Staycation:

making an adventure out of staying close to home.

Image

Zuma Beach, Malibu, California. April 2014.

This is going to be short this week. Most of what we’ve covered in this blog so far has had to do with traveling far and wide and, generally, for a good chunk of time, but this week we’re sticking closer to home.

Because I don’t think I’ve said, I live in the valley of Los Angeles county, California, about an hour outside of the actual city. This past week, I was off of work and able to really take advantage; get out of the house and away from my computer (a real struggle sometimes).

So, it’s time to head out. Locally. Oh, and of course, don’t forget your camera. Even close to home, your travel isn’t quite complete without a few tourist shots.

The point of a “Staycation” (a truly undervalued kind of vacation, if I do say so myself) is to break out of your usual routines and explore the areas that are close enough that you never actually go out and explore them, while saving you time and money as you don’t have to actually go very far. Basically, it’s taking the time to be a tourist in your own backyard. I doesn’t even have to be very far; an hour away or a days ride, as long as you get away from your life for a little bit, that’s all that matters.

But, what to do?

I live in Southern California but, honestly, theme parks like Disneyland aren’t touristy for me; they are simply one more thing to do in my area whenever I can, despite how family and friends from out of town tend to flock to these locations as touristy must-dos.

Instead, this break, my dad and I did half-day trips wandering the actual city parts of Los Angeles’ (and surrounding areas’) destinations rather than the artificial worlds created in theme parks.

One of the days we went hiking in Malibu for a few hours (saw some waterfalls) and spent the rest of the day at the beach. Going out to local areas like beaches and doing activities like hikes make you get away from your house and work and all the people you are constantly surrounded by. For me, this is a time when I turn my phone on airplane mode to really get away from life for a few days. Generally, these don’t cost you much except maybe parking, food and sunscreen; unless you pull an overnight and then motels are pretty cheap.

Another day, we went on a self guided walking tour through the city based on the movie “500 Days of Summer.” These kind of tours are easy enough to find (great ones are done through city conservancies and can be found through them) for many kinds of topics—movie, historic, music, ect.—and for pretty much any city you may travel to. Self guided equals actual free tours minus the cost of getting to your location, parking and basic daily needs and are generally pretty easy to navigate distance wise since it is expected that you walk from one site to the next. The fun part of these kinds of tours (and doing them close to where you actually live) is that most people would only consider doing them in areas they don’t live in or when they are guiding people from out of town so many people you know haven’t done them. I have lived near the city my whole life but, because of that exact fact, there are tons of places that I have only visited recently because riding the metro 40 minutes (another thing I rarely do as a LA valley dweller) or driving for an hour is never something I do just to go see the sites.

To get out but not alone or with the people you see everyday, there are ton of group meet ups (through sites like meetup) posted all over the web. These help you get out and meet people from your own greater or super local communities to learn or experience new things in your area.

Then there are the basics. Hit local monuments and landmarks. Go to museums and art galleries your usual life never leaves time to see. New parts of old cities are being found every day; keep your ear to the ground and visit unearthed history. Just go out and explore because if you don’t the tourist we usually come to resent as those people slowing down traffic or simply those feeding our local economy will come to cherish and know more about our homes than we do.

You should never feel too cool to be a tourist, even if you are within an hour of home,

Until next time,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Advertisements
Staycation:

This isn’t a PSA, but about your drinking…

… it’s something to think about. But seriously, it is.

Image

 Caerphilly Castle, Caerphilly, Wales. Summer 2013.

The thing about drinking (pretty much all the time, but especially if you are traveling and doubly so if you are on a budget), is that it can really throw a wrench into your plans if you aren’t thinking about it. I am not just talking about financially either, but that is a good place to start. FINANCIALLY, both at home, school, or on vacation, alcohol is a serious drain on a bank account. When you are on vacation, however, this can really take away form the rest of you budget (and do you really want to cut out food, shopping, or entertainment?). There are a few ways to cut down on this drain, however.

First, figure out the areas HAPPY HOUR. Sometimes, happy hour will mark down the price on both food and drinks. Saving on both of these will allow you to put more money into your other areas (or back into your drinking budget…) and there can be great people around during this time where drinks are cheaper. And of course, where there are more people, more entertainers may be out in these areas, too; cheaper food, drink, and free entertainment? That’s definitely something to look into. However, there are also dangers involved in the happy hour dilemma. Sometimes, the reason that drinks are cheaper during happy hour is because they contain cheaper booze or are simple well-drinks. Both of these lead to a higher chance of getting ill and/or a serious hangover the next day; basically putting a damper on that bit of your trip. This can be exacerbated as the lowered cost may lead you to drinking more. This not only adds up in cost (negating the reason for going to happy hour) but increases you chances at getting drunk (and the consequences of that). Personally, I stick with bottled drinks; they’re usually cheaper just like other drinks without changing their quality. Even at happy hour, if you are drinking mixed drinks, it is better to pay a little more for higher end drinks and nurse your drink a little longer, than drink more, cheap stuff.

Second, like we discussed on Walking like a local, being in a tourist area will seriously cost you. Go out of tourist areas and into LOCAL HAUNTS. I can’t say it enough:, tourism is a business and they get as much out of there customers as they can. Going out to where locals go instead; you’re less likely to be overcharged here and other local events tend to be centered around them, like a local band or traditional, cultural show. To find these haunts, you can use many of the tips on the post mentioned earlier.

Image

Duke of Kendal Pub, London, England. Summer, 2013. Photograph by Kevin M Gallagher (My dad!)

So, where besides financially can drinking harm your plans? Well, I have a few stories to explain the real “what if”s that can come from… over indulging.

In Galway, on a tour to go see the Cliffs of Mohr, we met a boy from our area who was the spitting image of a young Heath Ledger. We’ll call him SCOTT. While the trip was lovely and Scott seemed to enjoy his time running around each of the stops, the reason he was there was because of alcohol. As it turned out, Scott and his sister had spent the few days (or what sounded like the whole week) prior in a bit of a haze. Two days prior, his sister got on a plane to Stockholm, Sweden with the plan that her younger brother would join him the next morning. Instead, said younger brother was laid up in their rooms still drunk from the night before. While he was able to reschedule his flight with seeming little trouble, this isn’t always the case. Alcohol has the ability to make you miss parts of your already planned trip—parts that may not be able to be reimbursed or rescheduled—if you aren’t careful. In fact, if you aren’t careful, you could do much worse than simply miss some plans.

So now onto Dublin and a boy we’ll call COLIN. Colin was also a SoCal of about 19 years—not old enough to drink legally in the US but as a soon to be college sophomore, it was heavily implied that this was not his first rodeo. He was in Ireland researching the Irish famine for a grant paper which he planned to start after a few days of sight seeing. For his first night in town, he bought himself a four pack of 16 oz ciders which he polished off in quick succession. During this time, we—Colin, a 30 year old Aussie we’ll call Jaime, (for a short time, my sister) and I—sat around reading, talking and playing guitar. At about midnight, my sister was fast asleep in bed and the boys decided they wanted to go out.

There was a club quite literally around the corner from our hostile and after a bit of cajoling—and a note to my sister (Never go anywhere with strangers without leaving some kind of note, please. And never someone you aren’t comfortable with. I believe in being spontaneous and adventure happens when you push your limits but always make choices in the favor of safety!) –I agreed to join them. I am not a drinker, so even after paying the fiver—an entrance fee—I didn’t drink while we where there (except a sip of Colin’s Guinness to try—not my cup of tea. Another small PSA—I know I said this post wasn’t one but this feels necessary—never take a drink you haven’t seen poured or had your eyes on the whole time. I was at the bar and watched the drink from the bartender pouring to Colin holding to me sipping.).

Colin, however, did. We stayed in the club—more like a sweat box with wall to wall bodies, grinding—about an hour and a half at most. In that time, we had navigated from the first to the second floor, I had managed a few conversations, received a few compliments (despite my baggy jeans, tee-shirt and oversize satchel), a kiss on the cheek, one not so subtle “so, California, you know how to party”—apparently, I look like a drug dealer—and we had managed to loose Colin, who was—the last we saw about an hour in—at least two pints of Guinness and an offer to go to a party after with a nice group of girls he’d met and immediately bought drinks for. Jaime and I looked as best we could for him but by the time we made it too the other side of the rooms and the doors, we figured there was no way we’d find him. The last time we’d seen him, Colin was talking clearly, walking straight, and seemed to be doing fine. We weren’t far enough from the hostile to be worried… or so we thought.

At about 4 am, my sister and I woke to what sounded like plates shattering on the roof. I looked out the foggy window, but couldn’t see anything so we went back to bed.

We didn’t see Colin the next morning. We didn’t see Colin after our day exploring. As it turned out, we wouldn’t see Colin on our trip again (as Jaime explained via the girl at the front desk who exclaimed “Oh, you’re friends with THAT boy!”). As it turned out, at about 4 am, one very intoxicated boy named Colin stumbled back to the hostile, where he discovered he had managed to loose his key. Being intoxicated, he did not knock on the door and pay the fee for a lost key but grabbed a near by ladder and, placing it against the building (and breaking in one of the windows, hence, the breaking glass that woke us), proceeded to climb onto the roof.  As he tried to get in through one of the rooftop windows, inside someone else was calling the cops. When the police showed up, Colin concluded his night (and the future of his trip) by throwing roof tiles at them rather than come down. While we were hearing this story, Colin was sitting in a jail cell for his parents to be contacted and bail to be paid.

See, worse than missing a flight.

On a lighter note, there is one more drinking tale I’d like to share based on my sister’s drinking misadventures from our time in Edinburgh. Anyone who read my second post on lodging knows my love for the Bus Station Backpacker’s hostel. The owner and her trainee at the time took my sister and I—again, not big drinkers—to two or three pubs our first night in which ended with us halfway across the city with bladders full of a pint/pint and a half or cider each. It was a lovely night and none of us were intoxicated, so the four of us decided to walk back through the city, seeing the sites at night on the way. A few blocks from our final destination, the owner and I were commenting on how quickly the others were moving down the hill; if it were either of us, we would have fallen by now.

Upon reaching the hostel and descending the outside stairs, we found the door open and my younger sister standing pitifully outside the door. When asked what she was doing, the reply was simple, “I didn’t make it.” We asked what she hadn’t made and she explained that they were running for the bathroom and she “hadn’t made it.” And with that, her cheeks turned scarlet and her blue jeans turned darker. Once we collected our selves, I heard the other woman ask, “Sweety, why didn’t you just run in and do what you could.” My sister responded, making her the darling of the hostel’s owner, “I didn’t want to mess up the new carpet.”

The moral of the story, if you have to walk across town or really any distance from your final pub to the place you are staying, heed the advice of all parents everywhere and use the restroom before you leave, even if you don’t feel like it.

With love and laughs and hopefully some sound and useful bits of advice, until next time,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

This isn’t a PSA, but about your drinking…

Embracing your inner tourist…

… and tour away!

Image

Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland. Summer, 2013.

Last week we talked about how to get away from the tourist traps and other areas heavily tourist trodden area and, as promised, this week we’ll be jumping directly into that fray. From “free” to coach tours, to historic places and the sites they hold, to real life traps and how to spot the warning signs.

I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of tours; they are simply not my thing. I’m not sure if it’s a lack of patience for the pace they move at or the people one usually finds on them, but generally I like to wander my own way. My mother on the other had absolutely loves them. From audio tours you can pick up at any major attraction to day long tours where you seem to spend an extraordinary amount of time being told exactly what to look at at all times, she is a fan. Suffice to say I’ve been on a fair amount of tours and have learned to spot the warnings.

If you are planning on using tours on your travels researching before hand can find you great deals. You can also find tours through your lodgings or through tourist offices that can be found in most major cities. These offices will also be able to provide maps and advice on sites that are “must see attractions.”

Coach tours can be great; in fact, I don’t know that I’ve had a bad experience. Some tours can be a day (these are the ones I’ve been on) while others can be your whole trip (the closest I’ve come was a student ambassador program). When it comes to whole trip tours, all I have to point out are films like “Monte Carlo;” just be ready to move fast all the time and don’t fall behind. Day trips are easier to handle and I’ll leave the comparison at that. Coach tours can be great because they let you go further than you would be able to by your own means (quickly and accurately), have special access to specific sites, and gives you extra information you may have otherwise never learned. They also tend to cost more (sometimes even cut heavily into a budget), take up whole days, and (again) tend to be very structured, sometimes to the point where you see the “musts” rather than your wants. If you do research, it’s best to look at not just prices but reviews (taken with a grain of salt, of course) and the company the supplies the tours. After all, you want a professional if you are going to be paying, not a rundown bus and a pandering guide.

Two bus tours I would recommend are Healy’s Galway Bus Tour in Ireland and Premium Tours for Stonehenge, Lacock and Bath in England. Healy’s was a tour we didn’t research. We were given a flier through a free walking tour and decided to jump at the chance. The tour stopped at 6 different locations between Galway and The Cliffs of Moher with tons of fun commentary and history between each stop. There was time to run around and see almost all of the sights, though DunGuaire Castle was a bit of a rushed job as the only way to see it is to park the bus on the side of the road (only a bit illegal!).  The Premium Tour to Stonehenge, Lacock, and Bath was a tour that my mother had researched and planned before our trip. This tour was pricier but if you are at all interested in getting up close and personal with a sight like Stonehenge, I really recommend pushing your budget to do this. You not only get to see the whole attraction at a time of day that is visually spectacular and no one but your small bus load of people around but you also get to go into the central ring of this monument in small groups. Each stop on this tour is worth the money and the guides and drivers were phenomenal.

Image

DunGuaire Castle, Galway, Ireland. Summer, 2013.

If you are looking for touristy tours within city attractions or attractions you can get to easily, the majority of will have a box office where you can pay for or get information on offered tours. These can be hit or miss but I think that if they are free and you have the time you may as well try them out. If the tours bad, feign having to meet someone and walk away; mo harm done. If you do pay, compare how interested you are with the sight to the money you’re going to spend. If the cost is too steep if the tour guide or the actual place is a dud, skip it. Wander, explore, enjoy. One tour I really enjoyed on my last trip was the Trinity College Tour in Dublin which included access to the Old Library and The Book of Kells exhibit. The tour was given by students of the college (who were not only hilarious but also quiet attractive) and was only one extra pound on the fee to see the other exhibits.

Hampton Court is a creature all its own. This isn’t really a tour but if you visit this historic castle you should definitely give it an entire day. Throughout the day, you will not only be able to wander the grounds and rooms, take audio tours, and, can I mention, take a small rest (or a nap) in a giant room of wall to wall cushions/beds(!), but at various times actors portraying historical figures who once lived in the castle will be walking around interacting with guests and each other on events that were happening at the chosen time. When we visited, King Henry VIII was king, trying to divorce Katherine while Anne Boleyn threatened to run away from court. You became part of the gossip and the court. There are parts where men are taken to be part of a council while the ladies gossiped with Anne about how to get away from the castle and what to do about Henry. The history played changes each year, so if you’ve seen one story play out, you may go back to find another love story/ tragedy unfold on your next visit. This could easily be done horrendously (and I’m sure others have tried and failed) but the acting here is great, characters interesting, and easily an attraction one can visit over and over again.

Walking tours can be great fun and a great way to see a city quickly if your time is limited or you don’t know what you want to see quiet yet. In this case, there are a few different types of tours; mainly these come down to themed, paid, and free tours and each of these can be great or truly tragic. When it comes to themed tours, my best advice is to shy away from ones with costumes, mostly those who make you wear them. This is great when it’s a kids tour but when you are walking around a city in a cape, you should be aware that the stories were probably designed for kids. Checking if a tour is part of a larger company with a good reputation is always a great way to guarantee a good time. I like Sandeman’s tours personally; they are paid tours but are cheap. We did a ‘dark side’ tour with them and it was historical lore, legend, and back story of the cities darkest moments. There were no ghost stories or manufactured scare moments. When it comes to paid tours, I can say what I said about the coaches: measure your interests against the costs. You never HAVE to do a tour, so don’t worry about skipping one because it’s not worth the money.

So about those FREE TOURS: they aren’t really free. They will advertise free but the plain fact of the matter is (as the guide will probably tell you at both the beginning and the end of the tour), they are doing a job and if no one pays, they aren’t either. They call it free while it’s really pay what you can and what you think the tour is worth. If that means taking your guide for food after or paying what you can or walking away with all of your money in your pocket, it’s all up to you. The guides in these tours are usually great and really motivated (if you don’t like it, they get nothing). You get a great experience with interesting facts and stories that you can come back to later if you have further interests and you get to pick the price. Unlike free tours at specific attractions, it is harder to feign another appointment and leave part way through the tour so, unless you are willing to look a bit callous, you may be a bit stuck.

Now to the real traps: these are the places that need a huge BEWARE sign painted across their doors. These sometimes come free with passes like the London Pass we covered in an earlier post.  The London pass is great. You get a lot for it that are sights you really will appreciate. However, just because it’s there and free does not mean that you should indulge! London Bridge Experience… is one such attraction. It’s bad from the start but a kind of fun bad as you are run through time to experience London through various parts of history like the Plague and the Great Fire of London by quirky characters. Then you get to a point where anyone who if claustrophobic or easily spooked are lead away—enter a badly done fright night maze with Zero to do with London’s history and everything to do with badly done horror (a suffocating squeeze hall and maniac with chainsaw included!). So how can you tell if these are traps you are walking into? Is there a bad horror gift shop you are left waiting in before the tour? Can you accidentally walk past the door without noticing because there is no way anything legitimate would be found in this area (like inside a mall or under a dark part of a bridge)? These are bad signs. What kind of awards does it advertise? Just reading the names should give you a clue. Who is on their advertisements? Do these images fit who you are or the people you are with? These are just a few warning signs but the best chance of staying out of a tourist trap is always to pay attention and do a little research.

Traveling like a local can be great, but sometimes embracing your walking shoes and tourist title can be quite an adventure on its own, so happy travels.

Till next week,

I’m Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Embracing your inner tourist…

Walking like a local…

…on foreign soil.

Image

Along the Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland. Summer 2013.

Now that you have your pre-trip budget down and have a basic estimate for each of the days you’ll be traveling, you can look back at the locations you are going to visit. Looking at the list, you’ll probably notice one very distinct fact: most of them are probably marketed and manufactured for tourists. It’s simply the nature of the game. In fact, next week we’ll look into tour and those that are and are not really worth the cash you shell out for it.

But how do you get past skimming the surface of the places you visit and see the places that otherwise get overlooked?

Well, it starts simple (yes, here we go again) with research—this research will be a little different than what you’ve done before, however. Instead of just typing each of the cities you’ll be in into Google, start by looking into BLOGS, specifically blogs by locals or travelers who are living in area for a longer span of time (ie, a few months and up). They are more likely to know the local fare that will be going on and cool local places they frequent or have discovered. Then you can pin these to your Google map! You’ll want to save any of these sites as the information on events like local concerts and/or festivals will become more relevant the closer you get to your arrival at said location.

Next, research specific events rather than specific places. I’m from Southern California, so one thing I know happens throughout summer is music festivals. Someone who was traveling to my area could research “Los Angeles (or Southern California) Music Festivals” and find/get tickets/information to any of these events going on in their time here. If you Google an event type and the basic area you’ll be in, you will be more likely to find local ventures. You can get more specific in your search if your interests are place oriented. When my sister and I were planning our UK trip, it wasn’t until almost two-thirds of the way through that we realized one of the countries we were visiting was the same country our favorite band (McFly) lives and works in. We’d been able to see them play earlier in the year on there first tour of the US (though really only LA and New York), but seeing them again if we could was a must. We searched for the bands tour dates for 2012 and were able to find a “Day at the Races with McFly” happening in Liverpool for about the time we would be passing through the area. All we had to do was get the tickets and maneuver our plans on the surrounding days.

Image

My sister and I sitting in the rain for hours waiting for the McFly concert. Liverpool, England. Summer 2013.

But sometimes, more research isn’t the answer. Instead, ask around once you are there. When you are planning, you should never fill your entire trip. Busy is great and you’ll see a lot, but isn’t traveling more about what you experience, rather than what you were able to simply see? Tours that plan your trip tend to do this—fill up every second. When I visited Australia in the summer of 2004, I was a US Student Ambassador with the People to People Program. This meant I was corralled with a group of roughly 40 other students my age and five supervisors, moving from place to place by bus from Cairns to Melbourne. The trip was great; I saw and learned a lot and met tons of great people, but everything was structured and packed in. I was lucky; we only visited one country, while others I know visited a few and they had a lot less time and, inevitably, less fun. Instead of planning like this, leave time open so you can stop by a local cultural festival or street performance you would have otherwise missed.

Another option is exploring by foot once you get on the ground and heading away from the city center. Basically when looking at city planning and build up, city center will have a lot going on all the time. All roads lead here. Therefore, there will be tons to do but also lots of events manufactured just for tourists like you. Venturing away from this center, you are more likely to find local establishments from pubs and bars to music venues to bakeries and book shops. These are the places locals live away from the crazy and hectic city center. The pulse of a city can be found in its center but sometimes the soul can be found in the worlds that surround it.

So, until we go full tourist next week,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Walking like a local…

To get where you’re going…

Image

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!

Image

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.

To get where you’re going…