Thriftstyle Adventures: How to travel and not break the bank

Newsflash: I like traveling, thriftstylers. I like visiting friends. I like seeing and experiencing new things. I love Chicago, don't get me wrong. But its fun to see NYC a couple times a year. And I'm saving up money to get back to Spain in the (hopefully) near future.

Another newsflash: You don't have to go broke to travel.

But what about the money I spend to get where I'm going?

Sure, plane tickets can be a bit pricey, but there are always deals. I suggest signing  up for TravelZoo which has deals on everything: planes, trains, hotels, car rentals, shows, restaurants. Everything. Check it out. And there are always sites like Orbitz, Expedia, Kayak, etc. These sites are great, too, because they usually have decent customer service when it comes to cancellations and changes.

(Sidenote: If you do happen to cancel a flight, be sure to call the airline directly. I recently had to cancel an international trip and was seriously bummed about having to give up all the money I spent on the flight. But, after speaking to United directly, I was able to keep all the money I spent as a travel certificate -- with a $150 fee -- which later turned into two weekend trips to NYC.)

If you're traveling domestically, there is always the option to drive or take a bus/train. I used to take the Megabus from Chicago to St. Louis all the time during college (its a great way to get around Canada and England as well). Its cheap. Its better/faster than Amtrak. And its a fun little adventure. It leads to a lot of great stories (like the time in England when the bus drive hit a guy on a bike and we were stopped for like an hour while they investigated everything). And we all know road trips are a fun time. If you have the extra time, take a nice long drive.

And what about where I stay when I get there?

Always, always, always try to stay with friends. Unless you are planning on having some wild sexy times or you REALLY need your privacy, staying with friends is great. For the price of a thank you gift to the host/hostess, you get to hang out with your friends, have access to more than just a hotel room (kitchen, maybe some free internet, the advice of your friends), and check out a new neighborhood.

Hotels, to me, are boring,.They are usually located right next to the airport or in a weird neighborhood (unless you pay an arm and a leg for one right in the middle of town). For this reason, I prefer staying with friends. If you have no friends in the area, I suggest checking out AirBNB. This site is awesome (if people actually respond to you -- some do, some won't for whatever reason). I've used it a few times to stay in LA and I wound up staying in some of the most beautiful apartments I've ever seen for way cheaper than a hotel. And they were in hip neighborhoods. And it was a whole apartment. And the hosts are usually way cool, love to give awesome advice (some even had little guidebooks printed up), leave you food in their fridge, etc. Its great.

But, Lucia...what about all the food I have to eat?

I like to try to make eating out a little game while traveling. Unless I'm traveling with a companion and we can split the cost of everything, I try to choose one meal a day to eat out, and buy groceries for the rest. So I'll get brunch one day and then eat lunch and dinner at the grocery store. Or I'll get dinner one day and have breakfast and lunch from the store. And I always try to use the meal I eat out as a way to visit with friends or family in the area -- this is a great way to share lots of food, try a bunch of different things, without going nuts spending a ton of money.

What about getting around?

Always try to use public transit if you can and then limit the number of rides you take a day. Try to plan lots of things in one area a day so you don't have to travel all over the city, spending money on train or cab rides.

Taking public transit can be difficult in a lot of places though. I think using Zipcar might be a good alternative to renting a car for the whole time you're there. Or try to borrow a car from a family member or friend while you're there.

Or try to get different hotels/Airbnb stays or stay with friends in different areas so you can walk to the places you want to see. If you're in NYC, stay with a friend in Brooklyn for a few nights and stay with a friend in Manhattan for a few nights. That way you aren't constantly traveling around.

But what about all the travel size toiletries?

Don't buy travel size. Either buy travel size products ONCE that have really sturdy, durable containers or else buy travel size containers and then refill from your regular size products. I cut open my containers of lotion/shampoo/conditionar when I'm getting to the end and spoon out the last of it into the travel size packages. Super cheap but I've never had to buy travel size lotion or hair gel. Those things add up after awhile.

And what about all the souvenirs I have to buy?

Don't. Plain and simple. Just don't.

If people get mad because you didn't buy them a shot glass or a magnet, tell them to suck it. Seriously. That shit is overpriced and stupid and I hate it. I specifically tell people NOT to buy me souvenirs when they travel.

And I don't need a magnet to commemorate my own trip. That's what photos and my memory are for. Or I collect things I don't have to spend any money on. When I visit a national park I save the park map. When I was traveling around Europe, we made a game out of collecting Haribo gummi bear bags (because the speech bubble for the little bear on the front was always in a different language) or discarded cigarette boxes (because the warnings on them were HUGE and in different languages -- those things are hilarious). And, since there's a story behind it, its way more meaningful to me than a stupid magnet. Save your train and plane tickets. Save your maps. Save your admission tickets for shows and museums. You'll be way happier you kept that stuff than you will be spending $10 on a shot glass with the Eiffel Tower on it that will break in your suitcase on the trip home. Trust me.

 

So those are my tips on traveling without breaking the bank. Do you have any others, thriftstylers?

 

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