Talk: How to travel on a budget
Let me take a wild guess and say that lots of you readers out there have shrinking travel budgets. Gas prices are going up. Airfares were supposed to be easing a bit, but I sure as heck don’t see evidence of it. What to do? Think creatively and be ready to make some compromises.
Length of Stay: If you have your heart set on an elegant stay at a Ritz – or perhaps a week or two in London or on the easy-to-get to and very lovely island of Bermuda – one of your first options is to shorten your stay. Never, you say? Not worth it? Well, it depends on where you’re going and how you book it. Back in the days when offseason airfares to the capitals of Europe were running $500 to $600 including taxes and fees, Bud and I would do the occasional “extreme weekend” to Rome, Paris or London. We would catch a red-eye Thursday night and fly home Tuesday afternoon. That left us four full days to explore the city. We maximized our time by starting with a hop-on/hop-off bus tour the first morning (easy stuff after a night in the air), which really helped us focus the rest of our time. I can honestly say that by the time we boarded our return flight, we always felt we’d been there a week. The key here is arranging your arrival time – get to your destination early in the morning and depart as late as you can – given obligations at home. You can always rest up at home (for free!) before you go back to work. This works for Florida, the West Coast – anywhere!
Lodging: Your second option for cutting costs is thinking long and hard about lodging. Must you really stay at the Ritz, or would another accommodation do? Specials abound these days, and can be built around getting you to stay an extra night for free (pay for three, get the fourth free), adding in breakfast or a “club floor” upgrade (free food is huge!), or tossing in local tours and attractions. Yes, it takes time to find these, but the results can make the difference between doing a getaway or not. Use your favorite discount booking website (or try one of my new favorites, quickbook.com). Loyalty programs associated with hotel brands such as Sheraton, Marriott, Intercontinental and many more are also a good place to look. Sign up for email alerts and have them email you when they have a special. And if you have a timeshare anywhere on the planet, try trading your week (or using one of those extra or bonus weeks) through your membership – Interval International (intervalworld.com) or RCI (rci.com). A fan of vrbo.com or homeaway.com? Look for minimum stays (often three to five days) rather than weeks or multiples. Check the availability calendar and make the owner an offer.
Destination: Lastly, think about compromising on your destination. Hankering for English countryside? Think Bermuda. Always wanted to visit France? Try Montreal and Quebec. Looking for glamor? New York City. History? Why not Boston – who says you can’t have a fabulous weekend as a tourist and be close to home? Like a game of cards? We gave up on Vegas years ago (flying time and airfares got to be a drag), but love our weekends at Foxwoods – just two-plus hours and $25 worth of gas away!