Traveling This Summer? Read This First

Vacation Nancy Patterson Style

Summer vacation often conjures up images of sandy beaches, warm temperatures and places we’ve never been before. If this year you still have the desire to travel but don’t have the budget you’ve had in previous years do not fret! Nancy Patterson is here to inform you of ways to travel cheap but not cheaply.

The words “travel cheaply” probably immediately bring to mind nightmare images of people packed on buses like sardines without air conditioning while traveling over rough terrain to remote villages that don’t have safe drinking water.

That is not what I intend to talk with you about. The costs of traveling can be broken down into four areas of expenses: transportation, accommodations, food and entertainment. The biggest costs of traveling will come from categories one and two: transport and accommodation.  It stands to reason that if these categories are the most expensive part of traveling they are also the areas where the biggest savings can be made. You can do all of these celebrity style and break the bank or do these Nancy Patterson style and still have some money left in your bank account when you get back from your travels.

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Transportation Expenses: In 2004 Steve Gillman and his wife were planning a trip to Ecuador. They were diligent travelers who invested time and effort into traveling on a budget from their home in Traverse City, MI to Quito, Equador. They checked for airplane tickets on multiple website and were flexible with their dates but they couldn’t find flights cheaper than $1720. Not to be discouraged, seasoned traveler Steve dug deeper. Instead of accepting $1720 as the cheapest option for airfare Steve broke down his flight into two separate flights and saved big. He booked a flight from Traverse City, MI area to Miami for $300 and a second flight from Miami to Quito for $404. This saved Steve over $1000 each way! Discount airfare websites that compare flights from several different sources sometimes don’t check this option. It can be cheaper if you take the extra step to check whether you can break the flight down into two or more smaller flights.

Planning ahead can save you money but last-minute deals can offer some of the most attractive cheap travel options as well. If you are able to travel at a minute’s notice then check out websites like lastminutetravel.com that offer discounted package deals that airlines and hotels were not able to sell on their own. Also check out JetBlue on Twitter. JetBlue offers fares as low as $10 to some of its most popular destinations. Deals usually are tweeted with only a day or two advanced notice for travel dates. Check out their constant stream of deals on twitter at http://twitter.com/jetbluecheeps .

But what if jetting off to an exotic location is just not in the cards for your upcoming vacation? There are ways to get where you’re going for peanuts.

Don Jankiewicz has driven over 50 cars, none of which are his. Autodriveaway.com boasts that it is the largest vehicle delivery company in the country. Autodriveaway.com pairs vehicle owners who need their vehicle transported from one location to another with individuals who are willing to perform this service. Vehicle owners get the convenience of having their vehicle meet them at their destination and program participants get a free trip in someone else’s car. Drivers are given a free gas, and a negotiable duration of time to complete the trip. This way you could drive across the country in someone else’s car with free gas while exploring places you’ve never seen before. And the best part is it’s free!

Accomodations: No matter where you go you’ll need a place to stay. Whether it’s a pull out bed in an RV or cushy mattress in a towering hotel depends on your budget.

The general rule is if your budget is in the hundreds of dollars rather than the thousands of dollars the hotels are most likely not going to be an option for you. If you are going to be in one place for more than a couple of days you may want to rent an apartment or house.

A hotel in a decent area of town with basic amenities can run you up to $200 a night. If you plan on staying there for a week your bill can easily top $1400. That’s a lot of money for just one of the four areas of travel expenses.

If you are staying in one place for more than a few days try looking into alternative housing. You can rent an apartment or house. Often you can stay at an upscale condo or home that has all the amenities of a hotel for a lot less.   Check out sites like vacationrentals.com or vacation rentals by owner that boast impressive homes and condo’s all across the world.

If you’re looking for accommodations that are more than cheap there free, then you’ll have to be a little more daring in your search for housing. Crashing on the couch at your friends’ house for a few days is one thing but crashing on the couch of a complete stranger’s house is another! Websites like couchsurfing.com , hospitalityclub.org , and globalfreeloaders.com pair people who have couches with travelers who need to sleep on them. People who use this service come from all cultures and backgrounds but most tend to be males in their 20s or 30s who speak English and usually hail from America, Germany, Australia, or Canada. The upside for people sleeping on couches is not only free lodging but the chance to meet people who tend to be open-minded, friendly, and generous.

Did you see the 2006 movie Holiday starring Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet? Cameron and Kate play women who swap houses in order to escape failed romances. Cameron trades her southern California mansion for Kate’s quaint cottage in a small village outside of London. Now most of the time movies are based on fiction but this scenario could easily happen. Websites like digsville.com , Green Theme International Home Exchange , homeexchange.com , and swapnow.com allow you to trade your pad for someone else’s for free! People who use these services must do their own research on the person they choose to swap houses with and it certainly helps if you have a house in an area by the beach or downtown area that many people would like to visit.

Destination Proclamation

So you’ve set aside some money and are ready for a vacation. You’ve got your sunscreen, flip flops and camera packed and would love nothing more than to set out on an adventure to an enjoyable stress-free destination. You’ve got kayak.com and side step.com website open on your laptop and plugged in your flexible travel dates. But now the big question.  Where do you travel to? Do you do Rome or Florida? New York or Las Vegas? Back-packing through Europe or an African safari?

Figure out what type of vacation is important to you. Do you want the beach or the casino? Those are two very different types of vacations. One is relaxing the other is action-packed. The destination you pick will determine the type of vacation you have.

If you’re looking to visit a place with beautiful vistas and sprawling landscape check out cheaper alternatives to destinations abroad. Well traveled families can tell you that national parks offer views without extravagant prices.

Also use the weak economy to your advantage. Make the strengthening dollar work for you. Look for destinations abroad where currency conversions work for you, you’ll get more bang for your buck!

The best tip of all for traveling on the cheap without feeling cheap is to be flexible. Keep your travel dates, locations, food choices and entertainment options open to all possibilities and be prepared to go with the flow. For example if you had planned to go zip lining through the rain forest but you get there and the price for the excursion is more expensive than you thought don’t fret! There are a million other things to do! Try hiring a guide to take you on a nature hike. Or rent a scooter and explore your new city. When you return home you won’t remember all of the things you didn’t do, you’ll remember all the things you did do!

Keeping Money in Your Pocket,

Nancy Patterson


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