6 Tips for the Discount Vagabond Traveler

Alexandra Munier of Broke207My Guest Poster this week is Alexandra Munier of Broke207. She’s one of those people who you want around when you go bargain hunting because she knows a thing or two about saving pennies. I love her wit and wisdom, and I think you will too. Hopefully she’ll become a PTV regular! For now, let’s get into spending wisely on the road.

It’s time to throw out the budget travel handbook, because everything you ever learned about printing coupons, packing lunches, and sucking it up when your discount flight has 5 layovers, is wrong- really wrong. Sure, you can shave off a few dollars here and there, but you might also accidentally shave off a whole lot of enjoyment. Vacations are for people who like to rest quietly inside hermetically sealed all-inclusive resort bubbles, but travel is about exploring and adventure. And really great travel has nothing to do with how much cash you’ve got rattling around in your pockets, it’s all about being creative.

  • Get an inside man. If you have the luxury of a few days to a few weeks before you head off into the sunset, it’s time for a little intensive research. But this time, skip the usual vacation information sites, and set your crosshairs on local travel/food/culture bloggers. It’s time to make contact. If you don’t actually know anyone living in your chosen travel destination (or don’t trust any of your mall-restaurant loving friends & relatives), regional bloggers hold the secrets of their cities from the best cheap eats to where the real action is on a Wednesday night. Find someone who speaks your language and ask for recommendations. A local blog is like a love letter to a destination, and you’ll be amazed how enthusiastic that letter writer will be to share their insider information.
  • Mind your manners. Unfortunately, there is no secret website that will get you phenomenal travel deals with few simple keystrokes. Nowadays, the big travel websites differ primarily in functionality with only minimal variation in price. However, there is one tried and tested way to get your hotels & flights upgraded without ever needing the aid of a wireless connection- turn on the charm. I’m not recommending flagrant ass kissing, but if you are honest, earnest, and unfailingly polite to your booking agents and customer service reps, you’ll find you’re more likely to have your bare bones budget accommodations turned magically into something a little more comfortable.
  • Go play outside. I have never once in my life been disappointed by a national park. If you’re traveling regularly from sea to shining sea, $80 for a year-long national parks pass is a deal worth grabbing. Breakfast in the Badlands beats the hell out of a continental muffin at the Mariott. Skip a day of shopping and head out for a hike or a swim or just a picnic and a nap in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
  • Lonely Planet: Switzerland by Bigbirdz on FlickrHarness the power of the snack. Eating is hands down one of the greatest things about being alive. If you’re spending your trip living on PB&Js constructed in your hotel room just to save a little scratch, you’re unnecessarily depriving yourself of one of the best parts of your adventure. If you’ve done your homework getting connected, you should have no trouble tracking down some stellar eatables for low low prices at a wide variety of roadside shanties, greasy spoons, street carts, and holes in the wall. But what if you find an incredible restaurant that’s a little more of the upscale variety? First of all, I firmly believe that amazing meal is always an investment worth making. But if you really just can’t spare the cash, consider a compromise before you decide to start your pickpocketing career. Head to the bar area of your dream restaurant, and pull up a stool. You won’t need a reservation, and you can grab yourself a cocktail and an incredible appetizer or dessert for a fraction of the full meal price, while still being able to tell everyone you know that you’ve been there and done that.
  • Rethink the retail. Consider steering clear of the mall area and tourist tchotchke traps entirely, and focusing your souvenir shopping attentions on the world of second hand. Thrift stores and flea markets are not only fantastic places to hunt down some very memorable (and dirt cheap) memorabilia of your trip, but they’re also an adventure in and of themselves. There is no better way to get intimate with a new location than digging through the fossil record of their cast offs. Take it a step further, and indulge in some foreign garage and stoop sales. Thanks to the miracles of GPS and craigslist, you and your rental car, bike or scooter can cruise through neighborhoods like a local- scavenging treasures for a dollar or less.
  • Be brave. Amazing travel is about 2 things- memories & bragging rights. No matter how many carefully scheduled museums and monuments you have on your tour, take at least one day for just walking around and exploring, and then find yourself something crazy to do. Mechanical bull riding at country western bar? Amateur burlesque night at a local cabaret? Pie eating contest at the county fair? Embarrass yourself in front of strangers and live to tell the tale! Real excitement doesn’t have to be all rock climbing and hang gliding, it can be found in every town in the world, and it doesn’t have to cost a thing.

Alexandra Munier is usually found chronicling her monetary misadventures in Maine over at Broke207. Find her on Twitter at Broke207, or give her Facebook page a gander.

Chris Cavallari

About Chris Cavallari

Chris is a longtime digital content producer based in Maine. Since 1999, he has been an early adopter and active participant in blogging, podcasting, and social media, and has been guiding small and mid-sized businesses in leveraging video, social media, and digital publishing to the fullest. With an avid love of travel and the outdoors, Chris started PartTimeVagabond.com in 2009 to give him a platform to showcase his outdoors and travel adventures, and to help educate others in doing the same.