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Saving money vs saving time vs convenience

A few recent posts have got me wondering about a personal pet peeve.

And that is a tendency of some posters on this and other forums to squeeze a dollar until it bleeds and then some. Note I am not suggesting blowing money. Save where and when you can.

But a trip to Europe is NEVER going to be cheap. On average you are probably in for a few hundred dollars a day per person. So every waking hour is worth something from a monetary perspective. But we see posts where the OP is trying to save a relatively small amount of money at the cost of several hours of time. Or at huge inconvenience. Or sometimes both.

So I guess the question is what is your personal view on saving money but spending time or enjoyment.

My view is as follows. In Paris the first day we walked several kilometers through the city. Not so much to save time but to “be in Paris”. We also took public transportation but one even after a long day my dad was getting very tired (86 at the time) so I found a taxi and the driver was ridiculously high for his charge to take us to our hotel. I knew he was over charging and I could see a row of taxis not that far away, and I started to tell him no. But I looked at my father and said “screw it” and got in the taxi. Because at that point it was not worth the cost savings to make my dad keep walking. I mean it was an 18 day trip to Europe costing thousands, saving 15 or 20 bucks was just not worth the hassle at that point in time. I just wanted to enjoy my time in Paris.

Another example I stayed a bit out of the tourist area (if there is one) in London my first trip. And it cost about 15 to 30 each way each of my 6 days. Or about 3 to 6 hours of my time. 6 days in London only gives about 66 hours of doing tourist stuff. (6x (15-1 hour getting dressed, 2 hours of eating and 1 misc = 11).

My second trip was also 6 days this time I spent a bit more for a closer in more conveniently located hotel and saved that 3 to 6 hours. But I have seen people staying another full hour away. Or 12 full hours of travel more over 6 days. Or basically giving up one full day.

So what do others think of the money vs time of convenience argument?

Posted by
1653 posts

For some people, spending $1,000 instead of $1,100 makes a difference between being able to travel or not. We should respect that. Also, not falling for petty scams can be a matter of pride.
Now, I do agree about your point on staying close to what you want to visit. People think "oh, 30 minutes is nothing". But then, that means paying for extra transportation, not being able to go back to your hotel for a quick rest and a free cup of tea, and being generally more tired so less able to enjoy sights...

Posted by
2294 posts

First of all it's partly a matter of which one you have more of -time/energy or money, and age definitely impacts this calculation. Remember the post about "affording to go to Europe" where the OP couldn't understand how some people on this forum can go so often when she has to scrimp to save for a trip every 5 years? Those of us with higher incomes and air miles/hotel points or even combined business/fun trips with one person's air and hotel paid by the company inhabit a different thought world than most people. I see this dichotomy in my own home-I look at money like a high school teacher and my husband looks at it like a much-better-paid corporate executive. I do believe in what I call "affordable luxuries" such as a taxi from the airport to my hotel-so much easier than taking luggage on public transport and then having to find your hotel. And convenient location is always my #1 priority for a hotel-which means staying at Pensione A and A in Vienna instead of one of the free to us Hiltons on the outskirts of the Ring.

Posted by
4684 posts

So what do others think of the money vs time of convenience argument?

It's basically a religious argument and in my view, pretty pointless. If you value your time and convenience over saving a few bucks, that's your preference. It may not be mine. What's the point in arguing about it?

Each post about SIM cards in Europe is basically a post asking how to save money. If you don't care about saving money, there's no point in getting a SIM card at all - just use your mobile carrier's international roaming plan, no matter what it costs. But for some reason, some people like to pop into these SIM threads and push their own opinion that it's not worth the hassle to save few bucks. Great - why bother us on a thread that's about saving money? We can all decide for ourselves whether something is a hassle and/or worth the savings it might bring us. Not for you to decide for us.

Posted by
1122 posts

Milton Friedman, call your office.

I know you're dead, but try to get a line anyway.

Posted by
5232 posts

And my answer is ...it depends. Length of trip, age and mobility of travelers, prior travel experience and knowledge of the area, and just what "feels right" at the moment. On our first visit to Florence we arrived near dusk on a possibly-rainy day and took a taxi to an unknown hotel; the second time we arrived mid-day in good weather and walked to the same hotel.

Posted by
2275 posts

I think spending a bit of money for time (or convenience, or comfort) is well worth it, if you have the funds. Sometimes budgets are really tight, so every little expense adds up. However, there are some people who refuse to pay more on principle, even if it saves time or is otherwise easier - that's where I differ. A trip is an experience and if you make yourself miserable to save some money that depletes the value of your experience.

One thing I'm big on is balancing out expenses. That means some days having an expensive splurge experience and not worrying about it too much because later days will naturally be more frugal. If your dinner budget is $30/day, maybe two days you eat street food for $10 so that the third day you can spend $70 on a special meal or food tour experience. Much preferable to sticking only to mid-price places, missing the fun local street food AND the gourmet experiences. Or maybe there's a really great hotel that is a little out of your price range in city A. In City B, there's nothing so special so you deliberately go for the budget place there and splurge a little on the great option in A.

Also, I've found that free days at museums are almost never worth it due to the crowds making it unenjoyable. I'm sure there are some obscure, never crowded museums where this isn't true, but for the famous ones...either I value what that museum has enough to pay for it or I skip it.
Same thing for skip the line tickets - sometimes these cost a few euros, but if it's a place with long lines - is it better to wait 30 minutes in line or spend $3 extra for a special ticket? In that case I'd spend the money, I find time spent in lines a waste of vacation time, which is valuable. If there is no skip the line option I'll arrive early. If I can't do any of that there will be a calculation - some sights will be worth the wasted time in line, some will not. That's a matter of personal interest and priority and will be different for everyone.

One thing I do that saves money is walk a lot. You can argue that walking vs. public transit takes longer and so is a waste of time - but often I think the walk is part of experiencing the city. I've been on trips where I took transit or cabs everywhere, never walking more than a few blocks (weather issues, safety, mobility of family) and in those cases I felt I saw a lot of sights but didn't have a good feel for the city or its culture/vibe/sense of place.

Posted by
1369 posts

So I guess the question is what is your personal view on saving money but spending time or enjoyment.

There are things that I will try to save money on, and then splurge in other areas. Usually based in saving money on things that "facilitate" the trip (such as a SIM card) vs spending/splurging on the actual experiences of the trip itself.

Posted by
1369 posts

So what do others think of the money vs time of convenience argument?

There was a time when I would "walk miles to save a dollar" - so to speak. Now I will spend money (though still not extravagant amounts) to save the time in my vacation of walking miles. Unless, to the OP's point, walking miles is part of the experience I'm looking for.

Posted by
45 posts

I have been to Europe seven times, all have been around three weeks vacation. Each time I have spent between 13,000 to 15,000 CDN. I expect to spend that amount of money so when I get there I just don't worry about saving a Euro here and a Euro there. If I want to do something, I do it. Even if it costs a couple hundred Euro, in the big picture, that is a small portion of what you have spent to get there. Conversely, if it is in someone's blood to always try to save money, do it, it will not bother me in the least.

Posted by
16579 posts

People are positioned all along the frugal/extravagant continuum. I'm convinced there's a genetic component: My two siblings and I had the same two parents and same environment growing up but have vastly different attitudes about saving vs. spending money, which were evident even in early childhood.

Attitudes about money carry over to travel styles to some degree. If you aren't mortgaging your future (and you don't have to travel to do that), there's no harm--and a often a lot of joy--in doing what makes you happy. That may mean taking a taxi rather than a bus, paying for private tours and springing for the ocean-view room with expansive balcony. Go for it; just don't expect me to join you!

I get a lot of pleasure out of maximizing the value of my dollars. The fancy artisan chocolates from the "seconds" bin at Borough Market tasted better than they would have at full price. Huge value there. I don't care about sleeping in a fancy environment, so a really nice hotel room doesn't have much extra value to me at all.

I will, however, pay what it takes to avoid an insane overnight-flight schedule with unnecessary connections and ugly layovers. I think a lot of new travelers to Europe simply lack the experience to recognize the impact of cheaping-out on airline tickets. They don't know:

  • They may be too exhausted upon arrival after an eastbound transatlantic flight to do other than sleep-walk to the taxi queue.
  • The airport used by their budget airline for an intra-European flight may be far from their alleged destination, meaning a very high taxi fare.
  • Separate tickets offer no protection if the first flight is delayed.
Posted by
1400 posts

We planning our trips, I always take it all under consideration. Private $400 tour for 6 vs. paying $50 each for a group tour - worth the extra dollars. Expensive taxi back to hotel for 2 or walk/bus/metro, would depend on the time of night, level of energy, weather. Discount or miles for hotel a little out of the center - I do the math. For example, we were in Amsterdam and booked the Hilton which was about 4 train stops out of the center for 50€ vs the hotel in the center for around 200€ no breakfast, saving 150€ per night times 9 nights, that’s 1,350€, you bet we stayed at the Hilton. But in Prague the Hilton was just around 50€ less then the hotel in town and we were only there for 4 nights so we paid the higher price.
What drives me crazy is people who are too cheap (and you know they have the money) or not interested enough to pay to go into a great museum. We were with family in Dubrovnik and my SIL wouldn’t go into any museums. We would walk by, I would say, this museum is great, tells you the story of the city and people, we would get into the door, go up to the counter, she would see the price, and change her mind. She would say to me, oh this place doesn’t look so interesting. We’ve been in these museums a few times so we didn’t have to visit. Granted she had her two children with her, but their grandfather is from Dubrovnik, didn’t make a difference. Just plain cheap. She asked me the other day if we were going next summer, they would come with us, I told her no, we are going In September, by ourselves.

Posted by
2294 posts

Mira, the added advantage of walking is that you can lose weight, since most of us don't do as much walking at home.

Posted by
4498 posts

There is an old adage in the design world:

Time, cost and value. You can have two but never all three. Pick the two that are most important to you.

This really works well for travel too. You can save some time by spending more money, or save some money and lose time. And it is really important to consider value or benefit on a major oversees trip. For me, I never want to lose the value of the experience, so I have to chose between time and money spent. It varies which one I choose, but I would never "tell" someone which is the best because everyone is different and has different financial resources. But for me, time is pretty important when I only have a short visit somewhere.

Posted by
11415 posts

But a trip to Europe is NEVER going to be cheap. On average you are
probably in for a few hundred dollars a day per person.

Except that we have posters who are citizens of European countries so what they average per day can be different than what tourists from the U.S might spend to get from points A to B. What any tourist might spend on accommodations, methods of transport and attractions/activities might be different than what others might choose depending on financial ability, age and interests. Sometime I think we forget that not everyone on this forum is from North America and/or that they're not all middle-aged or older?

After a long day my dad was getting very tired (86 at the time) so I
found a taxi and the driver was ridiculously high for his charge to
take us to our hotel. I knew he was over charging...But I looked at my
father and said “screw it” and got in the taxi. Because at that point
it was not worth the cost savings to make my dad keep walking. I mean
it was an 18 day trip to Europe costing thousands, saving 15 or 20
bucks was just not worth the hassle at that point in time. I just
wanted to enjoy my time in Paris.

Yours is just one situation. Different choices might be made by backpackers or cash-strapped adventurers from the E.U. or the U.S. or elsewhere in the world on, say, a gap year or sabbatical. For those staying in a hostel bunk room, that "15 or 20 bucks" might be the difference between eating that night or not.

What I don't have a lot of patience for are individuals who intend to drop a LOT of time and $$ on personal shopping but balk at spending reasonable amounts on important historic attractions or more convenient/efficient transport choices. A personal flaw of mine, I know.

I do understand the frustration when the transport cost of staying too far away from the area you intend to spend most of your time exploring could equate to the price of a less-distant room.

Posted by
506 posts

The older I get, the more I am willing to pay for convenience. I’m only in my mid 40s, but I’m finding that traveling is taking a bigger toll on me than it did in my 20s. So after flying all night, now I may choose to take a taxi rather than public transportation. I try to save where I can so I can splurge on other things. Mom and I have taken a few trips together overseas this past year. Getting an Airbnb or an apartment allowed us to save money on hotels and we were also able to cook some of our own meals, which helps us to eat healthier and also to save some money( we also enjoy shopping at local grocery stores! ) Then we don’t feel bad about splashing out on something else. I am also almost to the point where paying for a hotel room near JFK and taking a day flight to London or Ireland might be what I start doing. It’s getting to where that might make more sense than being exhausted and trying to catch up on sleep when I arrive. I feel like the day I arrive is kind of shot because I’m too wiped out to do anything. So I am finding things changing as I get older. I’m willing to be a little kinder to myself and do what I need to do in order to fully enjoy my travels, even if it costs a bit more.

Posted by
432 posts

Douglas: >> There is an old adage in the design world:
Time, cost and value. You can have two but never all three. Pick the two that are most important to you.<<

I was in the PR and video/photo biz for four decades; I heard that aphorism often, too., but a bit more direct: you can have it cheap, in a hurry, or we’ll done, pick two. Then I listened objectively to many of our post-project review sessions and it became clear to me our clients could really only have it one way. If it was cheap, it was neither good nor quick because it was not a priority nor did it receive the attention of our better people. If it was quick, it could be expensive because of a major push but it was usually drab and tossed out. If it was good, it usually took a long time and it always cost a lot of money. Those were the only projects worth doing both for the economics of the firm and for the creative satisfaction of the staff.

Posted by
432 posts

I can only speak for myself: I carefully saved and I worked long and hard so I could retire comfortably and enjoy these next many years.

Posted by
589 posts

I think this was a very interesting post because I have had the same thoughts as well when reading posts from potential travelers.

I have been personally asked these questions from friends about budgets,costs, etc. My answer in most cases is don't go until you are ready not to fret over every Euro or Dollar. My reasoning is that no matter your budget, don't do something you don't want to do. Don't stay in a hostel or confine yourself to a 1-2 star hotel if you don't want a hostel or 1-2 star hotel. Save more money, wait another year and go and enjoy yourself.

Personal preference is the final answer to all travel. Some folks could care less to see art, to hear an opera, to see historical sights. Some have a preference for food, wine, countryside, scenery or architecture. Some folks say no public transportation for them, only taxis and drivers.

The answer for me on Money vs Time or Convenience is "it all depends". If I can stay in a nicer hotel and ride the metro 20 minutes to get to the city center, I have no problem with that because I don't really feel the need to stay at night in the city center. I have priorities in travel as everyone does. First, is seeing those sights that are on my list. Second, a nice hotel. I want AC because I want a comfortable nights rest and hopefully a quiet hotel room. Efficiency in travel whether it be a train, car or flights. Unlike some, I am not anti-Eurail Pass. I do the rough math. But, if its close I go with the pass because I like the flexibility of hopping a train without a stop to buy a ticket or the ability to change my mind on time or destination. Most everything else is "whatever".

The best advice that experienced travelers can give to new travelers is do it your way because in the end, its their money.

Good Post Douglas!

Posted by
20557 posts

...The older I get, the more I am willing to pay for convenience..... Support that statement a hundred percent. We have two frequent statements regarding money in our household. If we don't spent it, our daughter-in-laws will. Second, we do not want to die with a million dollars in the bank. We haven't quite figured out how to control that one. But we are working on it. Off to Amsterdam on Tuesday, and probably will be silent for a month.

Posted by
1369 posts

I am very happy this year that I chose to pay more for the time and convenience of a nonstop to Frankfurt rather than a British Airways connection with a long layover through Heathrow, as I did last year.

Posted by
2901 posts

I tend to do most of my money saving in the planning phase of a trip. Once I’m actually on the trip, I won’t hesitate to spend money if I feel there is value attached to that spending.

Posted by
12084 posts

Take the air fare and a trip is cheap plus it depends on the current exchange rate. In Oct 2017 I paid r/t on Br Air OAK to London Gatwick in Economy non-stop $530, the B&B in KingsCross 95 GBP or less, any way it ca $120 per night for a single. With prices like that, much cheaper to London than to NY from SF, plus I much rather go and spend the money in London anyway in NY.

I know I can go even cheaper on a trip to Europe than what I do now, especially when it comes to accommodations since I go in the summer, eg stay 90% in hostels in dorm room where you share with others 1/3 your age, all millennials, ie no private rooms, (2), stay in university dorms, eg in London, instead of spending 85 GBP or more on a single in B&B. (3), take more night trains than the 2-3 I do now, tailor the trip around that instead of convenience....no sleepers or couchettes on the night train.

(4) picnic 85% at dinner instead of hitting a restaurant , even though most of the eateries are at train stations.

I usually take the side of saving that extra buck over convenience, which means I never take Uber or hardly ever taxis unless it's a super compelling reason.to choose that option. Squeezing the extra buck is no problem depending on discipline and knowing your priorities and sticking to them. I stay mostly in the train station area anyway, except in Berlin.

I can be a lot more discriminating in choosing the flights going over than I have been so far. Putting up with a 11 hr non-stop is no problem since I'm that desperate to go, ...rather that than the alternative. Going over I pick only non-stop flights when cheaper ones may be available.

You learn to do without in amenities, that certain level of luxury, if it saves you the cash, Do without AC in the summer if you have to pay extra for it...I won't, eg, in the 2 star hotel i stay in Paris. The Pensionen and 2 star hotels in Germany I've stayed at do not need to address this...there is no AC offered there anyway.

Posted by
13902 posts

When I was in my 20's, I learned, of necessity, to watch pennies closely. That became a mindset that I never had growing up. By my 30's, I was much better off but I still had that frugal attitude. An offhand remark made me reevaluate. I was shopping in the market with a coworker. I was considering some fruit and said it was too expensive. He straight at me and said - you can afford it; you aren't buying a lot, what in the world is your problem?

It's taken me decades to "evolve" but every year I find I'm looking more at "how much is it worth to me here and now" and not just "it's a lot to pay." I almost always take a taxi from the train station to my hotel in new destination because it's not worth the hassle if I run into a lot of stairs or get lost. It's worth the cost to eat a nice dinner instead of buying groceries to take back to my room, though sometimes it's nice to eat in my pj's with my feet up and relax.

I stopped "doing the math" for museum and transportation passes. The convenience is worth it, and if I don't break even, so what - it's only a couple euros difference.

On the other hand, I've learned what not to spend money on. I have almost enough souvenirs that I never look at to pay for a week's stay somewhere. And what to splurge on - I love seeing my $2000 carpet every day for the last 6 years; it was a spur-of-the-moment decision on the RS Turkey tour.

Posted by
140 posts

Some choices are based on a false economy and it would be helpful to point that out. However, some choices are just about convenience. If you don’t have extra money and every $15 is another hour of work, then you look at that choice different from someone making $50 an hour or in a well financed retirement. I started out with very little and traveled accordingly, and now have the luxury of choosing time over money. Others don’t and I respect that.

Posted by
1369 posts

Chani, I so agree with your point:
"I stopped "doing the math" for museum and transportation passes. The convenience is worth it,"

Especially with transportation passes, I find that if I have a reasonable expectation that I will use it (usually in a larger destination) then I will not only get the value of expected use, but I'll use the pass in unexpected ways to take off in a new direction and explore. Examples in Prague and Budapest where I used the passes to just sightsee along the Vltava and Danube rivers, while giving my feet a break.

Edit: with a museum pass, I might drop into a museum that I might not have otherwise visited and find something terrific!

Posted by
3106 posts

I have found that in most cases saving money cost you in time and convenience.

Your time spent on things is also worth something and should be factored into travel costs. Even if you completely enjoy the whole planning process, at some point you just have to give up on finding that last $20 savings for something on your trip because it just isn't there to be found.

Sure you can get lucky with travel where an airline is expanding and offers the exact route you want at an unbelievably good price on the dates you need. Happened to me once where I was able to fly to Germany to the exact place I wanted to be non stop in business class for what every other airline was charging for at least two stops in economy. So I took it. And the hotel for opening week of Octoberfest only one subway stop from the festival grounds for $100 that I grabbed immediately. But finding those deals are rare, and it is a matter of timing and luck to find them.

Obsessing over a slight fluctuation in the price of things only makes you miserable. Once you purchase whatever part of the travel package, move on. While it doesn't hurt to check airfare to see if it changed enough to still save you money even with the change fee if you rebook is something I have done, especially on business or 1st fares, the likelihood of there being that much of a change is slim to none.

Just enjoy your trip. I'm not saying to completely ignore prices and just pay whatever, but don't waste time and effort where it is not appropriate.

Posted by
64 posts

I think this is too personal to each person’s likes, dislikes and priorities to make any generalizations or to judge as smart or not smart how another person spends their money. Me, for instance, I save on hotels. I want a room to be in the location I prefer and to have a comfortable bed and be safe. Amenities mean nothing to me as I am using the room to shower and sleep. In the last five years I have stayed in hostels for a night or more on three different trips to Ireland. I am in my mid-60s and I find them safe, fun, comfortable and incredibly affordable. Some may not even know that you can get private ensuite rooms in many hostels. Conversely, I will spend a few hundred extra for a direct flight as I hate the hassle and schedule worries of changing planes. It’s all a matter of what is important - or not - to you.

Posted by
2294 posts

Fred, you're the man if you can go without AC. Down here we say-"money can't buy happiness, but it can pay for AC and that's almost the same thing". It's only 97 today.

Posted by
187 posts

When Rick started wasn't in on $5 a day? And he admitted skipping payments for rooms/hotels, and eating left over food.

Where did you read this?

Posted by
12084 posts

@ cala...In 1991 in August on my first Southern trip I was in Montgomery, after taking the Greyhound from Atlanta, spent 3-4 night nights there, (made sure the hotel was within reasonable walking distance from the Greyhound station), didn't want to fly and especially didn't want to drive.

I was after seeing historic Montgomery, eg, Hull Street, etc if you are familiar with that city. I know that Alabama summer temperature. It was in the 90sF both in temperature and humidity then.

I can do without the AC in France, Germany, etc in Europe.

Posted by
13902 posts

cala - "money can't buy happiness, but it can pay for AC and that's almost the same thing"

Wonderful. It's about the same here, though this week it's finally hovering around 90 - almost a cold spell.

Posted by
1499 posts

All travel is a balance between money, time, and convenience. Every decision made on where to go, where to stay, where to eat, and what to see, involves those three things.

Pre-retirement, time on vacation was a precious commodity. And since we were getting paid on vacation, while we weren't extravagant, we were not frugal either. I'd easily spend an extra 100+ a night for the perfect location, larger room, view, and balcony. In Scotland I spent $450 for one night to stay in an old castle. Looking back I think our priorities were time, convenience then money. On average our trips (excluding air) cost $450 per day for two of us.

Now that we are retired, living in Italy, and on a limited budget, we are doing things differently. To conserve money for our monthly travel adventures, we rarely eat out when home. My goal now is to average about 100 euros a night for lodging. Not always possible, but close. But convenience/location is still a priority. We might take a slower train, or travel a different day to save money on train tickets. After all, time is not so important now, as when we had 14 precious days in Europe. We almost never go out to lunch when traveling, but either picnic, or grab a quick 5 Euro panini. These days, we are traveling for about $200-250 a day, depending on destination.

So now, in retirement, our priorities have shifted to convenience (location, not waiting in long lines), money, with time coming in last.

Posted by
1878 posts

It’s a personal thing and we each have to decide on our own. For me I avoid taxis partly because they often try and rip you off with off-meter rides and where the honest fare is very expensive. I have had quite a few bad experiences with taxis, and not just on the fare. However when I balked at the 100 Euro or so from Milan to the airport, this was a big mistake on my part. My workaround of staying at the airport hotel was a miscalculation. I am happy to pay a few hundred more for a flight to avoid two connections, landing at a remote airport, or a 36 hour flight. I will spend a few hundred more to go open jaw and avoid backtracking (for example into Venice and out of Rome). Flying into London when you really want to visit Italy is a false economy. Cheap flights often are too. Any time you get on a plane it eats up a big chunk of a day, I don’t care if the time in the air is one hour. Staying far from the area of town you want to spend your time in, also a false economy. I don’t cheap out on entry fees, to paraphrase Rick the sights are the reason you came. Everyone has their own set of prefences though and it’s their trip. If someone asks my advice I can only speak from my own perspective.

Posted by
2294 posts

vftravels, except that an overnight or longer layover in London gives you the added bonus of time there in addition to your visit to Italy.

Posted by
17615 posts

While I agree that spending more on comfort or convenience can be warranted, I'm constantly finding people spending more than they need to on lodging and transportation (for example) because they don't know how to find equivalent services that cost less. I guess you could call that convenience, because they don't want to take the time or effort to learn how to save money, but I call that needlessly wasting money.

In my past trips over the last twenty years I've kept detailed expense records, and I've spent about €65-70 per 24 hr period, single occupancy, on the ground (Note, I don't include airfare because it varies greatly due to destinations - people who fly from Boston to Ireland are not smarter than those who fly from LA to Italy just because they spend less on air fare. Same with showing expenses in US$ vs euro.)

Posted by
589 posts

In my past trips over the last twenty years I've kept detailed expense records, and I've spent about €65-70 per 24 hr period, single occupancy, on the ground.

That is an average over 20 years? How about over the past 2 years to make it more current.

Posted by
11415 posts

vftravels, except that an overnight or longer layover in London gives
you the added bonus of time there in addition to your visit to Italy.

Except that an arrival-day overnight in London might not be very enjoyable if one is too jet-lagged to enjoy it and/or it eats up time you'd rather be spending elsewhere? Plus, many airports are far enough away from center that it can be a hassle/expense to get in and then out again for just a few waking hours. I like London a lot but not for a bleary-eyed overnight en route to destination X in Europe.

Posted by
17615 posts

How about over the past 2 years to make it more current.

When I was in Germany 2 years ago, I traveled with my new partner instead of single. We spent €140 per "day", double occupancy. We saved money on accommodation because there were two of us, but spent a little more on food 'cause Robin likes to splurge more than I do.

Over twenty years my daily expenses have stayed more or less the same. First, I think prices in Germany have stayed fairly constant. Any increase in prices have been offset by savings in my accommodation costs. I've discovered that I really like the cultural experience of staying in Privatzimmer ("Zimmer Frei"), and these cost less than the accommodations I used to use. Today, I prefer to stay in a Privatzimmmer whenever possible.

Posted by
17615 posts

I'm constantly finding people spending more than they need to ...
because they don't know how to find equivalent services that cost less.

Transportation is one example. So often people rent a car in Germany because in America that's what you normally have to do, and they don't realize that Germany is not like the US. I usually save half to two-thirds using rail with Savings Fare tickets for longer trips and regional passes, like the Bayern-Ticket for shorter trips. Yes, regional passes are limited to regional trains after 9 AM, but a lot of my trips are within single states to small towns that only have regional service, and I really don't want to travel before 9. I like the freedom trains give. I can sit in a seat that's larger than a car's, use the bathroom without stopping, and my time is free - I can watch scenery, do my expenses, write in my log, whatever, instead of having to watch the road. I wonder how many people who use rental cars actually know how to use the trains effectively.

Accommodations is another area where people spend more money needlessly. I agree with Rick that spending more on accommodations just builds a bigger wall between you and what you traveled so far to see. There is no need to stay in multi-star hotels. In Germany, all stars get you is 24 hour room service, heated towel racks, and shoe shine machines in every room. DEHOGA, the German organization that awards stars requires the same standard of cleanliness and maintenance for any stars, even one. And because DEHOGA will only award one star to hotels that don't take credit cards and Germans eschew credit cards, there are a lot of very good accommodations out there that don't even bother with stars.

Booking websites are another place where people spend needlessly. Booking websites exact a fee for booking accommodations (15% or more, I hear), and it is effectively you that ends up paying it. It's the more expensive places that have money in their rates to pay the commission.

I often book using information from town websites, and I find these website will have two or three times as many places listed as will a booking website for the same town, and the booking-website-listed-properties are almost always the most expensive listings for a given town. Google Maps is also a good source to find properties that are not shown on booking websites.

Posted by
4653 posts

Also "cheap" flights can end up being more expensive. I remember years ago there was a one-time poster on here who wanted to get from Paris to somewhere else in Europe and had booked a flight from Tours airport because the fare was so low. Only problem was it was early in the morning and no train from Paris would get him there in time unless he stayed overnight in Tours.

Posted by
74 posts

Interesting read...I agree with many here. To me it's "Go now". If you are young, go spend less, but go. We are almost 70 and planning our first trip to Europe. Less expensive options diminish as we age, comfort is a priority...not luxury but comfort. So we will spend a little extra so we can go back to hotel for a rest, get a Uber if we are tired, and definitely pay for tours and attractions. But we won't shop for stuff, we will book AirBnbs where we can to save on 1-2 meals a day, and evaluate options balancing our needs & wants. The experience is what matters, so to me it not about more or less, its about spending efficiently for your particular situation.

Posted by
10662 posts

I'm constantly finding people spending more than they need to ...
because they don't know how to find equivalent services that cost
less.

No, most often because it is their style choice. Sama as in many choose to check a bag or two. I rarely see a post admonishing someone for being so cheap that they missed some part of the experience, but those who live to travel cheap do tend to be a bit more opinionated.

My, personal, best compromise is to travel 4 star in Eastern Europe for about the cost of 2 star in Western Europe.

Posted by
12084 posts

"...style choice...." Very true. That is also one reason that I don't automatically preclude staying in hotels in a dorm room, just because it is a hostel where one would have stayed in his 20s but not in his 60s and 70s. No problems staying either in a 4 star hotel as long as the price is offered at 2 stars.

Posted by
17615 posts

most often because it is their style choice

That would only be true if they made these "style choices" based on complete information about all of their choices and the accompanying costs. But it is obvious from the questions asked on this board that that is NOT the case. In fact, I see a lot of recommendations here that show that the individuals making the recommendation don't know all of the options. I don't even claim to know all of the options, but I think I know more than most first time travelers.

Most travelers that post questions here don't know all of the options; they usually know only the most commonly known choices (rent a car, buy a rail pass, stay at the Hilton, etc) and those are the more expensive options.

And there can be less expensive options within a style choice that people don't take because they are not aware of them.

And yes, I will probably spend more than I normally do on my next planned trip, because I will choose to stay at a "luxury resort", but it is not for lack of knowledge about less expensive options.

Posted by
645 posts

Time versus money is always a question. Right now, we have more money than time, though we we can be gone three to four weeks and I can be gone up to six weeks. When we were in our twenties and early thirties we had 8 to ten weeks at a time but very little money. Then we waited in line and took the slow train. Now, we purcgase advance tickets and take the express. Given the choice, I'd rather wait in line and take the slow train. But we do what makes sense on our time and money budget.

Posted by
10662 posts

Lee, you seem to think price is a driving factor for everyone, and assume that if they haven't chosen the cheapest, it because they don't know better. But I will agree that if they don't know how to check out hotels on line, they are going to regret their decision. I just don't know a living soul that doesn't know TripAdvisor or Bookings.com.

Most of the advice here involves cheap, cheap, cheap and one 7kg carryon. That's just not what fits the average taste. Everyone should spend a few nights in the Budapest Four Seasons; arguably the most decadent hotel in Europe. It's a great experience. Very few over 40 are going to be glad they stayed in a hostel.

The people I know that rent cars do it because it works for their interests and travel style. One couple o know spent 10 hours driving from Budapest to Vienna and loved every stop they made. Its 2.5 hours and over 70 euro cheaper on the train. But that wasn't their idea of fun.

I still hire a driver from time to time; and I am very informed .... about what I enjoy.

Posted by
8 posts

My views have changed as I have aged. My twenty year old self was happy in hostels or even tents. We used to travel with our small tent. In 1975 my husband convinced the hostel in Jerusalem to let us pitch our tent on the ground next to the hostel for free even thought the hostel was very cheap. The supervisor of the hostel was sympathetic after my husband showed him our passports to prove we were married. In the 70's when breakfast on the train from Paris to the south of France was the equivalent of $5.00 we did without breakfast. Now that I am in my 70's would I go back to that way of traveling? No way. I am older now and need some comforts and I can pay for them. The problem is that I have a husband who thinks saving money is a game. It's an indoor sport for him. He also seems to forget we are both in our 70's. I have a friend my age who is the same way. He can afford any type of trip he wants but he still pinches those pennies. I have learned that you can't change those people. These days I make a deal with my husband. He can book cheap flights but I choose the hotels. That way I know I have some comfort. Actually some of the cheapo airlines like Ryan Air have so infuriated my husband by nickel and diming us for everything that he has decided not to use them and we are back on United or other major airlines. My husband also somewhat reluctantly has admitted that he has enjoyed the better hotels so maybe he has changed a bit. Also the last time we were in Rome we used cabs quite a bit which we never would have done in the old days. I may have helped using cabs by alluding to some surgery I had recently although actually I was feeling fine. Sometimes with a cheapskate you have to be creative. If you are stuck with traveling with one of these cheapskates try to make a deal beforehand so you are not constantly arguing about money and stay in a nice hotel and get them to admit they like it and that will be the first crack in the penny pinching armor.

Posted by
16579 posts

I think it comes down to value. We each define "value" a different way. Jo Anne's husband treats saving money as a game--a game he enjoys. To him the value of finding a good deal on something is probably greater than the amount of money saved, because he gets joy from winning the game. I'm somewhat that way myself, so I understand. When I've gotten a round-trip to Europe for miles and $70 in taxes, I am happy about that throughout the entire trip. But flights with bad connections would have very little value to me even if paid for with miles, so I wouldn't be interested in them.

For someone with really limited funds (especially if there's an entire family to transport), taking an awkward series of flights may be the only thing that makes a trip possible this year. For that person, the value of the bargain flight is much, much greater than the few hundred dollars possibly saved per ticket, because it facilitates an otherwise-impossible trip to Europe.

One more example: I just don't put very much value on fancy, charming, large, etc., lodgings. Nicer is...nice, but the incremental value to me is quite minor, so I'm not willing to pay much extra (if I have a choice) for a balcony, a nice view, a fancy bedspread, and so on. The room is just a means to an end. For many others, the room is an important part of the vacation experience, so they're willing to pay substantially more for a better place to sleep. My only concern in that regard is that I have a feeling some novice visitors to Europe equate "budget" with "unclean" and/or "unsafe". It has been 25 years since I had a dirty hotel room in Europe--back before the Internet gave us access to reviews.

Posted by
3315 posts

First, I don't care how other people are spending their own money, time, etc. during their vacation. Well, I might be a bit jealous of their first class seats on the plane! We have a huge variety of people on the forum with different priorities that drive each of our own decisions. If/when someone's asking for advice that could save them either time or money, it's still their decision.

MONEY:
We have the money to take nicer trips than I plan, but I don't need to spend a lot of money to enjoy a trip. So, more money spent is not a direct correlation for a better trip for us. I really enjoy the smaller towns in Europe. Those less touristy places are generally by essence, cheaper. For instance, several of the activities that I really enjoyed during my last trip to France had free entry every day. Also, we find traveling by train very relaxing, so the cost savings are just a nice bonus. And local transportation is just a fun way to meet people!

My typical choice for our lodging is a central location that is clean and safe. We're not spending much time in the hotel room, so a fancy hotel wouldn't interest me. (This ANNOYS the timeshare salespeople when they try to show me glamorous hotels during their sales pitches, and I tell them I wouldn't want to stay there when I'm on vacation in Europe!) During the overall trip, I will pick one location to have a nicer room where it makes sense, i.e. a special view, such as the Imperial Palace Hotel at Lake Annecy. We save a lot of money on food because neither of us are big foodies. A typical local meal in a family restaurant outside of the tourist area is plenty fine for us for dinner.

Time:
We learned early during our RS tours how much time is saved by staying at a hotel in the center of the old section of town. I'll spend a bit more to make sure we have a central location. And, I do buy special activity tickets on-line ahead of time, so we don't need to stand in line as long.

A big time element is that I plan our trips to have no more than 2-3 hours between locations. This past trip with the 6 hr. Paris-to-Nice train was a huge exception for me. I plan a 3-week trip to cover one country or dip into an adjacent country that still gives me the 2-3 hr train connections. To me, time sitting in any transportation vehicle is wasted vacation time, so I try to minimize transportation time as a high priority.

Probably the biggest times savings is all of the preparation and research I do ahead of time, so that we're maximizing our time during vacation. We review my summaries and maps on the train ride and then are ready to do whatever interests us when we arrive at the next town. Yes, we do like to wander leisurely sometimes, but it's not wandering because we don't know what could be doing.

So to summarize, if people want to be very frugal or spend lots of money, I don't care. I hope they both are enjoying their traveling styles.

Posted by
331 posts

My original thinking on making this post was about folks that can’t balance these points. A couple examples I have seen here was a poster taking business class flights to Europe and otherwise spending a good amount on the trip based on various posts they had made trying and trying and trying to save what amounted to less the $200 for cell phone coverage. The key here was that the person WANTED cell coverage and all the advantages of a smart phone but was just to cheep to pay for it... Not that they could not aford it..

But my favorite examples tend to be like the following. I can’t aford a hotel near where I will be spending my time. So I will save a bit of money and spend a couple hours a day for a week traveling back and forth, Thus losing a full days time to just sitting on the train/subway. But if you do the math you could cut one day. Stay in a nicer better located hotel still see as much because the time works out and not spen any more because you cut out the cost for the hotel and food for one day.

Basically a lot of folks are so obsessed with counting dollars that they place no value on time. Or anything else. And I think it is a balancing game. I played that game wrong a couple years ago. I had a car in the south of France (I travel with my elderly father and it works better for us). Dropped the car and took the train north then needed another car to get around in an area with no practical public transportation. I did the for convenience and to ease the travel. Turns out travel was not that easy or comfortable and we had a long delay and for a few other reasons we would have been better off driving and keeping the car.

So it is a game you take your best guess and go. But sometimes people are “Penney wise and pound foolish “. I had a friend spend over 15k on a dream trip. He is a foodie and desperately wanted to eat at a perticular restaurant but the cost would have been $400 or so for him and his wife. He talked about this restaurant ALL the time. But ultimately decided not to eat at it due to cost, but he stayed in $400+ hotels and other solutes and could have afforded it. Now if you bring it up he either changes the subject, or acts like he things that restaurant sucks and is over priced,,l. You can tell that skipping this has had an effect on his enjoyment of an otherwise great trip. And he could have easily afforded it.
Me I would NEVER spend that much for dinner (or a trip) but to him it was important and you can tell that 5 years later he still regrets it...

Posted by
4852 posts

douglas, this was a good discussion. I agree that many people make uninformed and unreasoned choices in order to stay in their comfort zone. I think a common one is people not recognizing the value of time, by spending it looking for just the right ATM to save on fees, or booking flights to inconvenient cities because they are cheaper, but require more ground travel.

I think its just human nature to go with what's familiar. I've talked to many people about things like DCC and rail passes, small hotels, and open-jaw flights, etc., only to find out they did what they were comfortable with anyway.

Posted by
12084 posts

I have no problems staying in a hostel per se as an option, but then I am picky or discriminating as to which hostel, its location, and other variables.

Posted by
10662 posts

Fred, where have you been?

Stan

I think its just human nature to go with what's familiar.

Yes, its called planning a vacation you will enjoy. Someone can lecture me all they want about what is "best", but if it ain't best for me, then it ain't best.

Posted by
180 posts

It's almost impossible to stay near every site you want to see without changing hotels every night, but you can pick a hotel near a metro station, which helps a lot.

Posted by
10662 posts

Me I would NEVER spend that much for dinner (or a trip) but to him it
was important and you can tell that 5 years later he still regrets
it...

I once lost my credit card on a trip. I called the company to report it. They went over the recent charges and the woman asked, "did you stay in a suite in the London Ritz Carlton last night?" I responded, "no, just ate dinner there," To which she gasped, and said, "oh my g-d". Hey, it was dance night!! No regrets.

Posted by
47 posts

Late reply and thoughts on an interesting topic.

I'm a rookie with overseas travel, and I can say that since planning for my first completed venture and an upcoming trip, this has helped me focus more on all of these aspects. As an older, still working & solo traveler, I'm still learning the ins and outs. I think had I started traveling abroad at an earlier age that the experiences would have changed matters of perspective & economics in my day-to-day life. I don't think many of us would argue that traveling and experiencing new cultures is a truly remarkable pastime. You can't attach a dollar value to that.

By example, an upcoming trip could have entailed an early flight home (5:00AM), originating in Portugal. That was something I was definitely not OK with. So, an overnight stopover in AMS was hatched, and is now booked. I was at peace with the additional cost of airfare (not on a budget airline) to make the hop from Portugal to AMS. What went south was the cost of lodging at Schiphol, which roughly doubled since I first began researching and planning. (Eurovision 2020 in Rotterdam, likely cause? I knew nothing of this happening and its potential impact. Lesson learnt, book lodging right away if price is agreeable and a booking that can be readily canceled.) It isn't as attractive as originally, however, I am still content with avoiding an early morning flight. Frugal? Not frugal? And in the end, was still my choice to make.

My point being how do you plan for things happening... could be a flight delay or cancellation by the airline? Does everyone know how to overcome such hiccups without incurring more cost ($). It would likely have an impact as well on time and convenience. The trip I made last year went off without a hitch. Will I be prepared and know what to do when things out of my control work against the best made plans? Seems to me as something to factor into any conversation regarding cost/time/convenience, unseemly as it may be.

These days, I too am leaning more for convenience, and a modest level, for my income, of comfort (no 4 or 5 * lodgings). And I enjoy utilizing public transit (consider it a challenge & part of the overall experience and I don't fret a reasonable loss of time), just not from the airport to lodging and back!

Thanks for allowing me ramble to on.

John

Posted by
17615 posts

When Rick started wasn't in on $5 a day?

Frommer wrote that book in 1957; Rick didn't travel alone to Europe until about 1973. I doubt that you could still travel there for $5 a day by then.

Posted by
10662 posts

JG, I think the key to my enjoyment is knowing how much I have to spend, then designing a trip that maximizes my enjoyment for the money I have. Some I think pick the trip first, then dumb it down to their budget. There are times where that might make sense, like if your dream was a particular time and place and their is no substitute for that dream. Me, my bucket list is huge so I have options. Creativitu helps too.

Posted by
5232 posts

Regarding the question about "Europe on $5 a Day" -- we used it in 1969 when we spent about $15 a day for two (student budget) people. Yes, those days are long gone