Travel Cheap and Travel Often: The Laws to Traveling On A Whim

I am a constant, ceaseless, and sudden traveller. I like planning trips on a whim, I don’t like to wait too long between ideas and action, and if I see an opportunity i’ll take it at any cost. My recent jaunt through the Northwest from conception to execution was planned out in the span of a few days. A very common problem is that some people tend to over-think travel between itineraries, hotels, flights, dining, companions, etc, and thus travel is made more needlessly complicated and expensive than it should be.

One of the most common questions that I get asked is: “How do you get to travel so often? It can’t be possible that you can leave so suddenly and go on amazing adventures.” Well it is. It is possible for me, and it’s actually possible for anyone. Yes, travel takes work and sacrifice, it takes putting priorities into order and coming up with the initial idea. But after that, after it’s all said and done, if travel is simplified, if it’s unplanned, done on the fly, and left open to hundreds of possibilities, then anyone could dream a place, and just figure out the best course to make it happen. In the end, it can be done.

Come Fly With Me

When planning a trip, the first major stumbling block is always the airfare. Too expensive, too crowded, inconvenient, and for the modern young traveller it can dash dreams as fast as they’re created. So here’s what I say: Airfare is NOT expensive. Yes, it’s entirely affordable when set under certain conditions. The price of airfare thrives on convenience. The more direct you’re able to get to your destination, the more favorable time of day you arrive, and what airline and airport you leave from are all factors in the final price. To limit the price, search for several variables:

– The Airport

International airports in major cities are the most direct route to where most people want to be. They are the main hubs for the large airlines, they give the most direct access to the city, and they are the bigger and more favorable in terms of times and departures. However major airports also charge major money for their services. In the end it’s the airline who pays for these services and passes on a part of the cost to the people buying the tickets. Choosing a smaller airport will dramatically lower the costs for a flight especially if its domestic bound. Smaller airports charge less operating costs, therefore attracting smaller airlines, who charge less for less services but still get you to your destination.

– The Airline

Larger major airlines are charging more for getting to the same destinations than a smaller domestic carrier could. About a year ago I took a trip out to Moab, Utah. I had to connect at some point, and when searching through United Airlines, was offered a price that was nearly $500.00 more than my final choice of the smaller (and in my opinion more reliable) Frontier Airlines who threw me an awesome price and a hot chocolate chip cookie during the flight. Same goes for the various carriers such as JetBlue and Spirit. I’ve had more success searching through smaller airlines then I ever have a larger one. Taking off from a small airport with a small airline has already made a drastic change on the wallet. Now it’s all about the timing.

– The Timing

I love red eyes. The coffee and the air schedules. Red eyes are the budget travelers best friend. Yes they’re inconvenient, they arrive in the middle of the night, and they can be filled with some shady characters but then again, they get people where they need to go on the cheap, and nobody is planning on reading that novel on the plane anyway while they peruse through the safety card for the fiftieth time, might as well just sleep it off. Yes, if the traveller learns to embrace the red eye, it makes things much more convenient. So i’m going to offer a tip for which my parents are going to dislike me for given my history of putting them through various late night/early morning airport trips (love you guys!): FIND THE MOST INCONVENIENT TIMING POSSIBLE AND STICK TO IT! Finding the most inconvenient flight time possible takes down the costs simply because nobody (except the budget happy traveller) really wants to do it. Finding the poor soul who has to accompany to the airport at that time is up to the traveller, but finding a five am or ten pm flight is a blessing in disguise on the credit card. The airport is usually empty, the security lines are shorter, and the prices have dropped.

The airport, the flight, and the timing, it’s already one stumbling block down. The prices have slashed and the airlines now look extremely favorable. Now on to the accommodations.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Hostel

Domestic or International, the hostel should be the first choice when searching for accommodations. They’re loud, they’re crowded, they’re filled with interesting people, and they’re so much fun. Opt for the cheapest accommodation you can find, usually in a dorm style room with additional bunks for other travelers or if you can, pitch your tent on the grounds and have your own cheap private space. Hostels keep low cost by throwing out all the amenities. Private bathroom? Don’t need it. Food? Buy it and cook it (or make a party and do it for all the new people that are hanging out there) Entertainment? Find the always present person who brought the guitar and enjoy the midnight jam session. For the adventure seeker it enables searching for like minded people, wether it be a climbing partner, a hiking partner, or a drinking buddy. How about international? Yes, they’ve popped up all over. European travel is so much cheaper and accessible thanks to the hostel networks, and one hostel owner would be more than glad to connect to another in the next city and even negotiate a more favorable rate. See? Networking!

The airline is booked, the hostel has an extra bunk, now it’s time to get on the trip and figure out what it’s all about.

Have an itinerary? Have everything nice, neat and planned out? Throw it away.

Before I start this section i’ll let the gasps of horror fade away. Go ahead…i’ll wait. Ok? Good? Great. Itineraries destroy travel, they’re expensive, they’re needless, and they destroy the fun of the adventure. When on the road i’ve adopted a simple motto: Travel with purpose, but without objective. In simpler terms, travel to see a place, but not necessarily to “knock it off the list, or (and I HATE this term) ‘do it’ ” After having spent three consecutive summers romping through Italy, I realized that there’s many of the major sights I had never seen. However this allowed me to get lost wherever I pleased, walk into hidden gems, little towns, barely touched restaurants, and forgotten historical sites. I didn’t like the idea of traveling with an itinerary where I had to rush from one place to another, where something had to be seen before moving on to the next because it was “traditional”. I ended up discovering dozens of unique places in which I could walk around and discover on my own. What followed are some of the most unique stories and hidden wonders that barely anyone had even heard of, let alone have seen. I don’t condone being on a set tour (hence “Off the Map”) but I do encourage getting completely lost (hopefully in a place without speaking the language) and turning misadventures into adventures. In the end i’ve denied the services of a cash happy tour guide (guide books, they’re fantastic) and wandered into my own story rather than the one everyone else followed.

The beach is a travel killer.

So again, the gasps of horror, I must be mad. I must have completely lost my mind. First of all, I don’t hate the beach. One because i’m from Miami, and two, those who know me well know there is a certain beach abroad that is very close to my heart. But there is something about the beach that magnetically attracts tourists in which they promptly set a towel in the sand and blissfully fall asleep having thrown out a full day of adventure and exploration. Some sharp eyed readers may have noticed that I never used the word “vacation” in this article. Vacation is getting away to simply be in a place. Travel is getting away and living a place while exploring, delving and being close to it’s culture and it’s history. If there is a beach nearby, don’t avoid it, but don’t make it the focus of the trip. Find trails, find something to climb, go find a historical site that might be nearby and don’t only explore why the beach is there but what it means to the location as a whole. Yes it is ok to spend a couple lazy hours, but where’s the fun in that where there’s some awesome footpath or ruin nearby?

For any young explorer, free travel should be embraced, enjoyed, and celebrated. We’ve been made to believe that it’s time consuming, overbearing, and expensive. Instead it enriches the mind, it opens hundreds of unique stories, and it opens the world. After delving through misconceptions about airlines, about accommodations, and encouraging throwing away any sense of order, I say as a final thought: Be bold about the world. Take chances, take risks, and go get lost.

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