Love to travel but don’t know how to deal with the costs? Samvitha Ram talks to youngsters who have travelled on a budget and shares tricks to get you jet setting.
The picturesque mountains of Switzerland, the rolling, savannah of Africa or the lush forests of Brazil — have you ever dreamed about any of these destinations? It seems that more and more students are excited by the idea of exploring the world beyond their native towns — seeing new places, meeting fascinating people and learning more about different cultures, and why shouldn’t they be?
Interactive exploration is the fastest way to immerse oneself in a new learning and living environment, providing us with not only a greater awareness of new lands, but also a fresh perspective to our own hometown. The only problem in the young explorer’s way? Money!
It’s hard enough to be a student or a fresh graduate living on a tight budget. Adding travel expenses to the list seems like a nightmare! Well, fear not. Thanks to the innovations of the Internet and the seamless transition to youth-friendly services in the 21st century, jet setting around the world is truly possible. We’ve compiled a few tricks that will help you make your travel dreams come true, without making a huge dent in your savings!
Room and board
Perhaps one of the most expensive aspects of visiting a new location is where to stay. But it need not be a worry any longer. If you’re thinking of going to an international destination like Europe or the Americas, then travel with friends.
Several booking websites advocate the ‘buddy system’— get a group of friends together and split the cost of room and board. This should reduce individual expenses by 50-60 per cent and allow a little more money to splurge on an exotic accessory!
If you prefer to be a lone wolf on an adventure, then websites like Couch Surfing (www.couchsurfing.com) allow you to stay in a local family’s home.
Not only is it free, but you will also have some amazing new experiences meeting your host family and learning the lay of the land from a local — it couldn’t get any better.
Dash and dine
The next biggest expense is usually dining. In many countries, eating out is a lot more costly than it is in India. Keeping this in mind, it might be wise to look at a cheaper option: to try and make your own food. If you’re staying with a host, or at a local motel, then you might need to ask permission before you start pottering around a kitchen that’s not yours, but usually people are okay with it, as long as you’re making just a few dishes. It might be wise to offer to make your host a meal too!
Not a big fan of cooking? No problem. The next best alternative is to roam in the market areas of a city. Here, you will probably find many small stand-up restaurants (named thus because there is literally no room to sit!). If there isn’t a prominent market in the area, try checking the local newspaper for the cheapest meal deals in the city. Town papers or free magazines usually offer the best advice, and include some coupons you can use.
For travel within India, I find that it’s best to use travel websites for booking flights and hotels. It’s very useful, even if you’re trying to plan everything at the last minute. My family and I have never used a travel company, as we never really felt the need for one. Thanks to websites, it has become very easy for people to make their own bookings and manage their travel plans, especially if they want to travel cheap! I usually do all the bookings online, myself.
The last vacation I can remember taking was to Goa. We went as a family, in 2013, and we were actually able to cut our costs a lot. We saved on travel and transportation expenses by driving there ourselves; it made a nice road trip! My family frequently drives on vacations. For example, I can remember a time two years ago, when we drove all the way from Chennai to Manali and Himachal!
Here are some tricks that my family uses to travel cheaply. In our recent vacations, we have been staying in bed and breakfast places, which tend to be family-run accommodations. There are several benefits that B&Bs have such as privacy, personality, unique locations, personal service and, of course, the biggest factor, cheaper prices. There are bound to be B&Bs in whichever city you are going to and they always prefer families to build a sense of community. Also, breakfast is included in the cost!
Hot tourist spots can be very expensive so try to do your research to figure out places that can accommodate the family while also going to interesting, local, and unknown places.
We recently took a trip to Coorg, a lovely little hill station in Karnataka, on quite a low budget. We stayed in a great homestay with the most gracious hosts with a price of under Rs. 2,500 a night for each room. Because Coorg is known for its plantations and beautiful landscapes, we chose a homestay that was near to these sites so minimal driving was needed. We even got a good deal on the rented car and driver (the secret is to keep probing). It’s a great vacation to take as a family as there are activities for everyone. It proved to be a very wonderful vacation despite the low budget.
My mom works in the travel industry, planning and arranging trips both domestically and aboard, so she knows best about this kind of stuff! According to her, for domestic travel, there are quite reasonably priced websites to choose from, in terms of bookings, transportation and hotels. For international hotels, if one is looking to spend the least amount of money while still getting a comfortable stay, the Lonely Planet provides some great options. On a more personal note, the last economical holiday we took as a family was to Leh and Ladakh. It was quite enjoyable, and I think it was well within a reasonable budget for any lone traveller – using a website was definitely helpful.
I think it’s very easy to travel light and cheap. For one thing, when you're with a lot of cousins, there's no need to splurge on rooms. I personally feel that the more of you there are squeezed into one bed, the more fun it is; the more the merrier, right?
Another great travel option is to stay with family, provided that they are living in the place you plan to travel. Even family friends, close ones at least, could work. It’s much more economical, and still loads of fun as long as you volunteer to help out in the kitchen, etc.
My last international trip was to Singapore in September 2011. To cut costs, we stayed with my aunt, which was a lot more fun than a hotel would have been. We travelled using public transport there, and we booked our tickets to the zoo, and other attractions via their online website, in bulk packages, so we got the best deal. Also, Singapore has a great public transport system so we didn't have to spend lavishly on taxis too often. Shopping was mostly in the form of street shopping, a more quirky and interesting experience than regular shopping. And of course, flying by a cheaper airline, as the flight is only four hours, so just tuck your knees in a little tighter and you’ll be fine.
Do your research!
Technology exists for a reason. Now, there are plenty of apps and sites available to help you navigate your way through your travels – literally and figuratively! Check out our list for some helpful suggestions:
TimeOut online: The magazine comes with a mobile-enabled app/site that can be accessed online. Each major city (and sometimes country) has its own version of Time Out. Use this to check out the cheapest diners and eating joints – and maybe some fun attractions as well.
Fly Pro: This handy app allows iPhone and Android users to keep track of flight times and delays. It also allows you to digitally explore hundreds of airports and figure out which flight itinerary works best for your plans.
TripIt: Juggling many places in a short period of time? TripIt is the perfect app for you. It allows you to play around with your schedule, syncs the details of your calendar and helps you put together your travel plans – and it’s completely free of cost.
Student Universe: Exclusively focused on travel for students, the site provides the best deals (especially for travel to the U.S.) on hotels, tickets, and tourist attractions. It even offers helpful tips for student travellers, customised to their destination.