My TRAVELS in 2015: How Can I Afford It So Often?
TRAVELLING...OFTEN...TO KEEP SANE
2015 has brought me to: Rome, Tivoli, Brussels, Ghent, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Orlando, Fort Walton Beach, Panama City Beach, Anna Maria Island, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, New Orleans, Venice, Murano, Burano, Paris and Boston. Not a bad travel year at all!
I am soooo not rich. I mean, I'm not broke-ass poor, but I am definitely not making it rain either. I work full time, got kids, got a mortgage to pay, car payments, insurance payments and the never-ending list of utility bills to pay as well (of course, all the bills are split with the hubs). But people always wonder and ask me, "How can you afford to go away so often?"
The simple answer is that I save pretty darn well, and I plan and budget even better. Ask anyone who knows me about my excel spreadsheets and binders!
Borghese Gardens > Rome, Italy
My hubs is content with one trip a year, for me, I'd go crazy. Like really and truly batshit crazy if I didn't have a trip on the horizon for the upcoming month. This is a sore point that the hubs and I disagree on regularly - for him, travelling is not something worth anything, he doesn't see it as an investment, doesn't see the point of spending money and getting nothing tangible in return. For me, that is sooooo not the case. As they say "travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer". So for me travel is a priority - so I sacrifice certain things, and I work more and I do more paid photo sessions on the side.
This is totally worth travelling across the Atlantic > Brussels, Belgium
I know airfare is the biggest portion of travel costs so I'm fully aware that I'm spoiled that way since I work in the travel industry. I can't get into too much detail on the travel benefits I get, but suffice to say that the air portion to certain places costs me literally peanuts. So all I have to do is find a hotel and be careful with my spending money once there. This is why I can fly from Montreal to Venice for just 1 day!
The thing is, I've been able to take advantage of these benefits for 16 years, and I've only really started to really use them in the past 2 years. Crazy, eh? You know what else is crazy? Everyone at the office has the same benefits and only a handful use them on a regular basis. I could've had a lot more pins on my map had I got smarter sooner!
First time to Venezia...though only for 24 hours! > Venice, Italy
WHERE TO SLEEP
Hotwire has been a saviour for me this year. Since I often travel on standby, I wait to book the hotel until I'm confirmed on the flight, which is pretty much 1 hour prior to departure time. So lately I've been booking the hotel as the plane is boarding! I've ended up with some pretty awesome deals. Like:
For those unfamiliar with the way Hotwire works, it's kind of like a roulette thing. You don't find out the name of the hotel until you've paid for it. Scary at first, but if you know where you want to stay and select the right neighbourhood on the map, pick your star rating (I stay between 3.5 to 4.5 depending on the city), pick user approval ratings (I stick with 80% and above), and you can even put more filters like if you only want places with free breakfast, free wifi, free parking, etc.
Ended up with a hotel right beside Place du Béguinage - Brussels, Belgium
Ended up being right on Via Nazionale, directly across from Palazzo delle Esposizioni - Rome, Italy
Our hotel ended up being on Calle Priuli Ai Cavalletti, a 2-minute walk from the Grand Canal and Santa Lucia train station - Venice, Italy
I research the city's public transportation options and usually end up with a transport pass of some sort. NEVER buy these in advance, anywhere I've ever been, they've been cheaper on the spot. Airport to hotel > forget the taxi, you're looking at a minimum of 50 euros one way. Most cities will have a direct train or bus to the city centre at a cost of between 5 and 15 euros each way.
Getting up early to take the train from Brussels to Bruges with the Belgium Rail Pass > 76 EUR for 10 trips within Belgium and applicable for more than one person
Taking the metro in Paris - it's usually the 3-day Paris Visit Pass that we get for 27 EUR
Forget the gondola's in Venice - grab a Venezia Unica Pass for unlimited travel on the ACTV buses and vaporettos 1-day pass starts at 20 EUR
WINING & DINING
When I travel with my hubs, it's a different story, because he likes to eat proper sit down meals like ALL the time. When I go with the girls or Jérémie, it's snacking on the go during the day, and a proper sit down meal for dinner.
Breakfast croissant on the go > 1 EUR
1/2 litre of wine in front of the Pantheon > 4 EUR
Moules frites lunch in Brussels > 8 EUR
Boeuf Bourguignon dinner in Paris > 12 EUR
SEEING THE SIGHTS
This can get costly, however I'm not the museumy-type and don't feel the need to necessarily go into a lot of sites. I mean, just being there and seeing it from the outside is usually more than enough for moi. In the 8 times I've been to Paris, I've never been inside the Eiffel Tower, 4 times in Rome and I've never been inside the Colosseum! I have however been inside the Louvre, and walked the halls of Versailles, and wandered around the Vatican Museums - so it's one of those things where I pick and choose the sites that I absolutely must go into and pay the admission fees.
Gorgeous Villa Adriana in Tivoli > 8 EUR per adult, FREE for under 18 years old
ROAMING VS. WIFI
After an absurd data roaming charge that I got when I turned on the map for literally 10 seconds to get my bearings in Tunisia once, I either get a data roaming travel pack or just stick to WiFi.
HOW DO YOU SAVE FOR TRAVEL?
So that's how I do it. No super secret > SAVE AND BUDGET. There's already savings in the travel account for the upcoming trips of 2016 > Spain, Croatia....and whatever other opportunity presents itself!
How do y'all save for travel? I know I'm not the only that suffers from this travel addiction!
Photos taken | written by JENNIFER MAHON
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Janice - For the shore excursions - that's one of those that I pick and chose based on time in port. For example in Sicily, our port of call was Messina, arriving 9am, departing at 5pm, and we absolutely wanted to go to Taormina while we were there. In my research on taxis to get there - it was too expensive. Public transportation buses didn't seem reliable and took nearly 2 hours to get there and another 2 hours to get back. So this is one where we bit the bullet and paid the 65 EUR each to do the Taormina excursion with the cruise line.
However on all the other ports of call on this cruise, we did our own excursion. Like on our cruise stop Kusadasi, Turkey, the going rate for the shore excursion to Ephesus was 125 EUR per person! My hubs negotiated with a taxi for round trip to this ancient site for a mere 25 EUR total. We paid our entrance of 6 EUR per person and got an info pamphlet and saw the entire site, and even had time to stop and shop at the Grand Bazaar before heading back to the ship.
So basically, I research each port of call and see if it's easy to get to the main points of interest either by walking, public transport or read lots of forums to see if it's easy to negotiate with taxis in those particular cities - it also helps that my hubs is an insane negotiator!
Wow, I've always opted for the prearranged tours and thought I was getting a deal. Incredible how much you can save doing it on your own! We're going on a med cruise on March and we keep getting reminder emails from the cruise line to pre-book the shore excursions while on port. Have you done a cruise? Do you take the shore excursions? I'm thinking because of time constraints that what the ship offers is the best bet!
Great and inspiring advice Jenn! Thanks for sharing your travel budget secrets and tips.
Travel definitely keeps me sane too! You're incredibly lucky to get the air part cheap, that's the most costly for me. But air miles are what save me!
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