"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning. "
-Albert Einstein

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Travel on a Shoestring Budget

There are great ways to see great sites without spending a fortune.  When I was planning my trip to London, I decided to make the journey approximately 7 weeks ahead.  I stumbled across the first tip by happy accident.  By booking your flight within the 6-8 week window, you can save hundreds off the ticket price.  I was able to save nearly $200 on my flight alone and at the time, I didn't even realize this trick!
When I booked my trip, I wanted it to be a birthday trip and my birthday is in November, so I wanted my trip then.  Again, I happened upon another travel tip by accident.  November-February is typically known as "off peak" travel season to Europe.  There are less travelers during this time and costs are lower for travel.  The weather can be tricky, so plan accordingly and watch the weather leading up to the travel dates.  All of these reasons can equal a great and inexpensive time to travel to Europe.  

In preparing for my trip, I knew I wanted to keep costs low so I was trying to figure out ways to see as much for as little as much.  I also knew I wanted to see how the English lived and I knew I might not get to see and experience that as well by staying in a hotel.  So, I did some extensive research into hostels and room lets...my research led me to airbnb.com.  With this site, a traveler can book just a room or the entire home/flat.  The site allows travelers to filter out by price, size, amount of travelers, travel dates, etc.  I was able to find a perfect attic room in a flat that was only a few blocks from an Underground station within the Greater London area. In my arrangement, I had full access to the kitchen, and bathroom.  I was given two keys and could come and go as if it were my own home.  The best part with this site is that it can be very inexpensive.  I was able to book my lodging for 6 days/ 5 nights for under $400 total.  This was a huge savings to my overall travel budget!  In future travels I will most definitely use this site. I had a great experience and would recommend all travelers on any kind of budget to check this site out before settling with a hotel.

In my trip, I planned on using public transportation so I knew I needed more information and best pricing options.  I wanted to travel throughout London via the Underground so I researched the best way to access the tube, pricing, etc. I found visitbritain.com and there I was able to purchase a prepaid Oyster card for visitors to access the Underground.  By purchasing a prepaid card, I saved money each time I swiped my card.  Instead of paying $8 per trip, I only paid $4.  The underground system in London is extensive and navigating it can seem intimidating, but like anything, after a few times riding, you get used to where to stand, sit, etc.  

When traveling via trains in Europe and Great Britain, there are some times that tickets cost more than other times.  For example, peak time in London is from 7 am- 9 am and  4 pm- 7 pm Monday through Friday, therefore ticket prices are higher.  Great Britain has regional trains that have separate websites to purchase train tickets.  These sites are usually easy to navigate and purchasing tickets is simple.  The rest of greater Europe has rail passes available for 4 countries at a time, or a global pass.  There are some restrictions with these passes as well.  And in some cases, depending on the nature of your travel, you may want to purchase tickets at the stations.  By doing this, the traveling still has some spontaneity feel to it.  Be sure to check the prices of the rail pass versus pay as you go tickets in order to get the best price.  Raileurope.com is the place to price tickets and passes.  

I knew when traveling to Great Britain, I would need to exchange money so again, I researched the best options for this as well.  I discovered that exchanging my money here would save me in exchange rates and commission fees.  I live in a very small town, so I first called all the local banks and some do monetary exchanges and some don't, so be sure to do your research before assuming your bank does this.  Some banks only offer this service to those who are customers as well.  Travelex.com is who I went with to exchange my money.  I conducted the entire transaction online, with no transaction fees and was able to pick up my money at the airport as I was leaving the country.  This site can do transactions within 24 hours which is nice for those last minute trips or those oops moments when money exchange is forgotten!

I hope this entry has been informative and has given some tips and money saving ideas that will help you make travel more attainable and realistic.  In closing I must give one last great site that I visit daily is ricksteves.com.  He has travel shows and numerous travel tips for traveling Europe.  His site is very organized and easy to navigate and will give tips and pointers that most novice travelers are unaware of.  He is my inspiration for travel, blogging, and showing just how fulfilling travel can be!  

"Fill Your Life with Experiences, Not Things.  Have Stories to Tell, Not Stuff to Show."  

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