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Eight Tips For Affordable & Adventurous Travel

Travel often. Travel affordably. Be adventurous.

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Yelena Shtyrkalo / Via

Before every break, my students always ask me "Ms., where are you going this time?" Their response to whatever I say is "Oooo, you've got money!" Which is not true at all. Being able to travel doesn't mean you have money bags laying around! We aren't the most traveled people, but we've been to a place or two and have learned quite a bit that I figured I'd share. My best piece of advice is to be open minded and be willing to leave your comfort zone. After all, the definition of adventure (noun) is the following:

an exciting or very unusual experience.

participation in exciting undertakings or enterprises: the spirit of adventure.

a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.

Just a few simple tips so that you can give into your wanderlust..

1. Book your flight WAY ahead of time. Because I am in education and know my weeks off at least a year in advance, we begin our trip planning pretty far ahead of time. But even if you don't have such far notice, begin your search as soon as you possibly can. We always start our search on and select the "flexible dates" option, which allows us to play around with departure times, somethings adding up to a few hundred dollars in savings! It's amazing what a difference a day can make...

We also use economy airlines whenever possible. A company like RyanAir can get you around Europe for much cheaper than larger international companies. The flight might not come with frills but it gets the job done.

The other benefit of booking your flight early and first is it's usually the largest chuck of the total trip cost. Once that's taken care of, you can focus on planning the rest of you amazing adventure.

2. Travel with just a carry on. A few years ago, luggage wasn't something to consider when thinking about your budget. It's a different story nowadays...It's hard to think of an airline that doesn't charge for luggage, which can add up! Even if a bag is $25, that's $50/person for a roundtrip flight! Luggage can also be annoying if you are flying on multiple airlines throughout the duration of your trip, and each one might have a different policy on size and weight. Our simple policy? Pack light and carry it on with us...which brings me to my next point...

3. Pack LIGHT! This might be hard to believe, but we haven't brought more than one piece of luggage each for as long as I can remember. And not just any piece of luggage- the past three trips, we've only taken one book-bag each. Fine, it's a backpackers backpack (something like this -----> Backpack), but still, it forces us to take only what we need. A few years ago we took a seventeen-day trip to Europe and brought a carry-on suitcase each and learned that even though small, the suitcase was still too big and annoying, especially when you visit five countries in such a short timespan. We decided to try the backpacks for our seventeen day trip to Southeast Asia, during which we covered five countries (seven cities).

Now, how do I pack lightly? Well this takes a bit of creativity and imagination. A few of my rules: I always pack a few extra undergarments than the number of days we'll be away. Next come the outfits: always pack a light long-sleeve top just in case (assuming you are going to someplace warm).. Before you pack anything, check the weather, think about your plans for the trip and be realistic. Actually visualize your days and whether or not you'll wear what you are packing. Don't pack the "just in case dress" and "just in case heels" and "just in case anything." The "just in case" becomes extra weight that you'll regret me :)

4. Look for alternative housing options besides hotels/resorts. We always check out before we look at anything else. You'd be surprised at the amazing deals you can find almost anywhere in the world! The only time we've stayed at an actual resort was on our honeymoon. At that time, both of us were new to traveling and we did what everyone else did. The resort was nice (in San Juan, PR) and clean and comfortable, but after a few days, we felt trapped. Our two best meals and our best memories happened outside the resort. We rented a car and booked a Bed and Breakfast in the rainforest, on top of a mountain. This took us up a winding dirt road to a breathtaking view and a night to remember. This experience, along with a short flight to Flamenco Beach (completely wild) is what helped us make the decision to avoid resorts whenever possible. Not only is it MUCH cheaper, it gives us an opportunity to explore the local culture of wherever we are visiting and feel like "locals." We haven't had a negative experience with airbnb yet-all have been very professional, accommodating, convenient and clean. When we were looking at options for our trip to Aruba, we learned early on that resorts aren't cheap...we were able to find a private airbnb a few minutes from the main beaches (and where resorts are located) for a savings of almost $300/night. The best part? All beaches in Aruba are public, so even the umbrellas belonging to resorts on the beach are open to the public. We also learned in the past few years that some of the best beaches are wild and protected from development. Eagle Beach in Aruba has no resorts on the beach, Lanikai and Bellows beach in Hawaii have no development, Flamenco Beach in Puerto Rico has no development...the list can go on.

5. Car Rental doesn't have to be costly- we often rent a car wherever we are and are asked to purchase insurance. We always say no because our credit card offers insurance on the rental. Many credit cards extend this service and can save you a lot of money that can go towards something else. The other thing with car rentals- we book online and try to book with the same company (Hertz) because you can earn points. When we book a car, we select the cheapest option, and often times are able to upgrade at the counter for a low price, or sometimes even for free (depending on how charming you my case...the hubs...) The thing with a car rental on vacation is you have to determine what your priorities are- are you there to show off in an expensive luxury car or do you just need something to get you from point A to B? We always opt for the later

6. Take advantage of layovers! Most airlines don't like to have layovers that are over 12 hours long, but we call the airline and ask nicely. We were able to explore Abu Dhabi on a layover, and managed to get a 24 hour layover in India, during which we visited the Taj Mahal. This didn't cost us anything extra, but provided us with priceless experiences and memories.

7. Squeeze in as much as you can into one trip. You're already paying for the plane ticket-might as well make the trip as long as possible and do as much as possible. On a trip to Europe, we went from Ukraine to Poland, back to Ukraine to Venice to Paris to London and back to Ukraine. We flew into Ukraine because we have family there, it's beautiful and it's much cheaper than flying into Western Europe. The transportation in between the five countries once you're in Europe is really cheap and easy. On our trip to South East Asia, we went from NYC to Abu Dhabi, to Indonesia, to Singapore, to Thailand, to India, to NYC. It's not exactly easy (packing light and bringing a backpack helps!), but it's an opportunity to expose yourself to more for less.

8. Be open to try new foods, even if the restaurant isn't rated 5 star :) Some of the best meals we've had were from local, small, un-ritzy restaurants with a cheap price tag. It's easy to look up "best restaurants in..." and go with the flow. The "best" can often cost you quite a bit. We read a lot of reviews on Trip Advisor and ask locals once we get to a location for recommendations. The best mojito I've ever had was hand squeezed in the rainforest in Puerto Rico for under $2. The best Pad Thai we've ever had came from a tiny little "hole-in-the-wall" place without an official sign for $2 in Phi Phi, Thailand. Our best meal in Venice was a baguette, prosciutto, fruit and a bottle of wine from a fresh market. None of the above were rated highly or even came from TripAdvisor or Yelp. Now, I am not saying that you should not rely on Yelp/TripAdvisor for food recommendations, however, be willing to go to the less known/not as "hot" restaurants. As a New Yorker, I watch tourists spend so much money on restaurants that, in their mind, are great, when really they are nothing more than mediocre. Don't settle for overpriced mediocre and be adventurous.

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