My husband and I are not fancy travelers but we love a long trip and long stays in in the locations we select. We have learned – in part due to excellent advice in the Forum – how to economize in order to afford to be gone on longer trips and frequently.
Many people who come here for advice say they cannot afford to travel longer than a week, 10 days, or maybe 2 weeks. Certainly, some are limited by available vacation but some are limited by funds, hence we often see “I’m on a budget.”
Some of the advice-givers here take long trips of a month or more and have developed strategies for making your money go further.
For our part, we traveled about 18 weeks (not sequential) between January 1 and October 31, in 2016, so I had a chance to analyze how we made that work. Here’s what worked to allow us to travel so long. (Retired, of course, so time is not a problem.)
Longer stays = less expense in lodging, food, transportation. We stay in apartments, (usually) a minimum of 4 nights. We cook some dinners. When we stay in hotels or B&Bs, our food cost approaches €100/day for two, including wine. Last year, in a month-long stay we spent €56/day average because we cooked about 2/3 of our dinners and ½ our lunches.
Longer stays = a more local experience. You start to experience local life style, find your coffee shop, your grocery, your greengrocer, etc. So many people say they want to relax and get to know the culture, then have an itinerary of 2-or-3 night stays and rent a car. That does not connect you to the culture and it costs a bundle.
Limit geography to fit the length of the trip. One country, not three, in two weeks. If you have two months then you can roam farther, but even then, 11-countries-in-60-days is costly and confusing.
We primarily use public transportation and buy passes when they make sense. Cars are expensive and insulate you from other travelers and the culture. Sure, you may need one for a special sight or site now-and-then, but buses and trains are economical and fun. Oh, and an occasional taxi is worthwhile, especially arriving in a large city you’ve never navigated before.
We limit souvenirs and gifts.
Have an occasional splurge. My husband likes first class on the train, so we do splurge for that but I buy tickets in well in advance whenever possible. We also do a higher-end dinner about once a week when we have an apartment.
Self-guided tours rule. When we take a tour we make it a good one with a private guide or very small group for sites we deem worthy (Vatican Museums, Pompeii, Louvre). Otherwise, we use Rick Steves’ self-guided tours and a few from other sources (the “24 Great Walks in ____” books are terrific) as well.
What advice can you give to people who wish they could travel longer but think they do not have the funds? Where do you splurge and where do you save?