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Traveling Without Breaking the Bank

by: Lisa Xia

“Things are so expensive now….”

My friends’ voices trail off. And, unfortunately, they are not wholly wrong. Gone are the days where you could pay $280 for a round-trip flight to Costa Rica (I did in 2009) or fly anything other than Spirit to Colombia for less than $500.”

Yes, if you were smart from 2008-2011, you would have traveled like there was no tomorrow. With the global economy in the crapper; people living in fear that their jobs would disappear; and travel companies/airlines/the entire industry slashing prices like it might actually be Armageddon, there was no better time to get a deal.

But, with higher than pre-recession prices making a serious comeback and continued airline consolidation, is it still possible to find a deal? Particularly, for example, to Europe in the summer? Here’s my take on how you can do it:

Re-calibrate your idea of a good price:

–          To level set, consider the heyday of 2008 as gone as Grandpa’s pieces of gum for five cents at the candy store. Let’s face it. There’s no getting around the fact that flying is just more expensive and inflation causes all the boats to rise to a level of more expensive. Understand what things should cost in the current market and re-calibrate your expectations. Getting a good price to Europe in the summer may just mean landing $1.100 round-trip versus $2,200. If you sit around waiting for a $750 fare that you might see in the middle of February to magically appear, you can expect to spend the rest of your summer waiting inside your Wisconsin apartment. Deals are possible, not miracles of fluff.

Continue to do diligence

–          Doing your own diligence is something that I write about time and again. You must be willing to put in the time and research in order to make informed decisions. For example, I’m actually amid planning a trip to the South of France for the end of July—Saint-Tropez to be exact. If I read a few blogs, I would be flying to Nice, renting a car and driving through a 4-hour traffic jam that would set me back $500. Instead, I might choose to take a bus to Saint-Raphael and take a ferry for 15 euros across the bay to Saint-Tropez. I could also take a flight to Toulon from Orly and take a bus for 2 euros straight to Saint-Tropez, some 50 minutes away.

Don’t trust your assumptions.

–          A train is obviously cheaper than a flight right? Wrong. $276 to take a 4-hour train from Paris; $130 to take an hour-and-a-half flight. Double-check what you think you know about a foreign market.

Share costs

–          No brainer. Coerce your cool friends to come with you. More people = less cost per person.

Plan in advance

1–          I always have a tough time with this one because generally, nothing in my life can be planned more than two weeks in advance. In fact, things are so hectic leading up to a trip, I barely have time to get excited until I’m about to board a flight with a cocktail in hand. What experience will tell you time and again is that if you wait for the last minute to plan something that you really want, you’ll either miss a critical time window (e.g. there are no flights on your dates of travel or there is a ferry only once a week), or prices will shoot up to become cost-prohibitive. If there’s something you want to see, plan in advance or it won’t get done (at least not for a reasonable cost). That’s why I spend late evenings and early mornings checking travel sites and booking tickets.

I take off for Europe in two days for a 15-day trip from Paris to Saint-Tropez to Corsica to Italy to Turkey. If you want to learn more about my budget in the next piece, voice it in the conversation below!

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