The sweet spot between comfort, convenience, and cost.
Everyone has a different travel style, and as you become a more seasoned traveler, that style can change. Today Heather joins me to talk about how our travel style has changed over the last 4 years of travel (much to Heather’s delight).
We share the 6 areas in which we’ve made the biggest changes and we tell you why and how we made those changes.
Travel is different for everyone, the key is to find the sweet spot for you to get the most out of your travel experiences. So come along, and lets TravPack!
Let us know where you make allowances or cutbacks to make your travel style the perfect one for you in the comments below!
[bluebox] TravPacking- verb: Traveling cheaply and traveling well by finding the sweet spot between cost, comfort, convenience and experience.
By Travpacking, I was able to have an amazing experience traveling through China in for under $2,000!
The tuk tuk ride from the airport to the city center was so cheap, I actually didn’t have small enough bills to pay it. Amidst the open air markets and cafes, I had to buy a banana so that I could get some change.
By the time I returned, the tuk tuk driver had left, telling the hostel owner just to pay her and that he’d get the money sometime later.
We had just touched down in Chiang Mai, on our first ever backpacking trip, and here we stood, in front of the Mojito House, our hostel for next two nights.
The owner was friendly, and as when we walked in to the downstairs lobby area and restaurant, I was surprised.
This place was pretty nice for $4 a night.
We told her we were the couple that had booked the “private double” room, of which there was one, on the 3rd floor.
We headed up the stairs, and on the landing of the 2nd floor, we had to step over rows of sleeping bags with people in them, picking our way through like we were in a minefield.
I was told that this was the “dorm”.
Making it through the minefield, we got to the 3rd floor and our room, and double private ensuite.
Giving us the key, the owner left, and we just looked at each other.
The sheets had stains all over them. This skeeved Heather out, but I was ok with it.
I was, however, much more concerned with the springs that were actually popping out of the bed.
Looking on the bright side, I mentioned that we did have our own bathroom.
A small victory, considering that the water not only didn’t get hot, but it actually didn’t turn on at all.
Oh, and we were given 4 square of toilet paper.
Heather started crying.
And we stayed.
Welcome to TravPacking, circa 2010.
Over the years, my traveling philosophy, and the way I travel, has changed.
But one thing has remained constant:
My answer to the always ubiquitious question
“How can you afford to travel so much?”
is still the same.
And it’s much simpler than people expect.
I save money in many ways that other people don’t.
In fact, when I travel, my costs are usually the same as when I’m at home.
All it takes is making the right conscious choices, and not seeing travel as an excuse to blow through all your money.
My TravPacking series is designed to show you EXACTLY how I do this during my travels.
I’ll provide enough details of my travels that if you wanted, you could theoretically recreate them step for step. And if you want to do that, by all means, be my guest.
Imitation is always the sincerest form of flattery!
But the real purpose, and the way that I believe most people will use my TravPacking posts, is to help you see what options are really out there.
And how traveling on a budget, or traveling cheap, does not mean that you have to scrimp on convenience and comfort.
From here on out, I’ll be providing in depth TravPacking reports of all my major trips (including my latest one to China) and providing you with information about how much I spent, down to the dollar.
I’ll also be providing some commentary on my thought process on the spending, why I spent what I did, and what the alternatives may have been.
TravPacking is about finding the sweet spot- where convenience and cost merge with value.
By doing this, you’ll save a ton more money than most people who travel, and you’ll also have as good, if not better, of an experience.
Because spending more does not always equate to better.
And the more you save on this trip, the more you can travel.
Travel More, Spend Less!
The Main Tenets of TravPacking
1. There is No Wrong Way to Travel
Just because I’m writing about how I travel does not mean that the way you travel is wrong.
There will be plenty of people out there who will be appalled that I spent so much money on a trip and proclaim that they did the same thing for half the price.
I was exactly like that 5 years ago. But getting older and having a wife as my travel companion has changed my habits, although I definitely still skew toward the frugal end.
There will be others who refuse to ever stay in a hostel. And while I disagree, mostly because I think that people misunderstand the word hostel, that’s their prerogative.
There are plenty of other ways to save money when traveling, and I hope they’ll take some of them and run with them.
In the end, getting out and traveling is always better than not traveling.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re:
going to an all-inclusive in Mexico (something I’ve done),
going on a cruise (something I haven’t done but would do)
or backpacking solo through the Amazon, sleeping in caves (something I also haven’t done but would do).
I have no patience for people getting on their high horse about the “best” way to travel or the “true” way to travel.
I’ve found what works for me (something that is a continual learning process) and what I think can work for many people out there.
Whether you choose to emulate it or not is up to you. But I do ask that you have an open mind and don’t knock the way I travel or the way anyone else does. We can all learn from each other.
[hopping off my soapbox]
2. Frugality is Important…
I’m a naturally frugal person. This website is geared towards helping people save money so that they can travel more.
So I’m always looking at the prices of things, and I write down EVERYTHING we buy.
My compulsiveness is why I’m able to provide such an accurate portrayal of my trip for you.
And I’m also a bit anal about not getting ripped off.
If I’m thirsty and someone is trying to sell me a $3 water just because I happen to be standing next to the Colosseum, I’ll walk the additional 20 minutes to find a $0.50 one.
That’s just who I am.
3. …But Not at the Expense of Amazing Experiences
Yes, I’ll walk 20 minutes to save a few dollars on a water.
Because to me, that water is not an experience. It’s not worth the feeling of getting ripped off, and it’s not worth the extra money.
But if I’m at the Taj Mahal and the entrance fee is $15, I won’t refuse to go in because I can catch a glimpse of it for free from a rooftop deck.
I’ll still get the awesome view from the rooftop deck, but I’ll also pay the $15 to walk around, partake in the history of the place, and take cheesy pictures.
To me, it’s worth it.
Everyone’s definition of what is “worth it” will be different.
And there have certainly been times when I wanted to do something, like take the cable car to the top of the Jungfrau in Switzerland, and turned it down because I couldn’t afford it or it cost too much ($100+ is pretty steep).
But generally, I’ll scrimp on everyday comforts, like buying a water immediately, in order to spend more money on experiences.
4. However….Some of the Best Experiences Are Free!
Like I said, I generally go to monuments, historical sites, and “touristy” things, especially the first time I’m somewhere, unless they are prohibitively expensive or cheesy.
Walk the mile from the train station to your accommodations instead of taking the taxi.
Eat delicious street food instead of sitting down for a meal.
During the course of the trip, you’ll be surprised how much it adds up.
9. Walking and Biking Are Paramount
I consider walking and biking to be the best parts of most of my trips.
Biking through Kyoto at night, seeing geisha while whipping through the backstreets, was a magical experience.
Cycling through the small towns around Yangshuo, riding through “Jurassic Park-like” landscape and snapping hundreds of pictures, was one of my top five travel days of all time.
And I’ve already mentioned how much I love wandering.
Biking and walking are not only cheap (or free), but they give you glimpses of the real life of an area that you’d never get any other way.
10. Splurging is Fine…In Small Doses
I was with the two most important women in my life; Heather and my twin sister Gale.
We were in Porto, my favorite city in the world.
And it was Valentine’s Day.
So we did something I rarely do, and went out for a very nice sit down dinner at one of the city’s finest restaurants.
And it rocked!
The service was amazing. The food was superb. The portions were huge. And the atmosphere was incredible.
It was a night that we will all remember for the rest of our lives!
Sometimes, even a curmudgeon like myself, needs to loosen up the purse strings a tiny bit and just enjoy it.
As long as it is only sometimes, skewing towards rarely, then you’ll be fine!
11. Experiences are Valued Over Possessions, But Sometimes You Just Have to Buy It
I walked by the same woodcarving stand in Lijiang, China for 6 straight days.
I stopped in to gawk at the artwork almost each time.
I “chatted” up the young guy working there, which basically consisted of head nods, smiles, and giving him a thumbs up.
And I watched him carve a beautiful blue wall hanging.
I fought with my inner monologue for days. I loved it, but it was a bit expensive.
I NEVER spend $100 on myself.
If fact, I can probably count on 1 hand how many times I’ve spent $100 on an item that wasn’t a laptop.
For some of you, this may not be a problem!
But it was awesome. It was authentic. And, after 4 days of debating, I ran down to the shop 20 minutes before we were catching our taxi, bartered him down to $60, and bought it.
Now, it’s hanging in my office, and one of my most prized possessions.
If it’s calling to you, sometimes you just have to buy it.
And you don’t always have to wait 20 minutes before you leave, although if you’re as frugal as me, you probably always will!
12. Always Try to Give Back to the Local Community
One of the main reasons I rarely stay at big box hotels, unless I have a free night, is because I’d prefer that my money go back to the local community.
Not only will staying at a local owned guesthouse almost always be much cheaper, but that money is going towards the real people who live there, not to lining the pockets of a multi-national corporation who has bulldozed their way in to town.
While I may be frugal, I do find it much easier to spend money if I know it’s going towards someone who is working hard for it.