DIY Diva: Tips to Help You Travel on the Cheap
Heyo! The DIY Diva here. Even though you’ll see this come the normal time for my column on Friday, October 30th – I am sitting at my trusty computer writing this on TUESDAY, October 27th. Why, you ask?
Well, I’ll be happy to tell you, if you just wait a bloomin’ second!
This past July I traveled to San Diego to cover International Comic Con for another publication that I write for. And, in the process of getting to SD I volunteered to give up my seat on my flight from LAX. Hence – I gots myself a freebie ticket from our good friends at United! (And, some poor schmuck got home to his family a half-hour earlier. That’s right, a half-hour, the next flight was in 30 minutes and I pretty much arrived on schedule.)
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I’m cashing in my free tix and winging my way towards the Windy City tomorrow to visit some family and friends as a pre-birthday present to myself. Though I did promise Editor-In-Cheap and our fearless leader Stu that I’d file my column before I left on a jet plane (don’t know when I’ll be back again… Oh wait, I do know that – I’ll be back on Monday.) So here I am. I figured that travel on the cheap would be a fitting topic for this column… And, being a former employee of the India House Hostel (in New Orleans) and someone who’s traipsed about the country with very little cash in her pocket, I do know a few things about how to get the maximum amount of fun out of the minimum amount of money.
Here are my Top 3 Traveling Cheapo Tips:
#1 If you are about to board a flight and the airline asks for volunteers to give up their seat – VOLUNTEER!
Seriously. If you are not in an absolute dead rush to get where you’re going, give up your seat and collect the freebie ticket. Those babies are good for a year after they are issued and usually you can fly with very few restrictions. Depending on where you were going and when the next flight is, if you end up having to travel the next day, the airline will also give you a hotel voucher.
Really. Free ticket = $300 to $1,000 (depending on where you were going). Currently freebie tickets are not good for international travel, but for travel in the US? Priceless.
#2 Hostel vs. Hotel
Unless you’re headed out on a romantic weekend for two (and, even if you are – lots of hostels have private rooms) staying at a hostel is the ultra-cheapo way to board yourself when traveling. Hostling Pro-tip A — if you’re over the age of 25 and not a student — call the hostel instead of booking online. Most hostels have an “international travelers or students only” policy, mostly to avoid having to refund grumpy old people who didn’t know that by staying in a hostel it meant they’d be staying in a room with three 17 year olds visiting from Australia. If you talk to the reservationist and let them know that you understand what it means to stay in a hostel, regardless of age and nationality, they’ll 99.9% of the time go ahead and book you a bed.
Unless they’re an HI Hostel or Hosteling USA — those two chains are universally sticklers for the “rules” — not to mention they’re dry hostels and usually have curfews. Boo to that, no fun anyhow… you don’t want to stay there.
Hostling Pro-tip B — make sure to ask what kind of linens you’ll be provided with. You probably will need to take a towel. (Though most hostels provide bed linen, pillows and a blanket.) You’re going to also want to ask them if they have a secure locker or safe in which to lock up your valuables. And, you are going to want to lock up any valuables you aren’t carrying with you on your daily excursions into whatever city…
Here are the benefits of staying in a hostel: If you’re traveling alone, it’s a great way to meet people to hang out with. If you’re single and ready to mingle, hostels are a hot bed of shag options for both guys and gals. Hostels are cheap – usually $25 or under per night to book a dorm bed. Also, the hostel staff will undoubtedly know the best spots to get your cheap on and have fun. Not to mention, most times, hostels are a great place to hang out and party at, in of themselves. Most hostels will serve a community dinner or breakfast a couple of times a week. For between $5-$10 you’ll get an awesome homecooked meal with more food than you can possibly consume. (When I lived in the India House my friend Eddie used to regularly BBQ chicken, sausages and shrimp to sell w/potatoes and coleslaw for $7. My friend Tom would make a two egg, two pieces of sausage or bacon, toast and OJ breakfast for $5.)
Hostels are fun-pits of money saving for the broke traveler.
#3 Do your damn research!
You clearly do not have to have $$ to have a good time either in your hometown or when you travel. Use these here innerwebs to research where you’re going and what there is to do on the cheap. Usually putting the words “cheap” and “FREE” plus the name of the city you’re headed to will result in a plethora of resources. If you’re into things such as Yelp – check out the Talk threads for the city you’re visiting. Just make sure not to post a “what should I do when I’m in X City” thread… otherwise you’ll endure major innerwebs flaming. Otherwise, Yelp is a super resource to find out what the locals find to be cool, fun and free.
The most important things to have with you while traveling – whether you have $$ or not – is an open mind and a good attitude about trying new things. If you make sure to pack those items in your carry-on and use my travel tips judiciously you will have a rocking good time where ever you end up!
I’m off like a prom dress!! Ta, ta!