Welcome to the latest installment in our "Save, Splurge, Steal" interview series. Getting great value when I travel is always such a fun challenge for me and I love to learn how other people get the best possible experience for their available time and money. I'm asking top travel bloggers to share their expertise and I hope you enjoy their responses as much as I do!
Meet Lindsay of The Traveluster!
Lindsay Lewis-Thomas has been traveling around the world since she was about two and exploring new countries and cultures is the one thing in life that truly motivates her. She pursued her love of culture academically by studying anthropology and geography at university (double major), attending Semester at Sea (circumnavigating the globe), and earning a masters degree in International Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR). In her blog, The Traveluster, she shares her experiences as she travels around the world, diving deep into culture.
1.) How do you save money in order to travel?
I used to spend way too much money on clothes, shoes and dining. When I lived and worked in Washington, DC, I think my cost of living was about four times what it is now in Nashville, TN. I was working a LOT and had very little paid time off to travel, so I didn't feel as much of a need to save money for trips, because I was never really able to get away. My priorities have changed. I now have a lot of flexibility in my schedule, but I have significantly less income, so I have to get creative. Since I've moved in to my new home with my husband, and we've finally been able to unpack all of our belongings and see everything in one spot, I feel overburdened with the amount of things we have. I have clothes that are up to ten years old. I used to keep everything. Now, my motto is, if I haven't worn it in a year, I am consigning it. Instead of going out and shopping for new clothes, I've been selling tons of old clothes, shoes, and handbags and making a good bit of money from that. Also, I eat out maybe two or three times a month (at a nice restaurant), as opposed to three or four times a week (which was the norm in DC). It's amazing how much money you can "make" by just not spending it!
2.) Everyone needs to splurge now and then – describe a time when you blew your budget and it was worth every penny.
I splurged on activities when I was in Africa last summer (2012). It felt a bit irresponsible to spend hundreds of dollars on: sky diving in Namibia (I paid extra to have the entire thing documented on video), bungee jumping in Zimbabwe, Great White shark cage diving in South Africa and riding ATVs on massive sand dunes in Namibia. I knew, though, that I would look back and be so extremely thankful that I spent the money I'd worked hard to save on these once in a lifetime experiences rather than things. As I am typing this, I'm smiling and thinking to myself, "I would do it all over again in a heartbeat." Those memories are unique and special- and worth every penny.
3.) There’s nothing like a bargain – name your favourite great steal of a deal?
OK, so any time I can travel somewhere exotic on miles, I consider that a win. When I was looking at flying to Argentina with my family a couple of months ago, I knew that it would likely cost around 45-60,000 miles each way. When I was able to get a round trip flight from Nashville, TN to Buenos Aires, Argentina for 60,000 miles and $153 (leaving me with over 100k miles still in my American Airlines account!!), I was ecstatic. That was a steal!!!
4.) What tips do you have for a traveler to get the best value for their money?
a) Procure and always use credit cards with good travel rewards. I have a Delta American Express, an American Airlines Master Card, and I am about to apply for a Starwood Preferred Guest American Express. Use your credit cards to pay for anything and everything, but pay off the balance each month, so you don't incur interest fees. I've flown to South America, Europe, and Africa in the last few years on miles (with many more to spare!).
b) Also, if you want to travel for an extensive period of time in a continent like Africa, which is a bit more difficult to navigate solo, consider using a great value tour company like G Adventures (I've used them for all of my group tours- great value for your money).
c) If you're traveling somewhere that is pricey, like French Polynesia or countries in Western Europe, plan on buying your food and wine at grocery stores as opposed to eating out. It wasn't even feasible for my husband and I to eat at restaurants in French Polynesia. An entree would cost over $50 USD....
d) Lastly, a cruise can be a resourceful and cost efficient way to see many destinations in a small amount of time. Think about how much it would cost to fly to seven different islands in the Caribbean. You can find a nice cruise line that visits eight islands in ten days for about $1,500. When you consider that this includes your transportation, lodging, AND food, it's a pretty good deal. A cruise is a great way to get the biggest bang for your buck, as far as visiting the most island or coastal destinations in a small amount of time.
5.) Time is valuable too – how do you make every moment count?
I abhor wasting time. When traveling, my time is extra precious. I pre-plan as much as possible and make sure I have enough time to see and do the things that I can not miss. If I have the luxury of extra time, then I make sure to enjoy a couple of non-planned, whimsical days. When I went to Buenos Aires a couple of months ago, I was a little stressed about traveling so far to get there and not seeing more of Argentina while I was in the area. I had two weeks there, which by many Americans' standards is a long time, but for others, it is not that long at all. If I had one or two more weeks, I would have tried to cover Patagonia, Chile, Mendoza, etc. Initially, I was too ambitious and thought I could get away with cramming in as much as possible, but I knew that this would dilute my experience in this country. I settled on a compromise, which was to take a couple of day trips from Buenos Aires (to Montevideo and Colonia in Uruguay), an overnight at an estancia out in the pampas, and three days to Iguazu Falls near the Brazil-Paraguay-Argentina border. The rest of the time was spent really exploring Buenos Aires and falling in love with the city and culture. When I returned to the U.S., I felt like had achieved the perfect balance of seeing as much as possible in the time I had without compromising the quality of my experience there. It's a balancing act. I have to keep myself in check, because I like to try to race to do it all! I sort of live like there's no tomorrow, but I also like to take a deeper dive into a place's culture and history and really get to know the people and the landscape.
Follow Lindsay's latest adventures!
The Blog: http://thetraveluster.com/
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Save, Splurge, Steal Interview: Curious Around the World
Save, Splurge, Steal Interview: The Barefoot Nomads
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