An excerpt from the book: TIMELESS CHARM OF SAIGON AND ANGKOR
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Budget traveling is not so much on the comfort side of life, but more on the idea of discovery and adventure. From going up on air with a budget airline to the lucid possibility of sleeping in the floor of the airport, to the prospect of getting lost while exploring the city.
A budget/DIY traveler is one that plunges into the unknown, to uncertainties while basking in the thrill of discovery. It is sometimes risky but provides a unique experience, with plenty of anecdotes to share to the world. Budget and DIY travelers never usually book for a tour guide, it is more of exploring the place on their own, but the excitement of unearthing the unique frills of the destinations always awaits.
It makes the experience more fulfilling with plenty of unforgettable memories worthy of a book. Just take extra precautions to avoid plunging into danger. Learn to adjust with the local culture to avoid disappointment.
Depends on the timing of the travel, budget travelers usually prepare a travel itinerary three months before the trip. Budget plan should be draft ahead of time with more considerations on finances.
A budget plan should start on determining where to go to allow enough time to scout for an airfare promo. Most budget airlines offer a cheaper rate a year before the scheduled trip but there are instances that the promo rates are offered three months before the travel date. Budget traveling in a DIY plan is always wonderful and liberating, all you have to do is be prudent, smart, flexible and resourceful.
Plan ahead of time, scout for cheaper rates, do research with the places you are going to explore, the most practical way of getting around the city, the top attractions to be visited, activities and best things to do once there. You should also take note how to fit in with the locals, the do’s and don’ts and the most practical items to bring home.
Always take extra precautionary measures the moment you get there but don’t allow fear to dampen your spirit. Do not limit yourself of delving into the wonders and frills of that particular destination. Most of all, don’t forget to pray and pray. You can never go wrong with faith.
How to become a DIY traveler on a budget?
Traveling is always liberating and provides a different level of excitement, it pumps vitality and inspiration and offers a temporary sanctuary from personal troubles. When we travel we are able to whisk our minds away from concerns, angst and worries and even if it is only a passing escape, being in a different place, doing exciting activities, wandering around and just being there to relax is enough to give us motivation.
However, as much as we want to travel and experience life unfolds in another territory, the cost of travel is one hell of a concern, therefore, a lengthy planning to get on with the plans and fit everything is needed.
For people who have comfortable sources of income, traveling might not pose any problems but for folks who are struggling to accommodate daily expenses, travel causes a real distress. But if the latter is the hindrance, you can hone your creativity to explore all the available options how to fine tune your monthly spending.
As long as your burning desire to travel is alive, finding ways to make things happen is always probable. Try to become a budget traveler in a DIY plan instead of contemplating to travel in comfort and luxury.
This means you should not seek a tour guide or scout travel packages but just on your own, planning everything, from creating a concise budget and itinerary to scouting for cheaper airfare and room accommodation rates. It is more convenient, practical and exciting than wait for the stars to fall to realize your travel plans.
Here are tips how to become a DIY traveler on a budget:
Save for your travel
The most crucial part of traveling is the budget and how much to spend. If your income is just enough to cover your monthly expenses, try planning a year ahead and create a separate account for your trip.
You can open a bank account for your travel and shred a specific amount from your monthly income for this account. However, if you find opening another bank account slightly uncomfortable and impractical, you can just put the amount in your existing bank account and just monitor your savings. Have a notebook to serve as your monitoring sheet for your travel plan savings. List the amount that you have set aside from each payday.
To make things easier and to prevent yourself from living like a monk just to save and cut back on expenses, do the planning ahead of time, around five months before the scheduled trip. Spend time researching for the best attractions to be visited, the associated cost of getting there, the expenses on food and transportation, the hostels and guesthouses. Then check the net pay how much to set aside.
The most important reminder: DO NOT CHEAT. If the allotted amount on souvenir shopping is only $50.00 then stick with it. Be serious and honest when creating your budget plan, list down everything you needed and assign a certain amount based on your research online.
Normally, I will make plenty of sacrifices before the scheduled trip just to save. I will limit my grocery shopping and refrain from dining outside or I’ll cut back on unnecessary expenses like weekend outing, movie trip or buying accessories.
Determine where to go
The most crucial part in travel planning next to saving, is where to go and what to do once there. Your appetite in traveling and the choice of destinations depend on your lifestyle and preferences, the purpose why you travel and your expectations.
This will also depend on your preference in traveling. Are you a beach person who want to escape to a beautiful resort and relax? Are you a history fanatic who want to explore the cultural heritage, remnants, museums, historic landmarks and echoes from the past in another place? An adventure junkie looking for some adrenalin rush activities like trekking the mountain, discovering off-the-beaten track destinations and looking for some daredevil activities?
A nature lover looking for a laidback environment and just wander around the parks, lakes, ponds, beautiful trees and scenic countryside? Or a city life person who just want to be in a high-end surrounding with amusement parks, elegant shopping malls, fancy restaurants, luxurious boutiques and high-tech establishments.
Once you finish identifying your preference in traveling and the activities you want to engage, you can start looking for a specific destination to visit. And once you finish making a choice where to go, check the season and the timing of your travel.
Is it dry season, summer, winter, fall? Determining the timing of the season is always necessary so that you can prepare a prudent budget plan and a list of stuff to pack in your bags. Essentials, clothes, accessories, time of visit and moments of wandering vary depending on a particular season, thus, it is wise to check your destination’s climate. Once this element is put into considerations, you can move to the next step.
Scout for airfare
Other travelers will create first the budget plan and just insert the airfare cost. I have a different approach. To avoid too much stress in creating my budget list and to prevent sacrificing my basic needs, I will scout first for airfare promos before finalizing my budget plan to save my energy in editing and recreating and rearranging my budget list.
You can try this budget traveling approach. It works for me so I guess it will work for every budget traveler. Scout for airfare promos five months before your travel. Usually and based on my experience, airlines offer a lower rate five to three months before the scheduled departure. It is a tried-and-tested approach and lots of travelers are doing this technique. However, there are instances that airlines offer a lower rate a year before the scheduled departure of the travel. You may check your favorite budget airline from time to time for promo offerings.
Set a specific amount for the travel
When I started planning for my Hongkong and Macau trip in 2013, I was determined to just spend Php25,000.00 including accommodation, airfare, shopping, transportation around Hongkong, dining, entrance fees to amusement parks and ferry ticket for Macau.
So I created a budget plan around this amount and chose an affordable transient inn. In Hongkong, affordable transient inns are everywhere so planning a DIY travel on a tight budget is not so much of a concern. I was able to achieve my goals.
Do research on your destination
Whether you are traveling to Hongkong on a budget or embarking into a luxurious cruise to the Caribbean, it is important to do your homework before making decisions. Read guide books, magazines, travel blogs related to your destination.
Doing research is very crucial. It is where you can get valuable tips from other travelers. Even if you seek a tour guide or avail a package from a travel agency, researching for practical guide related to your travel is always useful.
List down the best attractions in your destination
To avoid missing the point and to have a comprehensive itinerary plan, check the best attractions in your destination and what it offers to travelers. List down these attractions and decide which one you would like to visit.
Check the admission fees, guide how to get there and how far each spot from your hotel so that you can make enough room for the transportation budget.
Before the scheduled departure, revisit the information you got if there are changes in route or admission fees and if there are things needed to be remembered during the visit. Edit your itinerary plan if necessary.
Read reviews about the place and attractions
Learning from others’ experiences helps a lot. It will give you an idea what to expect and if there’s a need to reconsider. It will also provide you useful ideas how to make the most of your time exploring that place.
Check and compare room accommodation rates
If you are traveling in a country that has a higher cost of living, it is wise to just choose a transient inn, hostel or a decent guesthouse than a three star hotel. After all, you are traveling there to see the place and not to sleep whole day in the hotel. Transient inns, guesthouses and hostels are ideal for budget travelers and backpackers.
Before finalizing your accommodation bookings, compare prices with other hotels and guesthouses in the area if there’s a need to switch. Always consider the safety of the surroundings.
It is also wise to check the amenities and perks of the guesthouse so that you can prepare your things smartly. If the accommodation includes bath towel and shampoo then do not bring your own towel and shampoo so that you can save space in your bag.
Choose the ideal location of your hotel/transient inn
When you choose a hotel, make sure it is closer to the top attractions in the city and accessible by any public transportation. This is to avoid getting lost and minimize expenses on transportation.
If you are up for shopping, choose a hotel within the vicinity of shopping markets. If you want to explore the city by foot, book a hotel closer to top attractions. This way you can create a concise and prudent budget plan.
Create and set a budget plan wisely
The most difficult part of creating a travel itinerary plan is always the budget. It poses so many troubles. And tension. Remember that you still have a life to live, you still need to eat three times a day, still have to pay your monthly bills and make grocery and buy basic stuff, thus, setting an amount for the travel is very challenging.
However, creating a budget plan prudently can save you a lot from stress, just be honest and practical in creating your list. Whatever amount you have set aside and assign in the list restrain yourself from modifying the budget plan and avoid, as much as you can, to cheat, by overshooting your expenses or by overspending on unnecessary items.
Create your DIY Travel Itinerary Plan
For budget travelers, creating a concise DIY travel plan is always an ideal thing to do because you are going out there without someone to assist you. But trust me, creating this stuff is very fulfilling.
I always find joy in creating a travel itinerary plan. My excitement often relies in travel planning and listing down the details of my expenses and destination. It offers a different level of excitement. It motivates me to work hard.
Creating a concise do-it-yourself budget travel itinerary is very simple. In your notebook or if you are using your personal computer, just open the MS Excel and put the necessary items:
1. Time/Place of Departure
2. Time/Place of Arrival
5. Attractions to visit
6. Estimated Budget
7. Actual Budget
Print your Itinerary
This is very crucial for DIY travelers. This serves as your guide while on the road. You are going there without someone to assist you, therefore, a hard copy of your itinerary should be printed.
In case you are lost or no idea where to go next and what to do, you can always refer to the list. Create a separate portion of the attractions you want to visit including each address so that you can show it to the locals.
Create a list what to bring
When creating a list what to bring, consider the season of your destination and the spots you will going to visit. Season says a lot when preparing what type of clothes to wear and the accessories to include in the list.
Make sure you only bring enough outfit that can be worn during the trip to avoid stuffing your bag with unnecessary things. Personally, I always prepare outfit based on the number of days of my travel.
Here are the basic things usually pack by budget travelers:
1. Passport and other travel documents
3. Face towel
4. Comfortable footwear
5. Sling bag
6. Candies and biscuits
7. Light night outfit
8. Sunscreen lotion, hair conditioner, body lotion
10. Shawl or long scarf
11. Swimwear if going to the beach
12. Digital camera
13. Battery charger and extra memory card
14. Toothbrush kit
15. Medicine kit (for fever, headache, stomach upset)
16. Something to cover your head in case of hot weather
Pack Light and Smart
If you are traveling for less than 15 days, avoid stuffing your bag with excessive accessories and unnecessary gadgets to avoid having a check-in bag. Budget travelers don’t actually have check-in bags, so pack light and carry up to two bags only.
Bring light clothes such as cotton-based shirts, sleeveless, leggings, shorts, scarf instead of sweatshirt. Secure valuables in a separate pouch, separate toiletries in a cellophane, transparent-based pouch. Prepare a separate cellophane to secure undies. This way you could maximize the space in the bags.
How to pack light and smart:
1. Count the number of days of your travel.
2. Each day assign a pair of clothes to wear
3. If you can mix and match your clothes, the better.
4. Avoid bringing thick and heavy clothes such as jeans and denims, boots, unless you are taking a hiking adventure, and heavy jacket, unless your backpack can still accommodate it.
5. Choose a transparent and light pouch for your toiletries that can be put only in the bag’s pocket.
6. Unless you are not on a business trip, avoid bringing laptop, this will consume a large space in your bag. You can choose to bring your tablet instead.
7. If you are bringing toothpaste, lotion, sunscreen, moisturizer, shampoo and conditioner, do not bring the whole bottle, squeeze a few amount on a separate, individual container with a cap, or just bring the sachet version to avoid overcrowding your bag with unnecessary things.
8. If you want to bring a pair of slippers, choose the lighter varieties. There are slippers that can be put only in a very small space inside the bag.
9. Bring flat shoes instead of wedges and heels.
10. Check the accommodation of your hotel or guesthouse if it has a bath towel for visitors, if there is, then avoid bringing an extra towel to save space in your bag. In case the guesthouse does not offer a bath towel, just bring a small towel.
10. Arrange your things properly in your bag, important documents like passport, tickets, booking details and identification cards should be put separately in a sling bag together with your wallet.
Choose the right luggage
Not unless you are traveling for a business trip or taking into a one month adventure, carrying an over-sized luggage is very impractical.
It will not only drain your energy from walking or moving around but also poses an added cost to your expenses for a check-in baggage. To be more practical, choose a light bag that can be hand carried in the plane.
Budget travelers usually carry backpacks, duffel bags or anything light. Backpacks and duffel bags are easier to carry and move around than the rolling bags. Maximize the space in your bag. Roll up pants, shirts, shorts cargo and square pants and place it at the bottom.
Fill small spaces with light things like undies, shawl, towelette, pack of candies. Put toiletries in the pocket of backpack and biscuits in another pocket. Secure your valuables like wallet, passport, cellphone, camera in the sling bag.
Edit and Check your list
Four days before your departure, start packing things to allow adjustment on your list what to bring and whether everything can just be put in one medium-sized backpack or you will need another bag. This is the best time also to buy necessities such as toiletries and other needs. A day before your departure, check the list to ensure nothing would be missed. You may edit the list to fit other necessary stuff based on your itinerary. Make last minute shopping.
Do not Cheat with your budget plan
To avoid cheating your budget plan, bring a copy of your budget list and check the amount allotted for each item and activity from time to time.
As a budget traveler in a DIY plan, you are exploring the place on your own, therefore, you will be checking every attraction in the area alone or with your friends.
You will find fabulous things, tempting souvenir items, nice clothes, attractive accessories and want to eat and drink and visit as many spots as you can and the danger of overshooting your budget plan becomes probable. But don’t cheat.
Don’t get overwhelmed with your adventure. Despite being there to relax and experience the thrill of a liberating escape, be conscious with your budget plan and check the amount you have set for each activity.
During the actual trip, if in case you have overshoot the target of your expenses due to unforeseen events: you cannot resist the scrummy taste of the local cuisine or the admission fee has a slight changes, make adjustment with your expenses on other items to stick with the budget.
You can cut back on your spending the next day, choose attractions that have cheaper admission fees. If you are visiting attractions on short distances, choose to walk around instead of taking a taxi.
Or you may cut back on your shopping activities. Check high quality local items to be bought and refrain from buying souvenirs or accessories that can be found in your home country, these can be put off.
During my Saigon trip, I suppressed my desire to buy a nice Kipling backpack even if the price was really tempting. I had a budget list prepared ahead of time and Kipling bag was not included. The key to everything: Do not Cheat.
You can avoid cheating on your budget plan by putting a limit on each item. During your travel, always check your list and see if you are still within the parameter of your budget or already overspending, make necessary adjustment in case of overspending.
More ideas about budget traveling in the book:
available in two editions: Print and Kindle