I wrote in Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune that there are several key factors that go into determining how much you spend on your travels, whether you are going for a long weekend or a year-long trip around the world. The main one, however, is where you decide to spend your time. No matter how well you plan your trip to Japan, for instance, and no matter how good an airfare deal you get, it’s going to cost you a buttload of money compared to say…Ecuador.
I have lots of respect for Budget Travel magazine and would even if they didn’t hire me now and then to write a story for them. They really highlighted this destination difference well though with the challenge they ran for two writers in the current issue. They gave both a budget of $1,200 and told them to go at least eight hours away for four nights and spend no more than $1,200. One went to Tokyo and one went to Quito. You can just imagine how that worked out but see the details here.
Basically the guy who went to Quito, Ecuador lived it up, ate well, and stayed in really nice hotels. This was his description of his last night at one of the best restaurants in town: “From the ceviche sampler to the grouper in a spicy cream sauce, everything was extraordinary. Along with champagne, dessert, half a bottle of sauvignon blanc, and tip, my total was $75.”
The guy who went to Tokyo had to be really careful with his money. He slept in a room that was 8′ by 10′ for $70 and mostly ate ramen noodles and vending machine food. “I kept my spending down by using a three-pronged method: eating at establishments that don’t employ waiters, never taking a taxi, and engaging with the locals.” He still had a good time, but it was tough making the math work.
Ramen noodle budget or eating out every meal? Capsule hotel/hostel bed or boutique hotel with soft sheets and plush toiletries? Taxis when you want or waiting for the bus? Amazingly, these two options can be the same price-wise. It just depends on where you go.