“Vacation On a Budget” In London And Chiang Mai
This post is going to be a special one. I can already feel the nostalgia surfacing and my memories going into Rewind Mode to the holiday in London that Nitika, my younger sister, and I took on a measly budget a decade ago. During our growing years, we had nurtured humongous dreams of travelling to the UK. We had dreamt of walking on Oxford street with bags of shopping in both our hands, reading a book in Hyde Park, waving to the Queen as her car exited from Buckingham Palace, and walk into St. Paul’s Cathedral with as much grace as Lady Diana did when she walked down the aisle to marry Prince Charles in 1981. However, we had a fixed budget which we didn’t want to crossover under any circumstances.
Indians, by nature, are a hospitable lot. The words “Atithi Devo Bhava” written in our ancient scriptures revers the guest and gives him utmost importance. It is an integral part of our culture where we welcome guests and make them a part of the family. For a long time, our childhood friends had been calling us to visit them in London. A mere mention of our plans over the phone, had them squeal in delight and an invitation to stay with them was extended right away. Since accommodation accounts for a major part of a travel budget, we cut down on our hotel costs right away. A big saver! Even though Nitika and I went to all the touristy spots by ourselves, it was wonderful to have them take us to Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace during the trip.
In Chiang Mai, Sam and I checked into “Your Space” hostel where we had a basic yet comfortable room for $30 per night. The experience was different from any other because we met with students from all over the world. Rooms were also available on a sharing basis of 4 and 6 and they were cheaper. We made new friends, hung out together and received the best group discounts to all the places of attraction. My most memorable day of the trip was a visit to the Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Rai, two hours away from our hostel. We all sang songs, shared amazing travel experiences in the journey and fed and bathed the elephants later.
AirBnbs have opened up another world of accommodation for the budget traveller. Homeowners rent out their houses to travellers when it’s not in use – you can snag amazing discounts on apartments, country homes, and even hotel properties. We have loved our experience with Airbnb so much that since the last couple of years we only book Airbnb in our travels. It gives us the choice of the place to stay depending on our budget.
Options For Supersaver Accommodations
You can cut your high hotel costs by staying at the following accommodations:
- STAY WITH FRIENDS: It’s lovely to bond with friends. Ask them for a favour and open up your home when it’s time to return the favour as well. Involve them in chalking up your itinerary. Many are happy to share their discount coupons for events, concerts and events which they will not use and also share tips on things to do in town.
- HOSTELS: Sharing room in a hostel cuts lodging expenses and adds friends in your life. Hostels work best if you’re a group of friends travelling together or if you’re travelling solo or as a couple. It doesn’t work for a family.
- COUCHSURFING: If you’re ready to embark on an adventure all by yourself or with a partner, couchsurfing helps you get in touch with locals with couches so you can crash out in their homes after an exciting day of discovering the city.
- AIRBNBs: Fabulous for families. You can rent a room or a house depending on the number of people travelling. The total cost is far cheaper than a hotel. also since they are mostly equipped with a kitchen and basic amenities, you can cook your own food thereby saving money you would have spent in restaurants.
BOOK IN ADVANCE
We have found the best rates by booking tickets and hotel stays much in advance, sometimes six months prior to our time of travel. Booking can be done on websites such as Agoda and Expedia. Personally, I am extremely happy with Booking.com. for hotel and flight deals. Last year, we stayed at the Amari Pattaya in an ocean-facing deluxe room. The price we booked the room was 30 per cent cheaper than the amount we paid six months later at the hotel. “Free cancellation” and “no prepayment’ makes it easier to plan the holiday much in advance and at far cheaper rates.
Sometimes the best travel deals come to you when you book your trip at the last minute. A few travel companies have downright cheap offers so that they can fill their seats and rooms. The only glitch is that the choices available to you will be restricted. You will need to be adventurous, flexible and keep an open mind. I recommend the site LastMinuteTravel.com for hotels, flights, and attractions. Last-minute trips can make travel a lot lighter on your bank account. Just be all packed and ready. You may need to leave in a jiffy.
TRAVEL DURING OFF-SEASON
The monsoon season in Goa is from June to September. During the first fortnight of June, the weather is breezy and the sea is playful. The rains usually lash in by the third week. In the last few years, we have intentionally planned our holiday to ‘Feni land” during the first two weeks of June. The hotels slash their rates drastically, the resorts are less crowded and the weather is simply awesome. Travel off-season also makes for a less-stressful experience with enhanced hospitality at your place of stay. If you’re flexible, travel off-season to save some moolah.
If other family members or friends are planning trips, club your holiday with them. Group rates for hotels, flights, and attractions are common, and often net a15% discount. Book a condo at a fancy resort and split the bill per person while checking out. You will have a superlative holiday experience at an economical price.
USE CHEAPER MEANS TO COMMUTE
Use public transport like a bus or the train in the city you travel to save money. It’s safer and far cheaper than travelling in a taxi. Whether it is London, Bangkok or Delhi, many popular cities around the world have a superb transit network within the city. It’s convenient, cheaper and you reach faster. For lesser distances, why not walk? You can soak in the surroundings much better and at your own leisurely pace.
In Koh Samui, Sam hired a bike to explore the area. It was a wise decision. We paid only 300 Baht and explored the city like two souls tasting freedom for the first time. One evening, it rained cats and dogs while we were on the bike. We were drenched to the skin but we didn’t care a damn. I spread my arms out like an eagle and looked up to the sky, loving the smattering of raindrops on my face. Ah! What a moment!
ENJOY STREET FOOD
Why spend big bucks in fancy restaurants when you can relish authentic food on the streets at cheaper prices? Street food is delicious and cheap. I can’t think of street food I’ve ever had that has been costly. Last year, when spice expert, chef and founder of Green Saffron – Arun Kapil – visited India, he insisted I take him to Chandni Chowk and Jama Masjid for some lip-smacking street food. He was staying at Delhi’s luxe five-star property but he wanted to taste the spices, the flavours and food of Old Delhi. We tasted 18 dishes and barely paid a couple of thousand rupees for them all. Read all about that eventful day and the spicy food trail with the “Spice King Of Cork” here.
SKIP THE LUNCH OR GO BRUNCH
If you have a continental plan in your hotel, it is a good idea to go in half an hour before breakfast closes to have a hearty meal. You can skip lunch since you will not feel hungry so soon. You could save expenses on a meal every single day. You can snack on the complimentary fruit basket in your room or head to the gym to enjoy the complimentary fruit laid out for fitness members.
These are the best ways to cut costs on a vacation. Do drop your suggestions for other ways to have a super-saver holiday.
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