From the Bus. Road between Cork and Waterford, Ireland. Summer, 2013
…Without going broke.
So now that you know where you’ll be laying your head (and baggage) every night, how do you think you’ll be getting there? If you’ve been going along with these posts, you know I’ve already told you to think about it. But now we’ll be diving in and talking about the cheapest ways and the deals you can find before your feet ever leave home.
To revamp the kinds of travel you may came across, there are: planes, trains, and automobiles (your own and rentals), taxis, boats and ferries, buses, undergrounds, bikes, mopeds, motorcycles, etcetera, etcetera… and of course, those handy things at the bottom of you legs, those… what do you call ‘em? Oh, feet.
On your trip, it’s all well and good if you opt to make these plans on the fly; spontaneity is well and good and if you can’t do this on your travels, I ask: when can you? However, planning ahead can save you bundles to funnel into your “fun money” rather than your necessities fund. And obviously, whatever mode or combinations you pick all come back to what you can afford, where you are going and who you are with, so once again keep this in mind!!
Let’s give some examples. If you are going to ROAD TRIP ACROSS A LONG DISTANCE—like across country—most likely your point isn’t going to be simply to get from point A to point B. You want to be able to wander and make things up as you go. So here are your choices:
1.Take your own car—you don’t have to shell out money for the actual car, just gas and provisions. You will however be putting quiet a few miles on said car so you’ll have to think about what that means for the value of your car later and figuring how much gas you—most likely slightly older car—will be burning through. This also requires a round trip. You can’t drive your car across a country and just leave it there… unless you are also willing to pay someone else to drive it back or rent it to a traveler who’s road tripping to your area… All in all, if you are driving your own car, plan for making a circle and having the money in your budget to get both to however far you are going and back.
2.Renting a car—first off, know the rules to renting a car in the area you’ll be renting from (you may be able to drive at 16 in the US but most places won’t let you drive a rental unless you are 25!). Then, factor in the cost of renting, renters insurance, gas, and all the factors included in renting the car. Is there a limit to the miles you can put on the car, or a fee for going over a certain amount? Decide if that fee or limit is worth it and do a bit more research. Can multiple people (who meet the criteria) be on the paperwork as drivers? Can you rent from this renter here (point A) and return it there (point B)? If not, maybe you should look for another place to rent from. The positive part of renting is that you can make plans to drive one way and come back by another—possibly cheaper and quicker—means. If you have an exact date that you must be at point B or leave it, you can go ahead and book a flight back (just have a way to get home from the airport!). If you’re not sure about your end dates, look into bus and/or train schedules; these can be cheaper and—depending what mode or company you use—faster route back home.
But again that’s just one example of one pretty small scale trip. Look back at your notes; at where you are going, stopping, staying, staying with, cities or rural areas, and finally look at what transportation will actually get you there.
Start with getting from destination from destination:
Do you have to FLY to get to your fist stop? If so, start here. There are deals all over the internet (as we’ve discussed before), just waiting to be discovered. Look at airlines you have travel points or miles with because, believe it or not, these can get you a long way. Do you mind stopping at multiple ports or do you need to just get there in one go? Direct flights can be more expensive but there’s also less worry over bags or your person not making your connecting flight. Running through airports can be picturesque and an adrenaline rush of will you/won’t you make your flight, but really it’s mostly just stressful. If you do have layovers, have you spaced them apart enough that you aren’t running through the terminals in a panic? Have you factored in going through security and possibly customs? Also remember that weather is an actual issue for things like planes. I’ve had scheduled layovers that were supposed to be upwards of three hours, but due to weather issues with our first plane landing (and being redirected) and the second plane actually leaving on time (don’t ask me how they managed that!) we and another lovely couple made that lovely, frantic sprint (and no worries we made it—though it’s possible that that is where our bags did not).
Now the details one cannot overlook: Does the flight provide food or do you need to plan your own meals? What are the bag limits (number, size, and weight)? All airlines have slightly different rules so if you find a deal on one site ALWAYS check the airlines official site for their conditions! Also, sometimes big name airlines aren’t the cheapest one’s you’ll find, though the do tend to be the most secure for refunds, lost baggage, and the like. Again, it’s all a game of balancing pros and cons so really: research, research, research!
My tip, if you hear about a deal, research it right away and make your plan early; flights tend to be cheaper the further in advance that you buy them. In country, I almost always fly with Southwest. The crews are generally really funny and I have rarely had a problem whether I’m flying the one hour from LA to San Francisco or across the country to New York. Get suggestions from people who have traveled and research the airlines (always weary that reviews rarely see the middle ground and are usually just a place to bash based on negative experiences)—I, for one, should have researched the company that flew the quick jump from England to Ireland, rather than hearing later that (just like us) many a traveler has been bagless after such a flight. Though I admit that their customer service on the ground were some of the nicest people I’ve met in that kind of situation.
So, you aren’t flying (and don’t fall into the road trip discussed above) or have flown into an airport that isn’t quite your first location? What’s next? Maybe a BOAT? If you are doing something like a cruise, this is a lot like picking to stay at a resort; there’s not much planning besides how to get to the start location and what clothes you need when you get there. That’s it; done. If the boat is simply a means for transportation (like a ferry) there are a few extra things to note. Just like in flight, what is covered and what is not? Are you moving from one country to another and, therefore, need proper documents and time to move through security and customs? What kind of tickets are offered (a swift pass or regular)? So say it with me now: research, research, research!
Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle sculpture by Yinka Shonibare. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, England. Summer, 2013.
On my last trip, we took a ferry from Dublin, Ireland to Holyhead, Wales through Irish Ferries. The trip was easy and the cab driver who brought us was great. Just like traveling to an airport it’s suggested you get there early, but when you do pay close attention! We ordered ahead and, because of an event scheduled for later that day (a McFly concert to be more specific), we chose the Swift pass. While this costs a bit extra, it turns the approximately five hour boat ride into a two hour one…. Or it would if you are paying attention and don’t switch your tickets for the regular pass because it leaves an hour earlier. The problem is, the people working may not remind you of which pass you have or mention the time and money difference (unless they are owed), even as they are changing your information. READ: paying attention to these details is up to you as the traveler. This particular company has a few ports between Ireland, Britain, and France, but they are not the only one of their kind. If you have a small distance to travel that is covered by water and the time to spend on a boat, this is a nice and sometimes cheaper option to flying.
We’ve covered traveling by sea and by sky, so now let’s move onto a single lantern; travel by LAND. This can mean—for large scale travel—rentals (which we have covered), trains and buses. For either of the latter, you can pay from place to place as you go or plan ahead and look for passes that let you use a countries train or bus systems or, for some passes both. Looking at the price of these kind of passes may seem extreme for a single payment, but you should consider the fact that, if you travel the way these are intended, they save you long term in both time (trying to figure out what kind of ticket you need for this particular trip or day) and money. On my UK trip last summer, my sister and I used two such passes; the BritRail Flexi Pass from ACP Rail International for any train transport all day, for 8 days, anytime in a 2 month period while traveling through England, Scotland, and Wales, and the Multi-Journey Irish Explorer Bus and Rail Pass from Bus Eireann while in Ireland. While we were technically able to use either bus or train travel on this pass, we tended to have an easier time using buses on the Irish Explorer as this was an easier system for us to access and understand.
I can’t explain the love I had for these passes. They were really easy and we could have ridden all day on them without worrying about getting off at a specific spot because that’s where we already paid for. It was a very freeing structure and it really did save us money. And ACP Rail isn’t just for the UK but has a bunch of different passes depending on where you are going. I really recommend looking into this site.
Again, something to think about Buses are usually slower compared to trains so the latter is usually better if you are crossing a large distance but both have maps and schedules that you should pay close attention to. Sometimes you only need to take one bus or train from place to place but for other destinations, you may be taking three or more. Sometimes there may ever be two terminal in one city and your second bus/train may not hit the stop your at but the one across town. Always check the listings and, if you are unsure, locate the information office and ask.
For those trying to travel in the US—I’m so sorry our overall transportation system is lagging. If anyone reaches out, I’m happy to do more research, but, as of now, my information is lacking.
For SMALLER SCALE TRAVEL (like within one town or city) you’ll frequently take taxis, small term rentals (from cars to mopeds and motorbikes, to city bikes and segways), metro systems, subways or undergrounds and of course walking. Most frequently, you won’t be paying for these (if you have to pay at all) before your trip. Instead these will be part of your “on trip budget” and will be taken care of (you guessed it!) on your trip. For overall planning, you may want to allocate a certain amount of money to this part of your trip, but for me, it was easier to just jot down these costs with the other expenses during the trip to decide if we could afford to grab a taxi—which tends to be more expensive—or a cheaper means of getting where we needed to be.
The exception to this pay as you go rule would be systems like subways and undergrounds that have various passes that can help you on your budget. Whether this is worth it, of course, depends on how long you are going to be in that smaller location. My family was in London for a little over a week and we knew we would be going on and off the underground multiple times a day for most of the days we were there. We chose to pre-pay for The London Pass. We paid for six days (with a special deal where we got one free day) which allowed us to pick seven days of unlimited travel on those days, including peak hours, simply for the price of the pass. Unlike an Oyster card—which may be another wise choice for a shorter stay—you get marked by the day only, not by the trip or time of the trip. There are also deals on attractions that go along with this pass, so again, check out the site and see the deals and any limitations there may be. These are the deals I know about in London, but most major cities with built in transportation systems there should be built in structures like this. It’s all about researching, talking to others, and seeing what is out there for where you are going.
NOW that you have looked through your options and compared rates and started to nail down your plans and prices, start putting them down in your Excel budget on your “Travel” tab. The cost may seem high, but remember that spending pretrip is saving you money on trip. Again, if you want to guesstimate your on trip travel budget, go ahead and add that in. Now, between the cost of Lodging and Travel, and taking those costs from your total, you should be able to see about where your on trip budget falls. You can divide this final total by the number of days you will be one your trip to find your approximate daily budget. Some days will be higher or lower based on the sites you are planning to visit, local travel expenses, food, drink, entertainment, and any shopping you plan on doing. Does this number seem manageable (remember money has different value depending on where you are going and the currency they use)? If so, grate; continue on. If not, look back at your planning thus far. Are there things you can cut out? Do you have a money reserve you are willing to tap into? Are you willing to dive in are just see what happens? In the end, these are the choices that will have to be made until you have a plan and budget that you can live with.
Once again, don’t plan to have this all done in one sitting. I’ve said it a lot, thus far and will no doubt say it again: traveling, especially with a budget, takes research. Research takes time. Move at the pace you can work at but always remembering that deals tend to happen earlier rather than later. It’s you money and your trip, make the best out of both and enjoy yourself.
Until next time,
I’m Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.