Top 10 Man-Made Wonders of the World, a photo essay

1. Pyramids of Egypt

photo by liber
photo by liber

2. Great Wall of China

photo by zsoolt
photo by zsoolt

3. Taj Mahal

photo by ironmanixs
photo by ironmanixs

4. Machu Picchu

photo by magnusvk
photo by magnusvk

5. Bali

photo by Theophilos
photo by Theophilos

6. Angkor Wat

photo by tylerdurden1
photo by tylerdurden1

7. Forbidden City

photo by frankartculinary
photo by frankartculinary

8. Bagan Temples & Pagodas

photo by worak
photo by worak

9. Karnak Temple

photo by bigdani
photo by bigdani

10. Teotihuacan

photo by = xAv =
photo by = xAv =

List courtesy of Howard Hillman

All You Need to Know About Hostels

“You stay in hostels?” people often ask when I talk to them about the way I travel.  “Aren’t you afraid of getting robbed or murdered?”

Thanks a lot Eli Roth for scaring the bejeezus out of inexperienced travelers and causing them to think they’re going to get murdered if they stay in a hostel.  I personally haven’t bothered watching his films Hostel and Hostel II, but I can assure you that there are very few similarities.  In fact, if you want to consider your personal safety, aren’t you safer in the small confines of a hostel with other travelers in the same room or nearby than you would be in a hotel?  Just saying.

The truth is that hostels actually provide a great option for budget travelers and with their affordable prices, allow many people to see the world they otherwise couldn’t afford.

What is a hostel?

OK, let’s start from the beginning in case you aren’t very familiar with hostels. A hostel is typically much smaller than a hotel and has fewer rooms.  The majority of rooms are dorm-style accommodations and have multiple (usually bunk) beds.  These rooms can house anywhere from 6 to 12 people usually and may or may not have an attached bathroom.

Doesn’t sound all that glamorous, and it’s not, but they’re cheap.  Depending on where the hostel is located, they can cost between $5-$25 on average.  Obviously, big European cities are going to be more expensive than smaller towns in South America, but no matter where you are, hostels are going to be considerably cheaper than a hotel room.

Need more privacy?

Nobody wants to share a room with strangers, but some people may flat out refuse to do so.  If that’s the case, many hostels also offer private rooms.  These typically have a couple of beds and can be a good option if you are traveling with a friend or small group.  The prices are higher obviously, but usually still cheaper than a hotel room.  It is worth your while to check around though because sometimes you might find a better deal on a hotel room.  I’ve seen some overly priced private rooms before and it doesn’t always  make sense.

What else does a hostel offer?

Not all hostels are the same but the trend over the past couple of years is for hostels to offer more and more amenities for their guests.  Many hostels provide maps and information on the area and some even arrange their own tours.  Sometimes these are complimentary or cheap, but often they will help book tours with local tour companies.  You should be aware that the hostel usually gets a commission for setting you up with a tour company, but most hostels have already done the work to figure out which companies are trustworthy and a good deal.  With the word-of-mouth nature of hostel guests, it’s in their best interest to be honest and helpful as word will get around quickly if they are not.

Most hostels also provide a kitchen where you can store and cook your own food.  While I always recommend enjoying the local cuisine and dining out, many travelers choose to cook in order to keep their costs down.  Some hostels also include continental style breakfast and a few I’ve seen sell their own food and drinks.  In fact, the second-best restaurant I found in Costa Rica was conveniently in the Arenal Backpackers Hostel in La Fortuna.

Another thing that is becoming popular in hostels is free computer use and/or free WiFi.  For travelers with their own computer or wireless-enabled phone this can be a godsend for sending emails or planning many aspects of their trip.

A great form of social interaction

Just like a hotel, you probably want to spend most of your time away from the hostel enjoying wherever you may be traveling, but for lazy days or early nights, hostels can be a great way to socialize.  Whether you are by yourself or with friends, you’ll quickly meet people in a hostel.

Many hostels provide a common room or area with a TV, music, a pool, or just a place to sit and eat and this is usually where most people congregate.  Sooner or later you’ll be enjoying a drink with a handful of people speaking several different languages.  This is one of my favorite things about staying at hostels and I have made some good friends like this.

What you should bring

Nearly all hostels now provide bedding but I’m sure there are still a few out there that don’t, or still charge a small fee for it.  Some people travel with a sleeping bag or bed sheet but this is very rare these days.  You will want to bring your own toiletries as things like soap and shampoo aren’t provided.  Also, my favorite thing to bring is a pair of ear plugs.  Inevitably you’ll have at least one night with somebody who snores so these can really save your night.

The safety of your belongings should also be a concern and while I have been less than smart about keeping my things secure in the past without any negative results, you shouldn’t try your luck.  Many hostels provide lockers but you’ll probably need your own lock.  It’s safe enough to leave your clothes and stuff lying out on your bed, but keep your passport, money, and any valuables like a camera with you just to be safe.  While theft in hostels isn’t prevalent, it does happen.

Another thing you should bring is a towel.  I recommend a thin, quick drying towel made for traveling or camping.  These take up very little space in your backpack and dry fast so they don’t start to stink when packed.  Many hostels do provide towels but not all of them.  Some do, but charge a dollar or two.  Having your own certainly makes life easier.

How to find a hostel

The best website out there for booking and researching hostels is HostelWorld which is why I have a convenient form on the right of this web page to search for them.  There are plenty of reviews for most hostels along with pictures that can help you visualize the place.  It’s easy to reserve a bed or room in a hostel through HostelWorld but I also recommend playing things by ear a little bit.  If you know that your destination isn’t incredibly busy, try only booking for a night or two and then seeing how the rest of your time goes.  Maybe you won’t like the hostel and want to move to a different one.  Perhaps you’ll decide to move on to another city.  Not booking too many nights in advance will allow you a bit of freedom.  Just make sure you discuss the situation about extending your stay when you arrive because many hostels fill up quickly during peak times.  Having at least one night booked to begin with will certainly make things easier when you arrive though so it’s nice to have something arranged ahead of time.

If you are yet to experience a hostel I hope this shed some light on them for you.  I highly recommend them not only for the cost savings, but the experience as well.  If you have any comments or questions about sleeping at hostels feel free to post them in the comments section.

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Five Exotic Places in the World (that you can still afford to visit)

Budget travelers are constantly looking for the best possible places they can visit on the cheap.  Here are five exotic places around the world that are still affordable for the budget traveler.  Read on!

Panama

2235524340_aa8034b4d9_oEverybody knows it for the Panama Canal, a must see engineering marvel, but Panama offers much more for budget travelers seeking an exotic trip.  Plenty of great beaches in places like Bocas del Torro or for the more adventurous, explore the Darién Gap (with a guide of course, this is one extremely dangerous place).  It’s easy to spend several weeks in this exotic country without ever staying in one place for too long.

Panama is served by many North American carriers at reasonable prices.  The roads are much easier than Costa Rica but the main means of transport over large distances is by small plane.  You can fly to most places in the country on Air Panama or AeroPerlas for $50-100.

Hawaii

DSCN1302Thought by many to be an expensive tourist trap five hours off the coast of California, Hawaii is actually a great trip for budget travelers who enjoy doing their own thing.  Amazing beaches with the best surf in North America, scuba and snorkeling opportunities everywhere and plenty of diversity with rain forest and volcanoes for nature lovers.

Read more about Hawaii becoming a budget traveler’s dream.

Bali

124680557_1549fb2b10_oThe most visitor friendly island in Indonesia, Bali may be small in size but not in stature, despite not being the cheapest place in the world to fly to.  Flights can cost up to around $1,000 but amenities once you are there can be had at very reasonable prices.  Don’t worry, big hotels are available for those who need pampering, but for travelers that require less your dollar can go a long way in Bali.

Costa Rica

3491606318_38338e7ff4_bApparently in order to be considered “exotic” you need ocean and rain forest so close to each other in the same country that you can literally feel as if you are in another world in the same day.  Not only does Costa Rica allow you to do that, you can literally walk from a gorgeous beach where you might not see another person all day, to forest where you will be surrounded by monkeys and sloths.  Costa Rica has to be the ecotourism capital of the world and luckily for budget travelers, prices are still reasonable.  A bus ride across the country costs less than $5 and there are many hostels for around $10 per night.  Tourism is huge though and there are plenty of resorts and tourists traps but you can still easily get by spending $3 for dinner eating with the locals at a small soda.

Morocco

2389557556_2b8698f6dd_oMorocco stands out on this list because it’s not known for its nature although it does have plenty of that to go around.  Fancy a camel ride across the Sahara? No problem.  The majority of travelers are here for Morocco’s immense culture though.  It’s a taste of the middle east in North Africa.  Imperial cities like Fez are home to life in the medinas and souks that has been relatively unchanged for a thousand years.  Food lovers will be in heaven enjoying chicken or lamb tagines meticulously steamed for several hours.

1,000 Places to See Before You Die

Inspired by the roaring #1 New York Times bestseller with more than 1 million copies in print, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die Traveler’s Journal is perfect for giving–it’s specially designed for people who love to travel and want an elegant place to record their experiences. Scattered throughout the journal are traveler’s lists (“Unforgettable Destinations for the ‘Been There, Done That’ Crowd”and “10 Experiences Guaranteed to Give You the Shivers”) and quotes that will spark insight and provide writerly inspiration. At the back of the diary is helpful nuts-and-bolts info: time zones, conversion charts, telephone codes, mini-translation guides, and more.

Taking Your Travel Blog to the Next Level

Last week in an article about various forms of travel blogs I mentioned that the most popular was the travel journal which are often written by travelers posting a blurb or two about where they are, what they’re doing, and who they’re with.

I wrote that “nobody cares about these unless they are the writer’s friends and family.” Boy did I get some criticism for that! Quite a few readers commented on the post and twitter that they in fact, love those types of blogs.  The most popular reason was that readers want an unbiased view from an actual traveler instead of a PR-fluffed piece or even info from a guidebook.

While I can admit when I’m wrong, I think many people took my opinion out of context or maybe we just weren’t on the same page.  I still find hundreds of blogs about travel with little value because the writer isn’t focusing on their audience.  In all honesty, I’m sure I am somewhat guilty of this as I used to jot down my trip reports as if they were happening to me then and there and never worried about who was going to read them.  Actually, I never expected anybody to read them.  Now that this site has a decent readership, for better or for worse, quite a few people read my old trip reports.

Who is your audience?

If you are writing a travel blog, publishing your trip reports, or doing any type of writing about your journeys, you want to take a step back and consider your audience.  Are you writing to keep your friends and family updated on your whereabouts? Are you hoping the public will come out of nowhere to read your blog? Maybe you want other travelers to use your experience as a springboard for their own journeys.  These are all things that should affect your travel blog.

If your family is the sole reader of your blog, you don’t have much to worry about.  Keep them informed and you’re doing your job.

If your audience is bigger than that, you have more things to consider.

First of all, your writing needs to be clean.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, but attempt to at least use proper grammar, punctuation, and capitalization. Nothing takes away from your writing than when it’s plagued with errors.  Also, it doesn’t need to be that colorful.  I remember when teachers would force students to consult the thesaurus on every writing assignment.  That helped build basic vocabulary skills and a bit of style when you were in junior high, but by this point, you should know enough adjectives to describe a person, place, or event from your travels without an abundance of colorful adjectives that some readers won’t even be familiar with.

Remember that you aren’t a public relations department.  You’re simply sharing your experiences with other people.  You don’t have to say that everything was perfect.  Nearly every one of my travel experiences has included some type of negative experience.  Not every place smells like roses, looks like paradise, or is filled with heaven-sent people.  That’s reality and there is no sense in hiding it.

The travel narrative

I have to admit, I don’t consider myself a great writer so I’m trying to stay away from simply handing out writing advice.  There are far better people who can do that.  Instead, I want to explain what I look for when reading travel blogs and what I feel makes one stand out from the rest.

If it weren’t for reading Rolf Potts‘ compilation book of travel stories, Marco Polo Didn’t Go There: Stories and Revelations from One Decade as a Postmodern Travel Writer, I wouldn’t have been exposed to the travel narrative which has given me a new sense of writing.  As simply as I can explain, the travel narrative is a story created around your travel experience.  It’s not a list of what happened where and when, but instead a piece of non-fiction utilizing characters and experiences from your travels and turning them into a stylized story.  Often the characters become the centerpiece of the tale and form a personal connection between the reader and the story.

Travel narratives are just another option for publishing your travels and can appeal to readers whether they are interested in your location or not, whereas a standard journal entry likely only interested people already considering the location.

Uniqueness sets you apart from the rest

One thing I hadn’t previously considered was uniqueness, or niche travel blogging.  You hear a lot about niche blogging but not necessarily related to travel.

I received several messages from people who pointed out that the main appeal to their blogs were the fact that their travels were rather unique.  Heading to places like Myanmar or racing bicycles in Africa, Canada’s Adventure Couple’s blog really stands out.

Certainly, heading somewhere unique or even insane (Iraq anybody?) not only sets you apart from the thousands of blogs about Paris or London but your blog’s traffic will certainly benefit from being one of the few places for information on these places as well.

If you have. or are planning on starting a travel blog, I hope these ideas have you thinking a bit. If you have your own travel blog please feel free to share it by posting a link in the comments.

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3 Travelers Share Their Favorite Budget Destinations

I asked some fellow travel writers what their favorite budget travel destination was and received some great responses.  Here are my two favorite, followed by one of my own. I’d like to continue this theme in the future so if you are interested in contributing please contact me.

Krakow, Poland

photo by Kirstysplodge
photo by Kirstysplodge

Krakow is quickly becoming one of the top European hotspots for travelers. It has filled the void for people that were looking to go elsewhere once trendy, and overly tourist saturated Prague became too expensive. Krakow offers so much to do for travelers on a budget. Since the exchange rate is so good to Americans and food and beer are already cheap, it is a win-win! Check out Rynek Glowny, which is the world’s largest Medieval town square. This beautiful piece of architecture is the meeting spot for most Poles and tourists alike. It is filled with popular bars, top restaurants, cute cafes and chic shopping. After stuffing your face with local fare like pierogies and Zywiec beer, head on over to Wawal Castle. This popular tourist attraction was built in the 14th century and like most of Krakow’s architecture, it has been extremely well preserved. The castle offers a low admission, and in for certain individuals reduced and free admission is available. Check their website for more information. Krakow is a very accessible city as well. Whether you want to trek by foot or take the train, this city has got you covered. I prefer to rent a bike, which cost about 20 zloty per day ($6 US), and ride along the many beautiful streets of this bustling former capital of Poland. But since my last trip to Krakow, they have debuted a new bike program, similar to the one in Amsterdam, which provides locals and tourists with bike rental stations throughout the city. There are about 15 of these “BikeOne” stations throughout the city and more will be introduced this year. Best part about the bike rentals is that you do not have to return it to the same station. Just drop it off at whatever locale you like. This is just a little taste of what Poland’s hippest and lively city has to offer. Four and five star hotels are priced at what most Americans would pay for a two star locale. There are plenty of cheap eats…and drinks. Plus Krakow is one of the best cities to offer most of their attractions at little or no cost you tourists. Flights, which have been notoriously high in the past, have dropped due to the weak economy. While I suggest spring and summer as the ideal time to visit, this city truly is a year round great and affordable European destination.

Andrew Hickey writes TheBrooklynNomad and obsessed with travel. He is constantly on the look out for a great deal to…well anywhere. He has visited numerous destinations around this planet and never gets sick of talking travel. Andrew has written articles and appeared in the travel sections of such media outlets as USA Today, New York Times, MSNBC , AOL, Travel Muse, and Yahoo! You can also follow him on Twitter.

Thailand

Photo by Shane Brown
Photo by Shane Brown

Thailand is one of those places that once visited, will leave you with a special memory etched in your heart. Like a Lucy loves Aaron proclamation on a tree in the botanical garden. Well, it would if you were Lucy or Aaron. For some people it’s the smiles beaming from every local you meet. For others it’s the knock-off shoes and ‘iPood’ t-shirts found in all the shops on Khao San road. For a select few it’s the “entertainment” found in areas like Pattaya, but that’s best left for another blog post. For me it’s the incredible food, made with fresh local ingredients, which you can find in pretty much every market in the country (and on quite a few street corners too). From seafood Laksa’s to Green Curry veggies on Rice, all the staples are covered – and at a price which easily falls within even the thriftiest traveler’s budget. It’s not just Asian fare which can be found on the cheap. The best Spaghetti marinara I’ve ever tasted was from the restaurant attached to a guesthouse on Koh Lanta, in Thailand’s Krabi region (easily reached via a very cheap overnight train from Bangkok). Prepared with fresh seafood brought in by the fishermen that day, it was rich in flavour, pasta cooked to a perfect al dente, and at about a tenth of the price I was used to paying back home. Which of course left me with a few baht to spend on some Singha beers, a couple of cheap DVD’s, and well, you can never have enough ‘iPood’ t-shirts.

Shane Brown considers himself a professional Lion Wrangler.  You can follow his blog on TravelPod. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

I’ve heard just about everything about Costa Rica from many different people. From “it’s too touristy,” to “it’s unsafe,” and I’ve found none of the negative things I’ve heard to be true. Once you visit Costa Rica you’ll realize that whoever said those things has never been there to experience the pure beauty that Costa Rica has to offer. I’ve been twice over the past year and an always thinking about returning.  While Costa Rica is maximizing on their tourism industry, nearly everything is still extremely affordable.  The majority of hostels are around $10, and some of the nicest I’ve ever seen, traditional meals can be purchased at “soda’s” for $3-4, and it doesn’t cost much to take in the beauty and nature found all across the country.  I say much, because a lot of land in Costa Rica has been declared part of various national parks and often charge small fees to enter. The advantage is that the land is protected and will be up kept and remain undeveloped. Whether you want to surf some of the best waves in the world, hike up active volcanos, or walk through the rain forest with monkeys at your feet, Costa Rica will delight you.  Just remember to bring some insect repellent.

Jeffery Patch writes Have Pack, Will Travel and does everything possible to see the world while taking vacation from his 9-5 life in California. You can also follow him on Twitter.

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To Travel Blog, or Not To Travel Blog

With blogs becoming increasingly simple to set up and run, the amount of travel blogs online has become simply overwhelming.  Starting one yourself can be a good idea, or it could be a huge waste of your time.  This is the first of two articles on the subject running your own travel blog.

First of all, there are several different types of travel blogs out there.  Which one are you going to set up?

1) The Travel Journal

The travel journal is by far the most popular type of travel blog out there.  Travelers set up a blog, typically on a free blog hosting site such as WordPress or Blogspot, and chronicle their travels with writing and photography.

Let’s be honest. Typically, nobody cares about these unless they are the writer’s friends and family.  And that’s OK.  They’re usually who they are set up for anyway.  When traveling for any extended period of time, you find yourself with not enough time in the day to sit and email every single person you know so setting up a free travel blog is an easy way to keep everybody notified of your whereabouts, experiences, and most importantly, safety.

What the potential writer must realize though is that hardly anybody outside of their social circle gives a darn about their blog.  That’s not to say they shouldn’t spend time working on it, but they need to know their audience.  I spent years writing about many of my travels only to notice that not a single person whom I didn’t already know in person would take the time to care about my experiences.

A few days ago I emailed a friend who is spending several months traveling through South America and told him that I was following his blog.  He responded that he wasn’t much of a blogger but that wasn’t the point of his blog.  It was a place for his friends and family to keep in touch and follow along while he enjoys this amazing experience.

2) The Travel News Source

Some travel blogs out there focus on all the news happening in the world of travel.  The writer follows what is going on around the world and links to it, occasionally offering an opinion or perspective on the topic.  It’s hard for these types of blogs to gain a significant readership since news is already so easy to find.  Chances are that they aren’t the only person linking and writing about these topics so the content is duplicated all over the ‘net making far from unique.

3) The Advertising Billboard

While it may seem like I’m pointing out the negative about all of these so far, it doesn’t mean that I am against them by any means.  That is, until now.  Some travel blogs are simply online advertising billboards overflowing with advertisements disguised as news or other forms of travel blogging.  These types of sites are about one thing: making money.  They’ll promote tour packages, resorts and hotels, flight deals, etc.  It’s rare that anything they publish is actually useful or a good deal.  Take what they say with a grain of salt and do your own research about anything you find on their sites that might be interested in.

Lately I’ve seen a few of these sites (and their twitter counterparts) advertising “amazing” hotel rates to places like Hawaii.  Several of the ones I checked out had hotel rates at $300 a night.  Maybe these are a significant discount over their normal advertised rates but that is hardly what I would consider a good deal.  They’re all hype.

4) The Informational Travel Blog

Finally, my favorite type of travel blog! I am biased, of course, seeing as I write and publish Have Pack, Will Travel which I feel is becoming a great source of information on independent and budget travel.  Not to toot my own horn or anything, so I’ll also use The Expeditioner as an example.  I found Matt Stabile’s wonderful site after he linked to my 10 Must Have Items for the Independent Traveler list.  These types of travel blogs attempt to provide plenty of useful information for their readers.  Occasionally they’ll feature travel stories, but most often you’ll find How To articles with the focus on helping out other travelers with information they may not have had, or simply overlooked.

So what kind of travel blog is yours?  It’s probably worth your while to consider these types of blogs before you get started.

How Will You Get Started?

The good thing about starting a blog is that it has become extremely easy to set up.  There are countless ways to start your own for free with places like WordPress and Blogspot.  If you are going to communicate any type of professional tone though, these may not be the best options as it’s difficult for most people to take a free blog seriously.  If all you are doing is keeping a travel journal though, they are a quick and easy.

It’s not much more difficult if you want to set up your own dot com domain name and run your blog that way, although it’s not free.  You’ll need to buy your own domain name and hosting service from a company like GoDaddy or xEdgeHosting (yes, that’s my small, personally run company and this is the first time I’ve felt it appropriate to suggest it).  There are TONS of hosting companies out there so feel free to do your own research.  WordPress.Org will help you get the software installed in about 5 minutes or often, the hosting company offers a way to install it with only one click.

Can You Make Money?

Yes, you can, but that doesn’t mean you will.  Whatever you do, don’t start your blog thinking you will be making money with advertising because it’s extremely difficult to do.  I have a few ads set up here and while I won’t get into specifics, I will say that they make very little money.  I (and you should as well) do this because I love it, not because I’m looking to strike it rich.

Sounds Easy. I’ll Start Today!

Good! I truly hope you do, but don’t think that all of this is easy.  If you are a capable writer, maybe you will have an easy time getting started writing content, but it takes dedication.  For a site like this I am constantly writing to keep content fresh and enjoyable.  I love it, but it does get difficult sometimes.  Blogs that are successful require frequent updates and the ones that go weeks without any new content are obvious signs of the writers lack of dedication.

If you have. or are planning on starting a travel blog, I hope these ideas have you thinking a bit.  If you have your own travel blog please feel free to share it by posting a link in the comments.

If you like this article please consider subscribing to our RSS or Email feed or following @HavePack on Twitter.

How the Economy is Changing Our Travel

Have you entered our contest to win a free Kelty Redwing backpack? It’s free and easy!

Two weeks ago I asked you readers how the economy was affecting your travel plans or travel habits.

I think that there are several obvious things that are changing.  Several people commented and told me on twitter that they are traveling less due to being laid off.  That’s unfortunate news and I’m very sorry to hear about anybody losing their job.

But what wasn’t as obvious, and exactly what I hoped to hear when I posed that question, was how people are changing their travel habits so they could continue traveling despite lower pay, no job at all, or just worry about the economy in general.

Despite these challenges posed by various financial concerns, people are still traveling.  Affordable vacations like road trips, camping and other outdoor activities appear to be gaining in popularity.

Some popular domestic vacation destinations like Las Vegas have been hurting, but some travelers are finding great deals for both airfare and hotels.

On my last vacation I talked to a lot of travelers of all ages and nationalities.  Although it is a trend I have been noticing for a few years, many hostels are becoming increasingly popular with older and/or more financially stable visitors than the typical crowd one would expect at youth hostels.  Note: you won’t find the word “youth” in many hostel’s names anymore :)

And then there is the final type of traveler who is not affected too much by the current economic situation.  Several people mentioned on twitter that they’re not too worried since they already travel cheaply.  Combine that airfares that continue to get lower and lower, and these travelers are benefiting the most from the current economy.

If you have any questions or comments on traveling in this economy please share in the comments section below. We’d love to hear any and all opinions and/or tips!

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18 Easy Ways to Save Money Traveling

Saving money is an important thing to consider when traveling.  I think of myself as a budget traveler, but I try to balance my spending.  I’m not extremely cheap about everything, but I do my best to not waste money when it doesn’t need to be wasted.  Do that, and you can have extra money to splurge on other things.

Here are 18 ways you can save money while traveling.  I don’t recommend doing every one of them, but practicing a few can greatly decrease your spending and help make your trip more affordable.

1. Stay in a hostel

This is a no brainer.  Hostels are usually only a fraction of price of a hotel room.  If you don’t mind sharing dorm style accommodation, you can save a bunch of money every night and also meet other like-minded travelers.

2. Share hotel rooms

Traveling with a group?  Squeeze as many people as you can in a hotel room.  Some smaller hotels will charge you per person though so you’ll have to decide what the best deal is for your situation.

3. Use public transport

Do your best to steer clear of car rentals.  They’re usually pretty expensive and driving in a foreign country can be a nightmare.  Best to leave it to the professionals and help the environment by taking trains and buses.

4. Share rides

Trying to hail a taxi in front of your hostel or hotel? Ask other travelers where they are going and maybe you’ll be heading in the same direction.  If so, split the fare!

5. Walk

Burn some calories and walk around town.  Enjoy the area and do some sightseeing.

6. Camp

If you enjoy the great outdoors why not pack your tent and sleeping bag and make camp somewhere.  Campsites are cheap and common all over the world if you aren’t able to make camp somewhere in nature itself.

7. Enjoy outdoor activities

Not everything you do has to cost money.  Go hiking, lay on the beach, go for a swim, or just spend an evening looking up at the stars.

8. Cook your own meals

This is one tip that you won’t find me practicing very often.  I love to eat out and enjoy the local cuisine.  But if spending money on food isn’t on your agenda, most hostels have a kitchen and everything you need to make your own dinner.  Just head out to the grocery store or local market and pick up something to cook up.  Cooking is even better if you have a group of people that can chip in to buy more food and split everything.

9. Eat on the street

Street vendors and small food stalls have some of the tastiest food as well as the most authentic.  It’s usually pretty cheap too!  No comment on how healthy it may be though.

10. Explore

Getting out and exploring the area can not only be a fun way to spend an afternoon, it can also lead to bargains.  You’ll likely find plenty of restaurants and shops that the locals use and are out of the touristy areas.

11. CouchSurf

CouchSurfing is not only about saving money but also about making friends and experiencing the area from a different point of view.  I highly recommend it, as I’ve written before, but for the sake of the community, do not use it solely as a way to sleep for free.

11. People watch

Another great, and free, way to spend some time is to just sit and watch the people go by.  This is a favorite past time of Moroccan men by the way.

12. Share tours

I’m not a huge fan of taking organized tours but sometimes it is the best way to explore an area that you otherwise might not be able to navigate on your own.  In that case, check with others who are staying at your hostel and consider splitting the tour among multiple people.  The tour guide might charge a bit more, but it should still be cheaper than doing it solo.

13. Bring a guidebook

I don’t always recommend following every word the guidebook says, but they will often warn of possible tourist traps and will recommend cheaper places to eat, sleep, and shop.  The only problem is that once a place is listed in a guidebook, they tend to raise their prices in response to their new popularity.  So be sure to continue to shop around.

14. Bring a water bottle, refill it

Bring a BPA-free water bottle with you and refill it with tap water if it is safe to drink.  Not only will you save money over buying bottled water, you’re helping the environment and probably encouraging yourself to drink more water as well.

15. Pack common medications

It’s a wise idea to pack some common medications with you if there is a chance you might need them.  I always bring ibuprofen for headaches or other aches, and loperamide in case you get a little bout of food sickness.  Sure, you can find these everywhere, but they’ll likely cost a lot more.

16. Bring enough batteries and film

I know, who still uses regular batteries or film? I certainly don’t.  But if you do, pack extras because they’ll cost a lot more when traveling.

17. Barter

Shopping in bazaars or other open air markets? Bartering is a common practice in many places around the world.  Don’t be insulting though and understand that (depending on where you are) you might make more money in a week than the person on the other end of the transaction makes in a year.

18. Just bring a backpack

Don’t over pack! Figure out a way to stuff your things in a backpack and avoid the checked bag fees that nearly every airline is charging now.  I’m convinced that everybody can fit their life into a Kelty Redwing 3100 or similar backpack.

If you have any other tips on saving money while traveling please feel free to share them in the comments below.

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Has Hawaii Become a Budget Traveler’s Dream?

Highway 30 - North/North West Maui
Highway 30 - North/North West Maui

I’ve been traveling as much as possible for nearly a decade and to be completely honest, Hawaii was never really on my mind as a place to visit.

I pictured big high-rise hotels and resorts, families, and overweight German tourists wearing speedos.  And let’s not even bring up how expensive it all must have been.

I can admit that my ignorance clouded my judgment, but one thing I’m sure I had right was about how expensive Hawaii was.   Then this little thing called an economic crisis came in to play.  A year ago I briefly flirted with the idea and a round trip ticket from Los Angeles was $700.  Today it is $235 round trip to Honolulu, or about $330 to Maui.

So we have our first requirement for a good budget destination; cheap airfare.

Next, we’ll need someplace to stay.  The $200+ hotels on the beach in Lahaina probably won’t be feasible.  Don’t worry too much though because Maui has three hostels that I was able to track down online.

There is Patey’s Place in Lahaina which had pretty poor reviews so I chose not to stay there.  In Wailuku there is the Northshore Hostel and Banana Bungalows.  Based off of Hostelworld’s reviews, I opted for Northshore but Banana Bungalows looked decent enough from the outside when I walked past.  I had just read too many horror stories online about them which is why I continued to skip it.  All three places cost about $25 per night which isn’t cheap, but affordable enough given that we are in Hawaii after all.

Wailuku is a sleepy little town with little to offer travelers other than good central point for exploring the island.  It’s easy to get to from the airport and both the Hana Highway (37) and the amazing scenic route 30 are easily accessible.

In fact, my favorite thing to do in Maui was to simply drive those roads.  Everybody has heard about the road to Hana, and it definitely lives up to the hype, but Highway 30 is an amazing drive along the north coast along a winding 1.5 lane road.

Both highways are literally littered with hikes.  So many that you will have a difficult time deciding which ones to do and which ones to skip.  You’ll want to consult your guidebook the night before so you don’t waste precious time that you could be using to be exploring this wonderful island.

Don’t forget the beaches.  Kihei and Lahaina have great beaches for snorkeling or just relaxing and catching some rays.  Both places have plenty of places to rent snorkel gear or surfboard and you’d be surprised how cheap it can be.  A complete snorkel package should run you less than $10 for a 24 hour rental.

So we have our second and third important items for a budget destination;  free or cheap things to do and beautiful nature.

Maui really surprised me by being so easily accessible for budget travel.  You’ll spend your time exploring rather than paying money for tours or other types of entertainment.  I heard horror stories about food and everything else being extremely overpriced but other than one overpriced breakfast wrap I had, everything was priced the same, or cheaper than back home in California.

I know what you are thinking: “there has to be a catch!” Right?

I suppose the only downside to visiting Hawaii is that you really need to have your own car.  I rented a car through Thrifty which cost $179 for 5 days.  I used DiscountHawaiiCarRental which saved me about 10% over using a larger travel search engine.  Add in about $50 in gas and you have a pretty major expense.  This is where it helps to have a friend traveling with you so you can split it.

Not counting food, I spent less than $30 on entertaining myself.  It cost $10 to drive into Haleakala National Park, $6 to enter the Waihe’e Valley Trail and $4 for snorkel gear.  One night I spent another $9.50 on going to see a movie.  Not bad for five full days of never being bored.

I try to keep a fair balance between staying frugal and enjoying myself but I never attempted to be cheap on this trip.  It just ended up that everything that I wanted to do was basically free.

I should thank my amazing guidebook, Maui Revealed.
I typically swear by Lonely Planet, but I picked up this book at the store and then read the reviews on Amazon.  It is packed full of information that other books don’t have and every time I visited one of the more secret places in it, I was either alone, or with only a couple of other readers of the book.  You can’t visit Maui without it.

There we have it.  I deem Hawaii, and Maui in particular, a great budget traveler’s destination.  Thanks to this economy for providing cheap airfare, you can now visit for less than half of what it would have cost last year.  Assuming you like the sun and outdoors, you’ll have a great time exploring the island.

If you would like to see more photos from Jeff’s trip to Maui please check out the photoset on Flickr.

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Are You Traveling Less Because of the Economy?

creative commons license by recompose on flickr
creative commons license by recompose on flickr

I’m taking some time off today from my usual routine of preaching whatever it is I want to share and asking YOU, my wonderful readers, a couple of questions.

Traveling in this economy has been talked about before here, but now I want to know what you think.

  • With this economy we are living in, are you currently traveling less?
  • With summer coming up, are you going to skip a trip you usually take this time of year?
  • What things are you changing in your travel routine? Are you using different accommodation or other things to save money, or are you choosing destinations that are cheaper than you would have before?

These are all pretty open ended.  I really want to know your feelings on the current economical situation in regards to your own travels.  Please take a second to share your thoughts in the comments section below and let’s see what everybody has to say on this subject.  I’m sure we’ll be talking more about this in the near future.