All of us base our beliefs on what we know and what we can best guess with the information that we have, based on personality we relay more on information or guessing. This blog post is simply a reflection of my personal experiences, it is aimed to give some insights on the travel cost and possibilities as I see them. While talking to people around me I see that there is a lot of people that believe that traveling is just for the rich, for privileged ones. Those assumptions and beliefs are not based on investigation of the topic but rather just some general public opinion or even fear of traveling to an unknown. I'm even saddened by the fact that a lot of people don't see the benefit of the travel, on one hand they readily complain about the situation, but they just don't want to exit their small world. Before we even start about the travel costs, one important note: traveling opens your eyes and expands your horizons. Once you really engross yourself in the unknown you see just how irrelevant you are, how your village/city/country is just one of the many. How your beliefs are just one of the many, often even not the best, it enhances your being from within.
Now that we passed why you should travel, you need to specify your wishes and a budget to cover it. Until you have that down there is no real moving forward. There is no simple formula to forge what is a budget for a trip but it's variables can be separated quite easy on:
- travel costs (getting to the location), 40%
- living costs (you have to sleep, eat and drink) 40%
- activities (local travel, attractions, things to do), I don't consider shopping here as travel expense 20%
Generally the best thing would be that you work in high paying country and vacation in the underdeveloped country. But this is possible just for some and even if you are one of the lucky ones you also want to visit developed countries of the West and East. For instance it is probably easy if you work in Switzerland to travel to Vietnam, but not to so easy (affordable) to travel from Croatia to US. Still it is not impossible, or even far fetched; you just need to plan it better, preparation is the key. Everyone has their sense of the cost but since we started this journey as a reflection we can continue on the examples. My future wife and I really love to travel, we are from developing EU country meaning GDP per capita of developed countries is far greater than ours, but we also found a way to travel everywhere just with more preparation. We try to balance commodity with costs and this would lead us to something like: flying when over 800km to destination (driving for shorter routes), staying at the hotels but cheaper ones, eating at supermarkets and/or cheaper restaurants, selecting activities that would bring most of the memories.
I see a considerable increase of materials (books, blogs and vlogs) for long term traveling, or even living on the road. Each story I found is completely different, it is astonishing how many possibilities people found to achieve their dreams of travels. They are ranging from digital nomads (people who work remotely), people who come back home for a limited time to earn for travels, people who work on the travels, the list goes on and on. The basic idea for long-term travels is to make money in the high paying country and to live and spend it in cheap countries. You would be amazed how some of those possibilities are very feasible. In my current company I had a colleague who saved 20k€ to travel the world for a whole year with his newly wedded wife. I find this possibilities fascinating but I would also say it is not for everyone or even most of us, but just reading about it opened my eyes and I believe it could do the same for you.
One of the many takeaways from all of those stories is; don't wait for old age and retirement to start doing what you want, life will just pass you bye, start traveling as your daily life.
Perception of the cost
Travel costs money and time, well dooh. But how much money exactly?, what will you have to sacrifice in order to travel to your dream location. Well this is the fun part, for most people this is some huge sum of money they have to pay even to start. But this doesn't have to be the truth, as always you have to find your balance between commodity and cost. The more time you want to invest in planning and the more risks you are willing to take the price can drop considerably. I would also suggest that you relax a little, write down your fears and analyze them one by one. I tried this exercise with a few people that I hold dear and we found that most of the fears are not grounded, they are just fear of the unknown. You need to play it smart and sometimes just take a leap of faith.
Traveling with the tourist agency
In my previous job I was one of the development leads on the software for tourist agencies, at the time the company had more than a 100 agencies using our software. I can honestly tell you that there are tourist agencies that can organize your trip to the last detail, they cater each need and each type of traveler. They can provide you services if you want an individually built trip or just join the group for the regular sightseeing. It is crystal clear that they provide the easiest way to travel with the most optimized route for sightseeing and such. In essence you find a good trip with your travel agent, pay it and you are good to go :D. Pro tip: read the fine print; the price may not include airport taxes, entry fees for the attractions and such. Tourist agencies provide you a nicely packed holiday plan and prepare everything that you have a nice vacation. Depending on the package you book they will take care of transportation, hotels, guide and that you enjoy your vacation to the fullest with the thoroughly planned time. A good guided tour will really give you the feeling of the place you are visiting, they are often full of stories about the place intervened with the most important parts of the the history.
Most agencies allow you to save some money either to buy early-bird or last-minute arrangements. For early-bird arrangements they discount the price to find enough passengers in order to cover their costs of travel, it is different for each agency and also more often with the trips that are guaranteed. Since they have bulk arrangements for the flights, hotels and possible others they would have to cover the costs if they fail to find enough passengers. Other option is to wait for last-minute deals, the premises is the same they have some booked capacity unused, it's better to forfeit profit for the passengers than having to pay your suppliers from other passengers. But this also a risky option, last-minute deals are exactly that last minute, nobody can or would guarantee that the agency will have them, how many spots are open and such. Be wary that some agencies advertise last-minute deals much earlier and those are not real deals just a marketing campaigns.
Traveling on your arrangements
More on the adventures side of traveling, or rather you are never sure what awaits you. Was the hotel as described on the internet, can you actually find public transport on the location in time, can you not get lost in the totally new location where you don't know anybody or even the language. Don't be frightened, this really depends on the location, on some occasions you might even find yourself in an more friendly place than your town. This is what I would call really traveling and experiencing the new. But since everything is up to you it is also possible to plan your costs the way it suits you, you might say that you are trading your time while planning for a lower cost. I consider time planning as part of the trip, this is where you can learn a lot about the trip: culture, history, fun facts of the desired location.
You might be saying that you are trading your time while planning for lower cost, but I would say that it is more a state of mind, planning is also part of the adventure and it starts at home. This is my favorite type of travel for many reasons; you can travel at your pace, visit the places that you want to visit; travel much more for the same budget. It doesn't matter if you like to endlessly roam the place or storm through attractions and historical monuments you can build your own perfect vacations.
Arranging your trip opens a world of possibilities, if you are limited with time you can find fully organized trips on TripAdvisor, lonely planet or similar site. The more time you have you can customize ti more and more. let's see how you can save on the big things.
As you are traveling to a far away country you are probably getting there by a plane. Plane tickets can be really expensive and quite cheap to the same location and are heavily influenced by:
- Season of the trip - each destination has its peak times for prices. Peak times are most often defined by tourist attractiveness but can also be affected by other factors as holiday seasons.
- Popular dates - most leisure trips start and end on the weekend, that means that the plane ticket for the same route is probably much more expensive where a ticket demand is higher. Airline prices are also defined by supply and demand principle. You want to book a ticket for example on Tuesday at 6AM when there is smaller demand for the ticket
- Airlines and stops - airlines usually charge the ticket based on their category (low cost vs regular) but you can save quite a buck if you are willing to have a larger stop or if a stop is not on your route (longer flight time). This is great if you can trade your time for the ticket cost.
The main question is still here, how to find affordable flight tickets. I would definitely suggest using aggregators like: skyscanner, priceline, idealo, etc. Those are just a few but I usually use a few of them to find the best deal and also to search multiple dates. Recently google published their flight search which has a really nice filters and comparison of travel costs per day
Traveling without a destination
This is basically total flexibility, if you are not stuck to a single location or route you can find amazing deals. Try subscribing to some local forums or websites where travelers exchange information, there are usually deals that blow your mind. The deals can be out of many reasons as sales on a certain location, not sold ticket, transferable tickets or a group buy that has an opening. This really depends on the location where you are but it is worth a try, I found amazing deals there but often with a short notice like few days before the trip. If you want to travel on a more arranged trip try talking to a local travel agent that can probably find you some interesting deal.
"There’s something about arriving in new cities, wandering empty streets with no destination. I will never lose the love for the arriving, but I'm born to leave." - Charlotte Eriksson, Empty Roads & Broken Bottles; in search for The Great Perhaps