Welcome to the latest installment of the "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 Sofie from WonderfulWanderings!
Sofie is a Belgian language lover and travel aficionada who combines a full-time job with freelance writing and blogging. She uses her weekends, vacation days and public holidays to travel the world and share her experiences with you on wonderfulwanderings.com.
1.) How do you save money in order to travel?
I have a full time job and also work as a freelance writer on the side, which means that I have a steady and another not so steady monthly income. When I'm not traveling I don't spend a lot of money on unnecessary things. Of course 'unnecessary' is subjective (who really needs cable tv?), but what I mean is that I almost never eat out, buy the cheapest products when I do my groceries, try to limit buying new clothes (a hard one)...
I also go out less than I used too. A weekend only counts two days and I always have so much that I want to do that I prefer staying in over being a wreck the next day. Yes, I'm that boring.
The only thing I do spend a lot of money on is my dance classes. I dance around five hours per week, so that adds up after a while, but dancing is a passion and I couldn't live without it. It's also the only physical exercise I get as I'm behind the computer about 12 hours per day when I'm not traveling. It's my way to relieve stress and I'm sure I'd go crazy (even more so than I am now) without it.
2.) Everyone needs to splurge now and then – describe a time when you blew your budget and it was worth every penny.
On my trip to Los Angeles I knew beforehand that I was going to splurge. I left prepared to splurge, with a giant suitcase not even half filled and a credit card that I was not afraid to use. At the end of the trip I had to struggle to close that suitcase.
I love Los Angeles for shopping (check out 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica and Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood!). The stores there are so different from what we have in Belgium and even in Europe in general. On top of that there are a lot of places with very reasonable prices, especially when you take into account that the euro is still stronger than the American dollar.
I know this isn't a 'special' kind of splurge. It's not like I all of a sudden decided to go bungee jumping, but it was still worth it. I'd been saving for months to go on that shopping spree and I knew I wouldn't go shopping for months after. But I didn't need to, because I had a brand new bag of clothes that I wouldn't have been able to find in Belgium and that had some great travel memories attached to them.
3) There’s nothing like a bargain – name your favorite great steal of a deal?
Hmm, that's a tough one! It's not really a bargain hunter, but I'm always for free food though. If I turn down free food, you better start worrying.
4.) What tips do you have for a traveler to get the best value for their money?
First of all I think that 'value for your money' is something very subjective and depends largely on someone's travel style. I never spend a lot of money on accommodation, so if I get a great hostel with free breakfast, great Wi-Fi, evening activities etc for $20/night, that's great value to me, but it might still be crap to someone who's not used to staying at hostels.
In general I think you should always consider how bad you really want or need something and if that something will really make your trip better.
Another thing I always recommend is checking reviews. Whether you want to book a place to stay, some sort of transportation, an activity... always go online and search for reviews on several different sites. It can keep you from paying for something you'll later regret.
Also always do price comparisons. Don't just book a hotel on the first website advertising it; compare prices on different booking sites, look at the terms and conditions and check if you're not cheaper off just booking directly with the hotel. The same goes for car rentals and flights.
5.) Time is valuable too – how do you make every moment count?
By sleeping too little :D
Nah, I'm an over-planner. I'll research the heck out of every trip to make sure I'll get to do whatever it is that I want to do at a destination in the most efficient and hassle-free way. No worrying about how to get somewhere, finding a place to sleep or what to do next. I always have a plan. That doesn't mean that I can't make changes as I go along, but it provides me with some kind of safety net and it's a guarantee that while traveling I won't have to worry about anything else but enjoying the moment.
If you enjoyed this interview, you'll also like:
Save, Splurge, Steal Interview: TreePot Travels
Save, Splurge, Steal Interview: Curious Around The World
Save, Splurge, Steal Interview: Tammy and Chris On The Move