Tag: Budget Travel

Which Budget Bus Line is the Best?

Which Budget Bus Line is the Best? Photo by Keyler Oliveira via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by Keyler Oliveira via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Slate’s Noreen Malone offers up this amusing “snob’s guide to bus travel”—in which she compares the Northeast’s various discount bus lines, applying “the supremely useful, difficult-to-master art of distinguishing among the baser things in life” for the task.

I haven’t tried out Fung Wah, but I’ve ridden all the other lines mentioned—Megabus, Bolt Bus and good old Greyhound—and I agree with her choices for best and worst: Quasi-hip, wired Bolt comes in tops, while Megabus (whose glowing green ceiling lights kept me awake for the bulk of a 10-hour overnight ride a couple weeks back—honestly, who doesn’t dim the lights on an overnighter?) often makes me wish I’d shelled out for the train.

Got a favorite discount bus line? Or any budget bus horror stories?


Where to Find Free Food in New York City

For those budget travelers who sometimes prefer to spend money on our drinks than on our meals (who, me?), Matt Gross has a helpful run-down of New York City’s free bar snacks. I can vouch for the tasty popcorn at Temple Bar.


Vive Mexico!

Cozumel, Mexico Photo by Alicia Imbody

It’s official: We can go to Mexico again. The CDC has removed the Mexican travel health warning for Novel H1N1 Flu, aka swine flu, as of this morning. The travel notice was replaced with a general warning about the global status of the virus, which the World Health Organization raised to a pandemic on June 11.

Although I didn’t have a chance to make a trip across the border while the hysteria over the outbreak was crippling the Mexican tourism industry, I was there in March, when throngs of Spring Breakers were warned not to go because of drug-related violence. As usual, I found the Yucatán to be quiet, hospitable, and safer than the Washington, D.C., streets I was leaving behind. Still nervous? Think of it as a way to earn good travel karma, and go anyway. The L.A. Times’ Andrés Martinez makes a convincing moral case to help out our neighbors and indulge in some empathy tourism. And the Washington Post has put together a list of some of the best deals designed to inject a much needed boost into the tourism industry as part of the Mexican government’s nearly $100 million “Vive Mexico” tourism campaign.


‘Social Spaces’: The Budget Traveler’s Happy Place

‘Social Spaces’: The Budget Traveler’s Happy Place Photo by ForsterFoto via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by ForsterFoto via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Over at Travel Generation, Bruce Thurlow has put together a list of nine “social spaces”—parks, markets and so on—that he argues are the key to truly appreciating the life of a new city.

I agree: I think I’ve done some of my best people-watching and observation on subway trains, on playing fields or in public squares. And the best part? These spaces are almost always free, or pretty close to it.

Here are a few spots to add to Thurlow’s list:

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Budget Dining in Barcelona: How to Do it Right

Budget Dining in Barcelona: How to Do it Right Photo by visualpanic via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by visualpanic via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The first time I visited Barcelona, I was at the tail end of a 10-week backpacking trip around Europe. I had just four days left before I caught a plane back to the U.K. (where I’d been living) and then home to Canada—and, predictably, I was out of money.

My British and Canadian bank accounts were both tapped out, and while I could still charge my dorm bed—a clear necessity—to my credit card, I stubbornly refused to charge restaurant meals or withdraw cash for groceries on it. (The interest will kill you, y’know.)

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Welcome, JetAmerica and flydubai

Welcome, JetAmerica and flydubai Photo by joiseyshowaa, via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo of Dubai’s airport by joiseyshowaa, via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The list of lost-cost carriers now has two new names: JetAmerica and flydubai.

JetAmerica, a charter company with a home base in Toledo, Ohio, will fly to five cities. They are advertising $9 fares, with a “convenience fee” of $5, thus selling some seats (before taxes and fees) for $14.

Over at The Cranky Flier, Brett Snyder isn’t optimistic. “I honestly couldn’t make this sound any worse if I tried,” Snyder writes. “The CEO is John Weikle, one of the original founders of Skybus.”

Meanwhile, in the U.A.E., flydubai has been born, with initial routes beginning this week between Dubai and Beirut and Amman. They plan to expand from there. “You’ll soon be able to flydubai to other cities in the Middle East, GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] and India,” their website states. “And eventually, the network will extend to Iran, Eastern Europe and North & East Africa.”

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Budget Barbados: Five Free Island Activities

Budget Barbados: Five Free Island Activities Photo by Eva Holland
Photo of North Point by Eva Holland

I’ll admit, Barbados is hardly known as a shoestringer’s paradise—this isn’t $5, $25 or even $100 per day territory.

But still, after a couple of extended visits here, I’ve learned that it’s not all pricey cocktails, rooms with a view and chartered yachts, either. There are affordable accommodation options and wallet-friendly meals to be found—and, best of all, some of the island’s most memorable spots are free, or close to it.

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Cheap Tickets to Hawaii, Costa Rica and More

Cheap Tickets to Hawaii, Costa Rica and More Photo by bobster855 via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by bobster855 via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Every few weeks here, I round up some of the best air travel deals I can find.

Want to visit the Pacific? Alaska Airlines has an insanely good deal to Hawaii. They are advertising $169 one-way fares from Seattle, Washington or Portland, Oregon. You need to buy your tickets before June 3, and you must travel between July 3 and September 30. If you play your cards right, you can fly to Hawaii and back for a total of about $360 after taxes and fees, round trip.

Also, Air Tahiti Nui is advertising round-trip fares, after taxes and fees, of about $731 between Los Angeles and Tahiti, but it’s for a maximum stay of four days only.

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When Scrimping on the Road Goes Too Far

We all like to save a buck when we travel. But at what point does cost-cutting cross the line?

That’s the question Carlo Alcos posed over at Brave New Traveler recently, in his look at some questionable (but common) money-saving tactics on the road. A few of the tricks listed: posing as a student or a local for admission-fee purposes, fare-dodging on public transit and inventing complaints—and then demanding compensation. After the run-down, he concludes: “I would say there is a line to be drawn. Not a black and white Sharpie fine line, but a blurry, wavy, grey line that is dependent on the circumstance.”

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A First-Hand Look at Some Desperation Deals

A First-Hand Look at Some Desperation Deals Photo by exfordy via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by exfordy via Flickr (Creative Commons)

There’s been a lot of talk about tourism numbers contracting during the economic crisis, and plenty of observers—our own Rolf Potts included—have pointed out that for the budget traveler, with the travel industry running scared and handing out deals left and right, there’s no better time to hit the road than right now.

Still, until I arrived in Barbados this week and started making some bookings for a visit to Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent, I didn’t fully understand the extent of the bargains out there.

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NYC Raises Subway Fares; Sky Falls

NYC Raises Subway Fares; Sky Falls Photo by Eva Holland
Photo by Eva Holland

After months of ominous foreshadowing, New York City’s transit authority finally did it: Effective June 28, subway and bus fares will jump from $2.00 to $2.25. Reaction has been swift and snarky—check out this satirical subway advisory, for instance. Said one commenter on this Jaunted post about the hike: “Yet again NYC trumps all when it comes to being plain expensive.”

Whoa, hold on a minute. Sure, nobody likes a price increase, especially when consumers aren’t expecting to see improved service in return—the move is an effort to stop the bleeding, not rejuvenate the system. But New York City’s public transit is still cheap compared to what’s available in other big cities, and—much like the city itself, which I will always maintain is a fantastic budget destination—it remains a great value for money.

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Trip Planning Tips and Tools from the Frugal Traveler

Trip Planning Tips and Tools from the Frugal Traveler Photo by Matt Murf via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by Matt Murf via Flickr (Creative Commons)

In his latest blog post, the New York Times Frugal Traveler (and World Hum contributor) Matt Gross offers a detailed look at his pre-travel research and planning process—including an exhaustive list of the resources, both print and online, that he makes use of to put together his dollar-efficient trips.

It’s an excellent collection, and I don’t have much to add to it—I will mention one overlooked area, though.

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Don’t Forget to Splurge!

Don’t Forget to Splurge! Photo by Carlton Browne via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by Carlton Browne via Flickr (Creative Commons)

For me, part of the fun of budget travel is the chance to loosen the purse strings once in a while and drop some cash on a worthwhile splurge.

Whether that means a night in a plush hotel room after weeks of hosteling, a spa day, or a way-out-of-my-price-range meal, I generally find some way to treat myself once during any budget-conscious trip—and, I figure, I appreciate my reward that much more than if I’d been pampering myself all along. It doesn’t have to be about spending a lot of money, either. My favorite travel splurge of all time cost just $15.

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Sneeze Your Way to Savings?

Sneeze Your Way to Savings? Photo by jurvetson via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by jurvetson via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Remember when I told you guys how many deals there were to be had in Thailand? Well, the Practical Traveler now reports they’re even better thanks to the unrest there. If you don’t mind a little protesting, then run for the savings! The Anantara properties Michelle mentions, particularly at the Golden Triangle, are some of the nicest in the country. 

Same goes for travel and the SCHWEINE-GRIPPE—I use the German term for swine flu because it sounds much scarier that way.

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Cheap Airfares! Buy Now!

Photo by egmb757lover, via Flickr (Creative Commons)

There is an amazing multitude of low fares for air travel out there right now. Want to fly cheaply to Australia? Shanghai? Las Vegas? I’ve rounded up some great travel deals below.

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The Carter Family Fold: The Most Joyous Place in the World

The Carter Family Fold: The Most Joyous Place in the World Photo by Jenna Schnuer.
Photo by Jenna Schnuer

Try as I might, I’ve been having trouble pushing off the gray cast that seems to have settled over my brain. Damned economy. But, over the last few days, thanks to trips of days past, there’s been some relief. I’ve been clicking through my mental View-Master® (and my photos) to temporarily step back into some truly happy moments.

I’m convinced that if I keep building the stack, it’ll topple the gray. One surprise stop on my magical mood-bender tour came in Hiltons, Virginia, at the Carter Family Fold. Part of the Carter Family Memorial Music Center—owned by the first family of country music—the Fold hosts a weekly old time and bluegrass music show.

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Low-Cost Carriers: Not Always a Bargain

Low-Cost Carriers: Not Always a Bargain Photo by irishflyguy via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by irishflyguy via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Fodor’s posted a helpful reminder for thrifty travelers this week: Be wary of European budget airlines. Of course, those low-cost carriers have generally been a huge help in reducing the expense of European travel, but, as writer Doug Stallings points out, they aren’t always as cheap as they seem.

His first two points are, for me, the most important: low-cost flights tend to leave from secondary airports, and at odd times of day.

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Five Hostels I Have Loved

Five Hostels I Have Loved Photo of Lizard Point by Eva Holland
Photo of Lizard Point by Eva Holland

These days, there are more accommodation options than ever for the budget traveler: everything from house swaps to pod hotels to rock-bottom recession-era deals at more traditional travel digs.

But even with that abundance of choices—most of which I’ve sampled, and enjoyed—I think my shoestringer’s heart will always belong to the youth hostel. I love the hosteling community, I (sometimes) love the fiesta atmosphere, and—of course—I love the price. From grungy party pads to serene dorm-room retreats, here are five hostels I have loved:

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Given the Dire Economy, Should I Travel Overseas This Year?

Vagabonding traveler Rolf Potts answers your questions about travel and the world

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BusJunction: One More Reason to Take the Bus

BusJunction: One More Reason to Take the Bus Photo by Daquella manera via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by Daquella manera via Flickr (Creative Commons)

It’s been almost a year since I grudgingly acknowledged that, train delays and airport security being what they are these days, taking the bus might sometimes be the most convenient and comfortable way to go.

Since then—one gruesome incident notwithstanding—I’ve gone from a still-reluctant bus user to a full-on regular. And I’m not the only one: new bus lines have been popping up everywhere (and particularly here in the U.S. Northeast), and now there’s even a dedicated bus carrier search engine, BusJunction.com.

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