May mischief find you and misfortune avoid. May you sink into unkempt and vivacious foreign fascinations and emerge with stories varied, wild, and timeless. – Jonathan Roseland
Being a frugal or budget traveler can be a tedious job at times, and anyone that has done extended travel in this way, can tell you that dedicating entire days or more can be the difference in saving hundreds if not even thousands of dollars by being both patient and utilitizing one of your most precious assets–your time. For example, when I was ready to take the leap from Central America to Southeast Asia I checked a variety of websites (Skyscanner, Spirit, Travelocity, Kayak, etc) for flights and realized that flying direct would be a difference of over $1,000. But, by purchasing separate flights, one-way from Costa Rica to Los Angeles ($236) and then from LAX to Thailand ($577) also one-way, this was the best overall pricing system to utilize than using my currently relative point of origin or region to my final destination with one specific airline or website. Believe me, I looked at every airport in all of Central America and this was still the cheapest option by far. My first flight was Spirit Airlines, which has some bad reviews for a reason, but when you’re down to save money and time is on your side a nine-hour layover in Fort Lauderdale is nothing when you’ve experienced 19-hours on a bus in Peru. Prior to booking these tickets I also took the time to check multiple websites on different days as airline prices change almost daily and realized that the cheapest time to fly from the United States to Thailand was the end of August, which at the time of purchase was between the suggested 11 to 12 weeks in advance range. I know that many consumers now understand the benefit of taking their time when searching for airfare deals so I will just leave you with two other links regarding this topic, one from the Wall Street Journal and the second from the Chicago Tribune.
Good online ratings have become a huge plus over the years and significantly have changed the decision-making process for many when selecting a place to stay, but still within the backpacking community, we listen to one another. For example, I had just got off a bus in Boquete, Panama with another backpacker I had just met on the bus ride and because we had read about a Hostal Nomba that advertised dorms for $7 a night, as we were walking away from the bus stop, which is located next to the central plaza Domingo Medica, two other backpackers asked us where we were headed and as soon as we mentioned the price, without hestiation the French girl, Amandine, ditched the other backpacker and their original plan to stay at another hostel that was $3 more per night because of this new piece of information, and before we knew it all three of us that had just met were headed to check out the cheapest hostel as the sun was setting over the mountains.
1. REVISING BUDGETS: based on new regions. For example, because I knew that South Korea was going to be double or triple my normal daily budget of $10-$20, I took hours emailing people on CouchSurfing and trolling the cheapest hostels in the area.
2. GREAT RESOURCES FOR CHEAP, FREE, & PAID TRAVEL: When in dire need of saving cash, making some, or just wanting to do some volunteering, again take the time to commit to spending a day with your computer and research organizations (again I try and keep a relatively up-to-date links page with organizations I’ve volunteered with or have been told of that are legit, so feel free to check it out). This is also another very useful blog I found with a variety of links, titled The Best 23 Resources for Cheap, Free, or Paid Travel.
3. LEARNING OR REFINING A SKILL: Whether this be a new language, learning a new software program, or taking the time to virtually assault someone because they have created a new plantation on Farmville that you receive daily invites from to help water or whatever and then cry when I set it ablaze and burn it to the ground, because guess what? It’s not real and for those of us backpacking we don’t have time for nonsense things, because surprise, we’re living.
Forgive me, I’m a bit tired and these are the things I could think of currently that could be devoted to so-called research days that will again save you money or help you make some along the way and keep the dream alive of what most travelers aspire to do, which is; stay on the road as long as possible.
So, the reason I decided to begin my new restructured blogging with the topic of dedicating research days when traveling is because if I keep my return flight to Thailand, which is scheduled for November 14th, my plan is to take an overnight local bus directly from Bangkok to Chang Mai in order to be there for the Latern Festival which is occurs on Nov 17th where I’m planning to meet up with a group of friends that I met in Thailand only a few weeks ago. And, in order to accomplish this feat, there is some relatively serious planning to occur, not only in securing accomodation, but also to do this in the most cost effective manner I can. Even though I am already preparing for the exhausting overnight bus ride that can take up to 13-hours after a 10-plus hour travel day flying from Seoul to Bangkok with a transfer in Shanghai the same day, once again this is both the bad and ugly side that I often talk about with traveling, thankfully I have some great friends that I’ve met already where Ashley and Asia have agreed to help secure me a place to crash, even if it’s on the floor in their room, since I will be arriving just a few days before and they will already be there. Yi Peng – Thailnd’s Festival of Lights, is held on the full moon of the 2nd month the Lanna calendar, where the night sky is filled with a multitude of intricately shaped paper laterns (photo credit link here).
Also with the research and planning aspect I’ve got to think that high season has already begun for Southeast Asia and organizing accommodations for Christmas and New Years can be an excellent time or an absolute nightmare if you aren’t prepared. Last year, I was fortunate enough to spend this time at the hostel I was co-managing in San Juan del Sur, but even then due to an error with Hostelbookers not updating and blocking out beds when people were making online reservations, we ended up turning away over 100 people in a 48-hour period that actually had reservations. Also, at the decision of our hostel owner, during the two-week holiday period our prices tripled! Dorm beds went from being $7 a night to a whopping $21 a night! While some guests questioned why the dramatic price difference for places that are supposed to cater to budget travelers, I told them that not only is it capitalism, but that even the other business in this small community, most had to do this in order to survive as a business year-round because during the low season in SJDS (mid-July thru early to mid-November) hostels were lucky if they had more than double digit guests staying there and the place felt like a ghost town. In a completely separate part of the world, when I was backpacking in Europe and on a whim arrived in Venice, Italy on a weekend, I had no idea that if you didn’t have a reservation you were most likely sleeping at the train station because every place was full, especially during the Summer months. So, the overall point is research days, especially when taking in to account holidays–whether very common, such as Christmas or New Years, or specific holidays to that community or country, as well as the general location of your destination and time can be the difference in finding accommodation or putting you way outside of your budget.