Is Discount Travel More Fun Than Monkeys?

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A terrific friend of mine, whom I initially met in a Paris train station, educated me on the ways of cheap travel. At the train station, we both found ourselves staring dumbly at the French signs looking in vain for a clue of how to get to Paris. I noticed some English lettering on his backpack and it finally came to light that he spoke English and was from South Africa. It also suddenly dawned on my caveman brain that I spoke French, so I snatched up an information phone, bawled out the stuck-up French lady and proceeded to lead us to the city of lights. Here are some traveling goal setting tips for you to think about.

Always plan your trip well in advance.

On my very first trip to Europe (London, England) in my thirties, I decided to fly to Paris after a few days of London because, “Hey I’m right next door.” And I was already drooling over the thought of baguettes, pastries and condescending French girls. To prepare myself for Paris I bought a small Frommer’s Paris guide and settled down for a great read in London’s Piccadilly Circus. Always get familiar with the city layout and transportation set up. After that I found a discount travel shop and flew to Paris for a magical few days. A few years later, during a trip to the Greek islands, I took more time preparing for the trip at home. I was lucky to meet my friend in Paris who really helped me slash costs and have a terrific time.

Traveling on a budget can be more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

Ok I take that back. Monkeys are more fun. There we were in Paris and my first lesson was to avoid taxis thus I purchased a snappy little ten dollar Paris metro card, representing our length of stay and how far we wanted to travel the city. The second thrifty lesson was to try out a youth hostel in lieu of a cushy hotel or bed and breakfast. I always pictured a youth hostel as a bunch of scraggily teenagers lying around a bare wooden floor with MacDonald’s wrappers strewn everywhere. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself sharing a small but pleasant room with three others. Sure the washrooms were microscopic and I almost scratched delicate body parts by just turning around, but I was able to shower and shave without inflicting major injures. In the morning we scarfed down fresh baguettes, strawberry jam and hot chocolate while chatting and sharing valuable information with fellow travelers, including families from around the world. It was a magical morning. All for about $25 dollars a day. There are two major expenses slashed (lodging and transportation).

The occasional travel splurge can be make you incredibly happy.

We saved a bundle and avoided headaches in the Greek Islands by traveling at the end of the season (end of September). We found incredible lodging deals on all the islands. Traveling to the Greek islands means taking large ferries and at each island ferry port dealing with the dozens of people offering lodgings. We had beautiful Aegean Sea views at three islands for rock bottom prices, sometimes $15 each. But no matter how hard I looked I couldn’t find a metro or subway system. Hence a cool little yellow dune buggy was rented. Zooming around a Greek island in a dune buggy was definitely the ultimate in coolness. We visited all the quaint fishing villages and tasted many a local delicacy. We also came a foot from driving off a cliff. Lessons learned? Drive carefully. Ah, what a blast thinking back to those Greek island days. See? Splurging can be fun.

In summary

1. Always plan your trip well in advance.

2. Traveling on a budget can be more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

3. The occasional travel splurge can make you incredibly happy.

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