As some of you already know, I’m leaving on a cross-country trip tomorrow. I did my diligent shopping around for the cheapest plane ticket. I’ll be packing in my clearance suitcase. I’ve got my hot new laptop case. And I suckered a friend into playing airport taxi so that I don’t even have to pay for parking.
(I’m still a little amazed that my friends even talk to me. I’m kind of a pain in the butt, sometimes. Like, when I need to be at the airport at 7:30 in the morning.)
Yep, I’m almost ready to pack and be on my way. And then I thought to myself, (“Self,” I said) perhaps there are some lessons to share here. I concluded that mostly I have nothing really enlightening to impart, but we already know that that’s never stopped me before….
And so I present for your amusement, Some Random Tips On Travelling Frugally And Still Having A Great Time And Not Feeling Deprived:
Pack it, baybee. I am a chronic overpacker. It doesn’t matter if I’m travelling for a day or a month; I bring too much stuff. More than I could ever possibly need. I used to beat myself up about this, until I realized something very important: I have yet to take a trip where I need to purchase some emergency clothing item. Why? Because I already packed it. Yes, half the time I come home with entire outfits that went unworn. Yes, five pairs of shoes for four days borders on mentally ill. But I’m never the one buying the $100 bathing suit at the hotel gift shop, or the $40 sweatshirt because it’s colder than expected. I pack for everything, and it means I never spend on something I shouldn’t. As long as it all fits in my bag, why not?
Eat well. I’m travelling 3,000 miles. I refuse to eat peanut butter sandwiches in my hotel room while I’m in the land of sushi and Really Good Burritos just because it would save some dough. On the one hand, I could easily blow my entire budget just on eating out… and I don’t want to do that. I’ve budgeted for a few really fabulous meals and I intend to enjoy them thoroughly. On the other hand, I don’t do room service, and I don’t eat fabulous food for every meal. I will hit a grocery store when I arrive and pick up some snacks and such to keep in my room. I’ll also be bringing a bag lunch for tomorrow’s journey. Eh. Boring and predictable, but a small sacrifice towards helping me justify the pricier meals, later on.
Yes, I will bring you a souvenir. My children seem to think I should bring something home for them, just because I’ve escaped their clutches for a few days. Hmph. (Nevermind that they’re on vacation, themselves, with their dad.) Anyway, I do believe in bringing home tokens from far away lands like… California. If I make it to the beach, I can bring them rocks or shells and not spend a penny. If not, I can bring them drink umbrellas and after dinner mints from my adventures. They’re not particular; they just want something that seems exotic. Barring any of that, a few postcards will delight them, too. This is not to say that I might not buy them something if the mood strikes and the right item presents itself, but they will not be getting t-shirts or stuffed animals, most likely.
Free? It’s for me. I’m staying at a hotel that runs a free airport shuttle. I thought the hotel had free internet but I’ve since read that there’s a connection fee per day for the rooms, although there’s free wireless in the common areas. Well then, I think I can probably schlep my computer down to the common areas to check my email. Watch me not pay a penny above and beyond what I have to. My conference fees include certain things (like some parties) and you betcha I’ll be attending everything where someone might walk past me with a tray of food.
All cash, all the time. I have mentioned here before that I do use credit cards; I use them like cash and pay them off at the end of each month. I find it more convenient than cash, and I like the cashback awards I accumulate. But for something like this—a special trip, with extra expenses—I will stick to cash. I’ve composed my budget and obtained the money I need, and this way I can’t overspend due to a ditzy math error (“Oh, I can charge this, I didn’t spend very much yesterday!”) and I always know exactly how much I have left. When my wallet’s empty, it’s time to go home.
Have fun! In the past I’ve been the sort of worrywart who could go through all of the proper trip preparation steps and still agonize over the money spent. In recent years I’ve learned that life is simply too short for that sort of nonsense. If I follow the rules I set for myself, and stay within a reasonable budget, I should just go and enjoy myself.
And that is exactly what I intend to do.