Most Budget Travel Advice is Timeless

Drinking what's local

“Yes yes, that’s all good advice,” she said, “but my editor really wants to focus on what’s new. What are people doing now to save money that they couldn’t have done a year or two ago? New social websites, apps, that sort of thing.”

This was from an interview I did with an ambitious young associate editor sitting in a desk in NYC who writes for a well-known women’s magazine. It happened a year ago, but I’ve had the same conversation four or five times since. Most publications want to appear as if they have their finger on the pulse, that they know everything months before you do and are bringing you the hottest tips, the latest trends. “What’s new?” is the daily mantra.

In the real world of travel though, things don’t move that fast. We can make all our travel plans online now and always find the best prices on hotels or flights, something unthinkable before the World Wide Web came along. But on a year-to-year basis, the best travel advice stays relatively tried and true. Occasionally there’s a game-changer, like Hotwire, Air BnB, Google Flights, or Trivago that can save you money. Others like Uber or TripIt can make your trip go more smoothly. But most new travel tech innovations are solving something they think is more of a problem than it really is.

In that spirit, here are some old articles from this blog—some very old—that could be run today with just a few pricing tweaks. Do these things and you’ll come out ahead, even if you drop your smartphone in a river and can’t get online for a week.

Find the Screaming Bargains – Every destination has a few items or services that are a better deal there than elsewhere. Find them, use them, consume them.

eat what's local - one example of good budget travel advice

Slow Travel is Cheaper Travel – Related to the above post somewhat, eating and drinking what’s local is usually a smart move for your budget. And the more you’re moving around, the higher your daily budget needs to be. Help Mother Nature and your wallet at the same time: slow down! If you stay in one place for a month or more, your costs will really plummet. If you’re on a tight budget, it’s all about location, velocity, and distance.

Exchange Rates Matter a Lot – I’ve written about this at least once a year (like here, and more recently here) because if your  home currency rises or falls 25% against the one where you’re going, that’s going to greatly impact your costs, far more than where you’re going to eat lunch.

Where You Go Within a Country Matters a Lot Too – The price difference between big capital cities and small towns applies nearly everywhere in the world. Also, tourist magnets that draw short-term vacationers are always going to be a bad bet for backpackers. Don’t automatically head to the places you’ve heard of when you get to France, Spain, India, or Ecuador. Chances are there are better spots to hang out in for less money. Keep your options open.

Rural travel

Last, remember that just because you can now plan and set up everything in advance, it doesn’t mean you should. A person standing at the hotel front desk at 6 pm with money in their hand has negotiating power. A person booking on a website has zero negotiating power unless they’re bidding on Priceline. And besides, a lot of the best things happen when you allow time for interesting things to happen. The more your plans are tightly scheduled, the tougher that can be.

If you haven’t traveled much yet or have some clueless friends you’d like to enlighten, pick up a copy of my timeless book Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune. It’s full of key principles to follow in order to always find the best deal every time, regardless of what shiny new app the magazine editors are getting excited about at the moment.

Otherwise, here are another 8 great travel books for anyone setting off on a long-term trip. There’s plenty of great budget travel advice in those.

  1. GH

    Great post!

    It is so often forgotten how much travel information is evergreen in the current race to use newspaper dates to appear up-to-the-second in every post. In my travels, now more geared to the “Slow Travel” side, I have always tended to notice how little things change in small towns and sometimes even big cities.

    The new software tools are cool, but the food markets often remain the same for centuries.

    Exchange rates do matter though, as countries such as France, Italy, Spain, Greece, etc. were once relatively cheap before the Euro hit, leaving the natives to live somehow (and resulting in more B&Bs, farmstays, cooking and language schools, and the like to pay their bills). The Dollar/Euro rate remains very tough for most travelers who have not saved many thousands for any length trip.

  2. Slow travel = cheap travel. The core of it right there :)

    • Anthony

      Slow travel might make sense in Asia but in most places….. For the two months I spent in Europe, it cost $5000+ total. It could have been done for less and I took somebody with me for about ten days.

      I went to several countries in that space.

      • Tim Leffel

        Anthony – how much of that $5K was transportation expenses? A much bigger percentage than if you had visited fewer places in two months. That’s the point–no matter where you are it’s going to cost a lot more if you’re on the move regularly, but you’re constantly a newcomer trying to figure out the best values in each place.

        • Anthony

          Total transportation cost was about 2/3rd of that amount.

          I will have to write a book to explain what happen over that time period.

          Not sure I can travel slowly and save money when it comes to Latin America. Getting to Mexico City is fairly cheap, about the same price as taking Greyhound across the country or flying to NYC.

  3. Kerry Dexter

    “…a lot of the best things happen when you allow time for interesting things to happen.” Indeed.

  4. Marie @ Budgeting for Travel

    If you’re planning to go to travel, it’s better to make a better research for the place and their culture. I totally agree to that slow travel is cheaper travel.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *