25/12/2016…a very Merry Christmas indeed 🙂

Of course, the thought of packing a small bag and heading to the airport to see what new destination could be explored, and just jet off into an unplanned adventure, is possibly a sexy fantasy for many travel addicts…however, if we call a spade a spade, it might not end up being such a budget option. Notwithstanding that there are people that manage to go on relatively economical holidays with this strategy, it can’t be denied that they do this with a significant level of financial security behind their backs: on an unplanned holiday, anything could happen that will incur unexpected, and potentially unbalancing expenditures. In summary, if finances are a constraint to your travels, a little forward planning will (allow YOU to) go a long way!

Flights

For single-destination travels, search engines such as CheapFlights (with its various ‘.somethings’), Expedia, LastMinute, and, nowadays, even Google! will help you identify the airlines flying your interested route, and give you an idea of what the prices are. NOTE: do not actually purchase the ticket on the search engine, because if anything were to come up, triggering the need to make modifications to your flights, dealing with the search engine customer care tends to be hell (any search engine people out there reading this, take it as constructive criticism!). Go to the website of the airlines that offer the best prices, and purchase your ticket there.

If, however, you are looking to cover several destinations, possibly over a more extended period of time than just a one- or two- week holiday, then you might want to look into Round The World Tickets. There are many travel agencies that offer this type of ticket, but I used STA Travel – a particularly student-friendly UK-based travel agency – and I highly recommend them. After you contact them for an enquiry, they will give you ticket quotes based on the destinations and (approximate) travels dates that you ask for, and will patiently go back and forth with you until you finally make your mind up (took about 2 or 3 months, in my case!). Then, at the time of making the booking, you only have to pay a small deposit! The balance is due 10 weeks before you travel, meaning that you can start booking the ticket far in advance even if you don’t quite have the money saved up yet!

Accommodation

Budget options for accommodation while travelling are many, and there extents to which people will go ‘budget’ on sleeping arrangements highly depends on their ‘comfort needs’. If you’re not too demanding in terms of where you set your head down to sleep at night, and are inclined to meeting local people to get a feel of the real life in the country you’re visiting, then Couch Surfing is the way to go.

Couch Surfers started as an online community of people love travelling who wanted to connect with other people who love travelling, and host each other during their travels, with the three great benefits of: getting a local feel of the place, saving on accommodation, and making new like-minded friends! NOTE: I advise against approaching Couch Surfing with the sole purpose of getting free accommodation – you might get hosted at first, but Couch Surfers will see through your misguided intentions rather fast, and you’re likely to get not-so-good reviews on you CS profile, and unlikely to get hosted again.

If you don’t feel comfortable with the idea of sleeping in a stranger’s house, but you still want the chance to meet locals, you could always find some hostel or hotel, and then contact Couch Surfers residing in the city you’re in to meet up for a coffee/beer/meal and a chat, or check out what events the local CS group may have going on when you’re around! Personally, I’ve made many-a-wonderful friendships by joining CS groups and events!

If you’re not too into the idea of Couch Surfing for sleeping, you can use the multitude of search engines for hostels, hotels, guesthouses, BnBs, etc (TripAdvisor, HostelWorld, Booking, etc), or you can check out AirBnb – an online platform where people put up for rent (short-, medium- and long-term) their flats and houses, or a room within their house. This option tends to be cheap especially when there are more people travelling together, since they charge a fixed price for the place, as opposed to per person (as with most hostels and hotels).

 

I believe these are the basics that need to be covered when planning a budget trip. However, there are a few more things you should not overlook:

  • VISAS! Yes, the worst thing to have been invented by mankind, dividing us up into completely arbitrary pigeonholes, and preventing us to mix with like-minded people across the world. However, they are a reality, and you do need to take them into account and plan ahead for them. If you book a Round The World ticket, it is important you first have a quick glance at the embassy websites for each of the countries you’re planning to visit, to ensure that your being on the road won’t get in the way of you being able to get a Visa for a given country. For example, some (most!) countries require you to apply for the visa in the country you’re resident in, and may also have a time restriction between visa granting and entering the country, therefore it’s important you plan ahead for these details, in order not to find yourself in an annoying situation!
  • Insurance: yup, yup, super boring, potentially useless, but guess what? Budget travelling in far away countries is really a better-safe-than-sorry type of situation. So, do your research for getting insurance (they are country-specific, so I won’t bore you with the one I used, a simple google search will do), and MAKE SURE you read the details of the policies properly before you purchase it! Yes, this is obvious, but guess what? Those small lines we can never be bothered to read, well, with insurance covers they matter A LOT. I have already had the chance to have a massive fail in that regard, and I’ve not even left yet!
  • Cultural Awareness: it may sound interesting or boring to you, depending on your inclinations, but it is very important for your plans to go smoothly and you to enjoy your travels – be aware of what the cultural parameters are in the countries you plan to visit, it will help you be mentally prepared for your travels, and keep you out of sticky situations!
  • Packing: I am personally still on the lower end of this learning curve (see picture!), but am striving to make it past that bump, trying to detach myself from the need to have ‘things’, and a million different options of outfits! The truth is, when you’re traveling you won’t care too much about showing off your latest buy, or most glamourous outfit, primarily because you’ll be on the move, and surrounded by people you don’t know! The criteria are (for me): do I absolutely need it? Do I feel comfortable in it? How much space does it take up/weigh? I tend to go through 2 or 3 selection processes, continuously removing things from my previous selection! Hence, it took me today 5 hours to pack my bag, what I will live out of for the next 5 months!

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Well, this has gone on quite a bit, and it was relatively boring, I know….but necessary nonetheless!

In a few hours I’m off for the first leg of my trip, a wonderful two weeks in Kerala State, India, with my family!

I wish you all a merry christmas (if it’s something you care about!), and a fantastic start to the new year (if your year starts on the 1st of January), and promise to come back with a much more entertaining and interesting second post about the Ayurvedic wonders of the Kerala backwaters!

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