Being a mom, it is my habit of careful planning and wise spending especially when it comes vacation and travel, may it be locally or overseas. From a simple road trip to a grand getaway, I also have a handy electronic organizer filled with specific details like itineraries, bookings, contact addresses, must-see places, and budget.
Most of all, cost is a major consideration for me. So I always look out for promos and I’ve got local return airfare ticket for us four from Manila to Surigao at 6,500pesos or around $155USD. It’s way too cheap, right?
Aside from low-priced book fare, for me, there are many alternatives I can choose from. Staying in friend’s accommodation over the luxurious hotel, preparing our own meals than eating at a fancy restaurant, or simply taking a walk instead of commuting. After all, getting into the place, appreciating the culture, visiting the recommended spots are more important to me and my family nonetheless.
Giving ample time in planning our holiday travel will not only cause us to budget our fund wisely but help us to see any potential problems and contrive our back up plan. Well, here are some of my simple ways on how to prepare the much awaited escapade in a clever and frugal way:
1. Build up a Travel Fund
The most common barrier among us, travelers, is money and it is often a major consideration that holds you. But you can alter that mind setting and start the habit of building up your pot money. For one, you can cut from unnecessary spending such as eating at restaurants, buying expensive clothes, and other indulgences. Secondly, slot a portion of your salary and open a separate bank account for your travel spending alone. It does not only force you to save but earn an interest as well. Thirdly, invest on mutual funds, stocks, and policies where your money yields higher than in the bank. Lastly, use your passion for an extra income such as baking, tutoring, or blogging. You can also use your idle time to sign up for online marketplaces such as oDesk, Freelancer, or Elance. These are pretty small jobs but can really add something to your travel fund.
2. Prepare a travel budget
Once you have a sustainable savings and feels that it is a right time for you to travel, then dedicate your time to plan and prepare the budget. May it be a long or short holiday break, ensure that you have breakdowns of each allocation and should be within your needs so that you will not be left broke at the end of your travel. The benefit of doing this is that you can keep track of where every little penny goes and not regretting of any spending activities.
3. Research extensively about your destination
When we have our first family trip to Hong Kong and Macau I made a thorough research about the two countries. I visited government’s official website and check for suggested tours or any scheduled local events and festivals within the slated period of our stay. There are wonderful things I discover like the “Historic Center of Macau” where you can walk around the world’s heritage showcasing Western to Chinese architecture legacy or the Mid-year sale season in Hong Kong in which electronic gadgets and signature brands are half the price.
I get also helpful insights from forum and threads where other travelers share their own stories and provide practical tips. Sometimes, I also ask first-hand information from my friends who had been to place and they would love to tell me their own experience as well.
4. Draft your itinerary – bucket list
I cannot just travel right then and there without an itinerary unless it is urgent and necessary. It gives me a sense of direction and purpose. It manages the list of activities I filled in for my tour and ensure not to miss anything. I drafted my travel bucket list along with specific time duration as my guide. Once ready, I can discuss it with my husband to get his opinion and made some tradeoffs. Traveling can never be that convenient knowing that a lot of things are waiting to happen once we get to our destination.
5. Make use of hospitality connections
Having local contacts or friends is another advantage because sometimes they can help you plan out your itinerary. Since they know so much about the place, they can suggest wonderful spots or things you can do during your visit, or perhaps they can be your tour guide at the same time. One of the best thing of having (close) friends that you are confident with is that they can (sometimes) offer you free lodging, which for me, is a good benefit especially to cut cost for accommodation. But if you don’t like the idea of staying in someone else’s house and wanted to have your own privacy, you can opt for hotels or studio pad.
6. Scout and reserve for cheap and convenient accommodation
There are times that we prefer to stay in hotels or studio pad rather than staying in our friend’s space. Since my husband and I are budget travelers, we often check online for cheap accommodations through sites like Hostelworld.com or Hostels.com and the choices can make our head spin. As a traveling family, we carefully scrutinized reviews from previous guests because we want to make sure that the lodging place is convenient and safe especially we have small children. Our preferences include clean rooms, free breakfast, and most important for me, a strong and good (free) wifi connection.
The nice hostel we have stayed in Hong Kong is Golden Crown Guest House located in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. I love its location since it’s in the heart of the city where bus and train station are in the corner, surrounded by plenty restaurants, and a walking distance to commercial buildings. So choosing a cheap hotel is a wise decision because we can save up on our hotel and spend more on sightseeing in the beautiful city and, above all, on shopping spree.
7. Watch for tickets promos and book in advance
Traveling nowadays is even more affordable if you book in advance and if you shop around for best prices. I use farecompare.com to compare flights. I also register to airlines website or follow their Facebook and Twitter account to get updates and promos. One of the best deals we’ve got for our Hong Kong trip was from Cebu Pacific Airlines at a cost of 1,800.00 pesos, roughly 332HKD, for three persons.
But if you are skeptical and wanted to buy ticket from a travel agency. I suggest making connection with the travel agent starting by getting his/her personal contact details and regularly extends communication. It is a good way to have friendly connections. And because of it, I was able to get 10 percent discount of the ticket price.
8. Build up and clear your credit
Another wonderful idea is to build up a credit beginning today. I definitely need a card when I am traveling because that piece of plastic comes handy if I don’t have cash on hand. Likewise, the best deals can be online and is truly convenient for me to pay. Increase your credit limit, if you can, months before your trip to save a lot on tickets and hotel bookings. But keep in mind to clear the dues right away to refrain from being charge with interests on your credit balances.
9. Check your passport
Yes, it is obvious but a lot of people still forget to bring their passport when they go to the airport. Check the expiration date at least three months before your travel so that you’ll still have time to have it renewed if it’s about to expire. Remember, a passport has to be valid for at least six months prior to your departure.
Make colored photocopies of your passport and always carry it with you. I was reminded by a friend of the importance of bringing passport all the time especially when you will be in regimented places where in some cases tourists were mistaken for illegal aliens. Authorities could throw you in jail then later questions your identity. So better guard yourself from being caught into trouble and better bring a copy of your passport where ever you go.
10. Review and finalize your travel plan
Days before our departure, I make a final review of our travel plan. Among the things I do include keeping our documents like passports, booking printouts, tickets, insurances in a folder and placing them in my handy bag; confirming our accommodation booking; web check-in for our flight; notifying my friends of our arrival; clearing off my credit card balance; and exchanging our pocket money to local currency.
I also have a check list of essential things we will bring such as books or magazines, maps and guides, handy toys and gadgets, first aid kit, sewing kit, portable heater, finger foods, and water.
Here’s one more tip: Before traveling, get a travel insurance so that you have an assurance that at least you will be compensated for whatever inconvenience you might experience such as lost luggage or delayed flights. As for my family, I also buy those with medical package just to be certain that my kids and I can get medical care if needed.
Travel getaway is a best outlet for me and my family to head off to beautiful places and get a much needed break. It allows us to do something out of ordinary routine and get rid from the drudgery of workloads. It is a time for us to be together, thinking and doing something that is fun and enjoyable while escaping the city life with the ones we love!
How about you? Are you an organized tourist or impulsive traveler? What are your helpful tips to make your getaway not just fun and exciting but truly cheap and stress-free?