Do you want an adventure next time you travel? Why not try to stay at someone’s home instead of a hotel? Why not try a small restaurant, where you will taste typical dishes? Without really “roughing it,” there are many ways of traveling and gaining a sense of life in other places. It will be the opportunity to create fun memories, make interesting discoveries and develop new friendships along the way. Travel on a budget might call for a bit of homework with finding a superb destination. On the other hand, this is the perfect excuse to create a trip unique to your own needs and passions. It might be difficult and a little unsettling at first, but well worth a try. You will never forget the experience!
Since 2008, Airbnb has helped travelers find cheaper lodgings in the USA and all over the world. Ten years later, the idea is less about couch surfing and more about having a comfortable and convenient place to stay with many practical accommodations. In recent years, my family and I have seldom stayed at hotels. Instead we have borrowed other people’s homes from Maine to Oregon, from Jerusalem to Copenhagen. We had sometimes excellent, and always interesting, stays in each location, sometimes with a river in our backyard.
Many times, the owner had sent us precise instructions on how to retrieve the key from the lock box outside the apartment. Nevertheless, we also met several of our hosts, who graciously gave us a tour of the property. For example, in a small Slovakian village, after showing us and explaining all the renovations she’d made to her old farmhouse, our hostess shared the “Friendship Drink” with us. Closer to home, in Ellsworth, Maine, our hosts invited us to enjoy the fire pit and barbecue, while the children t take full advantage of the luxuriant garden for their games and even played in the river bordering the property. In other rentals, they helped feed the ducks, played with the household dogs or fed the neighbor’s cat who obviously knew he’d be petted by the tourists!
Five advantages of renting lodgings directly from their owners:
- Cheaper accommodations, should you want to
- Stay in houses typical of the area
- Meet locals who may give you fascinating insights
- Have the option of a quiet evening at home
- Do laundry!
Eating out on a budget is also the perfect opportunity to discover and encounter the local culture. A minimal amount of research will provide with a list of good places to eat. The challenge might be to find them, since they might be located in a small side street. In Beijing, I’d read about a fantastic place to try Peking duck: Tianhai Canting.
I arrived with my friends in the correct street, in renovation at the time. There were enormous potholes and half the streetlights were in in working order. We knew the restaurant was there somewhere but we had to walk up and down the street for a while before finally finding it tucked away, up a staircase. The food was incredible and one of the culinary memories of this trip!
Another cheaper way to feed yourself is from street vendors. In recent years food trucks have become popular all over the world; smaller operations have existed everywhere. They often propose authentic local fare, sometimes prepared in the ancestral fashion. Don’t hesitate to try street food.
Take Advantage of the Cheap European Airlines
Nowadays, many European airlines offer cheaper plane seats. One of the most reliable is easyJet. Several major airlines also have discount companies such as Eurowings, Air Joon, etc. Because of the increasing number of flights, planes don’t always park at a gate and passengers sometimes have to take a shuttle or walk a little to the aircraft – not the best situation when it is cold and raining.
The obvious advantages are the prices and the many destinations offered all over Europe, the Near East and Northern Africa. The website is well done and it is easy to compare flights and book the most convenient one. I’ve used easyJet many times, and always had good experiences. My expectation was to get from one place to another in a timely manner, with reasonably nice flight attendants. EasyJet planes don’t always arrive on time but passengers board and exit both from the front and the rear of the aircraft, making the process a lot smoother and a lot faster than using only the front.
Obviously, the plane tickets are cheap because one only gets the basics: a seat in the airplane, with only piece of carry-on luggage. Want to check bags or choose your seat? You’ll have to pay extra. Of course, if you plan on drinking and eating on board, you’ll have to pay as well. Seats don’t recline, and the legroom is minimal. Often there aren’t any power outlets so you need to prepare for your own entertainment: don’t expect the little screens in the seat in front of you to watch movies or play games.
Not a typical sea voyage: Ferry vs. Cruise
Are you interested in a Norway Cruise? There is an alternative cheaper than the expensive cruise liners. Hurtigruten is a long-established company. While it offers many traditional cruises all over the world, it specializes in the discovery of the arctic and Antarctic oceans. One of their most classic trips is following the Norwegian coastline on board the Coastal Express.
The Coastal Express
The ship isn’t a cruise ship but a ferry, picking up and dropping off passengers and cars in the small coastal towns. It stops for a few minutes, sometimes for a half hour. Therefore, discovering all the villages is impossible. Yet, excursions are possible: the only difference with a traditional cruise is that you will leave the ship in one location and board it again somewhere else. Many ships are part of the Coastal Express network, some more luxurious than others. Depending on your needs and your budget, you may customize your trip. Most foreign travelers decide to go from Bergen to Kirkenes, but Hurtigruten offers a lot of flexibility in designing the trip.
My understanding of budget traveling comes down to two things: saving money and getting out of my comfort zone. Instead of going to hotel where everybody will speak English, I’d rather rent someone’s family farm in Hungary. I called the number provided on the website, said my name and a few words in English. Five minutes later, a little Hungarian grandmother showed up, accompanied by her dog. I followed her around on the premises, not understanding a word of what she was saying. We talked with our hands, a limited conversation to be sure, but that was enough. She left us “at home” in a compound of three small houses, and a huge yard planted with flowers and fruit trees. It was an ideal location to create long lasting memories.