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Friday, March 4, 2011

Prudent Penny: Frugal Traveling

Today is a special Prudent Penny because my buddy, Mike Keyton is stepping in to share some of the frugal tips he'd learn on his many trips. Mike is currently reminiscing about his trip to America on his blog. He's an absolute hoot! And his blog is a must read.

Frugal Traveling by Mike Keyton 

Jesus advised his disciples to: ‘Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor a staff,’ and who was I to argue? Besides he made no mention of travellers’ cheques, and he was a little remiss in forward planning. But back then I had the wisdom of a beardless youth, a student bent on Morocco.

When Maria asked me to write about frugal travelling, I had to scratch my head – that’s another thing about frugal travelling; you pick up things – because, looking back, I reckon it all depends on circumstances. And circumstances change.

Getting back to where I started, I left most things to my Guardian Angel. Jesus advised his disciples to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. I was strong on the doves bit, but lacked the wisdom of a poorly taught worm. Fuelled by optimism and hope I packed everything I thought I’d need into one rolled up sleeping bag. This included: four pairs of underpants, three pairs of socks, four T shirts, a pair of shorts, one pullover, toothbrush, and a stick of deodorant for special occasions.

What did I learn?
You can buy most things you need on the way. But don’t buy second hand woollen swimming trunks.

People are incredibly generous, a great lesson you never forget.
The most valuable possession you have is your lifeline back home. I’m talking about travel documents (air, train, and boat tickets) In the Rif Mountains, on a cold night, those little bits of paper in your shirt pocket meant more than a hot water bottle, or even a teddy bear.

And something that didn’t apply to me then but is a commonplace now: leave your ipod or its equivalent at home. They’re comforters, aural dummies for children, a distraction. They dilute the rawness of immersing yourself body and soul into something other than you’re used to. Rant over.

What have I learnt since?
You have to modify this policy when you have a wife and two children. A certain pragmatic meanness attempts the odd breakout but is usually beaten back by disbelief from those I try to impose it upon.

One thing holds true throughout: Forward planning saves money. For any thinking of going to Rome buy one thing in advance and purchase the other as soon as you get there. Buy your ticket to the Vatican museum online. It allows you to walk past queues stretching round block after block and walk straight in. And on hitting Rome invest in a Roma Pass which allows unlimited travel in the city over three days. It also gives you free entry into three major attractions, again without queuing. Again, in Rome, carry a plastic bottle. Fountains and water pipes are all over the place. I’ve never tasted water so good, but then it was hot and the beer is expensive.

For anyone thinking of coming to Britain in summer, Google ‘Universities.’ Many are located in very picturesque places and offer good bed and breakfast deals when students aren’t there.

And the ultimate in frugality? Visit friends. 
There are places in this world I will never see – and what’s the point? Sometimes travelling can be like stamp collecting, ticking off what you’ve seen and where you want to go to next. I’d rather have a drink and a chat with an old friend than clamber aboard a camel. The fact that he or she lives in an interesting place is…well…just nice.

You'll always be welcomed at our place, Mike. 
--Hope you like dogs. :grin:

To finish off, here are some more frugal tips for traveling.

• Pack clothes you won't mind leaving behind. (I learned this from Dru.) It'll give you more room to bring stuff back and you won't have to pay for another bag at the airport.

• When selecting a motel, look for one with a kitchenette so you can cook some of your meals.

• When driving, plot your course before you leave so you know where and about when you'll be stopping at each leg of your journey. If you know where you'll stop for the night, you can book a room ahead of time and you won't waste time driving around for the 'right' motel.

• Make reservations direct with the hotel, not a clearinghouse. You are more likely to get a better discount.

• Souvenirs: Never, ever buy souvenirs at the hotel lobby or the nearby tourist attraction. Go deep into town, away from all the glittery lights. You'll find the same trinkets 50 to 80 percent less.

• Check your discounts: AAA, AARP, military, or member's discounts are not equal. If you're entitled to more than one, ask which one is the most generous.

• Establishments that offer breakfast are usually a better buy, especially if you have kids.

Your turn: What's been your cheapest vacation so far? Are there any places you'd recommend?


Rula Sinara said...

Great tips! A place with a kitchenette is a must when you have kids (especially with special dietary needs). Eating out for every meal can easily break your travel budget.

Shirley Wells said...

A great post!

I so agree about the iPods. It always amazes me when people are too busy listening to see what's going on around them. They miss so much.

Joanne said...

A couple of items really stand out for me here: Leave the iPod behind. I so agree, why travel if you're not going to immerse yourself in the culture completely? And a yes to the kitchenette! There's nothing like having a little familiar food, a simple recipe from home to be eaten quietly, when we're out and about ...

Maria Zannini said...

Rula: We discovered the kitchenette totally by accident when that was the only room they had available. It was a great savings.

Shirley: Ref: iPod
I never thought about it until Mike mentioned it. Absolutely true.

Joanne: Your comment reminded me of honeymoons. I often wonder why we travel to such exotic locales only to spend most of our honeymoon in bed. LOL.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Awesome tips!! I think the cheapest trip we took is when we went to Montana. we stayed with friends and then took a camping trip in their RV. We had a ton of fun though.

Sherri said...

Before the darn airlines started charging for bags, I used to pack a smaller bag inside a larger one on the trip out so I had the two bags for the trip back.

These days our vacations (and I use that term loosely, LOL) involve driving, usually over night so we don't have hotels, and a cooler full of homemade food. Then it's sponge off the family as much as possible -- kinda kidding there.

Maria Zannini said...

Jennifer: I did camping once--and came back with Lyme disease. Oy!

But I did have fun up until then. :)

I'll bet Montana was amazing. I haven't made it there yet.

Maria Zannini said...

Sherri: The bag inside the bag is a great idea. I never thought of that.

Ref: driving vacations
At least boys are probably less fussy about roughing it than girls.

Linda Leszczuk said...

When traveling, carry your own snacks whenever possible on day trips to avoid overpriced snacks at souvenir stands. And maximize your carry on's when flying. A good size tote bag can pass as a purse and backpacks are essential.

Cheapest vacation - friend hopping. Just don't overdo it nad always return the favor.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Oh blech. My Word knows to turn "nad" into "and". Blogger doesn't.

Maria Zannini said...

Linda: I'll never be able to look at 'nad' the same way. LOL.

If it makes you feel any better, it brought a smile to my face.

Renee Miller said...

Michael: I love reading anything you write. If I'm ever in Rome...who am I kidding? That means a plane and all that confusion. I'm best right where I am.

Frugal travel tips? I don't really travel. We go camping here and there, sometimes take day trips, but since having my girls, I don't do overnight anything. Why? I don't know. Until now, I hated leaving them. Now they're getting kind of outdated, so the novelty has worn off. I actually beg people to take them for a night or two.

I joke. Really. But, as a mother, the best way to save money when travelling is to leave the kids at Grandma's or another equally trustworthy and easy to guilt type of relative.

Maria Zannini said...

Renee: I took the easy way out and donated my ovaries to science. :grin:

And where is Mike? Probably still messing with that worm in a bottle.

Renee Miller said...

Oh, that worm has rendered me, I mean helpless many times. Perhaps tomorrow he'll have caught it and will be better able to carry on a conversation with us. :)

Mike Keyton said...

Renee, you could always position your daughters on a street corner -begging, I hasten to add; just outside a church in Rome, is a hot spot. Hard to refuse charity after a good sermon. I tried to persuade my children to 'earn' their own drinks' money in Rome, but they looked at me as though I was mad :)

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: You're such a practical man. LOL.

I'll never forget my stay in Rome. Gypsy children would beg about a block from our hotel room. Every night, their father would show up after the tourists had gone and pick them up in a fancy, white convertible.

Renee Miller said...


Kennedy would love that, she'd even sing for them. Court, on the other hand would likely tell me where I can shove that idea.

Misha said...

Great tips!

We once went to the Namaqualand to go see the flowers (Google it to see what I mean) and cut costs by sleeping in our sizeable double-cab 4x4. It meant that we didn't have to pay for a caravan spot, but could still use the amenities at half the cost.


Maria Zannini said...

Misha: We once spent the night in our truck, but not to save money. It was just too cold to sleep outdoors. LOL.

But you're right. Sleeping in a vehicle can save a lot of cash.